The Wheel of Time
|Author||Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson|
|Cover artist||Darrell K. Sweet (Michael Whelan for A Memory of Light)|
|Publisher||Tor Books (USA) and
Orbit Books (UK)
|Published||January 15, 1990|
|Media type||print (hardback & paperback)|
The Wheel of Time is a series of epic fantasy novels written by American author James Oliver Rigney, Jr., under the pen name Robert Jordan. Originally planned as a six-book series, The Wheel of Time now spans fourteen volumes, in addition to a prequel novel and a companion book. Jordan began writing the first volume, The Eye of the World, in 1984 and it was published in January 1990.
The author died in 2007 while working on what was planned to be the final volume in the series, although he had prepared extensive notes so another author could complete the book according to his wishes. Fellow fantasy author and long-time Wheel of Time fan Brandon Sanderson was brought in to complete the final book, but during the writing process it was decided that the book would be far too large to be published in one volume, and would instead be published as three volumes: The Gathering Storm (2009), Towers of Midnight (2010) and A Memory of Light (2013).
The series draws on numerous elements of both European and Asian mythology, most notably the cyclical nature of time found in Hinduism and Buddhism, the concepts of balance and duality, and a respect for nature found in Daoism. Additionally, its creation story has similarities to Christianity's "Creator" (Light) and Shai'tan, "The Dark One". It was also partly inspired by Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.
The Wheel of Time is notable for its length, its detailed imaginary world, its well-developed magic system and a large cast of characters. The eighth through fourteenth books each reached number one on the New York Times Best Seller list. As of August 14, 2008 the series has sold over 44 million copies worldwide and has spawned a computer game, roleplaying game and a soundtrack album. The television and film rights to the series have been optioned several times, most recently by Universal Studios.
- 1 Setting
- 2 Plot summary
- 3 Special powers
- 4 Books in the series
- 5 Development
- 6 Adaptations
- 7 Culture
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
In the series's fictional mythology, a deity known as the Creator forged the universe and the Wheel of Time, which, as it turns, spins all lives. The Wheel has seven spokes, each representing an age, and it rotates under the influence of the One Power, which flows from the True Source. Essentially composed of male and female halves (saidin and saidar) in opposition and in unison, this power turns the Wheel. Those humans who can use this power are referred to as channelers; the principal organization of such wielders in the books is called the Aes Sedai or 'Servants of All' in the Old Tongue.
The Creator imprisoned its antithesis, Shai'tan (or Dark One), at the moment of creation, sealing him away from the Wheel. However, in a time called the Age of Legends or the Second Age, an Aes Sedai experiment inadvertently breached the Dark One's prison, allowing his influence into the world. He rallied the powerful, the corrupt and the ambitious to his cause and these servants began an effort to free the Dark One fully from his prison. In return, the Dark One promised them worldly power and immortality. Few even among the servants of the Dark One realized that one of the consequences of freeing him might be the breaking of the Wheel of Time and the end of existence itself.
In response to this threat, the Wheel spun out the Dragon as the champion of the Light. The Dragon was a male Aes Sedai named Lews Therin Telamon, who rose to great influence and power among the Aes Sedai. A century after the initial breach of the Dark One's prison, a time during which the Dark One's influence spread throughout the world, causing society to become corrupt and decayed, open warfare broke out between the forces of the Dark One and those of the Light. After ten years of a grueling, world-wide war filled with atrocities on a scale never before imagined, the Light found itself facing the real possibility of defeat.
In desperation, Lews Therin led a hand-picked force of channelers and soldiers in a high-risk, daring assault on the site of the earthly link to the Dark One's prison, and was able to seal it off, although imperfectly. However, at this moment of victory the Dark One tainted saidin, driving male channelers of the One Power insane. The male channelers, in the "Time of Madness," devastated the world with the One Power, unleashing earthquakes and tidal waves that reshaped the planet, referred to in subsequent ages as "The Breaking of the World."
