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MahaRaj

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  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. So close. The series finale of HBO’s Game of Thrones could have “broken the wheel” of Houses warring for the Iron Throne with the introduction of representative democracy. But alas, the time had not yet come in Westeros for Samwell Tarley’s radical idea. It seemed like a nod to the audience, who had long speculated what kind of government could arise when the “Game” was over and everybody (knowing George R. R. Martin) had lost. The scene seemed to say, “we hear you, but this isn’t the kind of story that has room to explore how a society moves away from monarchy toward a government of the people.” Great shifts in political philosophy can’t be accomplished convincingly in the denouement. (Or even in the epilogue.) Readers in these politically energized times are less satisfied with stories where the world’s problems are solved by the Chosen One claiming the throne, or defeating the Dark Lord in single combat. Readers want stories that acknowledge the complexity of the world they contend with every day. Destroying Emperor Palpatine does nothing to address the authoritarian impulses that caused the Republic to fall, twice. Destroying Voldemort didn’t free the House Elves or end pureblood racism. If there must be a Chosen One, readers demand he do more than kill his opposite number. The Chosen One must leave an enduring legacy. In The Wheel of Time, Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, makes a decent job of it when it comes to legacies. He could probably credit the lesson of two other “Chosen Ones” in history whose legacies were failures. Lews Therin Telamon, Rand’s own prior incarnation, perpetrated the Wheel’s Original Sin of disunity by attacking the Dark One at Shayol Ghul without the support of the female Aes Sedai. The result was the male Aes Sedai going mad, Lew Therin earning the epithet “Kinslayer,” and the Breaking of the World. The second failed Chosen One was Artur Paendrag Tanreall, the “Hawkwing.” During the High King’s lifetime, he succeeded in uniting the entire continent under his rule, which, for the common folk, was a peaceful and just rule. But after his death, his empire fell apart. Elyas Machera’s story, told among the rubble of Hawkwing’s ruined statue, invokes imagery of the poem “Ozymandias,” by Percy Bysshe Shelley The wisdom Rand al’Thor learns from his ta’veren predecessors (and through hard-learned lessons throughout the story) are that he cannot succeed on his own, and that facing his prophesied fate is not enough. He must lay the foundation for what will come after he is gone. This turning of the Wheel, he has to do better. Let’s look at some of Rand’s biggest political contributions to the Fourth Age. The Black Tower The Black Tower was the first step along the road of righting Lews Therin’s Original Sin. Men like him, men who could channel, had no place in the world following the Time of Madness. Even as Rand amassed his Asha’man as a weapon to use in the Last Battle, he wanted the Black Tower to outlast him, to become every bit the institution as the White Tower. Whether it was by design or a result of being spread too thin, Rand took no part in the Black Tower’s fall into darkness under Mazrim Taim, and subsequent redemption under Logain. By the Asha’man authoring their own fate, they established an identity apart from Rand, and beyond their role in Tarmon Gai’don. Given Egwene’s prophetic vision of the fang and flame, at last unified in the ancient symbol of the Aes Sedai, it looks promising that the Black Tower will finally redeem Lews Therin’s sin. Dragon University Unlike the Black Tower, Rand’s schools were an effort of pure legacy. They would yield no advantage in the Last Battle; their fruits were for the Age after the Dark One was settled. Rand got to watch, in