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The Wheel of Time

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"The Wheel of Time turns, and ages come and go. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow."

The Wheel of Time (abbreviated as WoT by fans) is a bestselling series of epic fantasy novels written by the American author James Oliver Rigney, Jr. under the pen name Robert Jordan. Originally planned as a six-book series, it now consists of fourteen published novels. The series also includes a stand-alone prequel novel and a companion book. The author began writing the first volume, The Eye of the World, in 1984 and it was published in 1990. The eleventh volume was published in 2005. The author passed away in September 2007 while working on the final volume, A Memory of Light. Fellow fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson was to complete the final volume for publication in late 2009, however due to the size it was decided that Jordan's A Memory of Light would be divided into three separate novels. The first of the three, The Gathering Storm was released October 27th, 2009, with the others to follow at one-year intervals. The second of the three, Towers of Midnight, was released November 2nd, 2010. The fourteenth and penultimate volume in the series, A Memory of Light, was released January 8th, 2013.

The series is noted for its length, its well-developed magic system, the extremely large numbers of subplots, the intricate detail of its imaginary world, and the extremely large number of characters (there are more than 1,800 named characters in the series). The series proved a success from the start, selling out of its original American print run in just a few months. The eighth through eleventh volumes each debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. As of August 12, 2008, the series had sold 44 million copies worldwide. The series has spawned several games, and even a soundtrack.

PremiseEdit

At the dawn of time a deity known as the Creator forged the universe and the Wheel of Time, which spins the Pattern of the Ages using the lives of men and women as its threads. The Wheel has seven spokes, each representing an age, and it is rotated by the One Power, which flows from the True Source. The One Power is divided into male and female halves, saidin and saidar, which work in opposition and in unison to drive the Wheel. Those humans who can use this power are known as channelers; the principal organization of such channelers in the books is called the Aes Sedai or 'Servants of All' in the Old Tongue.

The Creator imprisoned its antithesis, "Shai'tan," the Dark One, at the moment of creation, sealing him away from the Wheel. However, in a time called the Age of Legends, an Aes Sedai experiment inadvertently breached the Dark One's prison, allowing his influence to seep back into the world. He rallied the powerful, the corrupt, and the ambitious to his cause and these servants began an effort to free the Dark One fully from his prison, so he might remake time and reality in his own image. In response to this threat, the Wheel spun out the Dragon, a channeler of immense power, to be a champion for the Light. In the Age of Legends the Dragon was a man named Lews Therin Telamon, who eventually rose to command the Aes Sedai and their allies in the struggle against the Dark One's forces. After a grueling ten-year war, Lews Therin led his forces to victory in a daring assault on the volcano of Shayol Ghul (the site of the earthly link to the Dark One's prison), and was able to seal off the Dark One's prison. However, at the moment of victory the Dark One was able to taint saidin, driving male channelers of the One Power insane. Lews Therin killed his friends and family and then himself. The other male channelers devastated the world with the One Power, unleashing earthquakes and tidal waves that reshaped the world. Eventually, the last male channeler was killed or cut off from the One Power, leaving the human race all but destroyed and only women able to wield the One Power safely. The Aes Sedai reconstituted and guided humanity out of this dark time. Mankind now lived under the shadow of a prophecy that the Dark One would break free from his prison and the Dragon would be Reborn to fight him once more, and although he is humanity's only hope to succeed against the Dark One, he would devastate the world a second time in the process.

Over the next three and a half thousand years, the human race returns to a level of technology roughly comparable to that of the Middle Ages, with the difference that women enjoy full equality with men in most societies, and are superior in some. This is put down to the power and influence of the female-only Aes Sedai spilling over into everyday life. Several major wars have ravaged the main continent since the defeat of the Dark One, such as the Trolloc Wars, when the surviving servants of the Dark One tried to destroy civilization once more but were defeated by an alliance of nations led by the Aes Sedai; and the War of the Hundred Years, a devastating civil war that followed the fall of a continent-spanning empire ruled by the High King, Artur Hawkwing. These wars have prevented the human race from regaining the power and high technology of the Age of Legends, and also left humanity divided. Even the prestige of the Aes Sedai has fallen, with their shrinking numbers and the emergence of organizations such as the Children of the Light, a military order who hold that all who dabble with the One Power are servants of the Shadow. The nations of the modern era are able to unite against the warrior-clans of the Aiel, who cross into the western kingdoms on a mission of vengeance after they suffer a grievous insult, but are too divided to work effectively together in other areas.