In his insanity, Lews Therin himself killed his friends, his family and anyone in any way related to him, and was known afterwards as Lews Therin Kinslayer. Given a moment of sanity by Ishamael, chief among the Dark One's servants, Lews Therin realized what he had done. In his grief, he committed suicide by drawing on far more of the One Power than even he could handle unaided.
Over time, the remaining male Aes Sedai were killed or cut off from the One Power. In their wake, they had left a devastated world: the land and the oceans reshaped, people scattered from their native lands, civilization itself all but destroyed. Only women were now able to wield the One Power safely. The female Aes Sedai reconstituted and guided humanity out of this dark time. Men who could channel eventually became objects of fear and horror, as they would inevitably go insane unless stopped, and even the Dragon became a loathed figure. Among the Aes Sedai there were women whose sole function was to hunt such men down and cut them off from accessing the One Power.
What followed was three and a half thousand years of history that was marked by a series of rises then inevitable declines in civilization, a time of troubles and chaos that stood in marked contrast to the now mythical Age of Legends. Nations and civilization itself fell, rose, and fell again. Occasional periods of uneasy peace were punctuated by warfare. There were two major conflicts that were of particular importance, in terms of their effect on civilization as a whole. The first were the Trolloc Wars, in which servants of the Dark One tried to destroy civilization once more, in a more or less continuous war that lasted for several hundred years. This period finally came to an end thanks to an alliance of nations led by the Aes Sedai. The second was the War of the Hundred Years, a devastating civil war that followed the fall of a continent-spanning empire ruled by the High King, Artur Hawkwing.
These wars have prevented the human race from regaining the power and high technology of the Age of Legends, and left humanity divided. Even the prestige of the Aes Sedai has fallen, with their terrible power and shrinking numbers, and the emergence of organizations such as the Children of the Light, a militant order who hold that all who dabble with the One Power are servants of the Shadow. The human race has clawed its way back to a level of technology and culture roughly comparable to that of our 1450 to 1600 (although without the sciences, formalized learning, or the military use of gunpowder), with the difference that women enjoy full equality with men in most societies, and are superior in some. One likely explanation for this is the power and influence of the female-only Aes Sedai spilling over into everyday life.
During the last war of note, called the Aiel War and taking place 20 years before the start of the series, the nations of the modern era allied themselves against the warrior-clans of the Aiel, who crossed into the western kingdoms on a mission of vengeance after suffering a grievous insult at the hands of one of the western Kings. The Aiel have since returned to the Aiel Waste, with some saying that they were defeated and fled, but others saying that they got their vengeance and left on their own terms. Despite this confrontation, little is known of these fierce warriors in the kingdoms of the east.
In the time in which the novels are set, humanity lives under the shadow of a prophecy that the Dark One will break free from his prison and the Dragon will be reborn to face him once more, raining utter destruction and chaos on the world in the process of saving it from the Dark One.
The prequel novel New Spring takes place during the Aiel War and chronicles the end of that conflict and the discovery by the Aes Sedai that one of the Prophecies of the Dragon has been fulfilled, that the Dragon has been Reborn. Aes Sedai agents (including a young Moiraine Damodred) are dispatched to try to find the newborn child before servants of the Shadow can do the same.
