Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time: Missing a Wheel

 [Hrm, perhaps I should have titled it :Missing a Spoke]
I’ve always felt that there was something missing or extremely annoying about Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. I couldn’t exactly pinpoint it given that I didn’t have many books or series to compare him to and I never could figure out just exactly why I was discontented with his stories. The battle scenes at the end of the books 3-5 were nice and exciting, but even they lacked greater meaning and tranquility afterwards.

So I picked up this bit from google. It sheds some more light on this issue because you know me, I can never turn my back on a mystery if only for curiosity‘s sake.

The Wise Old Man, the staple archetype of every fantasy novel, is conspicuously missing in Wheel of Time. In LOTR we have good old Gandalf, in Harry Potter we have Dumbledore but there is no like character in Wheel of Time. In fact, there are no old men at all. Neither are there any old women. Most characters, at least the major ones, are very young and they are very much on their own. There is no one to guide them. No one who knows more than them. No one they can trust and turn for counsel and no one who has any idea what is going on.

The archetype of the Wise Old Man represents, to a certain degree, the tendency of people to hold on to tradition and stereotype when faced with uncertainty. With such an archetype missing in Wheel of Time, it becomes a more contemporary fantasy where the world is changing so fast and things are so uncertain that one cannot rely on any Wise Old Men any longer. It is each man and each Aes Sedai to himself and herself and thus (fortunately) we have faces that are devoid of hair longer than a few micrometers.

Certainly it is true to some extent that those that grew up in Vietnam might have seen things as chaotic yet not needing any guidance from the Old Guard.

The universe, in my eyes, runs on the Celestial Hierarchy. For everyone that is powerful, there is someone weaker and someone more powerful. It balances out in an infinite chain. Sometimes the ends of those chains connect, in which the weakest become the strongest, and thus we have a miracle; of sorts.

There is a stability in that system; in the system of advancement based upon merit or luck. You get certain archetypes out of that in the human experience. The Top Dog, wise and experienced in the ways of treachery and battle; having survived many experiences that would have brought down a weaker entity. The Merciless Killer, which is constructed out the human view of society and someone who operates outside of societal or human morality with no regret or compassion.

There’s more to it, so just click on the link.

[UPDATE:Here’s the direct link to the main post. In a comment I left there, I mentioned the mad ancient mentor bit.]

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17 Comments on “Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time: Missing a Wheel”

  1. Synova Says:

    I suspect that what is most lacking in the Wheel of Time is resolution and an editor.


  2. TBinSTL Says:

    While I gave up on the series some time back, I would presume that the past life thing is supposed to substitue in the “mentor” role.

  3. ymarsakar Says:

    UPdated, with a specific concern over the mentor role that you mentioned.

  4. Dick Cosmo Says:

    Is book 11 the end of the series?

  5. ymarsakar Says:

    Probably not.

    Jordan speaks for himself there from last year. He was still working on the series as far as I know.

    What’s it about?
    Knife of Dreams is the second-to-last novel in the massive Wheel of Time series. Like the other books in the series, it is not designed to stand on it’s own. Here’s the jacket text that was originally released when the book was published in 2005.

    The Wheel of Time turns, and Robert Jordan gives us the eleventh volume of his extraordinary masterwork of fantasy.

    The dead are walking, men die impossible deaths, and it seems as though reality itself has become unstable: All are signs of the imminence of Tarmon Gai’don, the Last Battle, when Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, must confront the Dark One as humanity’s only hope. But Rand dares not fight until he possesses all the surviving seals on the Dark One’s prison and has dealt with the Seanchan, who threaten to overrun all nations this side of the Aryth Ocean and increasingly seem too entrenched to be fought off. But his attempt to make a truce with the Seanchan is shadowed by treachery that may cost him everything. Whatever the price, though, he must have that truce. And he faces other dangers. There are those among the Forsaken who will go to any length to see him dead–and the Black Ajah is at his side…

    Unbeknownst to Rand, Perrin has made his own truce with the Seanchan. It is a deal made with the Dark One, in his eyes, but he will do whatever is needed to rescue his wife, Faile, and destroy the Shaido who captured her. Among the Shaido, Faile works to free herself while hiding a secret that might give her her freedom or cause her destruction. And at a town called Malden, the Two Rivers longbow will be matched against Shaido spears.

    Fleeing Ebou Dar through Seanchan-controlled Altara with the kidnapped Daughter of the Nine Moons, Mat attempts to court the woman to whom he is half-married, knowing that she will complete that ceremony eventually. But Tuon coolly leads him on a merry chase as he learns that even a gift can have deep significance among the Seanchan Blood and what he thinks he knows of women is not enough to save him. For reasons of her own, which she will not reveal until a time of her choosing, she has pledged not to escape, but Mat still sweats whenever there are Seanchan soldiers near. Then he learns that Tuon herself is in deadly danger from those very soldiers. To get her to safety, he must do what he hates worse than work…

    In Caemlyn, Elayne fights to gain the Lion Throne while trying to avert what seems a certain civil war should she win the crown…

    In the White Tower, Egwene struggles to undermine the sisters loyal to Elaida from within…

    The winds of time have become a storm, and things that everyone believes are fixed in place forever are changing before their eyes. Even the White Tower itself is no longer a place of safety. Now Rand, Perrin and Mat, Egwene and Elayne, Nynaeve and Lan, and even Loial, must ride those storm winds, or the Dark One will triumph.

    best I could do. They say 11th is second to last. So last must be 12?

