This article contains spoilers for the entire series.
And where her heart had been was left only a thirst for vengeance, vengeance for her love, vengeance for her people and her land. Driven by grief she reached out to the True Source, and hurled the One Power at the Trolloc army. And there the Dreadlords died wherever they stood […]
( The Eye of the World, Chapter 9, Tellings of the Wheel )
Queen Eldrene by Erevia on DeviantArt
I begin this series of spotlights on minor but key characters of The Wheel of Time with one of the stars of a well-known scene. It is a scene, I think, that is powerful and nostalgic for many: Moiraine with her staff aflame as she tells of the Two Rivers’ history, of a people who would not yield and a loss that demanded retribution.
An Aes Sedai and the last Queen of Manetheren, Eldrene ay Ellan ay Carlan was also known to her people as Ellisande, the Rose of the Sun. Betrayed by the jealousy of the Amyrlin Tetsuan, who withheld aid in Manetheren’s moment of greatest need, Eldrene helped to facilitate the preservation of her people during the Trolloc Wars. After overseeing the safe flight of civilians into the forests and mountains, she lashed out in grief at the fall of her husband and Warder, King Aemon. Burned out and burned up by drawing too much of the One Power, Eldrene’s death precipitated the destruction of the Trolloc army sent to obliterate her land.
As Moiraine begins her story, she laments the deaths of Eldrene and Aemon—laments, indeed, “the loss of even their memory” among their descendants. The people of the Two Rivers, long generations removed from the events of the Trolloc Wars, know nothing of this history until it is revealed by Moiraine in the aftermath of their own first brush with destruction.
And yet Eldrene, like Aemon, stands as a testament to the power of history, legend, and myth in The Wheel of Time. If conscious knowledge and memory of her is gone, vestiges remain, buried deep. Her name is, in fact, entrenched unknown within Two Rivers’ parlance as a local geographical feature—Eldrene’s Veil, a waterfall that lies in the Mountains of Mist, not far west of the Taren Ferry and north of the Sand Hills.
Once the people of Emond’s Field have heard the history of Manetheren’s fall, something of it is awakened within them. Eldrene’s name becomes a rallying call for the Two Rivers’ runaways as Mat instinctively takes up Aemon’s battlecry—“Carai an Caldazar! Carai an Ellisande! Al Ellisande!”—on two separate occasions when the group engages in battle with Trollocs. On the first occasion, when the group is confronted by the enemy on the Caemlyn Road, Egwene feels a glimmer of recognition, almost able to understand the words without Moiraine’s translation and thus giving rise to fan theories of Mat and Egwene as Aemon and Eldrene reborn. On the second, as the Blight rises around and against them, we are told that Mat is “lost to the present” as he takes up the cry again, his mind unconsciously drawn to ancient days as he and his friends battle for their lives. On both occasions, Eldrene’s name constitutes a deep-seated link to the past that hovers just out of sight, obscured but not erased by the veils of time.
Carai an Ellisande by Alsdale on DeviantArt
Equally significant is the way in which Rand’s journey from the Two Rivers to the Eye of the World—his journey, that is, to first recognize his destiny—is bracketed by references to Manetheren and to the courage and desperation of Eldrene and Aemon. The denouement of Moiraine’s story early in the first book marks the commencement of Rand’s journey from the Two Rivers; he stands spellbound until she concludes and Lan summons him to the stables to complete preparations for their departure. It is fittingly and even poetically a journey in which Rand will learn that he has been prophesied, in a mirroring of Eldrene’s and Aemon’s deaths, to sacrifice his life for the salvation of his people—of all people. At the end of the novel, once Rand has defeated Ba’alzamon at the Eye of the World, Moiraine returns to the tale of Manetheren’s last stand when she tells Rand that “Manetheren blood was always stubborn, and more so after Aemon died and Eldrene’s heart was shattered” (TEotW, Ch. 52). Although not actually born of Manetheren blood, Rand has been indelibly touched by it, raised and fostered by its strength and stubbornness.
Although Eldrene’s name itself very rarely appears in the series as a whole, other echoes of her abound; perhaps the most blatant is Egwene’s very similar finale in A Memory of Light. Indeed, like the waterfall that bears her name, Eldrene’s spectral presence continues to hang over The Wheel of Time.
 “For the honor of the Red Eagle. For the honor of the Rose of the Sun. The Rose of the Sun.”