Plot summaryEdit

The prequel novel, New Spring, takes place during the Aiel War and chronicles the end of the conflict and the discovery by the Aes Sedai that the Prophecies of the Dragon have been fulfilled and the Dragon has been Reborn. Aes Sedai agents are dispatched to try and find the newborn child before servants of the Shadow can do the same.

The series proper commences almost twenty years later in the Two Rivers district of the kingdom of Andor, a near-forgotten backwater. An Aes Sedai, Moiraine Damodred, and her Warder, Lan, arrive in the village of Emond's Field with news that servants of the Dark One are searching for one particular young man living in the area. Moiraine is unable to determine which of three men it is: Rand al'Thor, Matrim Cauthon, or Perrin Aybara, and so takes all three of them out of the Two Rivers, along with their friends Egwene al'Vere and Nynaeve al'Meara, whom Moiraine has determined can channel the One Power and learn to be Aes Sedai. The first novel depicts their flight from various agents of the Shadow and their attempts to escape to the Aes Sedai city of Tar Valon.

From then on, the story expands and the original characters are frequently split into different groups, pursuing different missions or agendas aimed at furthering the cause of the Dragon Reborn, sometimes thousands of miles apart. Broadly speaking, the original group of characters from the Two Rivers make new allies, gain experience, and become figures of some influence and authority. As they struggle to unite the western kingdoms against the Dark One's forces, their task is complicated by rulers of the nations who refuse to give up their authority and by factions such as the Children of the Light, who do not believe in the prophecies, and the Seanchan, the people of a long-lost colony of Artur Hawkwing's empire across the western ocean who have returned, believing it is their destiny to conquer the world. The Aes Sedai also become divided between those who believe the Dragon Reborn should be strictly controlled, and those who believe he must lead them into battle as he did in the earlier war. As the story expands, new characters representing different factions are introduced; although this expansion of the narrative allows the sheer scale of the growing struggle to be effectively depicted, it has been criticized for slowing the pace of the novels and sometimes reducing the appearances of the original or main cast to extended cameos.

By the eleventh novel, it has become clear that the Last Battle, caused when the Dark One is able to exert its influence directly on the world once more, is imminent. The Last Battle is depicted in the fourteenth and final novel in the series, A Memory of Light.

SettingEdit

The worldEdit

The world of The Wheel of Time novels is our own world, both in the distant future and distant past. It has been hinted that our time is the First Age, the age before the Age of Legends, due to heavily distorted references to the Cold War and the US space program in the most ancient legends of the Third Age, and the presence of ancient friezes showing extinct animals including giraffes.

By the time of the Third Age, the geography of the world has shifted almost out of recognition. There are three continents in existence. The main continent, which may be considered analogous to Eurasia but much smaller, consists of a western portion where the bulk of the action in the novels takes place; a larger eastern portion dominated by a massive kingdom called Shara; and the Aiel Waste which separates them. This main continent is surrounded by several island archipelagos, most of which are controlled by the Sea Folk. This landmass is bordered by the Great Blight to the north, the Aryth Ocean to the west, the Morenal Ocean to the east, and the Sea of Storms to the south.

One should note the similarities between modern Eurasia and the main continent of The Wheel of Time. Both have three main seaside peninsulas to the south (Tear, Illian, Ebou Dar/Greece, Italy, Iberia), a large forested area north of them, made up of many nations (some of which are Andor, Cairhien/France, Germany), and farther north is a mountainous area of frigid land, split into several allied factions (Borderlands/Scandanavia). To the west is a mountain range (Spine of the World/Turkish mountains), and beyond is a large desert (Aiel Waste/Middle East). All the way to the east is Shara, a land quite similar to Renaissance-era Asia.

Located many thousands of miles to the west, across the Aryth Ocean, lies the landmass of Seanchan. Almost girdling the planet from pole to pole, Seanchan consists of two landmasses divided by a narrow channel. Seanchan is dominated by the empire of the same name.

