The Serpent, Spear, and Wheel of Time
A Compendium of Weaponry and Military Costuming
of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time
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The Seanchan
Seanchan
Deathwatch Guards
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Defenders of the Stone
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Birgitte and her bow
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Seanchan helmet icon

** 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: gusoku:  Japanese armor
    "The helmet looked very much like some monstrous insect's head, with thin red plumes like feelers; the wearer seemed to be peering out through mandibles. It was painted and gilded to increase the effect, and the rest of the man's armor was also worked with paint and gold. Overlapping plates in black and red outlined with gold covered his chest and ran down the outsides of his arms and the fronts of his thighs. Even the steel backs of his gauntlets were red and gold. Where he did not wear metal, his clothes were dark leather. The two-handed sword on his back, with its curved blade, was scabbarded and hilted in black-and-red leather." <TGH: 29, 421, Seanchan>

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:

    "... men in dark leather, and armor painted green and gold, overlapping plates down their chests and the outsides of their arms and fronts of their thighs. Their spears bore green-and-gold tassels, their long shields were painted in the same colors, and their helmets seemed to be the heads of huge insects, faces peering out their mandibles ... One was clearly an officer, lacking spear or shield, but with a curved, two-handed sword on his back. Silver outlined the plates of his lacquered armor, and thin green plumes, like feelers, heightened the illusion of his painted helmet." <TFoH: 32, 519, A Short Spear>

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:

    "... segmented armor striped in blue banded at the bottom with silvery white and red banded with golden yellow, their helmets painted in all four colors so they resembled the faces of fearsome spiders. A large badge with the anchor ... and arrow and lightning was fastened to the front of each helmet, and every man except the officers carried a double-curve bow at his side, with a brsistling quiver at his belt balancing a short-sword." <CoT: 1, 112, Time to Be Gone>

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>.

Yoroi #2Seanchan 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>.

Japanese kabutoConsisting 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:

    Officer Designation
    standardbearer
    under-lieutenant
    lieutenant
    captain
    banner-general
     
    small crest like a bronze arrowhead at the front of the helmet
    no marking
    one plume
    two plumes
    three plumes
     
    see KoD: Prologue, 41-2, Embers Falling on Dry Grass; 4, 155, A Deal; 7, 198, A Cold Medallion; 29, 630, The Last Knot, etc.

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:

Turkish kilij
    "Seanchan warriors' and nobles' swords have thick curved blades with a back edge one-quarter to one-third the length of the blade, a two-handed hilt, and quillons shaped like a C or a crescent moon. The sword pommel is a cap. Among the nobles the cap is usually formed in the shape of an animal's head, the hilt itself is sometimes worked in the figure of a woman, say, or a fanciful creature, and the sword and scabbard are ornate with gold and gems." <RJWoT: 17, 161, Seanchan>

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:

Seanchan blade

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>.

Seanchan morat'tormCavalry 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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