  6. Keith Says:

    I think that Tam Al’Thor, Lan, Cadsuane, Sorilea, Lini and Siuan all seem to fill the elder role. The other part that Dumbledore and Gandalf fulfill is direct access to the author to drag the plot in the ways that the author wants. Robert Jordan uses Min and the T’averan concept to provide the protagonists with reliable information about what they need to do if they want to serve their place.

  7. ymarsakar Says:

    There’s no difference in how you described Gandalf/Dumbledore and Min/T’averan concept, Keith. Sense in the metaphysical realm, they are both methods from which the author uses to tweak the main character’s path. The control of information by which Min does or does not say, is the same as the control of an adviser’s actions, such as Gandalf. This is already known as a problem which rulers must deal with. Their actions are limited and determined what advice their advisers give them and what information such advice is based upon. To tighten the focus, “reliable information” as you term it is simply directly fed information allowed by the author. The author may or may not have his own rules on how this works, but it is still how it works at the foundation.

    I can’t remember enough information about Tam and etc, so I won’t say anything about them, lest I make a mistake.

  8. subadei Says:

    Tam was Rands father and provided something of a Gandalfian presence in the first book I suppose.

    Sad bit about Jordans books. The series was brilliant in the beginning but simply took entirely too long to conclude and, in the process, maintained a repetitive climax that got tired by book 5 or 6. Not quite the rambling visage that entailed (IMO) L. Ron Hubbards Mission Earth series (which similarly started out brilliant but then sort of petered off) but similar.

  9. ymarsakar Says:

    You should play Bioshock, Subadei, if you want to see the Gold Standard in how to conduct a story line plot.

  10. subadei Says:

    Bioshock? Enlighten me. A video game? PC or Platform? Of course I’ll google it.

  11. ymarsakar Says:

    PC Platform and Xbox 360.

    In order to compare an interactive product with a fictional storyline of a novel, requires the simple emotional and plotline connection. Plot twists are no more different for game plots than for novel plots. The mechanisms to drive it may be different, but in the end it is about surprises, it is about what you thought was going to happen, and it is about how well it fits into the vision of the world.

    Bioshock has a number of emotional connections related to the Little Sisters, whose story you will hear as you play through the game. There are multiple storyline plotlines centered around the important characters of Rapture. A novel could actually develop those storylines much better in fact than the limited text and voicing available in the game.

    The point thus is that there was a logical consistency to Bioshock, that was based around the world as it was created by Ryan. For the Wheel of Time there are essentially too many inconsistencies. For one thing Rand does not seek help from his allies and his friends don’t seek his help when they are in trouble. The stories are separate and while emotionally touching in some ways, it is disharmonious. They aren’t really friends. But what’s the point to the author making it that way, though? To tell a story of the tragedy of Rand Al’Thor? Seems pointless really, when Rand is supposed ot have power. What’s the point of having power if you can’t help your friends? What is the point of power if you don’t even want to help your friends even if the author allowed you to?

    The Little Sisters may or may not become your friends as the story progresses, depending upon your choice as a player. If they are not your friends, the story follows logically in that you hurt them and such. If they are your friends, you protect them, as would be consistent with friendship.

    Rand also has a voice in his head seemingly contributing or controlling his actions (or madness). As brought up by Andrew Ryan, the creator of the city of Rapture, what is the difference between a man and a slave? A man chooses, a slave obeys. (Bioshock is pretty funny and more visceral in some ways if you have already read Ayn Rand) Is Rand a slave or is he a man? If he is a man, he would decide to use his power to protect those that he loves. If he is a man, he would seek out more power and knowledge to do so, and the logical resource would be Rand’s voice in his head. If he is a slave to the author’s whims or desire to hold everything until the end of the series, then Rand will obey the strings that dictate his fate and actions. Rather than acting in his self-interest, he would act in the interest and vision of the author. In some ways this is always true for authors of books. The characters are simply a reflection of the author’s vision. However, just as God created life and life took on a will of its own, so might happen with the characters in a true story of quality.

    Rand treats his women warriors much as children are treated or the player treats the Little Sisters in Bioshock. He uses them yet he feels guilty for doing so. A man has a choice though to change this, to do something else to no longer feel the guilt or atone. A slave obeys.

  12. subadei Says:

    Intriguing. I’ll have to give Bioshock a look.

  13. ymarsakar Says:

    Good luck with the hardware, Subadei. It requires a 2+ Ghz processor and a Shader 3.0 graphics card with 1gig+ ram. Shader 3.0 started with Geforce 6600 and later series, but not Geforce 6200. I used a Geforce 6600 and I could only play it with 20-30 fps by enabling global lighting and disabling shadow maps and distortion. I also had to play at 640X480 resolution.

  14. subadei Says:

    ymarsakar, maybe I’ll wait until I upgrade.


    Sad news indeed.

  15. ymarsakar Says:

    Thank you for the news, Lal. Although the news itself is an unwelcome one and very regretful, as Robert Jordan will not have the chance to finish his life’s work.

  16. glcomet Says:

    thom merrilin does fill this old man part a little and one of the forsaken becomes Rand’s tutor

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