The series proper commences almost twenty years later in the Two Rivers, a near-forgotten backwater district of the country of Andor. An Aes Sedai, Moiraine, and her Warder Lan, arrive mysteriously in the village of Emond's Field, secretly aware that servants of the Dark One are searching for one particular young man living in the area. Moiraine is unable to determine which of three youths (Rand al'Thor, Matrim Cauthon or Perrin Aybara) is the Dragon Reborn, so she takes all three of them out of the Two Rivers, along with their friend Egwene al'Vere. Nynaeve al'Meara, the unusually young village Wisdom (a healer or wise-woman figure), later meets up with them at the town of Baerlon. A mysterious old gleeman named Thom Merrilin also travels with the group, claiming he wants to travel in safety when leaving the Two Rivers. The first novel depicts their flight from various agents of the Shadow and their attempts to escape to the Aes Sedai city of Tar Valon. From then on, the story expands and the original characters are frequently split into different groups and pursue different missions or agendas aimed at furthering the cause of the Dragon Reborn, sometimes thousands of miles apart. The original group of characters from the Two Rivers make new allies, gain experience and become figures of some influence and authority. As they struggle to unite the western kingdoms against the Dark One's forces, their task is complicated by rulers of the nations who refuse to give up their authority and by factions such as the Children of the Light, who do not believe in the prophecies, and the Seanchan, the descendants of a long-lost colony of Artur Hawkwing's empire across the western ocean (Hawkwing had once united the mainland continent under his rule, and sent his son across the ocean to unite those lands as well) who have returned, believing it is their destiny to conquer the world. The Aes Sedai also become divided on how to deal with the Dragon Reborn, a schism influenced by personal ambition and agendas from various influential Aes Sedai.
As the story expands, new characters representing different factions are introduced: although this expansion of the narrative allows the sheer scale of the growing struggle to be effectively depicted, it has been criticized for slowing the pace of the novels and sometimes reducing the appearances of the original cast to extended cameos. By the eleventh novel, it has become clear that Tarmon Gai'don, or the Last Battle, caused when the Dark One is able to exert its influence directly on the world once more, is imminent.
Tarmon Gai'don is both feared and anticipated in the lands of the Wheel. Deriving its name from the final battlefield of Armageddon (Har-Magedon) in Christian eschatology, Tarmon Gai'don will be the apocalyptic (some say final) battle between the forces of the Shadow and the forces of Light; if the Dark One wins, he plans to break the Wheel of Time itself to prevent another challenge. Even though the Dragon Reborn might prevail and thwart the Dark One, many fear that the Last Battle and its aftermath will be as bad as the Breaking, if not worse. As the series winds toward its conclusion, signs begin to point to the nearness of this final struggle.
Within the storyline, there are characters who believe that the death of Rand before Tarmon Gai'don would prevent it from happening and therefore plot his premature death; others just believe his mere presence would ensure their victory and therefore wish to capture him and keep him safe until the time comes. Before his death, Pedron Niall speculated that the Creator had abandoned humanity to its own devices, and that the Last Battle would be between armies and not include a non-existent (to his thinking) Dragon Reborn (in fact, he did not even believe Rand could channel). One member of the Black Ajah had her mind warped to believe that the Dragon Reborn must make it to Tarmon Gai'don in order for the Dark One to defeat him, and thus she has pledged to protect Rand al'Thor from anyone who tries to take his life.
The magic system in the Wheel of Time series is considered by some to be very well-developed.
Some men and women are able to use something known as the One Power; using the One Power is called channeling. The One Power is split into two sections: saidin and saidar. Men channel saidin, and women channel saidar. Not all people can channel. Specific flows of saidin or saidar are called weaves. Both saidin and saidar are further divided into the Five Powers; Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Spirit. Each weave uses at least one of these five, the most complex using all of them. Women can join together and form circles, but without a man, which only a woman can bring into it, the circle is restricted to thirteen members, with one person maintaining control by directing the weaves. With a man, the circle can go beyond thirteen, up to a limit of seventy-two channelers, which, at a minimum, must include six men. The strongest circles try for a nearly equal balance between genders, though there must always be at least one more woman present than there are men in the circle 
In the Age of Legends (approximately three thousand years before the first book takes place), men and women used the One Power together, as the two genders together produced the greatest works. Since that time, strength in the Power has generally lessened, and the knowledge lost since the Age of Legends ended with the Breaking of the World has not been recovered. Thirteen evil channelers, known as the Forsaken because they abandoned the Light and pledged to the Shadow, lived during the Age of Legends and retain knowledge from that time, making them extremely powerful.
