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A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Fourth through 7th ages


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We do a lot of predicting around here, so once the last book is written we will have all our prophecies confirmed or denied forever.... Or will we? Of course not! A true theorylander does not stop theorizing just because they will never know if their theories are confirmed... so luckily speculation about what happens in the fourth through seventh ages will always be there for us! Hooray!

 

We know a lot about Ages two and three, and have a couple bits of information about Age one and four... but what can we infer about the other ages?

Starting from the (well evidenced) supposition that Randland is Earth... We know a LOT about one of the ages - our own. It appears that human memory and myth stretch back around two ages, so perhaps we can also speculate about the two ages before our own... In Randland they know almost as much about the Age of Legends as they do about their own age it sometimes seems...

So we have 6 ages that we have information about... but wait, we also know, through prophecy and Aviendiah's trip through the columns, something about the fourth age! So we have at least a little information about all 7 spokes of the wheel of time. So here is my guess as to the structure of the ages... Edit (correction, only know a bit about 6 of the spokes...)

 

First age: Our current age: the Age of Reason... Beginning with the rise (or ReRise) of technology and the slow move away from a religiously dominated feudal society, perhaps marked by the Renaissance as a transition between ages. I believe we are still Early in this age, but I agree with those of you who are no doubt thinking, the renaissance doesn't seem momentous enough of an event to be the start of an age! Possibly could be marked earlier.

We have some evidence that this age was two ages before Randland: For example, the discovery of the mercedes symbol, The John Glenn myth and the Mosk and Murk myth) : This age ends with the discovery of channeling.

 

Second Age: Age of Legends... A time of relative peace, world is united. Starts with Discovery of channeling, Ends with the Bore through the breaking

 

Third Age: The age any good Theorylander knows second best (perhaps best if you pay as little attention to current day as I do!) Starts with breaking, ends with Last battle. Lots of good stuff happens in between. RAFO!

 

Fourth Age: Age of Unification Begins with Last Battle, ends with .... Seanchan in full world control if Aviendiah's visions are to be believed. I believe that this age will end when Seanchan begin to destroy access to the True Source, after using it to attain world dominance. This leaves a nice symmetry of 3 ages with channeling, and 3 ages without, with a bit of transition during age 5.

 

Fifth Age: Age of Madness - This age begins with the destruction of the true source, or rather, access to it. The destruction of the one power has far reaching effects and throws mankind into war and chaos, splintering the Seanchan culture and destroying all that mankind had created (end of fifth age). Or maybe the last channeler breaks the world, in a comet-like blaze of glory...

 

Sixth Age: Prehistory - man is nomadic and uncivilized, Perhaps a few of the monstrous creatures that the Seanchan once controlled are loose and what we think of as dragons/dinosaurs today...

 

Seventh Age: Stone age-middle ages... Man settles down, cultivates crops, creates cities, starts recording history, finds religion etc.

 

Wanted to make this more in depth but this will have to do...

Edit: I also realized that we didn't have any information on the 5th age, because I double counted the first age (it is our current age and is remembered through myth in Randland)

Edited by ozimandias
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We do a lot of predicting around here, so once the last book is written we will have all our prophecies confirmed or denied forever.... Or will we? Of course not! A true theorylander does not stop theorizing just because they will never know if their theories are confirmed... so luckily speculation about what happens in the fourth through seventh ages will always be there for us! Hooray!

 

We know a lot about Ages two and three, and have a couple bits of information about Age one and four... but what can we infer about the other ages?

Starting from the (well evidenced) supposition that Randland is Earth... We know a LOT about one of the ages - our own. It appears that human memory and myth stretch back around two ages, so perhaps we can also speculate about the two ages before our own...

So we have 6 ages that we have information about... but wait, we also know, through prophecy and Aviendiah's trip through the columns, something about the fourth age! So we have at least a little information about all 7 spokes of the wheel of time. So here is my guess as to the structure of the ages...

 

First age: Our current age: the Age of Reason... Beginning with the rise (or ReRise) of technology and the slow move away from a religiously dominated feudal society, perhaps marked by the Renaissance as a transition between ages. I believe we are still Early in this age, but I agree with those of you who are no doubt thinking, the renaissance doesn't seem momentous enough of an event to be the start of an age! Possibly could be marked earlier.

We have some evidence that this age was two ages before Randland: For example, the discovery of the mercedes symbol, The John Glenn myth and the Mosk and Murk myth) : This age ends with the discovery of channeling.

 

Hmm...I'll give you that there is evidence that the first age was suppose to be our own, and that even though the time scales are off, I doubt that the wheel of time would be planet-centric - that just doesn't make sense.

 

I will start our age at the big bang [lets have fun and call that a massive explosion of Power, draining the Source completely..]

 

I will give you the forth age, but I would keep the Power around through ages 5, 6, and 7. Seven ending in some sort of event (think of the restraunt at the end of the universe type sling-shot) where all the Power/energy in the universe is used up and everything is reset.

 

Though I fail to the point of this discussion, or why it is here instead of in "General WoT Dicussions"

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Hmm...I'll give you that there is evidence that the first age was suppose to be our own, and that even though the time scales are off, I doubt that the wheel of time would be planet-centric - that just doesn't make sense.