small but satisfying interstitial scenes, the inventors and scholars learning how to harness the power of steam and electricity. As readers, we know where this could lead, just as we know this is a thread that will go on to change the world beyond the Dragon Reborn’s story. The Fourth Age seems full of potential and possibility. Though Rand’s distance from the Black Tower could have been negligence (and bad delegation), Rand’s decision to play patron but not manager of the schools seem to come from a deliberate choice to let the experts do their work. Rand built not for his own glory, but for a better world after him. The Sea Folk Bargain The Wheel of Time is globalist in its ethos. Characters and nations discover strength in uniting disparate cultures and people. If the Dark One gains strength from chaos and entropy, the Light finds purchase in order and new, stronger ways of people coming together. The Sea Folk are but one of the isolationist cultures that Rand brings into the mainstream with the Bargain. It’s not an accident that, here too, Rand delegates negotiating the terms to the professionals, from the Gray Ajah Aes Sedai to skilled politicians like Queen Elayne Trakand. Rand is the catalyst for the world coming together, but he is intentionally not the glue that holds it together. All the participants are invested in working together. The Dragon’s Peace Rand’s meeting with the leaders of the nations on the Field of Merrilor was, like the schools, an act of pure legacy. He could have simply met his fate at Shayol Ghul and let the survivors of Tarmon Gai’don do with the Fourth Age what they would. But Rand al’Thor took a page from Peter Parker’s book, and decided that his great power entailed great responsibility to the world that survived him. And he was not above extorting the nations for a hundred years of peace. This was not a compact that could be sold by Tyrion Lannister delivering a stirring speech in the Dragonpit of King’s Landing, or even handed down, fully formed, by the Dragon Reborn. The rulers correctly pointed out that unless the Seanchan were brought into the accord, it was worthless. Aviendha demanded that the Aiel be included, having seen a bleak future if the Aiel had no defined place in the new world order. And Perrin, with his knowledge of tools and blacksmith puzzles, suggested that the Aiel be the enforcers of the Dragon’s Peace. Egwene resisted, and Moiraine mediated. Faile saw political maneuvering in how the parties reached their agreement, but it may be that Rand’s guileless insistence on a unity that would outlast him won the day on its own strength. With a touch of ta’veren, perhaps. As Herid Fel said, “Belief and order give strength.” Compromise with the Seanchan Even the Chosen One must compromise, and bringing the Seanchan into the Dragon’s Peace proved to be the bitterest compromise of all. Within the lands they currently controlled, the Seanchan could continue their practice of enslaving women who channeled. Just as the Last Battle wouldn’t automatically rid the world of evils unconnected to the Dark One, cruelty, prejudice, and oppression were not banished from human hearts by the Dark One’s defeat. Chattel slavery was something the Fourth Age civilization would still have to wrestle. Empress Fortuona herself, as a damane trainer, could be held by the a’dam. How would that truth weigh against centuries of Seanchan tradition, over time? Could Mat’s influence sway her heart? Will the Windfinders refuse to engage in commerce in Seanchan lands, putting economic pressure on the Empire? How would the united Black and White Towers deal with the Seanchan? The Wheel turns, and there are stories yet to be told, even if we’ll never read them. Rand al’Thor re-wove the universe to preserve human free will. With it comes the struggle to overcome the evil humanity has wrought, and to strive for new heights of nobility. Because that’s what free will means.