At the start of the series, saidin has been tainted by the Dark One for over three thousand years. Any man who channels it will eventually go insane and die. Because of this, the female Aes Sedai hunt down men who can channel and if they cannot gentle them (cut them off from saidin) they kill them. Women who can channel live extraordinarily long lives, hundreds of years in length. Men would live this long, but the Dark One's taint on saidin inevitably causes them to die.
Many objects exist which can use the One Power, called ter'angreal, as well as objects which can magnify one's strength in the Power, known as angreal or sa'angreal.
There also exists a power of evil, dubbed the True Power. The tapping of this power caused the bore into the Dark one's sanctum in the first place. Some higher levels of authority in the shadow have been granted access to this power by Shai'tan, and explain its use less as graceful, and more as ripping through the seams of fate and time itself, to force one's will on nature.
Books in the series
|0.||New Spring||334||26||122,150||12h 31m||6 January 2004||Prequel set 20 years before the events of the first novel.|
|1.||The Eye of the World||782||53||305,902||29h 32m||15 January 1990|
|2.||The Great Hunt||681||50||267,078||26h 08m||15 November 1990|
|3.||The Dragon Reborn||674||56||251,392||24h 31m||15 October 1991|
|4.||The Shadow Rising||1001||58||393,823||40h 31m||15 September 1992|
|5.||The Fires of Heaven||963||56||354,109||36h 34m||15 October 1993|
|6.||Lord of Chaos||987||55||389,823||41h 37m||15 October 1994||Locus Award nominee, 1995.|
|7.||A Crown of Swords||855||41||295,028||30h 31m||15 May 1996|
|8.||The Path of Daggers||672||31||226,687||23h 31m||20 October 1998|
|9.||Winter's Heart||766||35||238,789||24h 18m||7 November 2000||Prologue chapter was released as a promotional eBook in September 2000.|
|10.||Crossroads of Twilight||822||30||271,632||26h 03m||7 January 2003||Prologue chapter was released as a promotional eBook on July 17, 2002.|
|11.||Knife of Dreams||837||37||315,163||32h 24m||11 October 2005||Prologue chapter was released as a promotional eBook on July 22, 2005.
Final novel completed by Robert Jordan.
|12.||The Gathering Storm||766||50||297,502||33h 02m||27 October 2009||Completed by Brandon Sanderson.|
|13.||Towers of Midnight||864||57||327,052||38h 17m||2 November 2010||Completed by Brandon Sanderson.|
|14.||A Memory of Light||912||49||353,906||41h 55m||8 January 2013||Completed by Brandon Sanderson, epilogue by Robert Jordan.|
|Totals:||11,916||684||4,410,036||461h 25m (19 days, 5 hrs, 25min)||22 years, 11 months, 24 days (January 1990 - 2013)|
All page totals given are for the most widely available mass-market paperback editions.
There is also a prequel novella, New Spring in the Legends anthology edited by Robert Silverberg. Jordan expanded this into the standalone novel New Spring that was published in January 2004. Prior to his death, Jordan planned another two prequel novels and up to three "outrigger" novels taking place during or after the main series. He had only minimal notes prepared for these, and after the release of A Memory of Light it was ruled out that Brandon Sanderson or any other author will expand them into full novels.
In 2002 the first book, The Eye of the World, was repackaged as two volumes with new illustrations for younger readers: From the Two Rivers, including an extra chapter (Ravens) before the existing prologue, and To the Blight with an expanded glossary. In 2004 the same was done with The Great Hunt, with the two parts being The Hunt Begins and New Threads in the Pattern.
On several occasions, chapters from various books in the series were released several months in advance of publication. These were released in eBook format as promotional tools for the then-upcoming release.
To date, the prologue eBook releases have included:
- Snow: The Prologue to Winter's Heart (September 2000)
- Glimmers: The Prologue to Crossroads of Twilight (July 17, 2002)
- Embers Falling on Dry Grass: The Prologue to Knife of Dreams (July 22, 2005).
- What the Storm Means: The Prologue to The Gathering Storm (September 17, 2009).
- Distinctions: The Prologue to Towers of Midnight (Tuesday September 21, 2010).