 

Though I fail to the point of this discussion, or why it is here instead of in "General WoT Dicussions"

The point was meant to be for people to speculate on what they think happens in ages 4 through 7... and if they think Randland is our world.

 

I thought that it Might be a spoiler for some people the idea that Randland was our world... and that may or may not be confirmed in the next book. However, perhaps that is not a significant prediction and I suppose General might be a better place for it so I am sorry about that, I can remove it from here if it seems inappropriate.

 

Why don't you think it makes sense for Robert Jordan to be writing about his world? What other planet would it make more sense for him to write about?

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The whole metaphysics behind the Wheel of Time never made a lot of sense, and wasn't properly developed or integrated into the story.

 

So humanity is in a pseudo-medieval state after an apocalypse destroyed a utopic civilization of peace and prosperity, called the Age of Legends. Few records from that time remain in the present, and only bits and pieces are known about the Age of Legends and what it was like. Cool. So how does anyone in Randland know about the Wheel of Time? How do they know there are seven ages? Who told them about the Creator, and that the True Source moves the Wheel of Time? Where did they read about the Pattern? If they barely know anything about the Age of Legends, why are they so sure that it was the Second Age, and why doesn't anyone ever wonder what the First Age was like? If the First Age was our present world, where do the Portal Stones and Perrin's wolf abilities come from? Where does the First Age start, and where does it end? Is all of recorded human history as we know part of the same First Age, or have we already lived through some? Was Jesus Christ the Dragon's reincarnation? Which age did dinosaurs live in, our current one, or the previous? When the Earth was boiling hot and no liquid water or any kind of life existed, which age was that?

 

I can keep going and going, and all of this will keep meaning the same thing. Robert Jordan's cyclical time concept is poorly developed, and is at odds with both his own story, and real-life knowledge any reader with a half a brain possesses.

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The whole metaphysics behind the Wheel of Time never made a lot of sense, and wasn't properly developed or integrated into the story.

 

So humanity is in a pseudo-medieval state after an apocalypse destroyed a utopic civilization of peace and prosperity, called the Age of Legends. Few records from that time remain in the present, and only bits and pieces are known about the Age of Legends and what it was like. Cool. So how does anyone in Randland know about the Wheel of Time? How do they know there are seven ages? Who told them about the Creator, and that the True Source moves the Wheel of Time? Where did they read about the Pattern? If they barely know anything about the Age of Legends, why are they so sure that it was the Second Age, and why doesn't anyone ever wonder what the First Age was like? If the First Age was our present world, where do the Portal Stones and Perrin's wolf abilities come from? Where does the First Age start, and where does it end? Is all of recorded human history as we know part of the same First Age, or have we already lived through some? Was Jesus Christ the Dragon's reincarnation? Which age did dinosaurs live in, our current one, or the previous? When the Earth was boiling hot and no liquid water or any kind of life existed, which age was that?

 

I can keep going and going, and all of this will keep meaning the same thing. Robert Jordan's cyclical time concept is poorly developed, and is at odds with both his own story, and real-life knowledge any reader with a half a brain possesses.

 

What he said.

 

To be honest, it was never clear to me what thematic point RJ thought he was making with the whole 'time is cyclical' thing. I suppose he could be making a point about Nietzsche and the unbearable lightness/heaviness of being etc (Veins of Gold in TGS seems to point in that direction...). But I think that, like with so many other aspects of the series, he just cribbed some stuff he read in a book about foreign mythology (in this case Jainism) which he thought sounded cool, and didn't really have any kind of a point to make. So it's just there, a piece of background information bereft of any deeper insights or meaning.

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So humanity is in a pseudo-medieval state after an apocalypse destroyed a utopic civilization of peace and prosperity, called the Age of Legends. Few records from that time remain in the present, and only bits and pieces are known about the Age of Legends and what it was like. Cool. So how does anyone in Randland know about the Wheel of Time? How do they know there are seven ages? Who told them about the Creator, and that the True Source moves the Wheel of Time? Where did they read about the Pattern?

 

The White Tower knows this information. Second, there are scant records laying about. Third, the breaking was a major event....the reasons behind such aren't something we should expect to forget anytime soon. One would expect that to be written down and referenced repeatedly. With the presence of shadow spawn, the blight, darkfriends, Aes Sedai, and men going mad I don't see why these details would be forgotten.

 

 

If they barely know anything about the Age of Legends, why are they so sure that it was the Second Age, and why doesn't anyone ever wonder what the First Age was like? If the First Age was our present world, where do the Portal Stones and Perrin's wolf abilities come from? Where does the First Age start, and where does it end? (and the rest)

 

They aren't sure. In the opening of each book we are told "In one Age, called the Third Age by some," which implies the dates are relative but not necessarily absolute. We also don't know how long each age lasts.

