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About MahaRaj

  • Birthday 05/19/1971
  1. Rajiv Moté is Dragonmount's book blogger with a lens on the craft of fiction writing. When he's not managing software engineers, he writes fiction of his own, which can be found cataloged at his website. Spoilers below for The Wheel of Time books, and the prologues or epilogues of The Handmaid's Tale, A Game of Thrones, The Deathly Hallows, and The Return of the King. The Eye of the World begins with one of the most memorable prologues in epic fantasy, a confrontation between a fallen hero-turned-madman and a villain who takes no joy in his apparent victory. It drops tantalizing hints of a world that is never fully explained, along with the idea that this battle has raged through an endless cycle of ages. And in Chapter One, on an empty road, thousands of years later, the actual story begins. I love prologues and epilogues. They let authors--and their readers--play at the edges of the story. They bridge the installments, expand the world, or just provide more emotional build-up and release. The early-release Wheel of Time prologues, beginning with “Snow” from Winter’s Heart, were like trailers for long-awaited movies. The epilogues of comic books--and the post-credits scenes of the movies comic books inspire--suggest possibilities sometimes more exciting than the stories themselves. “The Grey Havens” in The Lord of the Rings taught grade-school-age me the notion of beautiful melancholy. In The Wheel of Time, the only books without a prologue are New Spring and The Shadow Rising. In the former’s the first chapter, “The Hook,” Lan’s witnessing the end of the Aiel War feels isolated enough from the main story to feel like a prologue. In the latter book, parts of the first chapter were, in fact, a prologue in the advanced reading copy before being integrated. The Shadow Rising’s first chapter surveys a number of points-of-view, a technique both Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson used in subsequent prologues. “Snow” and the prologues that followed, seemed to be written specifically for advance release, checking in on several characters--major and minor--to tease the upcoming book. By contrast, Lord of Chaos is the first book where Robert Jordan used an epilogue, a practice he did not pick up again until 2003-2004, with Crossroads of Twilight and New Spring. But even as early as The Eye of the World, when Moiraine told Lord Agelmar what must be done with the Horn of Valere, and spied on Rand while declaring “the Dragon is Reborn,” Jordan used the final scenes less to conclude the arc of the current novel than to set up the next one. The final chapter, “After,” of The Great Hunt, was even more explicitly an epilogue, switching to an omniscient point-of-view to describe how the ending of the Hunt reverberated across the continent. Prologues and epilogues, whether labeled so or not, are consistent features of The Wheel of Time. They give readers a look at the story’s place in the larger world, either through new point-of-view characters (in a story with dozens already), or sweeping narration across ages and geography. Most Western notions of story demand that it begins when the protagonists face a threat to their status quo, and ends with a new status quo. In big, secondary world stories, prologues and epilogues allow readers to break outside the structure of Aristotle's unities (action, place, time) and Gustav Freytag’s dramatic acts (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement). We glimpse people and events that inform--but are not part of--the story to come, or linger in the denouement, seeing how the story ripples beyond its bounds. We get to enjoy further the world in which they are investing hours of imaginative immersion. The Eye of the World’s prologue puts Rand al’Thor’s story into the vaster context of an eternal battle between the Dragon and the Dark One, where Rand’s struggle becomes Lews Therin’s second chance. This widening scope shares similarities with the epilogue of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. It occurs hundreds of years after the events of Offred’s story. An academic puts Offred’s harrowing and uncertain fate into the context of the rise and fall of the oppressive regime of Gilead. In both novels, these story fragments, separated in time, reframe the main tale. Both offer hope in the long arc of history. They imply other stories. The “Dragonmount” prologue introduces readers to the saga’s real stakes. On the way to Tarmon Gaidon, though, there are hundreds of pages focused on the Aiel, the return of Hawkwing’s armies, the Shaido, the Bowl of Winds, Andor’s royal succession, and the schism and healing of the White Tower. The prologue keeps readers’ eyes on the prize. The prologue in George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones does the same, letting the readers know that the Iron Throne is a distraction from the real threat: the Others are coming (someday?) with The Winds of Winter. The scope of epics means not every plot thread gets wrapped up when the core story ends. Falling action and denouement can be a narrow frame for the catharsis readers want. In “To See the Answer,” the epilogue to A Memory of Light, we know that the Light triumphed in Tarmon Gaidon, but we still want hints of what the future holds for our surviving heroes in the Fourth Age. The answers give us just enough to imagine the future. And like Sister Night stepping out onto a swimming pool at the end of HBO’s Watchmen, a mysteriously lit pipe suggests an entirely new set of possibilities that will only live in our imaginations. The Wheel turns. Sometimes we want more than just assurances that the story goes on. It’s not essential to know that, at the end of The Lord of the Rings, the mallorn tree that Samwise Gamgee planted became famous, and the beer of 1420 was remembered for generations. But it feels good. And fans young and old were glad to know that after Voldemort’s destruction, Harry married Ginny, Hermione married Ron, they all remained friends, and their children attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, surely to have adventures of their own. After spending years invested in a story world, readers take comfort not only that the world continues, but that it’s a better place for the struggles of its heroes. Readers need structure to navigate a sprawling epic. But they want emotional payoffs too, and everyone has a secondary plot line, character, or detail they hold especially dear. Prologues and epilogues, the stories around the stories, give the reader this richer satisfaction. When I return to these worlds, they’re the first parts I revisit. What’s your favorite prologue or epilogue?
  2. Move over Thor and Mjolnir. Behold Perrin Goldeneyes and Mah'alleinir!
  3. I liked, in New Spring, the cultural misunderstanding between Lan and Moiraine over his refusal to meet her eyes. It was all the more poignant in light of our knowledge of the intimacy they'll have 20 years later, when they'll be able to understand each other's slightest gesture.
  4. Really? Which group? I don't remember that at all. Admittedly, the way GRRM's going, I'll forget who Arya is by the time I lay my hands on ADwD. Bran's already slipping from my mind, and I have a feeling that he's going to be a messiah of sorts. the dothraki (horse-people) that daenerys marries into Whoops -- you're right, I was wrong about it being the Wildlings. I was thinking of the refrain, "You know nothing, Jon Snow."
  5. Why? If it's coming from the author of the books, it's a fact. Period. Being in the actual books doesn't make it any "factier". You may prefer authors not provide information outside of the books, but using that info can't magically make an argument about matters of fact weaker. Why? In general, because the author could be lying so as not to ruin his story. Or the author could change his mind, especially in the course of developing a tale over 20 years, because of story dynamics. Or because the author may realize that he's made a mistake during the course of story development, and needs to make a course correction. I'm not saying that happened -- it could be that RJ was very interested in helping fans guess the twists of his story without reading it. But again, in general: if the text contradicts a past interview or verbal statement of the author's, there are many valid reasons to explain it. If the text contradicts itself, it's bad writing or editing. That's why the text is a stronger source than verbal statements.
  6. Really? Which group? I don't remember that at all. Admittedly, the way GRRM's going, I'll forget who Arya is by the time I lay my hands on ADwD. Bran's already slipping from my mind, and I have a feeling that he's going to be a messiah of sorts. The Wildlings from beyond The Wall. (Wait for it...) It is known.
  7. It's altogether better to argue from evidence in the texts than from evidence outside of the texts. An author of a mystery should have no interest in revealing any clues about the mystery except through the text -- otherwise, why bother writing the book? All that said, I don't believe Robert Jordan lied about anything he revealed. But if he *did* lie, in light of the legions of fans attempting to predict his story's outcomes, I wouldn't blame him at all.
  8. We know about the snakes answering 3 questions. We know the foxes like to wear stuff made from human skin. But what's that about taking the nourishment from food? I wonder if the reference to the Eelfinn taking nourishment from food have something to do with the real-world Celtic folk tales on which the Eelfinn are based. I haven't been able to find the particulars of those tales, but in the anthology Stories, edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio, Neil Gaiman has a short story, set in Ireland, with a creature that reminds me of the 'finns. SPOILERS FOR "THE TRUTH IS IN A CAVE IN THE BLACK MOUNTAINS", IN THE "STORIES" ANTHOLOGY: In "The Truth Is in a Cave in the Black Mountains", there's a spirit in a cave that allows you to take its gold (if gold is your need), as much as you can carry, but in return it feeds on your ability to enjoy life, and know right from wrong. And once it has fed on you, it can see through your eyes for the rest of your life. The spirit says: Gaiman frequently uses and expands upon existing folklore; this spirit and Jordan's 'finns may come from a common source story. Stealing the joy from experiences could be represented metaphorically as taking the nourishment from food; perhaps Tuon is referencing the legend as it exists in our reality.
  9. Hello, Does anyone in the forum know of any book stores in Denver that are staying open until midnight and selling Towers Of Midnight? If you do, I'd be grateful for the details! (Web searches for midnight releases of Towers of Midnight don't work very well...) Many thanks, and happy reading, everyone.
  10. The passage, in The Gathering Storm, "Before the Stone of Tear": That would be quite a piece of irony. Personally, I'd like to believe that RJ was lying, and Taim is in fact Demandred. Not likely, I know, but Taim seems more formidable than any of the Forsaken we've seen to date, and he's commanding a more powerful army than anyone on the continent except maybe the Seanchan. The Dark One should fire one of his idiot Chosen and send Taim an offer letter.
  11. It's important to separate the origin stories from the end results. I think people are getting hung up over the fact that it took a long time for Aridhol to become Shadar Logoth, and they make assumptions about how Mashadar first manifested after its citizens destroyed themselves. (In truth, we' don't know the mechanics of Mashadar's origin, just its behavior.) People argue against Hinderstap's nightly murder frenzy being related to Mashadar, thinking that Hinderstap would have to go through the same process Aridhol did, over the same time period. That's a bad assumption. Shadar Logoth's evil, and the Mashadar entity, are currently (1) fully manifest, (2) communicable, and (3) on the move through a vector once called Padan Fain. Knowing these three facts, we should expect to see Shadar Logoth/Mashadar type effects somewhere in the world. We know the evil-formerly-known-as-Fain has been growing in power, so it's not unreasonable to assume the effects he leaves will be more pronounced at this stage in the story. And that brings us to Hinderstap. I've listed several behavioral similarities between Hinderstap's nightly murder frenzy and Mashadar's, as well as a passage where Hinderstap's fights are described in a way that recalls Mashadar's physicality. I've noted how Sanderson deliberately reminds us of Shadar Logoth in the previous chapter, seeding the idea that the two phenomena could be related. We may not know the precise mechanism, but it makes the most narrative sense to interpret Hinderstap's nightly troubles as a "baby Mashadar", even if Hinderstap's and Shadar Logoth's histories are dissimilar.
  12. In short, to put it in terms that can be easily looked up, Ishamael falls victim to the Gambler's Fallacy.
  13. It's sort of off-topic, but it's worth noting that Verin does her best not to lie under most circumstances, even though she can. When you read her point of view in The Path Of Daggers prologue, she plays the Aes Sedai truth games, saying she would not speak of Katerine Alruddin to the Car'a'carn but considers giving him a note. I can only think of two times when Verin lies outright.
  14. The Guide portrays Elan Morin Tedronai as a nihilist philosopher (he was author of Reality and the Absence of Meaning), and it's not hard to draw parallels between his desire, as Ishamael, for the Dark One to permanently unmake reality and Buddhist and Upanisadic Hindu ideas of achieving the empty bliss of nirvana, liberation from the Wheel. At the end of The Gathering Storm we saw that even Rand al'Thor/Lews Therin, under the weight of his responsibilities and failures, was tempted to seek a permanent end to his suffering; he saw futility in the never-ending struggle until he realized that the cycle gave him a second chance, to do things right and to love again. It's easy to imagine Elan Morin as a man who didn't have that realization. Of course, if the metaphor of the Wheel spinning and re-spinning the pattern remains consistent, the Dark One will have to unravel the pattern, so the Wheel can re-spin it into a new-yet-familiar pattern. (Hinduism has a similar concept -- the dark age of cosmic dissolution, the kaliyuga must occur before the cosmic wheel can turn and create the universe anew. As Herid Fel says, "have to clear rubble before you can build."
  15. You're right -- Mesaana doesn't want to surrender Egwene to Aran'gar, and defers to Moridin on when or if a rescue will occur. But the point remains that Mesaana has specific motives for the Aes Sedai, worth quoting: Knife of Dreams, "At the Gardens" Contrast this with Silviana's actions: The Gathering Storm, "News In Tel'aran'rhiod" Mesaana wants Egwene broken. Silviana emphatically does not -- and risks being charged as a Darkfriend to stand up for her. That's proof enough for me that Mesaana is not Silviana.
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