  2. 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. The Dark One is the source of evil in The Wheel of Time, and his army of monsters is formidable. Hulking man/beast soldiers, eyeless swordsmen, soul-sucking bat-men, unnoticeable assassins, evil hounds, Power-resistant gumbies, giant worms, and the giant insects they become. But the scariest monsters in the saga are creatures without a direct link to the Dark One, unaffiliated evils who haunt the corners of the Pattern, with nefarious purposes beyond the battle between the Dark One and the Dragon. Let’s look at five of them. Shadar Logoth “Suspicion and hate had given birth to something that fed on that which created it, something locked in the bedrock on which the city stood. Mashadar waits still, hungering.” “Shadows Waiting”, The Eye of the World Shadar Logoth is the name of a haunted city, but also of a triumvirate monster composed of ghosts, a mist creature called Mashadar, and a corrupting taint. Its evil has a complex and murky history, but its origin is human. It was initially kindled by people’s paranoia and ruthlessness against the Dark One. In some ways, it is like an echo of the Dark One himself, trapped in the prison of Shadar Logoth at the moment of its creation, needing human action to escape and touch the world with its corruption. But its evil “vibrates” at an opposite frequency to the Dark One’s, a pivotal piece of natural philosophy that caused Rand al’Thor’s wounds from the ruby-capped dagger and Ba’alzamon’s staff to war against each other instead of destroying him, and inspired Rand to cleanse the Dark One’s taint on saidin. Though there are invisible watchers and the ghostly counselor Mordeth himself haunting Shadar Logoth, the evil manifests as Mashadar, a mindless, chthonic monster emerging from deep in the earth only at night, blindly seeking prey with its misty tentacles. Shadar Logoth is one of the scariest parts of The Wheel of Time, the place where Robert Jordan unleashed the horror-writing chops he hinted at in the dream-scenes with Ba’alzamon. But the monster’s human origins make it fascinating, and Robert Jordan’s cosmology more complex. Whatever the glossary says, the Dark One is not the source of evil in The Wheel of Time, or at least not the sole source. Evil comes from people’s hearts, and when it is sufficiently strong, it can manifest monstrously. Perhaps the Dark One himself was created by humans in the infinite turnings of the Wheel. Machin Shin “Something left from the Time of Madness, perhaps,” Moiraine replied. “Or even from the War of the Shadow, the War of Power. Something hiding in the Ways so long it can no longer get out. No one, not even among the Ogier, knows how far the Ways run, or how deep. It could even be something of the Ways themselves. As Loial said, the Ways are living things, and all living things have parasites. Perhaps even a creature of the corruption itself, something born of the decay. Something that hates life and light.” “What Follows in Shadow”, The Eye of the World The Black Wind could be a creature of the Dark One in the way the creatures of the Blight are: a product of the Dark One’s taint. But it seems to be a chthonic monster more similar to the evil of Shadar Logoth than the Dark One, a collection of voices confined to its domain, and happily gobbling up Shadowspawn as readily as any other intruder. Moiraine makes the likeness between Shadar Logoth’s evil and Machin Shin explicit when she describes the Mordeth-possessed Padan Fain’s encounter with it. “The Black Wind caught him--and he claimed to understand the voices. Some greeted him as like to them; others feared him. No sooner did the Wind envelop Fain than it fled.” “More Tales of the Wheel”, The Eye of the World Machin Shin and the Ways are another wonderfully creepy horror flex by Robert Jordan, and it’s a shame that the in-canon conclusion of the series wasn’t able to resolve its threat. Out of canon, at least we have “A Fire Within the Ways,” a deleted chapter from A Memory of Light (jointly credited to Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson) appearing in the Unfettered III anthology. In it, Perrin leads a mission to disrupt the Dark One’s armies from using the Ways, and at the climax of the battle, Machin Shin attacks. Neither weapons nor the One Power harm it, but then they hear a pure rumble of Ogier voices raised in song. Something in the song allows the Asha’man and Aes Sedai to channel bright, uncorrupted light, and Machin Shin is driven back into the shadows. If the evil of Shadar Logoth seemed like a primitive prototype of the Dark One in miniature, bound in its prison and reaching the world through human proxies, Machin Shin mirrors him in other ways. It is a formless but sentient evil that exists outside of the Pattern, known only because the Aes Sedai reached into the liminal space where it lurks. Hinderstap’s Ghosts “The road’s length squirmed with shadows, figures battling, screeching, struggling in the deepening gloom. In that darkness, the fights looked at times to be solid, single creatures--horrific monstrosities with a dozen waving limbs and a hundred mouths to scream from the blackness.” “Night in Hinderstap”, The Gathering Storm By day, the people of Hinderstap are welcoming, but they insist that visitors leave before nightfall. Because night is when the entire town goes murderously insane, and everyone fights each other to the death. By