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Asking how they "know" it's the Third Age is just silly because the Ages aren't actually numbered, that's just what they chose to call it, probably because the oldest myths they have come from "two" Ages ago, but who knows for sure? One Age flows into the next. Also, the ONLY person in the entire series who actually calls the time period the books are set in "the Third Age" is Herid Fel, and only in one chapter. All other references to that Age numbering scheme are either from the omniscient narrator in the beginning of the books or the epigraphs from the next Age, where they seem to really think of themselves as being the Fourth Age. Given Fel's philosophical and scholarly disposition, I wonder if this terminology is his invention or something he pulled from old records from the AoL? And are the beliefs of the Fourth Age heavily influenced by his work (or perhaps Min, who is in some ways a pupil of his)? He certainly seems to be reading the same books Elan Morin read.

 

As for how the mythology got passed down. Duh. It's religious material, passed down through generations. History gets lost, and only the most scholarly care to keep track of events from thousands of years ago or to pass that information on. Not so for the spiritual matters. Those are cultural issues.

 

As for people trying to apply "real-life knowledge" of cosmology or what have you . . . just stop. Jordan was a physicist. He knew how the universe actually worked. But he was writing a fantasy story. And it's apparent he knew his mythology well, it wasn't just half-assed or carelessly strewn together.

 

Personally, I've always been more sympathetic to the idea that the modern time period is actually the seventh Age, not the first. I feel like there needs to be more of a gap between our Age and the Age of Legends. Where did those portal stones come from? This just popped into my head, but I wonder if they're connected at all with the Ogier and their Book of Translation?

Edited by Agitel
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I always thought that our current age was the sixth. We still have myths about magic hammers that cause lightning to fall and were used to kill giants. Also most of mythology is referenced in one way or another. The Forsaken for instance are all ancient gods or demons.

 

Also knowledge from the previous ages doesn't completely fade until right before that age is to come.

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I always thought that our current age was the sixth. We still have myths about magic hammers that cause lightning to fall and were used to kill giants. Also most of mythology is referenced in one way or another. The Forsaken for instance are all ancient gods or demons.

 

Also knowledge from the previous ages doesn't completely fade until right before that age is to come.

 

I battle sometimes with whether we are considered in the seventh age... But the quotes from TSR where Thom talks about the oldest tales he knows "from the age before the age of legends..." such as "Did Mosk and Merk really fight with spears made with fire, and were they even giants?" and this interview with RJ is what makes me think it is the first...

INTERVIEW: Apr, 2003

 

There is a widespread debate on the internet: you mentioned some tales of times like Mosk and Merk...does it have any connection with America and Moscow?

ROBERT JORDAN

Yes. I thought that one was very obvious.

.....

ROBERT JORDAN

No, let’s not talk about Salya. [Q confused.] Salya, who walked among the stars? Lenn, who went to the moon in the belly of a fire eagle? Yes? And his daughter Salya who walked among the stars? [much mumbling] No, she didn’t—she wasn’t on the Challenger. Sally Ride was the first female American astronaut. So, that’s Salya, who in this thing has become the daughter of Lenn, who was John Glenn, who did not go to the moon in an eagle, but flies to the moon in the belly of a “fire eagle”...

 

All those tales were explained to be from the age before the age of legends.

 

As to how we could get from where we are... science and magic are often intertwined in fiction. Some argue that there would have to be some kind of cataclysm to get from a world like ours to the age of legends, but to me the simple discovery of something like the One Power would be enough of a change to accomplish that... AoL is mentioned again and again as having a lot of science to it, flying cars, experiments, study of the nature of things... It may be simply discovery of the one power as the thing that ushers in the AoL and kicks mankind over the struggle of resources that we have currently and into an age of utter prosperity.

As for the Portal stones, to me that may have been the first attempts at understanding the one power, some kind of massive science science experiment or perhaps the embodiment of the new age type of thinking that we control our own reality.

 

And before anyone says something like "our world and randland are not the same, you aren't going to start channeling someday, get real". Of course we know that. We know that this is a fictional world, and that we are not in some wheel of time created by Robert Jordan. But the world Robert Jordan created IS linked to ours, by the necessity of him building it FROM this world and by his own admission. This is simply an attempt to understand HIS world, not ours, so points like "what age was the world in when it was a molten ball of lava," or the like are just silly distractions.

Edit: For formatting! And also to agree with Rose below, I forgot to pull the quote where Jordan says Channeling being discovered marked the end of the first age but that has indeed also been stated. I'll go look for it.

Edited by ozimandias
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I think it's been confirmed *somewhere* that our Age is the first, and that the transition between first and second age was marked by the discovery of channelling. Somebody with a better mastery of the interview databases than me can probably pull out a reference...

 

As for the portal stones, it seems to me that they are from before the first age.Time is cyclical, so the first age is not actually the beginning of anything. The portal stones could be lying around the world as we speak, but nobody knows how to use them or what they are for ;)

Edited by Rose
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Two more Quotes from RJ:

The Dark One who believes that [the forsaken] are in all practical ways better—for which read better trained, more capable, and thus better able to serve him efficiently and effectively—than the people of the present time. And he is right. In a way. They are certainly better trained, with a much wider knowledge, at least in some areas. Some of their skills are absolutely useless in the society they are forced to live in. Aginor was a genius in biology and genetics, but in this world, he had no way to make the tools to make the tools to make the tools.... Well, you get the idea. Pity the poor chip designer dropped into the seventeenth century.

This supports the idea that science and the one power were used side by side, and there wasn't a big cataclysm where biology and genetics knowledge was forgotten.

