In The Wheel of Time, Myrddraal are a semi-synthetic race, born of Trollocs and thus created second-hand by Aginor. It is not exactly known why Myrddraal are born; the general explanation is that they are throwbacks to human gene pool in Trolloc stock, but that theory has some flaws. An alternate theory suggests that they may be Trollocs who can channel.

Myrddraal are used as commands for Trollocs, as they are considerably smarter (or maybe sly would be the word) than Trollocs. But since Trollocs are such a untrustable folk, Myrddraal often, as precaution, somehow link Trollocs to them so that if Myrddraal died, Trollocs linked to it will die as well. This decreases the effectivity of army as killing Myrddraal can drop a whole unit down, but if not for this Myrddraal might as well eat their beloved leader in night hours.

Myrddraal are, as said, smart, and also very cruel. They don't have sense of humor, and their smile is only for intimidation, but they enjoy torturing people, be they humans or Trollocs.

Myrddraal have the shape of human and don't have all that strange stuff Trollocs often wear, even so that Myrddraal can be confused to human if it is sufficiently covered and you won't watch it move. They have gray, maggot-like skin and no eyes or hair. Despite this eyelessness, they can see quite well. It is believed to be some kind of force spun from Dark One.

Myrddraal have some strange abilities: Besides seeing with no eyes (and they do see in dark just as well as in light; light seems irrelevant to it, actually), their gaze (if you can call some pale ball with mouth moving into your direction a gaze) can cause fear in ordinary humans. Humans of powerful will can contain this fear, but normal people may just as well panic at sight. Myrddraal also can "jump" from shadows to shadows: Enter in one shadow and leave in other. It is not known how this works, or how far it can move, but this is something Aginor himself did not understand. It said he got thousands of Myrddraal killed trying to figure out how it works.

Myrddraal are generally described moving with viper-like grace, and they are competent swordsmen. The swords they wield are wrought in forges of Thakan'dar, and the metal they are made from has some qualities that cause them to be effectively very poisonous: A wound from Myrddraal blade is known to kill in hours, if not Healed with One Power.

Myrddraal are slow to die: if you cut a head off one, it will fall down and lose its ability to see (which would suggest their vision has something to with head, after all), but it will keep swinging its blade around and trash in ground for hours before admitting it's dead.

Thirteen channelers linked together, channeling One Power through Myrddraal can force any channeler into Shadow. This has not been observed and it is not known exactly what this means.

Two corrections I must make:

1. Myrddraal do have black hair on their heads, just none anywhere else on their body. How anyone can vouch for this I am not certain, as no one has been documented to escape after being raped by one. Their hair has been described as both oily and as having no hint of human luster, which I can't quite understand as oil is shiny. Also, despite many drawings to the contrary, this hair must be long because who would ever give one a haircut?

2. A wound from a Myrddraal's blade does not kill that quickly. A person can survive for days or even weeks; the problem is that the wound will not heal naturally, and it festers as if infected, getting worse day by day.

One comment of my own: I have a theory on how the fear thing works. It is not actually some kind of mystical power; it's just that they hate everyone and everything they see so much that they project it (described in Eye of the World). Humans, being naturally empathic, sense this, and it scares them. But then, who other than the most hardened warrior or at least someone who knows the Myrddraal isn't much of a threat to them, such as an Aes Sedai, wouldn't be afraid of someone who's only concern for you is what fun noises you might make while being tortured?

A few more additions:

  • They do indeed have hair, and I think what Jordan was getting at when he described it as oily is that it hangs close to the body; it doesn't have body or luster (they don't use Pantene). However, there is one woman than could attest to the fact that Myrddraal do or don't have hair down there: Moghedien. She was raped by Shaidar Haran, and although he is far from a typical Myrddraal, he is similar in many aspects, and it is doubful that the differences include physical things (other than his height). This is only hinted at in the books, but was confirmed by Jordan, and is in the infamous FAQ.
  • A wound from a Myrddraal blade usualy kills fairly quickly, though nothing at all like Padan Fain's Adriol dagger (or Shadar Logoth, if you will). The reason that they are so deadly is the fact that the forgers at Thakan'dar temper the blade in the foul waters of the river, and then plunge the blade into a human, somehow trapping a portion of the soul, or something to that effect.
  • To turn someone to the Shadow requires thirteen Aes Sedai (usually Black Ajah), and thirteen Myrddraal. The reason that it's thirteen is probably the fact that the largest circle that can be achieved by women without a man is thirteen. That and the fact that thirteen is traditionaly an unlucky number, so it probably seemed appropriate to Jordan. There may (and are probably) other undisclosed reasons, as the topic hasn't really been delved into much.
  • In the typical chain of command for forces of the Shadow, Myrddraal are second to last. In the past, orders have always been carried out through the chain:

    Dark One --> Forsaken --> Dreadlords --> Myrddraal --> Trollocs

    It should be noted that the Dark One isn't always included, as the Forsaken are always scheming, and Darkfriends of high standing may be incorporated into the chain, but as this is an Army of Evil (TM) fear is often the motivating factor in obedience. Each member of the chain effectively scares the party below it into follwoing orders, as seen when a Forsaken had to force the Myrddraal to force the Trollocs to follow Rand and Co. into Shadar Logoth, and later, the Aiel Waste (Three Fold Land).

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