This article was first posted in August 1995 on rec.arts.sf.written.robert-jordan, but was never webbified then. It is now, though. Thanks to David J Robertson for sending me a copy, since I had lost mine. It's not updated for ACoS, but I have done some minor changes clear up way people tended to misunderstand it and fix some errors pointed out by Dilip Goswami.
I've done some thinking on the roles of the characters in Tarman Gai'don, especially the tripod: Rand, Perrin and Mat.
I've been very insatisfied with seeing Mat and Perrin as simple "supporters" of Rand, for the following reasons:
One answer is to fit them in with certain roles and tasks. For this purpose, I used the classical Hindu Destroyer - Builder - Preserver pattern, with Rand as the Destroyer, Perrin as the Builder and Mat as the Preserver. But be aware that this article is not so much a try to show Hindu references in TWoT as a try to solve the problems outlined above using a Hindu theme.
There are numerous references to Rand breaking the world, to shatter all ties etc. In his previous incarnation as LTT he was the Kinslayer and led the strike that caused the Breaking.
Perrin is very much a man who wants to live in peace and prosperity. He has a hammer, a symbol of building, as one of his attributes. He also more or less single-handedly started the process of making the Two Rivers a nation instead of a backwater region. Then there are the various references to the Broken Crown.
Mat is a general and a fighting man. His foxhead amulet is both a symbol of and a means for protection.
Tarman Gai'don is not, IMO, going to be one big battle, but a series of events, with the final confrontation of the DO as a part of it. Besides this, there will probably be a major Trolloc/Dreadlord invasion that must be countered. Minor battles and strikes with Darkfriends, Black Ajah can and will possibly happen too.
Rand's role in this is simple: Beat the DO. Period. Leading armies, ruling nations or beating Forsaken is, crassly speaking, totally irrelevant. He, and possibly a few others, will make the DO confrontation. All Rand's actions and tasks ought to be meant to strengthen him for this.
Mat's role is to win the Second Trolloc Wars. He is the only one with the experience and knowledge to do this, as he must use conventional forces together with Asha'man, Aes Sedai etc to counter the Dreadlord threat and make up for the probably larger Trolloc forces. In the process of saving humanity from being overrun by Trollocs, he will gain Rand the time to organise and launch the DO strike. (Pretty ironical, isn't it? Mat leading the greatest force of channelers gathered in at least 3000 years...)
Perrin's role in this model I see very much as a post-battle one, in rebuilding the world. He will also be critical for keeping Rand safe and sound until Rand must face the DO, as implied by Min's vision [LoC, Beyond the gate] of Rand and Perrin. He is also unique in being the only one with reasonable good relations with all the major characters, something I think will make him instrumental in rebuilding the trust between Egwene and Rand, and thus bringing the uniting of the world towards Tarman Gai'don much closer.
The roles of the other characters is harder to define. Min, Aviendha and Elayne is together probably as important as Perrin (if not more so) in keeping Rand whole and sane. Egwene will be part of the rebuild process, and the uniting of the world against the Shadow. I have not found any role for Nynaeve in this scheme.
This has some good (IMO) implications:
First, it fits in with the tripod thing the Myrddraal talked with Perrin on in TDR. Without Perrin, Rand will be turned/become mad/join Lanfear or something equally bad before the DO confrontation. Without Mat, Rand will not have his back free and will not gain the time needed for a direct strike at the DO. Without Rand, the DO will become omnipotent. There is no difference in importance between these three roles, but Rand's is the most difficult and the most faced with dangers, and so he is the most powerful.
Second, it does not center all responsibility and power on one person, something I have a dislike for seeing.
Third, it points to a world after Tarman Gai'don that needs rebuilding.
The biggest weak link is Perrin's role, as it is rather passive until after the DO confrontation and lacks a natural connection to his wolfbrotherhood. The Hammer/Axe conflict/dualism is also very downplayed in this analysis, though it can be seen as a balance between "rule of sword" and "rule of law". But that would still not recognise its importance for Perrin's character.
The icons are copyright © Tor Books and used with permission.