And:

The first people to discover the ability to channel learned through trial and error, with fairly high casualty rates until they learned enough not to kill themselves accidentally. Their appearance marked the beginning of the previous Age to that of the books, or at least the end of the Age before that one.

 

Yes, as I have set things up, there are Ages when no one has any idea of how to channel or even that the One Power exists. Our own, for one.

Which of course both confirms that learning to channel has happening at the end of the first age/beginning of the AoL and also confirms that our own age is part of the Wheel where no one knows about the One Power.

Edited by ozimandias
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To be honest, it was never clear to me what thematic point RJ thought he was making with the whole 'time is cyclical' thing. I suppose he could be making a point about Nietzsche and the unbearable lightness/heaviness of being etc (Veins of Gold in TGS seems to point in that direction...). But I think that, like with so many other aspects of the series, he just cribbed some stuff he read in a book about foreign mythology (in this case Jainism) which he thought sounded cool, and didn't really have any kind of a point to make. So it's just there, a piece of background information bereft of any deeper insights or meaning.
Yes, you're right. It's a little sad that the title of a 14-book megaseries is completely superfluous to the plot and story of the books. Wheel of Time? It's not a wheel of time, it's just your average run-of-the-mill medieval fantasy world with magicks, monsters, and crazy foreign cultures. Its backstory involves an apocalyptic war and following series of man-made cataclysms that destroyed a paradise civilization of science and magic of which scant is remembered/documented "today", and a future epoch of 18th/19th century-level advancement is foreshadowed by the meta-info. That's all there is to it, and there's absolutely no need to include gag references to our present world (derp, Nynaeve found a Mercedes sign) or over-complicate the metaphysics, if you can't flesh them out and bring them to the point.

 

Even the Dark One's presence is restricted exclusively to the two Ages which are relevant to the story, Rand's resealing is expected to last until the next Age of Legends.

 

Asking how they "know" it's the Third Age is just silly because the Ages aren't actually numbered, that's just what they chose to call it, probably because the oldest myths they have come from "two" Ages ago, but who knows for sure? One Age flows into the next.
I'm sorry, but this is inane. If a certain age is called The Third Age, and the subsequent age is called the Fourth Age, then guess what - they are numbered. That's what the numerals 3 and 4 stand for. Numbering. As to whether or not the numbering is relative or absolute... who cares? That's not the point.

 

 

As for how the mythology got passed down. Duh. It's religious material, passed down through generations. History gets lost, and only the most scholarly care to keep track of events from thousands of years ago or to pass that information on. Not so for the spiritual matters. Those are cultural issues.
Except that there are absolutely no religious practices or authorities anywhere in the WoT universe, not even the slightest shred. The people just take it for a fact that the Creator, the Wheel of Time, the Pattern, and the Third Age exist, despite lacking any evidence or documentation, or social/political mechanisms enforcing this point of view. They doubt the existence of Shadowspawn and the Dark One - sometimes - but not other concepts with no presence in anyone's life. Selective skepticism?

 

 

As for people trying to apply "real-life knowledge" of cosmology or what have you . . . just stop. Jordan was a physicist. He knew how the universe actually worked. But he was writing a fantasy story. And it's apparent he knew his mythology well, it wasn't just half-assed or carelessly strewn together.
Stop what? Whether RJ knew how the universe worked or not is irrelevant to my point, I'm not judging RJ, I'm judging his work. And the problem I have is that the metaphysics provided are at odds with both real-life knowledge, and with the story of the novels. We are told that Randland exists in the very same universe as the real world, which means it's the same planet, orbiting the same Sun, in the same Galaxy. Cyclical time just doesn't work very well on the scale of a single planet and a several thousand years worth of human history, considering how tiny and insignificant we are, compared to the rest of the universe.
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To be honest, it was never clear to me what thematic point RJ thought he was making with the whole 'time is cyclical' thing. I suppose he could be making a point about Nietzsche and the unbearable lightness/heaviness of being etc (Veins of Gold in TGS seems to point in that direction...). But I think that, like with so many other aspects of the series, he just cribbed some stuff he read in a book about foreign mythology (in this case Jainism) which he thought sounded cool, and didn't really have any kind of a point to make. So it's just there, a piece of background information bereft of any deeper insights or meaning.
Yes, you're right. It's a little sad that the title of a 14-book megaseries is completely superfluous to the plot and story of the books. Wheel of Time? It's not a wheel of time, it's just your average run-of-the-mill medieval fantasy world with magicks, monsters, and crazy foreign cultures. Its backstory involves an apocalyptic war and following series of man-made cataclysms that destroyed a paradise civilization of science and magic of which scant is remembered/documented "today", and a future epoch of 18th/19th century-level advancement is foreshadowed by the meta-info. That's all there is to it, and there's absolutely no need to include gag references to our present world (derp, Nynaeve found a Mercedes sign) or over-complicate the metaphysics, if you can't flesh them out and bring them to the point.