morning, they all wake up in their beds, fully healed, with no memory of the night’s carnage. Any outsider unlucky enough to be killed in the madness joins the cycle of violence, forever. Hinderstap is an eldritch stopover that doesn’t seem to be connected to anything else in the saga, though it has a fun payoff during the Last Battle. The chapter icon suggests that what’s happening in Hinderstap is a result of the Pattern unraveling. But we’ve seen these localized, nocturnal curses before, and the above description tickles a memory. “The waving gray tentacles of Mashadar blocked half the street, and the Trollocs were balking… The thickening tentacles of fog swung uncertainly for a moment, then struck like vipers… There was no sound from that cry, any more than from the Trollocs, but something came through, a piercing whine just beyond hearing, like all the hornets in the world, digging into Rand’s ears with all the fear that could exist.” “Dust on the Wind”, The Eye of the World Perhaps there was another deleted chapter in which Mordeth, in Padan Fain’s body, spent some time in Hinderstap, leaving his corrupting influence to seep into the bedrock. Certainly one can imagine that the nightly carnage in Hinderstap had some analogue in Aridhol at first, and over the centuries its undying people became little more than mist and shadowy watchers. The Aelfinn and the Eelfinn “The game is a remembrance of old dealings. It does not matter so long as you stay away from the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn. They are not evil the way the Shadow is evil, yet they are so different from humankind they might as well be. They are not to be trusted, archer. Stay clear of the Tower of Ghenjei.” “To the Tower of Ghenjei”, The Shadow Rising The Aelfinn (the “snake people”) and the Eelfinn (the “fox people”) are ancient folk who live in a different, geometry-bending world called Sindhol, accessible only through ter’angreal portals and the mysterious Tower of Ghenjei. They share similarities with genies and fae, granting wishes (if not always in the ways hoped for) and imparting truths (while exacting a price). They also feed on memories and sensations, and can watch the world through the eyes of those they’ve touched. If Shadar Logoth and the Ways gives readers a dip into chthonic horror, Sindhol is a foray into dark fairy tales. The Aelfinn and the Eelfinn even seem to share an origin with a creature in a Neil Gaiman story. “‘And what do you take, for the gold you give them?’ Little enough, for my needs are few, and I am old; too old to follow my sisters into the West. I taste their pleasure and their joy. I feed, a little, feed on what they do not need and do not value. A taste of heart, a lick and a nibble of their fine consciences, a sliver of soul. And in return a fragment of me leaves this cave with them and gazes out at the world through their eyes, sees what they see until their lives are done and I take back what is mine.” “The Truth Is a Cave In the Black Mountains”, Neil Gaiman The ’finns are the perfect foil for Mat. While Rand contends with the political machinations of the lands he tries to unite, Mat plays a game against inhuman creatures with unfathomable desires. He has to discover the rules as he plays, the stakes are staggeringly high, and the only way to win is to cheat. Who better to take them on, than the Wheel’s trickster figure? Instead of being armed with prophecy and ta’veren destiny, Mat’s rescue mission is armed with folklore, lessons from a children’s game, and pure luck. Fortunately, Mat is the luckiest man alive. The Children of the Light “There are a lot of men coming, on horses. They came up behind the wolves, but the men didn’t see them… But Dapple says… Dapple says they smell wrong. It’s… sort of the way a rabid dog smells wrong.” “Children of Shadow”, The Eye of the World Shortly after the War of Power that sealed the Dark One and (most of) the Forsaken in their prison at Shayol Ghul, there were angry men who decided to take “justice” into their own hands. They rooted out and punished people they believed served the Forsaken. Their spiritual successors became the Children of the Light, dedicated to finding and destroying Darkfriends wherever they may be. The Whitecloaks are so fanatical (even before encountering Mordeth’s corruption) that, to wolves, they smell rabid. They see improper respect paid to them, or casual association with Tar Valon, the Power, or anything unexplained, to be proof of being a Darkfriend. Their Questioners seem modeled on the Spanish Inquisition. They’re bigots and bullies, so convinced of their own righteousness that they’re willing to cross any line to accomplish their goals. If the evil of Shadar Logoth was human in origin, the Children of Light show that the same evil remains alive and well in humanity itself. It’s the most mundane evil in The Wheel of Time, but the most pervasive, persistent, and real. They embody what William Butler Yeats described in his apocalyptic poem “The Second Coming” with “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” The Fourth Age has cleared the field of many dangerous foes, but the danger of people like the Whitecloaks is always with us. Rand al’Thor remade the world to preserve human free will, which is why the struggle against the Shadow will continue forever, even if the Dark One is locked back in his prison. What’s your choice of scariest monster from The Wheel of Time?