- Chapter 1 of Towers of Midnight, Apples First, was released on Friday October 1, 2010 on Tor.com for free.
- Chapter 2 of Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership was released in Audio form on Tuesday October 19, 2010 on Tor for free.
- Chapter 8 of Towers of Midnight, The Seven-Striped Lass (on September 16, 2010, Chapter 8, The Seven-Striped Lass, was revealed as part of The Great Hunt scavenger hunt setup by Brandon on his website beginning August 30, 2010 in relation to his new book The Way of Kings.)
- By Grace And Banners Fallen: The Prologue to A Memory Of Light (Wednesday September 19, 2012).
There is a companion book to the series, entitled The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time and published by Tor Books in November 1997, which contains much hitherto unrevealed background information about the series including the first maps of the entire world and the Seanchan home continent. The book was co-written with Teresa Patterson. Jordan ruled the book broadly canonical, but stated that the book was written from the perspective of a historian within The Wheel of Time universe, and was prone to errors of bias and guesswork.
Jordan also wrote a short story, “The Strike at Shayol Ghul”, which pre-dates the main series by several thousand years. It was made available on the Internet and was later published in The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time.
Deleted portions for a specific character from Memory of Light will be published as a short story under the title “River of Souls” in Unfettered: New Tales by Masters of Fantasy in Spring 2013.
Brandon Sanderson stated on Twitter that Harriet McDougal, Jordan's wife and editor, is creating a comprehensive Wheel of Time encyclopedia, to be published after A Memory of Light.
Writing and conception
In the early 1980s Robert Jordan wrote several Conan the Barbarian novels for Tor Books, including a novelization of the movie Conan the Destroyer. These proved successful and in 1984 he proposed an idea for an epic fantasy series of three books to Tom Doherty, the head of Tor Books. Doherty approved the idea; however, knowing that Jordan had a tendency to go long, put Jordan on contract for six books just in case. Jordan began writing the novel that became The Eye of the World.
The novel proved extremely difficult to write and characters and storylines changed considerably during the writing process. The series was originally centered on an older man who discovered relatively late in life that he was the 'chosen one' who had to save the world. However, Jordan deliberately decided to move closer to the tone and style of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring and made the characters younger and less experienced. Once this decision had been made, writing proceeded much more easily and Jordan completed the second volume, The Great Hunt, at roughly the same time the first book was published.
Tom Doherty enjoyed The Eye of the World so much that he declared it would be the biggest fantasy series since Tolkien, and took the unprecedented steps of sending free review copies to every bookstore in the United States to generate interest. The combined hardcover and trade paperback run of the novel sold out of its initial 40,000-strong print run. Sales then doubled with the publication of the second novel just eight months later generating more interest in the first book.
Jordan wrote full-time at breakneck speed for the next several years until he completed the seventh volume, A Crown of Swords, at which point he slowed down, delivering a book every two years. Fans objected when he took some time off to expand a short story into a prequel novel called New Spring, so he decided to shelve his plans for additional prequels in favor of finishing off the last two volumes in the series. He rejected criticisms of the later volumes of the series slowing down in pace in order to concentrate on minor secondary characters at the expense of the main characters from the opening volumes, but acknowledged that his structure for the tenth volume, Crossroads of Twilight (where he showed a major scene from the prior book, Winter's Heart, from the perspective of the main characters that were not involved in the scene), had not worked out as he had planned. Knife of Dreams, the eleventh volume, had a much more positive reception from critics and fans alike and Jordan announced the twelfth volume, which he had previously announced would have the working title A Memory of Light, would conclude the series.
Author's death and final books
Jordan had stated that the main sequence would conclude with the twelfth book, A Memory of Light. According to Forbes, Jordan had intended for it to be the final book "even if it reaches 2,000 pages."
Jordan was diagnosed with the terminal heart disease primary amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy in December 2005, and while he intended to finish at least A Memory of Light even if the "worse comes to worst," he made preparations in case he was not able to complete the book: "I'm getting out notes, so if the worst actually happens, someone could finish A Memory of Light and have it end the way I want it to end."