 

Okay, I got it, you don't like the Wheel aspect of RJ's writings. Yet he refers to it again and again. It is part of the series, whether you think it is explained well enough or not. I find it an interesting and an integral part of the story... but if you don't see how rebirth and death ... renewal and destruction are themes that are present throughout the series and everywhere in all of the books... that's fine with me. I can see why you would see it as a 'run-of-the-mill fantasy series' when you completely ignore what, to me, is a large part of the series. Saying the title of the series, and the beginning of each and every book of the series, is superfluous to the story is hubris in the extreme and makes me wonder why you would even bother looking deeper into the series by participating in a message board such as this.

 

I'm sorry, but this is inane. If a certain age is called The Third Age, and the subsequent age is called the Fourth Age, then guess what - they are numbered. That's what the numerals 3 and 4 stand for. Numbering. As to whether or not the numbering is relative or absolute... who cares? That's not the point.

So.... What is the point exactly? You were the one with the problem with the numbering system, which is not absolute by any standards in a cyclical system. But I forgot, you don't think it is cyclical, you think RJ just thought it would be a cool idea so tacked it on without any thought whatsoever.

Edited by ozimandias
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I find it an interesting and an integral part of the story
You know, for every hentai slashfic that pairs Harry Potter with Draco Malfoy and the Giant Squid, there's a squadron of angry fans that find countless interesting and integral parts of the story in their beloved work of art. That isn't really indicative of anything, beyond the fact that you subjectively like something. Alright. Great. It still has numerous problems that exist objectively.

 

 

Saying the title of the series, and the beginning of each and every book of the series, is superfluous to the story is hubris in the extreme
No, that's simple logic. He could have called his series "The Thermonuclear Psi-Cadavers of the Omicron Nebula" and included a passage prophesying the advent of reality-altering multi-legged cerebrates at the beginning of each and every book, but if there's nothing about the series that in any way hinges on psi-cadavers or cerebrates, readers will start feeling cheated.

 

Ask yourself: if you cut out all the references to cyclical time and whatnot, would the story, plot, and characterization of the series in any way suffer, become incomplete or ambiguous to the reader? The answer is no, because the story doesn't involve the cyclical nature of time AT ALL. Time is very linear in this series. We never get to the part where one age flowing into the other and back into itself becomes relevant, we're only dealing with a grand total of THREE Ages here. The ancient past, the tenuous present, and the looming future. Why there should be anything else tacked on to this sequence is beyond me. Illusion of depth? A hodge-podge of ideas and concepts that fail to form a cohesive structure?

 

 

By comparison, let's take the metaphysics of my favorite fantasy series, Chronicles of Amber. The universe of CoA is composed of two True Worlds, Courts of Chaos and Amber, and an infinitude of alternate dimensions called Shadows, created from the tension between these polar opposites, which can be traversed by those of royal blood. The Shadows can be as different from one another as the traveler's imagination permits, right up to drastically altered laws of physics. Our world, Earth, is one of these reflections, no more and no less important than any of its "neighbors". The characters often ponder the nature of their abilities, whether they are but travelers shifting from one pre-existing reality to another, or gods spontaneously creating novel universes as they go along their business. Chaos and Amber are represented by two symbols, the Logrus and the Pattern, lines of mystical energy forming a maze. Traversing these lines is a difficult test of will, passing it gives those with royal blood the ability to walk through Shadows.

 

 

Nothing about this description is superfluous to the story, indeed, removing any of these elements would render the Chronicles of Amber impossible to read, as its plot, themes, and characterization utterly depend on the world they are written for. There's nothing extraneous or insignificant about it.

 

 

Robert Jordan's approach is more along the lines of, "Hey, the world is huge, let's just throw in a bunch of random things I think are cool, even though the characters will never have to deal with them". Describing the basics of his universe is a futile experience, because half the things you need to mention never pay off anywhere in the series, and the other half is just standard fantasy cliche material.

Edited by Wool-headed lummox
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Seems a little extreme lummox; sure it's not fully necessary, but take it out and why bother trying to make a book unique to any other then? It's supportive details that tie in nicely to compliment other things, like the heroes or Rand's memories.

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To be honest, it was never clear to me what thematic point RJ thought he was making with the whole 'time is cyclical' thing. I suppose he could be making a point about Nietzsche and the unbearable lightness/heaviness of being etc (Veins of Gold in TGS seems to point in that direction...). But I think that, like with so many other aspects of the series, he just cribbed some stuff he read in a book about foreign mythology (in this case Jainism) which he thought sounded cool, and didn't really have any kind of a point to make. So it's just there, a piece of background information bereft of any deeper insights or meaning.
Yes, you're right. It's a little sad that the title of a 14-book megaseries is completely superfluous to the plot and story of the books. Wheel of Time? It's not a wheel of time, it's just your average run-of-the-mill medieval fantasy world with magicks, monsters, and crazy foreign cultures. Its backstory involves an apocalyptic war and following series of man-made cataclysms that destroyed a paradise civilization of science and magic of which scant is remembered/documented "today", and a future epoch of 18th/19th century-level advancement is foreshadowed by the meta-info. That's all there is to it, and there's absolutely no need to include gag references to our present world (derp, Nynaeve found a Mercedes sign) or over-complicate the metaphysics, if you can't flesh them out and bring them to the point.

