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Wheel of Time Worldview

Paul H

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To what extent does the worldview of the Wheel of Time harmonize with or conflict with your own worldview?  And how did this add to or detract from your enjoyment of the books?  These may seem like silly questions to ask of a fantasy series, but I will give my answers, which may help explain why I ask the questions:


In reading a fantasy book, I certainly don't expect everything in the fantasy world to work the way that the real world works -- if it did, it wouldn't be fantasy!  Taking the Wheel of Time as an example, we are introduced to several concepts right at the start which do not exist in the real world, such as a system of magic (saidar and saidin) and mythical creatures (Myrrdraal, Trollocs, Ogier, etc.).  I see no reason for these departures from the real world to bother me.  I expect to suspend disbelief about such things in order to enjoy a fantasy novel.


But there are certain things which even in a fantasy novel I would typically expect to correspond to the real world, such as basic human nature, the laws of physics, and morality.  Through most of the Wheel of Time books, I had few complaints about this type of issue.  A couple of things initially stood out in this worldview category (not as complaints, but just as things that caught my attention):


  • History in the Wheel of Time is cyclical, with history repeating itself (with some variations) every time the same point in the cycle comes around again.  This is not how history works in the real world.  But it is something that doesn't detract from my enjoyment of the books; in fact it is central to certain interesting story elements.
  • Related to the first point, people in the Wheel of Time are reincarnated.  I don't believe that reincarnation happens in the real world, but I am happy to suspend disbelief about this for a fantasy novel.  The one problem I see though is that the Wheel of Time did not do much to acknowledge the negative aspects of reincarnation.  (The one exception is Moridin's desire to break the cycle once and for all, rather than continuing to live out essentially the same life over and over and over again.)  The books also did not acknowledge any problem with the fact that reincarnation views the body as a mere vessel for the soul, rather than as an integral part of the person -- something that conflicts with my view of human nature.


There are a few other points where I thought that the Wheel of Time books discounted certain aspects of human nature, but surprisingly few considering the size and scope of this fantasy world that Robert Jordan created.


One aspect of human nature that I think Robert Jordan portrayed very well is the distinctions between the sexes.  In the real world, men and women are equal, but certainly not the same, and I think that this reality is reflected very well in the Wheel of Time.  Even the magic system itself shows that men and women do things in very different ways, and that men (on average) are better at some things, while women (on average) are better at others, but that neither sex on the whole is better than the other.  The magic system also shows that men and women are at their best when they work together -- something else that reflects the real world, in my view.


But the one place where the Wheel of Time worldview and my worldview differ, and that did signifcantly detract from my enjoyment of the books, was Rand's confrontation with the Dark One in A Memory of Light.  If Rand had discovered that it was impossible to kill the Dark One, and so he sealed the Dark One away because it was his only option, I would have been satisfied.  Not thrilled, but satisfied.  But instead, Rand finds that he does have the power to kill the Dark One, but he refrains from doing so, because to do so would somehow take away humanity's free will.  This was something that I still just can't suspend disbelief on, because it goes so very contrary to my worldview on the nature of good, evil, and free will.


I do sympathize with the idea that humanity finds its good in resisting evil, and that the Dark One gives them something to resist (an idea that was presented in AMoL).  But I believe that evil is not a thing itself, but rather the absence of good.  Therefore I viewed the Dark One not as the source of evil (since evil is not a thing that can have a source), but rather as a powerful being that is firmly committed to oppose all which is good.  I also believe that free will means the ability to choose good, or to choose not to do good (i.e., to choose evil).  I think that free will is inherent in human nature, and therefore it was hard for me to suspend disbelief, and assume that free will (and thus human nature itself) in the Wheel of Time is contingent on the existence of some evil entity which often cannot even interact with humanity (i.e., during those ages when the Dark One is sealed away from the pattern).



So that's my answer.  How would you answer the questions at the start of this post?

Edited by Paul H
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I wouldn't say that any of my worldviews are really cemented in WoT or other books really, I guess the closest thing would be the cyclical nature of the wheel, not because I believe that time is cyclical but I think theirs a lot of truth in the statement that those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.

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