With Jordan's death on 16 September 2007, the conclusion of the series was in question. On December 7 of that year the publisher Tor Books announced that fantasy author Brandon Sanderson was to finish A Memory of Light. Sanderson, a long time fan of the series, was chosen by Jordan's widow Harriet McDougal partly because she liked Sanderson's novels and partly because of a eulogy he had written for Jordan.
On 30 March 2009 Tor Books announced that A Memory of Light would be split into three volumes. The first volume, The Gathering Storm, was released on October 27, 2009. The second, Towers of Midnight, was published on November 2, 2010. The final book of the series uses Jordan's original title, A Memory of Light. The book was published on January 8, 2013.
The online game Wheel of Time Multi-User Dungeon is the oldest authorized game based on the series, started in 1993; however, older, offline games have been in existence since as far back as the series started. Various commercial game adaptations have also been created.
A Wheel of Time computer game was released in 1999. Over the course of the game, a lone Aes Sedai must track down a robber following an assault on the White Tower, and prevent the Dark One from being released prematurely. She eventually learns of and executes a long-forgotten ritual at Shayol Ghul to ensure the Dark Lord remains sealed within the prison. While Robert Jordan was consulted in the creation of the game, he did not write the storyline himself and the game is not considered canon.
The Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game was released in 2001 from Wizards of the Coast using the d20 rules developed for the third edition of the Dungeons and Dragons game. The game had a single adventure module published in 2002, Prophecies of the Dragon. Shortly after the release of the adventure book Wizards of the Coast announced they would not be releasing any further products for the game. Robert Jordan cited some problems with the roleplaying game, such as storyline details in the adventure module which contradicted the books.
In early 2009 EA Games announced that they have bought the rights for a game from Red Eagle Entertainment, who had started programming it a few months earlier. It's planned to be published through the EA Partners-Program. Several titles seem to be in the works, and one is said to be an MMORPG. No other information is available about the other titles at this time. Screenwriter Chris Morgan was recently hired by Red Eagle to work on this license.
On February 12, 2010 it was announced that Obsidian Entertainment, developers of Neverwinter Nights 2, would be working with Red Eagle Games on the new Wheel of Time video game under the EA Partners-Program. This game will be released on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. There is no information at this time as to whether or not it will be one or a series of games.
Television and film
In a 2000 chat on CNN.com, Robert Jordan mentioned that NBC had purchased an option to do a miniseries of The Eye of the World. But he expressed doubts that the series would be made stating "key people involved in getting that contract together have left NBC."
On 12 August 2008, Variety reported that Universal Pictures had optioned the rights to produce feature film adaptations of The Wheel of Time books. They plan to adapt The Eye of the World as the first film.
Swedish heavy metal band Katana has a song entitled "The Wisdom of Emond´s Field" on their 2012 album Storms of War.
In the tradition of the literature-inspired symphonic poem, American composer Seth Stewart produced a full-scale orchestral work entitled "Age of Legends", inspired by the eponymous era of myth and magic described throughout The Wheel of Time series. The orchestral piece was premiered and recorded in 2011 at historic Beall Concert Hall.
Dabel Brothers are adapting the series as comics, beginning with the prequel New Spring. The first issue was published, by Red Eagle Entertainment, in July 2005. The series was suspended after 5 of a planned 8 issues, with Red Eagle citing delays and changes to the creative team on the DB Pro end. That series resumed in 2009, and they also began publishing their adaptation of the first book of the series proper, The Eye of the World. On 17 March 2009 they showcased ten pages of art from the prelude to the series "The Wheel of Time: Eye of the World #0 - Dragonmount" on their website.
Many fans of The Wheel of Time attend Dragon Con, which had an exclusive Wheel of Time content track from 2001 through 2012. The Wheel of Time now has its own annual convention, JordanCon, which has been held annually in Atlanta, GA since 2009.
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