 

Okay, I got it, you don't like the Wheel aspect of RJ's writings. Yet he refers to it again and again. It is part of the series, whether you think it is explained well enough or not. I find it an interesting and an integral part of the story... but if you don't see how rebirth and death ... renewal and destruction are themes that are present throughout the series and everywhere in all of the books... that's fine with me. I can see why you would see it as a 'run-of-the-mill fantasy series' when you completely ignore what, to me, is a large part of the series. Saying the title of the series, and the beginning of each and every book of the series, is superfluous to the story is hubris in the extreme and makes me wonder why you would even bother looking deeper into the series by participating in a message board such as this.

 

 

I think Lummox responded to this pretty well. The "problem", so far as it goes, is that the Wheel gets central billing in the mythology and metaphysics of Randland while doing virtually no work in terms of plot. Now, that's no big deal. WOT is still great escapist fun. But I just don't think there's a particularly serious point to be found in the fact that time is cyclical.

 

There is one exception to this, which is Rand's near-total spazz-out on top of Dragonmount in Veins of Gold. There, he contemplates the possibility that life (and his struggle against the Shadow) might be totally pointless, since it happens over and over and over again. This is similar to something Moridin says during their "fireside chat" earlier in the book, where he comments that the whole business is absurd and that he simply looks forward to putting an end to it... by blowing up all of Creation. The idea that having to repeat one's life over and over again in a grand cycle of repetitive time was explored by Nietzsche. His concept of the 'overman' (ubermensch) or 'superman' was (according to some) derived partly from what it would take, psychologically, to be able to endure the knowledge that all of one's actions had already occurred, multiple times, and would occur again endlessly into the future. Nietzsche thought the prospect of this would destroy most people, but that a few rare individuals had the intestinal fortitude (as it were) not only to carry on living under those circumstances, but to desire them. (Sorry to any philosophers on this board if I've badly mangled Nietzsche's thought).

 

Based on this, you might argue that the point of making time cyclical in Randland was to set up a line of existential inquiry like the one Nietzsche tried to develop. In other words, you might argue that RJ is making a point about the actual or proper source of moral values. But he's not very serious about it. The issue is at best a minor plot point, and there's all kinds of stuff that conflicts with Nietzsche's "man-is-the-measure-of-all-things" approach to morality (eg the existence of good and evil supernatural beings, demigods etc). The bottom line, from where I'm sitting, is that RJ was something of a kleptomaniac when it came to mythology and metaphysics. He populated his world with borrowings from other cultures and thinkers to give it an aura of authenticity, but there isn't any real rhyme or reason to any of it. To wit: I challenge anyone to explain to me what the point of basing Mat, Perrin and Rand on Norse deities is.

 

As for how the mythology got passed down. Duh. It's religious material, passed down through generations. History gets lost, and only the most scholarly care to keep track of events from thousands of years ago or to pass that information on. Not so for the spiritual matters. Those are cultural issues.
Except that there are absolutely no religious practices or authorities anywhere in the WoT universe, not even the slightest shred. The people just take it for a fact that the Creator, the Wheel of Time, the Pattern, and the Third Age exist, despite lacking any evidence or documentation, or social/political mechanisms enforcing this point of view. They doubt the existence of Shadowspawn and the Dark One - sometimes - but not other concepts with no presence in anyone's life. Selective skepticism?

 

What Lummox said. RJ may have know a few things about physics. But I doubt he ever cracked a text on sociology or anthropology. His depiction of political, cultural and religious institutions is simply not credible. Again, this doesn't really matter. I don't read fantasy for political insights (though GRR Martin is pretty good in this respect). But people should stop trying to find some kind of deep social commentary in the WOT.

 

Saying the title of the series, and the beginning of each and every book of the series, is superfluous to the story is hubris in the extreme
No, that's simple logic. He could have called his series "The Thermonuclear Psi-Cadavers of the Omicron Nebula" and included a passage prophesying the advent of reality-altering multi-legged cerebrates at the beginning of each and every book, but if there's nothing about the series that in any way hinges on psi-cadavers or cerebrates, readers will start feeling cheated.

 

[a bunch of other stuff I mostly agree with]

 

Yes.

 

I think RJ probably enjoyed world-building for its own sake, and wanted to write a fantasy series that took place in a richly detailed and more-or-less consistent place. Fair enough. I've certainly derived many hours of enjoyment by escaping to his creation. But I am a little ... surprised when I read posts or commentary suggesting the WOT is great literature (in the sense of having a serious point to make, or revealing new insights into the human experience). I think it will be mostly forgotten 50 years from now... not that that makes me any less desperate to get my hands of AMOL :-)

Edited by crazyrandisdead
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Simply put, I think you are both wrong.

Am I saying the RJ has created a lasting or immortal piece of fiction? No. I am merely talking about his series and the scope that it allows for me to play with and have fun with as a fan. However, the jump from 'hey look, this isn't the greatest story ever told' to 'it is a waste of time thinking about something that RJ probably just tacked on because he likes to throw random stuff in his book' is rude to say the least and moronic to be more frank. RJ put a great deal of time and thought into writing this series, and the cosmology is deeply ingrained in every character and every bit of the world. To think the man would literally name the series and revisit the idea every few chapters without a thought of the depth of the implications is to think far too little of him.

