Welcome back to another edition of "WoT If?", Dragonmount's weekly theory blog. I hope you all waited with anticipation for the announcement I have for this week. So here it is, without further ado, "WoT If?" will be starting a complete series re-read!
With the series finally completed, now is the perfect time to start over, looking at everything with the ending already known. There will be clues we missed before that we can pick up on now. There will be plot points that seemed insignificant, but within the bigger picture, will make more sense. We will still have theories along the way, so this is only a slight change in the format. And of course, I encourage all of you to re-read with me.
But don't worry if you don't have the time for a re-read. I'll give a brief synopsis over which chapters I'll be covering, so you'll be able to follow along without difficulty.
Before we start, I do want to say that there will still be SPOILERS! With the ending in sight, much of what I point out could allude to things that happen in A Memory of Light, so keep that in mind as you read. Don't continue if you don't want to be spoiled.
Before I jump into The Eye of the World, I want to say a few things. I'm in love with The Wheel of Time. It's one of the greatest passions in my life. I have been consecutively re-reading the series since I first started in 1999. I own five copies of The Eye of the World: a trade paperback edition signed by Robert Jordan, two paperbacks (both filled with bookmarks marking important passages), the first volume of the Japanese paperback, and the first volume of the young adult version released in 2002 (From the Two Rivers). Why do I bring all this up? Well, mostly because I like to brag—especially about my Japanese version—but mostly because it helps illustrate my starting point.
Where would be the best place to start a re-read? With New Spring, which is chronologically the first book in the series? I thought about that. However, for me, it's not the start of the story. The story—Rand's, Mat's, Perrin's story—begins in The Eye of the World. So, that's where I want to start. We will get to New Spring. Perhaps we'll look at it in between Crossroads of Twilight and Knife of Dreams—when the novella length story was published. Perhaps we'll read it before that. Perhaps we will wait until the very end. It would be nice to have the "tangent" tales read all at one: The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time (the Big White Book, to some), River of Souls, and "The Strike at Shayol Ghul." Those stories, as well as New Spring, are supplements to the main plot lines, not necessarily part of the main plot lines. New Spring, especially, is better read with some background knowledge about the world, the White Tower, and Aes Sedai.
So, with that settled, there's still another question in regards to the "beginning." The young adult version I mentioned before—From the Two Rivers—includes a new prologue written by Mr. Jordan. I'm not sure how many fans out there have read this new bit of the story. For me, it was the reason I bought From the Two Rivers. The new prologue, titled "Ravens," takes place a few years before the first chapter of The Eye of the World. And one interesting fact is that this prologue leads into the original prologue, "Dragonmount." In the From the Two Rivers version, Tam gathers up the children and tells them a bit of background information on Lews Therin—which leads into the story of "Dragonmount."
I debated with myself whether or not to include the pre-prologue. In the end, I decided to begin with it. It is the very beginning of the Dragon Reborn's story—though it's told through Egwene's point-of-view.
I've rambled enough, so let's jump into the story!
This prologue is told from Egwene al'Vere's point-of-view. She is nine-years-old and is helping to carry water during the sheep sheering event. Everyone from the Two Rivers—excluding those from Taren Ferry—participates in the sheering.
Egwene has ambitions to be the best water-carrier ever—her ambition deriving from being promoted to the position a whole year early. As she circles the gathered Two Rivers folk—letting them drink water from her bucket—she is keeping an eye out for Perrin Aybara or Mat Cauthon. She wants to follow them to Rand al'Thor. She has heard people say that she and Rand will eventually be married, so she wants to learn more about him.
Throughout the day, Egwene spies ravens up in the trees, acting curious. She thinks it is weird that they seem to be looking at the people, not the food laid out on the tables. She remembers they are said to be the Dark One's eyes, but tries to concentrate on her task.
After encountering a lot of people from the village, Egwene finally stumbles upon Rand and his friends. She eavesdrops a bit, until all the boys are summoned to Master al'Vere—Egwene's father. Egwene follows. The boys were promised a story, and Tam al'Thor—Rand's father—tells them a little about Lews Therin Telamon's strike on Shayol Ghul, and how he sealed the Dark One away. Upon hearing this, Egwene is confused because she knows Lews Therin was responsible for the Breaking. She thinks Master al'Thor has the story wrong.
The boys are dispersed, and Egwene sees another raven—staring at her. It flies away, and she goes back to focusing on the being the best water-carrier. As the next few years pass, Egwene gets promoted to helping with the food tables a year early as well. This starts her goal of being the youngest girl to ever have her hair braided.
This new prologue is a device used to get young adult readers acclimated to the world within The Wheel of Time in a more natural way. Because of that, we get a lot of contextual information—what a Wisdom is, what superstitions they believe, bits about the Forsaken and Aes Sedai. This helps with the overabundance of information at the very beginning of The Eye of the World. I remember on my first read through, even the concept of a Wisdom was hard to figure out.
Because of that, it could be the best place to start the series. However, there is also a counter argument.
With this section being from Egwene's point-of-view, and the next prologue (the regular prologue) being from Lews Therin's (with a bit of omniscient at the end), when we get to Rand in the first chapter we might be a bit overwhelmed. With the original story, we know Rand is the main character. Someone reading "Ravens" first might think Egwene is the main character. Egwene is definitely important in the series, but ultimately, this is Rand's tale.
Regardless, I was happy for this extra information. There's quite a bit we learn about Egwene, Nynaeve, and Rand from this prologue. Of course, it's only foreshadowing if you've read the rest of the series already—or at least the first book. New readers wouldn't pick up on any of it.
1. Egwene makes mention that her oldest sister—Berowyn—lost her husband and child to breakbone fever the last fall. Berowyn says she is glad that Egwene also didn't die. Later in the book (Chapter 21, "Listen to the Wind") we learn that Nynaeve had Healed Egwene with the Power. Nynaeve says that Mistress Barran—the Wisdom at the time—had things under control, but Nynaeve believed Egwene was dying. But here, we see that the fever claimed at least two lives. So, it's quite possible Egwene could have died without Nynaeve intervention.
There's also a brief mention of Nynaeve being able to tell it's Egwene without looking—a residue of her using the Power on Egwene. With it mentioned here, it's not such a big shock when Moiraine mentions it later.
2. We learn more of Nynaeve's family details. She was recently orphaned—and taken in by the Wisdom as an apprentice. But only after Mistress Barran's current apprentice died from a "mysterious illness." Again, this is more foreshadowing about how many of the Two Rivers girls can channel.
3. We see that Egwene has a strong desire to leave the Two Rivers. With the beginning part of the story focusing on Rand, we don't know about Egwene's ambitions to leave the Two Rivers. Rand is completely shocked when she wants to accompany them when they leave. This addition helps us get used to her decision. We see that she had the desire all along; it was only Rand who failed to notice it in her.
4. Mat tells his friends that he will "rescue an Aes Sedai" who will "reward" him. This is the first introduction to Mat being… Mat. To be honest, I hated Mat at the beginning of the story. I thought it was awful the way he treated Rand after learning he could channel. Mat was so selfish and uncaring. It wasn't until The Dragon Reborn that I fell in love with Mat.
Looking back on scenes like this, with the knowledge of where Mat winds up and who he turns into, makes me so happy.
5. And one major question: why does Tam decide to tell the story of Lews Therin? Lews Therin's tale, and the link to Lews Therin's death on Dragonmount, had to remind Tam of where he found Rand. Tam knows so much of the world, yet he was unable to recognize the fact that his adopted son was the one mentioned in the prophecies. It seems so bizarre that he wouldn't make the connection, especially since this addition to the story makes us know that he knows. Yet in Knife of Dreams, Tam needs confirmation from Perrin that Rand is the Dragon Reborn:
Chapter 29, "The Last Knot"
[Tam said,] “Taim said Rand sent him. He said Rand is the Dragon Reborn.” There was a touch of questioning in that, perhaps a hope for denial, perhaps a demand to know why Perrin had kept silent.
Also, when Tam is telling the story, Egwene thinks about how Tam says it with a sense of knowledge; she thinks, he tells it "almost as if he had been there." Could it be possible that Tam is someone important reborn? Maybe one of the Hundred Companions? That would be an interesting twist.
If you haven't had a chance to read "Ravens" yet, I really suggest giving it a try. It does give some interesting insight to Egwene.
We'll end the blog here for today. Next week, we'll look at the next prologue, "Dragonmount." Please feel free to discuss any of the ideas I mentioned, or perhaps some I left out. Thanks for reading!