A Compendium of Weaponry and Military Costuming
of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time
** Seanchan **
Egeanin, an officer, offers us the first view of Seanchan military costume; probably the most detailed such a picture Jordan has painted in the WoT:
At Falme, the armor of the common Seanchan soldier is an "unrelieved black", in contrast with that of their officers. A Morat'grolm, or grolm-handler, is denoted by the addition of "... three eyes painted on the breast of his armor." <TGH: 34, 491, The Wheel Weaves> Elsewhere, however, Jordan's description reveals that the common soldier may also wear something other than black:
Similarly, gold and black painted armor are worn by common soldiers elsewhere, differing from their commanding officer in that his armor is lacquered, not painted, and the helmet carries thin green plumes <ACoS: 26, 424, The Irrevocable Words>, with only a single thin plume for a low-ranking officer <WH: 17, 359, Pink Ribbons>. From Rand's high vantage point at Falme, it is colorful "gonfanons" [sic - the word is gonfalon], that is, flags or ensigns, that mark the officers <TGH: 47, 658, The Grave Is No Bar to My Call>. More on helmets and plumes further below.
The Deathwatch Guards are distinguished by blood-red and near-black green armor; follow the link for considerably more detail.
The Fists of Heaven, lightly armed with crossbows, and lightly armored infantry air-lifted by to'raken, are marked by a clenched fist embossed on leather breastplates. Fists of Heaven are small of stature, allowing up to a dozen per to'raken. <TPoD: 6, 146, Threads; TPoD: 597, Glossary> For more details on to'raken and other Seanchan exotics, refer to RJWoT: 18, 163-72, Exotic Animals of Seanchan.
Charged with aerial surveillance, riders of raken are also short and thin; "none carried a sword, but they all wore close-fitting coats of sky-blue and each had a pair of knives in scabbards sewn to their snug boots." <KoD: 12, 295, A Manufactory>
And most flamboyant - thus far - are Seanchan ship's archers:
There is certainly significant variability in the colors employed by Seanchans - red and green, with white helmet plumes, and blue and green, with blue plumes, and "... armor striped in blue-and-yellow or green-and-white or any other combination you might happen to think of" are also reported <WH: 17, 358, Pink Ribbons; also TSR: 19, 312, The Wavedancer; TPoD: 23, 435, Fog of War, Fog of Battle; 23, 451, Fog of War, Fog of Battle> - all to differentiate various Houses, or branches of the military.
Perhaps as a clarification, Jordan mentions "armor of overlapping plates painted in stripes" at least twice in CoT - not just segments painted in alternating colors, but stripes - something not entirely clear from previous novels. <CoT: 28, 603, A Cluster of Rosebuds; also 1, 106, Time to Be Gone> Whether horizontal or vertical, he does not say. Probably horizontal: he mentions "bright stripes painted across their breastplates", for the Taraboner auxiliaries mentioned in KoD <KoD: Prologue, 29, Embers Falling on Dry Grass>.
Seanchan armor shares much with the yoroi of the Japanese Samurai, a combination of plate-and-lamellar armor, in which lamellae (thin steel plates) were laced together, then painted and lacquered for resistance against the elements. It covered the wearer as Jordan describes, both the relatively more modern yoroi I've depicted further up this page, called gusoku by some, and the older form shown to the left - click here to see a larger version. Obviously, I favor the former - but Jordan's Seanchan might follow either model, or neither. Artwork from RJWoT (see small excerpt, below), certainly reinforces the strong parallels between Japanese and Seanchan head and body armor.
The Seanchan chapter icon immediately suggests the Japanese kabuto, or helmet, with a matching, insect-styled face mask, as a prototype for Jordan's "... lacquered helmet, shaped like some huge insect's head, [with] two long thin blue plumes." <TPoD: 23, 435, Fog of War, Fog of Battle; see also TGH: 29, 421, Seanchan; TFoH: 32, 519, A Short Spear, etc., quotations above> This helmet style echoes that of the Age of Legends, a "... helmet, like some monstrous insect's head, its mandibles hiding his face ..." <TSR: 26, 433, The Dedicated>.
Consisting of riveted vertical, rounded plates formed into a shallow, round bowl, with more metal plates forming a horizontal rim, the kabuto has a heavier horizontal plate (or mabezashi) in front, for a sun-visor-like effect above the eyes. At the back, horizontal lamellae are laced together into overlapping plates protecting the neck. Typically, two angled, vertical metal plates stand out from either side of the mabezashi, possibly where Jordan places his "thin plumes like feelers."
Note that kabuto spanned millenia, with many designs being possible even in any given time. In the Tokugawa period, helmets were shaped to resemble animals and plants, including insects - Jordan's Seanchan would likely have fit in well. Interestingly, numerous other parallels - artistic, societal hierarchy, etc. - also evoke feudal Japan.
As noted above, officers are marked by their helmets:
To complete the description of Seanchan armor: steel-backed gauntlets are again described in KoD, "... striped like the rest of their armor." <KoD:
The common soldier's sword is a "... heavy, curved blade ..." <TGH: 29, 424, Seanchan>, as is Turak's heron-mark blade <TGH: 45, 636, Blademaster>; the description that follows beautifully fits that of the Turkish kilij:
Museum Replicas, together with Robert Jordan, has also crafted a version of the typical Seanchan blade, though far less ornate, and likely more typical of soldiers or lesser officers:
Oddly enough, this weapon, at 30½" long with a 25½" blade, is rather on the short side for a two-handed sword worn on the back: such a short sword is easily carried at the waist. It weighs only 1 lb. 9 oz. - hardly typical for swords repeatedly referred to as thick or heavy. (It would, however, be an appropriate weapon for the Fists of Heaven.) While its overall feel and look are representative, the usual Seanchan sword is probably longer, i.e. 36" or more, with a 30" blade or longer, and certainly heavier, with a weight of 3 lbs. or up. This is more representative of historical two-handed swords, and explains why it is carried on the back.
As noted, Seanchan warriors use spears, with tassels in House colors, and shields, lacquered in House colors. Crossbows are also in military use <ACoS: 26, 427, The Irrevocable Words; RJWoT: 17, 161, Seanchan>.
Cavalry carries streamered lances into battle, riding horses or torm, "... creatures that looked almost like cats the size of horses, but with lizards' scales rippling bronze beneath their saddles. Clawed feet ..." <TGH: 29, 428, Seanchan>, "... fluid grace, ... dark skin ..." further mark these creatures <TGH: 34, 490, The Wheel Weaves; also ACoS: 39, 620, Promises to Keep; RJWoT: 18, 164-6, Exotic Animals of Seanchan>.
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