 

The cyclical nature of time is not merely represented in the beginning of each chapter and in the title of the series, it is represented in every relationship, in the hopes of every character, in the birth and rebirth of heroes, in the motivations of the forsaken and the Dark One. It is essential to everything that makes the series go from merely escapist fun for me into the realm of thought provoking, it lays the groundwork for speculation on the past and future, and for the foreshadowing that many would claim RJ does quite well. It is the basis for the complicated relationship between Rand, LTT, and the Forsaken, particularly Ishamael. The interplay between myth, legend and prophecy. I could go on and on.

 

To be blunt, if you don't find the books merit-worthy enough to discuss on a deeper level, why are you here?

Edited by ozimandias
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Just because it doesn't have a deep philosophical meaning doesn't mean that the Wheel is a useless concept. It's central to the story; it drives the characters' motivations and lays the foundation for most of the themes running through the series. No, we shouldn't take it as a commentary on human life and morals. But this...

 

Describing the basics of his universe is a futile experience, because half the things you need to mention never pay off anywhere in the series, and the other half is just standard fantasy cliche material.

 

...I don't agree with.

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Crazyrandisdead, I always thought the point wasn't that Mat, Perrin and Rand are based on Norse deities but that legends of their exploits exist in the current age. I believe it was a way to expound upon the "time is cyclic" thing and make the world seem more real and connected to ours.

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First time commenting in years but these topics attract me like a moth to an open flame. Here is my view of how these Ages look like:

 

Age #1 is the current age, starting from the Big Bang, and covering all of prehistory and history up to the present day on our own planet. As yet, few of us know of the cyclical nature of the universe we live in (although it is foreshadowed by many religions / philosophies such as those of the Greek Ages of Man, Hinduism, and Nietzsche). In RJ's turning of the wheel, the USSR presumably never collapsed, with Moskow fighting an apocalyptic war with Amerka in 1990 or 2000.

 

Age #2 is a very long one. My theory is that the nuclear war of Age #1 brought about genetic mutations that unlocked the power of channeling in some subset of humans, as well as other mystical talents (e.g. running with wolves, building Portal Stones, etc). As civilization began to recover, it did so on the backs of channelers and the One Power, not technology as in Age #1 (our age). Perhaps the wolfmen were hunted down to extinction by the early AoL civilization, with only recessive genes surviving on to later express themselves in the likes of Elyas and Perrin? The question of why knowledge of Portal Stones building and operation was lost doesn't have a readily apparent answer, but one can easily guess at it. Maybe the group of channelers that knew of Portal Stone building were defeated in a war with another group of channelers, and exterminated? In any case, after some time, what we know of as the AoL arose, with war having receded to dim memory by the time the Bore was unsealed (so, this global peace must have been established thousands of years before).

 

The AoL, BTW, seems to have been a pretty static, to an extent even dystopian (chora trees = soma?) civilization, contrary to the democratic idyll it is portrayed as. If it was so great why did so damn many people go over to the side of the DO? Maybe he offered progress? An apparent way upwards for ambitious and talented people that the anti-meritocratic AoL system stiffled? Anyhow, this is another discussion.

 

Age #3 we know about.

 

Age #4 is presumably a world that comes to be dominated by a global Seanchan Empire, as envisioned by Aviendha. Railways are developed. Troublesome tribes like the Aiel are perhaps exterminated (if the viewing is correct). Presumably it collapses, as all empires eventually do.

 

Age #5-6 are pretty much unknowable for now.

 

Age #7 I suspect ends with an apocalyptic war that destroys reality, causing the cycle to begin anew from a Big Bang.

Edited by Shaidar
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I find it an interesting and an integral part of the story
You know, for every hentai slashfic that pairs Harry Potter with Draco Malfoy and the Giant Squid, there's a squadron of angry fans that find countless interesting and integral parts of the story in their beloved work of art. That isn't really indicative of anything, beyond the fact that you subjectively like something. Alright. Great. It still has numerous problems that exist objectively.

 

 

Saying the title of the series, and the beginning of each and every book of the series, is superfluous to the story is hubris in the extreme
No, that's simple logic. He could have called his series "The Thermonuclear Psi-Cadavers of the Omicron Nebula" and included a passage prophesying the advent of reality-altering multi-legged cerebrates at the beginning of each and every book, but if there's nothing about the series that in any way hinges on psi-cadavers or cerebrates, readers will start feeling cheated.

 

Ask yourself: if you cut out all the references to cyclical time and whatnot, would the story, plot, and characterization of the series in any way suffer, become incomplete or ambiguous to the reader? The answer is no, because the story doesn't involve the cyclical nature of time AT ALL. Time is very linear in this series. We never get to the part where one age flowing into the other and back into itself becomes relevant, we're only dealing with a grand total of THREE Ages here. The ancient past, the tenuous present, and the looming future. Why there should be anything else tacked on to this sequence is beyond me. Illusion of depth? A hodge-podge of ideas and concepts that fail to form a cohesive structure?

 

 

I beg to differ.

 

1. You don't NEED more than three cycles to see the overall pattern. More would be helpful, but we have enough reference points to guess where to plot the rest of the timeline. It fits anyways... we don't remember anything from our ancient civilizations... why should they have access references to ages far older?