Located far to the south, across the Sea of Storms, is an island-continent only known to the Sea Folk. This land has never recovered from the Breaking of the World and is wracked by volcanic activity and earthquakes. The people are savages and male channelers are left to roam free, adding to the dangers. The Sea Folk call this place the Land of the Madmen and avoid it at all costs.

The main landmassEdit

There is no universally-recognized name given for the land that stretches from the Aryth Ocean to the Spine of the World, from the Great Blight to the Sea of Storms. The Aiel call it the wetlands, while The Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game calls it the Westlands, and The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time refers to it simply as "The Land." Amongst fans, the landmass is known informally as 'Randland', but this is not an in-universe title. Robert Jordan used the term 'Westlands' in the RPG and in an article in Dragon Magazine, making it as close to an official name as possible.

The main landmass contains fourteen kingdoms of varying power and strength: Altara, Amadicia, Andor, Arad Doman, Arafel, Cairhien, Ghealdan, Illian, Kandor Murandy, Saldaea, Shienar, Tarabon, and Tear, as well as four city-states of note: Falme, Far Madding, Mayene, and Tar Valon. Large stretches of the continent are claimed by no nation, with the declining birth rate seeing humanity retreat into smaller areas. In the thousand years prior to the novels, an additional ten nations have fallen into ruin and disappeared, most notably Hardan and Malkier.

The novels begin in the Two Rivers, a district of western Andor close to the Mountains of Mist.

The booksEdit

# Title Pgs. Chs. Words 1st Edition Notes
0. The Strike at Shayol Ghul 2,562 1996 Prequel story - released online.
Also printed in The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time.
0. New Spring 332 26 121,815 January 2004
1. The Eye of the World 832 53 305,902 15 January 1990
2. The Great Hunt 736 50 267,078 15 November 1990
3. The Dragon Reborn 704 56 251,392 15 October 1991
4. The Shadow Rising 1,008 58 393,823 15 September 1992 No Prologue.
5. The Fires of Heaven 992 56 354,109 15 October 1993
6. Lord of Chaos 1,024 55 389,264 15 October 1994 First with an Epilogue.
7. A Crown of Swords 896 41 295,028 15 May 1996
8. The Path of Daggers 704 31 226,687 20 October 1998
9. Winter's Heart 800 35 238,789 7 November 2000
10. Crossroads of Twilight 864 30 271,632 7 January 2003 Also has an Epilogue.
11. Knife of Dreams 793 37 315,163 11 October 2005
12. The Gathering Storm 1,071 50 303,630 27 October 2009 Completed by Brandon Sanderson.
Also has an Epilogue.
13. Towers of Midnight 864 57 328,000 2 November 2010
14. A Memory of Light 909 49 357,523 8 January 2013
Totals: 12,529 704 4,422,397

Writing and conceptionEdit

In the early 1980s Robert Jordan wrote several Conan the Barbarian novels for Tor Books, including a novelization of the movie Conan the Destroyer. These proved successful and in 1984 he proposed an idea for an epic fantasy series of six books to Tom Doherty, the head of Tor Books. Doherty approved the idea and Jordan began writing the novel that became The Eye of the World.[1]

The novel proved extremely difficult to write and characters and storylines changed considerably during the writing process. The series was originally centered on an older man who discovered relatively late in life that he was the 'chosen one' who had to save the world. However, Jordan deliberately decided to move closer to the tone and style of JRR Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring and made the characters younger and less experienced. Once this decision had been made, writing proceeded much more easily and Jordan completed the second volume, The Great Hunt, at roughly the same time the first book was published.[2]

Tom Doherty enjoyed The Eye of the World so much that he declared it would be the biggest fantasy series since Tolkien, and took the unprecedented steps of sending free review copies to every bookstore in the United States to generate interest. The combined hardcover and trade paperback run of the novel sold out of its initial 40,000-strong print run. Sales then doubled with the publication of the second novel just eight months later generating more interest in the first book.[1]

The series draws on elements of numerous mythologies, including Norse, Celtic, and Asian legends (particularly Japanese and Indian sources). The recursive nature of time and the nature of reincarnation are drawn from Buddhism, while the notions of balance, duality, and a respect for nature are drawn from Taoism. Jordan has cited several other novels as inspiration, such as The Lord of the Rings and particularly War and Peace. Jordan himself stated that one of the biggest themes of the series is the mutability of knowledge: that in a pre-technological civilization eyewitness reports are exaggerated and changed in the telling until they bear little resemblance to the original events. The relationship between men and women is also a key theme of the series.

Jordan wrote full-time at breakneck speed for the next several years until he completed the seventh volume, A Crown of Swords in early 1996, at which point he slowed down, delivering a book every two years. Fans objected when he took some time off to expand a short story into a prequel novel called New Spring, so he decided to shelve his plans for additional prequels in favor of finishing off the series. He rejected criticisms of the later volumes of the series slowing down in pace in order to concentrate on minor secondary characters at the expense of the main characters from the opening volumes, but acknowledged that his structure for the tenth volume, Crossroads of Twilight, had not worked out as he'd planned. Knife of Dreams, the eleventh volume, had a much more positive reception from critics and fans alike and Jordan announced the twelfth volume, which he'd previously announced would have the working title A Memory of Light, would conclude the series.

Author's deathEdit

Jordan had repeatedly said that the main sequence would conclude with the twelfth book, with a working title of A Memory of Light. Numerous times, including most recently at ComicCon 2006, he said he would hold to this statement even if it had to be 1500 pages long. Before his death Jordan had planned to write two more short prequel novels, an encyclopedia, and possibly two or three other side-plot novels.[3][4][5] Aware that he might not live to complete the series, Jordan prepared notes so that the series could be finished the way he wanted it to be.

With Jordan's death on September 16, 2007, the conclusion of the series was in question. On December 7 of that year, the publisher, Tor Books, announced that fantasy author Brandon Sanderson would finish A Memory of Light,[6] using notes, written chapters, and audio recordings of the story provided by Robert Jordan before his passing.[6]

Sanderson said on his website in March of 2008 that he had begun writing the final book in the series.[7] He also stated that he wants to finish the series in the final book as planned, but later acknowledged that the book may be up to half again his originally-planned length, and publishing in one volume may not be practical.[8]

OffshootsEdit

PC gameEdit

The online game Wheel of Time Multi-User Dungeon (WoTMUD for short) is the oldest authorized game based on the series (started 1993), and various commercial game adaptations have also been spawned, including a video game released by Atari for the personal computer in 1999, and a role-playing game based on the D20 System rules released by Wizards of the Coast in 2000. There is also a soundtrack album. There was a collectible card game based on the books, but it has been out of print since 2002. In 2008 Red Eagle Games and Obsidian Entertainment optioned the rights to make games based on Wheel of Time series. Although there isn't much information on the subject, is seems that at least one of the games will be an MMORPG.

MiniseriesEdit

In a 2000 chat on CNN.com, Robert Jordan mentioned that NBC had purchased an option to do a miniseries of "The Eye of the World."[9] However, those interested in the project moved on from NBC and the rights lapsed.

Graphic novelsEdit

On July 1st, 2008 Dabel Brothers Publishing announced that they would be responsible for adapting The Wheel of Time into graphic novel format, the first volume of which was slated for release in December of 2008.

MoviesEdit

On August 12th, 2008, Variety.com reported that Universal Pictures had optioned the rights to produce feature film adaptations of The Wheel of Time books. The movies would be produced by Red Eagle Entertainment.[10] It could be released as soon as 2011.[11] This, however, didn't come to fruition.

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Rolling Up the Wheel of Time Panel at Worldcon 2008
  2. Forward dated February 1990, The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan, published by Tor Books
  3. Source:Blog - I'M BAAAA-AAACK, 22 November 2005
  4. Source:Blog - A TOUCH OF THIS AND THAT BEFORE THE MAYO, 31 March 2006
  5. Source:Blog - A FINAL CHECKIN BEFORE MAYO, 6 July 2006
  6. 6.0 6.1 Source:Brandon to finish Wheel of Time
  7. Source:Crossroads of Twilight 25 March 2008
  8. Mistborn Livejournal Blog
  9. CNN Interactive Chat Transcript
  10. Universal spinning 'Wheel of Time'
  11. First Wheel of Time Movie Possibly Released in 2011

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