The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time is a reference book for the bestselling Wheel of Time series of fantasy novels by Robert Jordan. It is published in the United States by Tor Books and in the UK by Orbit. The book was written primarily by Teresa Patterson based on detailed notes and maps provided by Robert Jordan, who also served as editor on the project. Jordan also contributed the full text of the entry, The Strike on Shayol Ghul, which had previously appeared online a year or so earlier.
The book takes an in-universe tone, describing events for the reader as if they were real, rather than being a reference work that analyzes the series. It was published after the seventh book in the series, A Crown of Swords and features a great deal of artwork, including reproductions of the first seven novel covers.
The book was originally published on 6 November 1997 as a large-format hardcover with a predominantly white cover. This led to the book being dubbed the 'Big White Book' by fans at the time. This edition of the book ran to 304 pages.
In the UK, the book was reprinted in the same hardcover format a year later, but with a new cover (a map of the Westlands) and an expansion to the gallery to include the cover of the then-recently-released The Path of Daggers. This edition was reprinted in softcover in November 1999.
Finally, on 6 June 2002 the guidebook was reprinted in the UK as a 461-page mass-market paperback using the black cover design of the later paperbacks in the series. All the illustrations save only the new maps were removed. This is the current UK and Australian edition.
This companion is an attempt to fill in the enormous backstory to the novels and also expand on the world featured in them. The book features new and original art by Todd Cameron Hamilton and republishes earlier maps by Ellisa Mitchell, John M. Ford and Todd Canty.
The Wheel and the PowerEdit
This section contains descriptions of the Wheel of Time, the True Source, the Pattern, the circular nature of time and other metaphysical and magical concepts of the world and setting. The nature of the One Power is described, as are angreal, sa'angreal and ter'angreal, and the nature of the Creator and Dark One.
The Age of LegendsEdit
This section contains a detailed description of life during the Age of Legends and how the Aes Sedai, Da'shain Aiel, Nym, Ogier and other groups and races operated. There is also some explanation of the high technology of this time, such as sho-wings and jo-cars, and musings on forms of the One Power not available to later generations, such as advanced Healing and Traveling.
The One Power experiments that led to the creation of the Bore and the subsequent Collapse of civilisation are detailed, followed by a summary of the War of the Shadow, complete with biographies of the thirteen Forsaken and information on the various kinds of Shadowspawn and Friends of the Dark.
The section concludes with a summary of the Breaking of the World.
The World Since the BreakingEdit
This is mainly a historical section chronicling the passage of time since the Breaking of the World. The founding of Tar Valon and the White Tower is described, followed by the creation of the Compact of the Ten Nations and their subsequent destruction in and after the Trolloc Wars.
A detailed account is then given of the War of the Second Dragon that led to the rise to power of Artur Hawkwing, how he ruled and the politics that led to his breach with Tar Valon and the subsequent siege of the city. The Battle of Talidar and Hawkwing's attempts to invade Seanchan and Shara are recounted, followed by Hawkwing's death, the War of the Hundred Years and the founding of Andor.
Some Narrative Paintings of Questionable AuthenticityEdit
The cover paintings of The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn, The Shadow Rising, The Fires of Heaven, Lord of Chaos and A Crown of Swords by Darrell K. Sweet are here reprinted with no text or cover ornamentation. Later printings of the book also include the cover of The Path of Daggers.
The World of the WheelEdit
This section contains a geographic description of the world, featuring an overview of the whole planet followed by information on Seanchan, Shara, the Aiel Waste, the Land of the Madmen, the Sea Folk, the Ogier and the Ways. Tel'aran'rhiod, the World of Dreams, is also summarised, along with the wolfbrother abilities linked to it.
Within the LandEdit
This section contains political information on all fourteen of the current nations of the Westlands, along with Tar Valon and Mayene. Military information on the Children of Light and the armies of the various nations is also given. The section concludes with information on the Westlands' calendars and on the Prophecies of the Dragon, and with a detailed index to the book.
The guidebook is considered broadly canonical and Robert Jordan provided substantial amounts of never-before-seen information for it. However, Jordan's intent was for the book to have been written by a historian of Rand al'Thor's time (albeit an extremely well-informed one) and he wished to ensure that the book would be prone to some of the problems of bias and guesswork that afflict "real" history as well. To this end, Jordan sometimes refused to answer questions from Teresa Patterson or suggested that she "guess" the answers. An example of this is shown by the sidebar on the Nine Rods of Dominion, which Patterson suggests were actual rods, possibly ter'angreal like the Oath Rod. Jordan later instead revealed that the Nine Rods of Dominion were actually governors of vast territories in the Age of Legends.
Due to this, the world book is considered to be canon except for where it is directly contradicted by information from the actual novels (especially the ones published after the Guide came out).
Todd Cameron Hamilton was originally hired to produce a small amount of black-and-white artwork for the book, but was unexpectedly compelled by Tor Books to produce a much greater amount of full-colour illustrations for the same money and in the same amount of time. Hamilton claims to have been extremely rushed on the project, hence the poor quality of much of the art which was heavily derided on release.
Given that four additional novels were published after the world book was released, some of them featuring major new revelations about the history of the world, some fans began wondering if a second, updated edition of the world book would follow. This never happened. Instead, after Knife of Dreams was published in 2005, Robert Jordan revealed that his wife Harriet Rigney would be working on The Wheel of Time Encyclopedia (working title), which would be released following the final novel in the series and would supplant the earlier guide. The Encyclopedia would feature much more detailed information on the setting and include new maps and a 1,000-word vocabulary of the Old Tongue.
Following Robert Jordan's passing, the fate of this project was unclear, but at JordanCon 2009, Harriet confirmed that work on the book is still underway, and it would be published one year after the publication of the final novel in the main series.
Patterson went on to create a very similar book called The World of Shannara, for Terry Brooks' Shannara series of novels. Patterson was given much greater leeway by Brooks on this project, and created some maps, concepts and ideas which Brooks used in his later novels.
A similar project for George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series is also underway, for publication after the fifth novel in that series. According to Martin, who as a friend of Jordan's was aware of the earlier Wheel of Time book, he had jokingly discussed with the publishers the possibility of calling the book The World of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire before concluding the spine would not be large enough to contain the title.