 

2. If you cut out everything cyclic, then you have to cut out:

-Every passage referencing rebirth

-Every passage that includes "The Dragon Reborn"

-Every passage involving Rand and LTT sharing a soul

-Birgitte's entire character

-Every passage even mentioning the Heroes of the Horn, who are bound to it by... wait for it... a CYCLE of time! Some we may only know from their activities in one age, but even if they started in one age, it doesn't matter... that they are bound to reappear in the pattern is all the confirmation you need that they are being reborn, ergo, recycling.

-Every instance when the DO or Ishy taunt Rand by saying they have done this a bajillion times already. So basically a third of the first book and a few other scattered references

-The first paragraph of every book

 

If time were linear, the series would fall apart from the beginning. Without the wheel, the driving force behind the driving plot line would not exist.

 

Since you like analogies to other fantasy series, here is what you are suggesting, translated into LOTR:

 

In the Lord of the Rings, if you removed the One Ring's power, suggesting instead that it is just the faulty memory of the elves that claims it has any real power, the story would not suffer. I mean, seriously, nothing would change... they would still fight at Helm's Deep, and nothing would change. It is not integral to the story, except for being in the title.
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First time commenting in years but these topics attract me like a moth to an open flame. Here is my view of how these Ages look like:

 

Age #1 is the current age, starting from the Big Bang, and covering all of prehistory and history up to the present day on our own planet. As yet, few of us know of the cyclical nature of the universe we live in (although it is foreshadowed by many religions / philosophies such as those of the Greek Ages of Man, Hinduism, and Nietzsche). In RJ's turning of the wheel, the USSR presumably never collapsed, with Moskow fighting an apocalyptic war with Amerka in 1990 or 2000.

 

 

I've just assumed that the story we are reading is in a different cycle of the ages than our present. We know that each cycle is not totally identical. Think parallel universes like in star trek. In their particular cycle of the world, WWIII was big enough to carry legends through an entire age and a half after the original war. Maybe we are in the next cycle, or the previous cycle. Always Age One, but different iteration of the cycle of ages.

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The clues are in the very first paragraph of Chapter 1

 

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.

 

The Age of LEGENDS is named quite accurately I think; so it stands to reason that myths are from the Age of Myths; our age... so it stands to reason that our age is Age #1 or at the outside chance our age is the 7th age.

 

In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

 

This isn't a clue but I always find it interesting; I have a feeling that whatever the "current" age is it is always going to be the 3rd or the fourth age as you'll always see yourself in the "middle" of the cycle and never at the end or the beginning.. as a point in a circle is always in the middle :)

 

Looking back at our history we have to consider the legends and myth's approach; every culture we know about always seemed to have 3 distinct ages,

 

Now: Recordable History

Legend: A time when men lived with gods had magical powers.

Myth: A time before men when there were "Gods and Titans".

 

Even in our scientific age there is still theories and discussions over a "previous" more global Civilization ~ 10,000 BC which was destroyed in the last ice age by a "great flood" (melting of the ice caps) - in fact EVERY culture across the planet seemed to contain a myth over a massive flood; a Breaking actually.

 

Channeling does not happen in our age; but there were always legends of "men with magic" or "casting spells"; Merlin, Medea and traveling to the spirit or underworld.... always dates set "in the past" but never a correct date blurring into legend so lets assume that these are myths when gods and titans walked the earth... the 6th age. so the 7th and 1st Ages do NOT have channeling only the memory of it... or in our age; a legend told and re-told much like Merk and Mosk are told.

 

Many of the "ages of men" always refer to the first age the age no-one remembers and is completely forgotten as a time when animals and men were as one ; lets assume that comes from the running with the wolves; I'm going to put it in our age of myths

 

1st Age - Our Age - no channeling

2nd Age - Age of Legends

3rd Age - Wheel of Time

 

4th Age - 5th Age

 

not a clue I'm guessing it'll be a lot of wars, channellers trollocs and generally a very interesting time to live in - although more a conflict between men and not the dark one vs the world. and ending with a massive war which basically drives humanity back down to the stoneage with very VERY few channellers

 

6th Age

 

Age of God's and Titans the "creation" running with wolves. being at "peace" with the world I'm guessing this is when channeling is dieing out but those who remain are considered as Gods and "in general" they are working for the betterment of all mankind. I'm guessing this is when the Portal Stones are created and legends of "god's fighting" were channeling battles between remaining channellers

 

7th Age

 

Pre History, the first civilization prior to the end of the last ice age; destroyed by the melting of the ice caps; think Atlantis and legends of all previous civilization who were the first to use fire, farm the land and sail the world. Ends with the great flood, ice age, meting of ice caps.

Edited by boli
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One thing to keep in mind with regard to this topic, and indeed the longevity of the series is that *it is mot over yet*. A great ending greatly influences the longterm view. Lord of the rings gets its status in part to the very well done twist at the climax. Ender's game, the usual suspects, etc.

 

I have always expected some really interesting stuff will go down in this one at the end. I expect the whole thing to shift- something fundamental will change which is why the story is told of *this* particular turning.

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