  3. 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. The Dark One is the source of evil in The Wheel of Time, and his army of monsters is formidable. Hulking man/beast soldiers, eyeless swordsmen, soul-sucking bat-men, unnoticeable assassins, evil hounds, Power-resistant gumbies, giant worms, and the giant insects they become. But the scariest monsters in the saga are creatures without a direct link to the Dark One, unaffiliated evils who haunt the corners of the Pattern, with nefarious purposes beyond the battle between the Dark One and the Dragon. Let’s look at five of them. Shadar Logoth “Suspicion and hate had given birth to something that fed on that which created it, something locked in the bedrock on which the city stood. Mashadar waits still, hungering.” “Shadows Waiting”, The Eye of the World Shadar Logoth is the name of a haunted city, but also of a triumvirate monster composed of ghosts, a mist creature called Mashadar, and a corrupting taint. Its evil has a complex and murky history, but its origin is human. It was initially kindled by people’s paranoia and ruthlessness against the Dark One. In some ways, it is like an echo of the Dark One himself, trapped in the prison of Shadar Logoth at the moment of its creation, needing human action to escape and touch the world with its corruption. But its evil “vibrates” at an opposite frequency to the Dark One’s, a pivotal piece of natural philosophy that caused Rand al’Thor’s wounds from the ruby-capped dagger and Ba’alzamon’s staff to war against each other instead of destroying him, and inspired Rand to cleanse the Dark One’s taint on saidin. Though there are invisible watchers and the ghostly counselor Mordeth himself haunting Shadar Logoth, the evil manifests as Mashadar, a mindless, chthonic monster emerging from deep in the earth only at night, blindly seeking prey with its misty tentacles. Shadar Logoth is one of the scariest parts of The Wheel of Time, the place where Robert Jordan unleashed the horror-writing chops he hinted at in the dream-scenes with Ba’alzamon. But the monster’s human origins make it fascinating, and Robert Jordan’s cosmology more complex. Whatever the glossary says, the Dark One is not the source of evil in The Wheel of Time, or at least not the sole source. Evil comes from people’s hearts, and when it is sufficiently strong, it can manifest monstrously. Perhaps the Dark One himself was created by humans in the infinite turnings of the Wheel. Machin Shin “Something left from the Time of Madness, perhaps,” Moiraine replied. “Or even from the War of the Shadow, the War of Power. Something hiding in the Ways so long it can no longer get out. No one, not even among the Ogier, knows how far the Ways run, or how deep. It could even be something of the Ways themselves. As Loial said, the Ways are living things, and all living things have parasites. Perhaps even a creature of the corruption itself, something born of the decay. Something that hates life and light.” “What Follows in Shadow”, The Eye of the World The Black Wind could be a creature of the Dark One in the way the creatures of the Blight are: a product of the Dark One’s taint. But it seems to be a chthonic monster more similar to the evil of Shadar Logoth than the Dark One, a collection of voices confined to its domain, and happily gobbling up Shadowspawn as readily as any other intruder. Moiraine makes the likeness between Shadar Logoth’s evil and Machin Shin explicit when she describes the Mordeth-possessed Padan Fain’s encounter with it. “The Black Wind caught him--and he claimed to understand the voices. Some greeted him as like to them; others feared him. No sooner did the Wind envelop Fain than it fled.” “More Tales of the Wheel”, The Eye of the World Machin Shin and the Ways are another wonderfully creepy horror flex by Robert Jordan, and it’s a shame that the in-canon conclusion of the series wasn’t able to resolve its threat. Out of canon, at least we have “A Fire Within the Ways,” a deleted chapter from A Memory of Light (jointly credited to Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson) appearing in the Unfettered III anthology. In it, Perrin leads a mission to disrupt the Dark One’s armies from using the Ways, and at the climax of the battle, Machin