Channeling the One Power – genetic basis and inheritance

Biology of magical creatures


Channeling is the unique ability of some people in the Westlands to take advantage of the True Source, thus driving the One Power for modeling of both matter and time. In other words, these are the magicians in the Wheel of Time universe. However, not all human beings are able to channel, and not all channelers are equal in this ability, which led to the conclusion that some kind of genetic predisposition exist. The current study explores the existing evidence, summarizes the scarce information and tries to explain the genetic basis of channeling.

There is a magic allele

Some rough estimates claimed that approximately 2-3% of the population in the Westlands possess the ability to channel if properly taught. We also do know that both males and females possess such ability, but because of the methodical “gentling” of such men, especially by the Red Ajah, the percentage of channelers is stably decreasing with generations. The above is clear evidence that channeling is an inheritable feature. The simple genetics of the mechanism of inheritance leads us to the conclusion that there must be at least one allele of a gene, which is responsible for this ability. By purposively reducing the male population with the allele – we must assume that a gentled male is suffering from severe mental illness and is rarely reproducing, the frequency of the allele in the overall population is diminishing accordingly. However, the blame on the Red Ajah for this process is exaggerated because we also know that a male channeler is extremely susceptible to going mad over time. Therefore it should be expected that male channelers will have offspring less often than non-channelers, so the “magic allele” will be slowly lost over time. Going further, we also know that channelers differ extremely in their ability to channel, and males are on average more powerful than females.  Based on the above said, we will try to formulate several hypotheses to explain the genetic basis of channeling.

Why allele and not a gene?

Some early studies suggested the existence of a gene, related to channeling. This could be easily disapproved as the basic teaching tells us that humans differ from each other not because of differences in the number of genes, but because of different variants of these genes, called alleles. As it is an allele of an existing gene, then we should assume that channelers do differ from non-channelers in the protein, encoded by the variants of this gene and it is more likely a protein, involved in the development of neuronal connections in the main brain. Accordingly, the absence of proper teaching would lead to pathological alterations in the brain and mental illness.

Is channeling sex-linked?

Although my first guess would be NO, there is a slight possibility it is. The two types of sex-linked inheritance are X-linked and Y-linked. We can easily discard the hypothesis that it is Y-linked as females could be channelers either and they do not have Y-chromosome. It could be, however X-linked trait, and most probably an X-co-dominant trait. If we assume there is proportionality between the extent of channeling ability and the probability for mental illness, then both females with two copies of the magic allele and males with one copy of it on their single X-chromosome will be extremely powerful and susceptible to pathology, while females with one magic allele and one ordinary allele will have a median degree of channeling ability. An X-recessive trait is also likely as then only double-positive females will have the ability, one of the alleles must be inherited by the father and this will explain the sharp decrease in the number of channelers over the years. The possible variants of inheritance are depicted in figure 1.

Autosomal inheritance with epistasis

More profound theoretic thinking leads us to the hypothesis that the magic allele is an autosomal gene rather than sex-related. In such a case both males and females will carry two copies of the same gene and they may be either homozygous or heterozygous. We suggest it is either co-dominant or recessive, as a dominant allele will be more pronounced in the population and will lead to a higher percentage of channelers, but we also suggest it is in epistatic interactions with at least a few other genes. Some variants of these genes could promote, while others suppress the manifestation of the trait. At least one of the genes which strongly increase the strength of channeling is situated on the Y chromosome, thus explaining the all-or-nothing manifestation in males, while the others are autosomal and could explain the vast range of strength differences in females channelers. According to the latest classification, there are 72 different degrees of strength, which will surely depend on complicated gene interactions.

Figure 1. One of the early concepts of sex-linked inheritance of the ability for channeling. In the case when only one of the parents is a channeler, if the trait is dominant or co-dominant, it would be equally manifested in half of the children. If recessive, however, the trait would be manifested in very few of the children and only a male channeler and a female bearer of the trait (but not channeler itself) would give birth to a significant number of channeling children.

Seventy-two degrees of strength means strong polymorphism of the magic allele

Finally, there is also a possibility that the magic allele originated from a single mutation, but further mutations caused the accumulation of additional variants, either increasing or decreasing the strength of the trait. Therefore, each degree of strength is related to a particular polymorphism of the gene. In this particular case, it will be possible to identify both geographic and ancestral patterns in the strength of channelers. We must also assume that the said mutation could also occur spontaneously, in lineages of non-channelers, because if not, then the magic allele pool would be exhausted in time due to the low reproduction rate of male channelers and the possibility for easier identification of such for gentling, based on their ancestry.


[1] Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson (1990-2013) The Wheel of Time. Tor Books.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *