The Wheel of Time

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The Wheel of Time
WoT01 TheEyeOfTheWorld.jpg
Cover of the first book

See list of books in series
AuthorRobert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Cover artistDarrell K. Sweet (Michael Whelan for A Memory of Light)
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
GenreFantasy
PublisherTor Books (US) and
Orbit Books (UK)
PublishedJanuary 15, 1990 – January 8, 2013

The Wheel of Time is a series of high fantasy novels written by American author James Oliver Rigney Jr., under his pen name of Robert Jordan. Originally planned as a six-book series, The Wheel of Time spanned fourteen volumes, in addition to a prequel novel and two companion books. Jordan began writing the first volume, The Eye of the World, in 1984, and it was published in January 1990.[1]

Robert Jordan died in 2007 while working on what was planned to be the twelfth and final volume in the series. He 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:[2] 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 Buddhism and Hinduism, the metaphysical concepts of balance and duality, and a respect for nature found in Taoism. Additionally, its creation story has similarities to Christianity's "Creator" (Light) and Shai'tan, "The Dark One" (Shaitan is an Arabic word that, in Islamic contexts, is used as a name for the Devil or the Satan). It was also partly inspired by Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace (1869).[3]

The Wheel of Time is notable for its length, detailed imaginary world, well-developed magic system, and large cast of characters. The eighth through fourteenth books each reached number one on the New York Times Best Seller list. After its completion, the series was nominated for a Hugo Award.[4] According to Jordan's French publisher, as of 2017, the series has sold over 80 million copies worldwide, and it is one of the best selling epic fantasy series since The Lord of the Rings.[5] Its popularity has spawned an eponymous video game, roleplaying game, and soundtrack album. On April 20, 2017, it was announced that Sony Pictures will adapt the series for television, and on October 2, 2018, Amazon ordered the series with Sony as a co-producer.[6][7]

Setting[edit]

The World of the Wheel
The Wheel of Time location
The World of the Wheel map.jpg
Map of the World of the Wheel
First appearanceThe Eye of the World
Last appearanceA Memory of Light
Created byRobert Jordan
Genrefantasy

The series is set in an unnamed world that, due to the cyclical nature of time as depicted in the series, is simultaneously the distant past and the distant future Earth. The Randlands or The World of the Wheel are names adopted by fans to refer to the world where The Wheel of Time series takes place, and are derived from the name of the central character, as well as section of the companion book The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time.

Plot summary[edit]

The prequel novel New Spring takes place during the Aiel War and depicts the discovery by certain Aes Sedai that the Dragon has been Reborn. The series proper commences almost twenty years later in the Two Rivers, a near-forgotten district of the country of Andor. An Aes Sedai, Moiraine, and her Warder Lan, arrive in the village of Emond's Field, secretly aware that servants of the Dark One are searching for a 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, and leads all three of them from the Two Rivers, along with their friend Egwene al'Vere. Nynaeve al'Meara, the village wise-woman, later joins them. Gleeman Thom Merrilin also travels with the group. The first novel depicts their flight from various agents of the Shadow and their attempts to reach the Aes Sedai city of Tar Valon. Thereafter the protagonists are frequently split into different groups and pursue different missions toward the cause of the Dragon Reborn, sometimes thousands of miles apart. As they struggle to unite the various kingdoms against the Dark One's forces, their task is complicated by rulers of the nations who refuse to lose their autonomy; by the zealots styling themselves 'the Children of the Light', who do not believe in the prophecies; and by the Seanchan, the descendants of a long-lost colony of Artur Hawkwing's empire. The Aes Sedai also become divided on how to deal with the Dragon Reborn. As the story expands, new characters representing different factions are introduced. Deriving its name from that of Armageddon in Christian eschatology, Tarmon Gai'don is the apocalyptic battle wherein the Dragon Reborn opposes Shai'tan, while their followers fight elsewhere. Events and portents that foreshadow the Last Battle take place in Knife of Dreams and The Gathering Storm. The Last Battle itself takes place in A Memory of Light, in the form of a single 202-page chapter with the same title as the novel.[8]

Characters[edit]

Special powers[edit]

In the series, many characters possess special powers. Within the fictional world, some of these abilities are widely known and understood, while others are undocumented; some are depicted as unique. Some characters take the reappearance of ancient abilities as a sign that the Last Battle is coming.

Books in the series[edit]

No.TitleDateLengthAudioNotes
0New Spring6 January 2004334pp (PB) / 334pp (HB)
122,150 words
12h 31mPrequel set 20 years before the events of the first novel.
1The Eye of the World15 January 1990782pp (PB) / 702pp (HB)
305,902 words
29h 32m 
2The Great Hunt15 November 1990681pp (PB) / 599pp (HB)
267,078 words
26h 08m 
3The Dragon Reborn15 October 1991675pp (PB) / 545pp (HB)
251,392 words
24h 31m 
4The Shadow Rising15 September 1992981pp (PB) / 891pp (HB)
393,823 words
40h 31m 
5The Fires of Heaven15 October 1993963pp (PB) / 684pp (HB)
354,109 words
36h 34m 
6Lord of Chaos15 October 1994987pp (PB) / 699pp (HB)
389,823 words
41h 37mLocus Award nominee, 1995.[9]
7A Crown of Swords15 May 1996856pp (PB) / 635pp (HB)
295,028 words
30h 31m 
8The Path of Daggers20 October 1998672pp (PB) / 591pp (HB)
226,687 words
23h 31m 
9Winter's Heart7 November 2000766pp (PB) / 533pp (HB)
238,789 words
24h 18mPrologue released as a promotional eBook in September 2000.
10Crossroads of Twilight7 January 2003822pp (PB) / 681pp (HB)
271,632 words
26h 03mPrologue released as a promotional eBook on July 17, 2002.
11Knife of Dreams11 October 2005837pp (PB) / 761pp (HB)
315,163 words
32h 24mPrologue released as a promotional eBook on July 22, 2005.
12The Gathering Storm27 October 2009766pp (PB) / 766pp (HB)
297,502 words
33h 02mCompleted by Brandon Sanderson.
13Towers of Midnight2 November 2010864pp (PB) / 843pp (HB)
327,052 words
38h 17mCompleted by Brandon Sanderson.[10]
14A Memory of Light8 January 2013912pp (PB) / 909pp (HB)
353,906 words
41h 55mCompleted by Brandon Sanderson,[11] epilogue by Robert Jordan.[12]
Totals22 years, 11 months, 24 days11,898pp (PB) / 10,173pp (HB)
4,410,036 words
19d 5h 25m 

All paperback (PB) page totals given are for the most widely available mass-market paperback editions. The page count for the hardback (HB) editions do not include glossary or appendix page counts.

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,[13] including an extra chapter (Ravens) before the existing prologue, and To the Blight[14] with an expanded glossary. In 2004 the same was done with The Great Hunt, with the two parts being The Hunt Begins[15] and New Threads in the Pattern.[16]

Prologue eBooks[edit]

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.

The prologue eBook releases included:

Short stories[edit]

Jordan wrote two short stories within the franchise in the late 1990s. The first, The Strike at Shayol Ghul, predates 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.[27] Jordan also wrote a short story entitled New Spring, for the 1998 Legends anthology edited by Robert Silverberg. Jordan later expanded this into the stand-alone novel New Spring that was published in January 2004.

During Brandon Sanderson's work on A Memory of Light, two sections of the book were cut and later published as short stories in anthologies. The first, River of Souls, was published in Unfettered: Tales by Masters of Fantasy (2013).[28] The second, A Fire Within the Ways was published in Unfettered III in 2019. Unlike "River of Souls", "A Fire Within the Ways" is not considered canon.[29]

Encyclopedic works[edit]

Tor Books published a companion book to the series, entitled The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, 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. Jordan co-authored the book with Teresa Patterson. Jordan ruled the book broadly canonical but stated that it was written from the perspective of an historian within The Wheel of Time universe and was prone to errors of bias and guesswork.[30]

On November 3, 2015, The Wheel of Time Companion: The People, Places, and History of the Bestselling Series was released in hardback format, written by Harriet McDougal, Alan Romanczuk, and Maria Simons from Tor Books. Alan Romanczuk and Maria Simons were Robert Jordan's editorial assistants. The book is an encapsulating glossary of the entire series. The authors began compiling material for the volume as early as 2005, and the final book was released after the series' conclusion.[31][32]

Development[edit]

Writing and conception[edit]

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.[1] Doherty approved the idea; however, knowing that Jordan had a tendency to go long, Doherty put Jordan on contract for six books just in case. Jordan began writing the novel that became The Eye of the World.[1]

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.[33] 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.[34]

Tom Doherty enjoyed The Eye of the World so much that he declared it would be the biggest fantasy series since Tolkien,[citation needed] and took the unprecedented steps of sending free review copies to every bookstore in the United States to generate interest.[citation needed] 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.[1]

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.[citation needed] 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. According to Forbes, Jordan had intended for it to be the final book "even if it reaches 2,000 pages."[35]

Jordan's death, and completion by Sanderson[edit]

Jordan was diagnosed with the terminal heart disease primary amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy in December 2005,[36] and while he intended to finish at least A Memory of Light even if the "worse comes to worst,"[37] 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."[35]

With Jordan's death on September 16, 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.[38] Sanderson, a longtime fan of the series,[39] 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.[40][41]

On March 30, 2009, Tor Books announced that A Memory of Light would be split into three volumes, with Brandon Sanderson citing timing and continuity reasons. By his estimate in early 2009, the book would have taken several years to write and would have reached 800,000 words. McDougal doubted that Jordan could have concluded it in a single volume.[42][43][44] The three volumes were published from 2009 to 2013, as The Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight, and A Memory of Light, with the last book using Jordan's title.[45]

After A Memory of Light[edit]

Prior to his death, Jordan had often discussed adding an additional two prequels and an 'outrigger' sequel trilogy. In a Q&A following the release of A Memory of Light, Sanderson ruled out the completion of these works; Jordan had left very little in the way of notes for these additional novels – only two sentences in the case of the sequel trilogy.[46]

Sanderson went on to release two cut portions of A Memory of Light as short stories. These were released in Unfettered anthologies, part of a charitable endeavour to support authors and artists with medical debt.[47] River of Souls, a canonical segment removed from the published book due to pacing, was released in the first volume in 2013. A Fire in the Ways, a non-canon alternate sequence of events around the climax of the final book, was included in the third volume in 2019. A glossary to the series, The Wheel of Time Companion was released in 2015.

Adaptations[edit]

Comic books[edit]

In 2004, Jordan sold the film, television, video game, and comic rights to the series to production company Red Eagle Entertainment.[48] Dabel Brothers began adapting the series in comic book form, starting with the prequel New Spring in July 2005.[49] The series initially ran on a monthly schedule, but then went on a three-year hiatus after the fifth issue. Red Eagle cited delays and changes to the creative team on the DB Pro end.[50] The final three issues were ultimately completed and published in 2009–10.[51] In 2009 Dabel moved on to their adaptation of the first book of the series proper, The Eye of the World. On March 17, 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.[52] Dynamite Entertainment published 35 issues of The Wheel of Time: Eye of the World comic book series, which concluded in March 2013.[53]

When asked in a 2013 interview about whether the comics would continue their run, Harriet McDougal replied "Well, eventually, [we'll] do the whole thing, unless it stops selling in a dreadful way. In other words, I don't really know."[54] The 43 New Spring and Eye of the World comics were later collected together and released as a series of six graphic novels, the last of which was released in February 2015.[55]

Games[edit]

Various game adaptations have been created.

There is a Wheel of Time MUD, identified as such or by the initialism WoTMUD, which based on a world like that of the Wheel of Time but set in a time frame around 30 world years prior. It has been in operation almost continuously (there was a significant outage during 2013–14) since 1993. Notably, the WoTMUD had gained written permission from the author to use his creation including all but major characters.

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 that contradicted the books.

In early 2009 EA Games announced that they had bought the rights for a MMORPG, with the plan to publish it through the EA Partners-Program. The following year Obsidian Entertainment announced that they would be working on the project, for a PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC release.[56][57] However, the project was seemingly dropped around 2014.[58]

Music[edit]

In 1999, A Soundtrack for the Wheel of Time was released, featuring music by Robert Berry and inspired by the books.

The German power metal band Blind Guardian have written two songs dedicated to the Wheel of Time series as part of their 2010 album At the Edge of Time: "Ride into Obsession" and "Wheel of Time". Swedish heavy metal band Katana also wrote a song, entitled "The Wisdom of Emond's Field", on their 2012 album Storms of War. The American power metal band Noble Beast, on their 2014 album of the same name, wrote a song entitled "The Dragon Reborn", in reference to Rand al'Thor.[59][60] The American black metal band Shaidar Logoth takes its name from an adaptation of the city of Shadar Logoth, and lyrically expands on the character Padan Fain.[61] The Austrian metal band Dragony, on their 2018 album "Masters of the Multiverse", released the song "Flame of Tar Valon", referencing the Amyrlin Seat.[62][63] The Swedish metal band Freternia, on their 2019 album "The Gathering", released the song "Reborn", referencing the Dragon Reborn, Rand al'Thor.[64][65] The American band Lyra wrote the song "The Sword That Could Not Be Broken", about the history of Manetheren, as well as the song "Betrayer of Hope", in reference to Ishamael.[66][67][68] The Dread Crew of Oddwood produced the song "The Gleeman", which refers to Thom's battle with a Myrddraal in Whitebridge.[69] The Scottish metal band Farseer, on their 2016 album "Fall Before the Dawn", released the song "Luck of the Joker", which references the most important events that happen to Matrim Cauthon during the whole series.[70]

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 the Beall Concert Hall.[71]

Television and film[edit]

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.[72] But he expressed doubts that the series would be made stating "key people involved in getting that contract together have left NBC."[73] The series was optioned by Universal Pictures in 2008 for film adaptations, with plans to adapt The Eye of the World as the first film.[74] Neither project ultimately emerged.

In February 2015, Red Eagle Entertainment paid air time to cable network FXX to air Winter Dragon, a low-budget 22-minute pilot for a potential The Wheel of Time series that allowed Red Eagle to hold on to the rights to the series.[75] The pilot, based on the prologue to The Eye of the World,[76] starred Max Ryan as Lews Therin Thelamon and Billy Zane as Ishamael and aired after Midnight with no announcements or publicity. Harriet McDougal initially stated she was unaware of the show ahead of time, and that the film rights to The Wheel of Time were set to revert to the Bandersnatch Group, her company, a few days later on February 11, 2015.[77] Her comments triggered a lawsuit with Red Eagle, which was ultimately dismissed during settlement talks that July.[78][79] In an interview with io9, Red Eagle Entertainment's CEO Rick Selvage stated "it was more of an [issue of] getting it on the air." A spokesman for FXX stated that the channel was paid to air the show, but Selvage hinted that it was indeed produced with a future series in mind. "We think there's huge demand for the television series internationally, and we're looking forward to producing it and getting it out in the marketplace."[80]

On April 29, 2016, Harriet McDougal confirmed that the legal issues had been resolved and that a TV series was in development.[81] Further details emerged on April 20, 2017, when it was announced that Sony Pictures Television would be handling the adaptation, with Rafe Judkins as writer and executive producer.[7] In February 2018, Amazon Studios revealed that it had struck a deal with Sony Pictures Television to co-develop the series for distribution on Amazon's video streaming service.[82][83] The series was formally greenlit in October 2018.[84] Production began in the autumn of 2019,[85] but has been hindered in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[86]

Culture[edit]

Many fans of The Wheel of Time attend Dragon Con, which had an exclusive Wheel of Time content track from 2001 through 2012.[87][88] The Wheel of Time now has its own annual convention, JordanCon, which has been held annually in Atlanta, Georgia, since 2009. The 2020 convention was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[89]

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