Shin attacks. Neither weapons nor the One Power harm it, but then they hear a pure rumble of Ogier voices raised in song. Something in the song allows the Asha’man and Aes Sedai to channel bright, uncorrupted light, and Machin Shin is driven back into the shadows. If the evil of Shadar Logoth seemed like a primitive prototype of the Dark One in miniature, bound in its prison and reaching the world through human proxies, Machin Shin mirrors him in other ways. It is a formless but sentient evil that exists outside of the Pattern, known only because the Aes Sedai reached into the liminal space where it lurks. Hinderstap’s Ghosts “The road’s length squirmed with shadows, figures battling, screeching, struggling in the deepening gloom. In that darkness, the fights looked at times to be solid, single creatures--horrific monstrosities with a dozen waving limbs and a hundred mouths to scream from the blackness.” “Night in Hinderstap”, The Gathering Storm By day, the people of Hinderstap are welcoming, but they insist that visitors leave before nightfall. Because night is when the entire town goes murderously insane, and everyone fights each other to the death. By morning, they all wake up in their beds, fully healed, with no memory of the night’s carnage. Any outsider unlucky enough to be killed in the madness joins the cycle of violence, forever. Hinderstap is an eldritch stopover that doesn’t seem to be connected to anything else in the saga, though it has a fun payoff during the Last Battle. The chapter icon suggests that what’s happening in Hinderstap is a result of the Pattern unraveling. But we’ve seen these localized, nocturnal curses before, and the above description tickles a memory. “The waving gray tentacles of Mashadar blocked half the street, and the Trollocs were balking… The thickening tentacles of fog swung uncertainly for a moment, then struck like vipers… There was no sound from that cry, any more than from the Trollocs, but something came through, a piercing whine just beyond hearing, like all the hornets in the world, digging into Rand’s ears with all the fear that could exist.” “Dust on the Wind”, The Eye of the World Perhaps there was another deleted chapter in which Mordeth, in Padan Fain’s body, spent some time in Hinderstap, leaving his corrupting influence to seep into the bedrock. Certainly one can imagine that the nightly carnage in Hinderstap had some analogue in Aridhol at first, and over the centuries its undying people became little more than mist and shadowy watchers. The Aelfinn and the Eelfinn “The game is a remembrance of old dealings. It does not matter so long as you stay away from the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn. They are not evil the way the Shadow is evil, yet they are so different from humankind they might as well be. They are not to be trusted, archer. Stay clear of the Tower of Ghenjei.” “To the Tower of Ghenjei”, The Shadow Rising The Aelfinn (the “snake people”) and the Eelfinn (the “fox people”) are ancient folk who live in a different, geometry-bending world called Sindhol, accessible only through ter’angreal portals and the mysterious Tower of Ghenjei. They share similarities with genies and fae, granting wishes (if not always in the ways hoped for) and imparting truths (while exacting a price). They also feed on memories and sensations, and can watch the world through the eyes of those they’ve touched. If Shadar Logoth and the Ways gives readers a dip into chthonic horror, Sindhol is a foray into dark fairy tales. The Aelfinn and the Eelfinn even seem to share an origin with a creature in a Neil Gaiman story. “‘And what do you take, for the gold you give them?’ Little enough, for my needs are few, and I am old; too old to follow my sisters into the West. I taste their pleasure and their joy. I feed, a little, feed on what they do not need and do not value. A taste of heart, a lick and a nibble of their fine consciences, a sliver of soul. And in return a fragment of me leaves this cave with them and gazes out at the world through their eyes, sees what they see until their lives are done and I take back what is mine.” “The Truth Is a Cave In the Black Mountains”, Neil Gaiman The ’finns are the perfect foil for Mat. While Rand contends with the political machinations of the lands he tries to unite, Mat plays a game against inhuman creatures with unfathomable desires. He has to discover the rules as he plays, the stakes are staggeringly high, and the only way to win is to cheat. Who better to take them on, than the Wheel’s trickster figure? Instead of being armed with prophecy and ta’veren destiny, Mat’s rescue mission is armed with folklore, lessons from a children’s game, and pure luck. Fortunately, Mat is the luckiest man alive. The Children of the Light “There are a lot of men coming, on horses. They came up behind the wolves, but the men didn’t see them… But Dapple says… Dapple says they smell wrong. It’s… sort of the way a rabid dog smells wrong.” “Children of Shadow”, The Eye of the World Shortly after the War of Power that sealed the Dark One and (most of) the Forsaken in their prison at Shayol Ghul, there were angry men who decided to take “justice” into their own hands. They rooted out and punished people they believed served the Forsaken. Their spiritual successors became the Children of the Light, dedicated to finding and destroying Darkfriends wherever they may be. The Whitecloaks are so fanatical (even before encountering Mordeth’s corruption) that, to wolves, they smell rabid. They see improper respect paid to them, or casual association with Tar Valon, the Power, or anything unexplained, to be proof of being a Darkfriend. Their Questioners seem modeled on the Spanish Inquisition. They’re bigots and bullies, so convinced of their own righteousness that they’re willing to cross any line to accomplish their goals. If the evil of Shadar Logoth was human in origin, the Children of Light show that the same evil remains alive and well in humanity itself. It’s the most mundane evil in The Wheel of Time, but the most pervasive, persistent, and real. They embody what William Butler Yeats described in his apocalyptic poem “The Second Coming” with “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” The Fourth Age has cleared the field of many dangerous foes, but the danger of people like the Whitecloaks is always with us. Rand al’Thor remade the world to preserve human free will, which is why the struggle against the Shadow will continue forever, even if the Dark One is locked back in his prison. What’s your choice of scariest monster from The Wheel of Time? View full news item
  4. And let's not forget Egwene's humble origins. (No, not as the best water-carrier in Emond's Field, though that's an early indication of her drive.) While the boys were following Joseph Campbell's "Heroes Journey" and dutifully Refusing the Call to Adventure, Egwene was proactive. She knew she had bigger things in store for her, from the very beginning. Perhaps Egwene's first badass moment was choosing to leave Emond's Field. Choosing to learn the One Power when everyone (including her former mentor) still feared it. Life didn't drag her along kicking and screaming, she leaped onto it and rode it like she did a Power-strengthened Bela!
  5. In the books, Siuan and Liandrin both don't appear until The Great Hunt, but Kerene only appears in New Spring. Siuan is, of course, a major character in New Spring, and I think Liandrin makes a brief appearance too. It sounds like we'll be getting lots of New Spring flashbacks in the show. On Twitter, Emilia Machuca wrote that Peter Franzen (Stepin) said they were filming a big battle scene in Finland, and unless he somehow appears in Tarwin's Gap, that means the Blood Snow, in New Spring. That makes me wonder if Tam's ramblings about the Aiel War are going to be shown in flashback. That would cast them very differently from the book, where Rand has the luxury of thinking them fever dreams. There's a lot of content for ten episodes!
  6. I'm so glad you found us, Misha! And I envy the journey you're on! The first time through is special. Enjoy the ride, and let us know how it goes.
  7. 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?
  8. Move over Thor and Mjolnir. Behold Perrin Goldeneyes and Mah'alleinir!
  9. 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.
  10. 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."
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
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