Monday, 2 January 2012

The Big White Book: The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time Chapter 1: The Wheel and the Pattern

Before we get to the story, just a short post or two on the World of the Wheel (that name never caught on).
The workings of the World of the Wheel are better explained here than in the series itself. Maybe because this is a book of mostly fact, while in-series explanations are limited by what the character can know, though the Glossaries made up for that a little. Jordan’s in-story solution was to have the most-educated woman on the planet as a supporting character from the beginning: Moiraine. With her noble pedigree and an Aes Sedai education, there is probably no philosophical discussion Moiraine couldn’t hold her ground in. I suspect that a good deal of the Big White Book’s contents would have been spilled in-story by Moiraine or Loial, who appears to have spent 90 years doing nothing but reading. I wish.
I spent many hours debating the nature of the metaphysical aspects with other fans. In-story explanations were vague enough to leave us lots of room to theorize. And even the semi-certainty provided by the Big White Book was undone by the caveat at the beginning.
A few of the standout nuggets that should be considered when theorizing, or that might have saved us some good arguments:
The Wheel:
“The Wheel is Time itself.” The Wheel weaves reality. All of it. Mirror Worlds, tel’aran’rhiod, visions of the future in the rings. All of these are created by the Wheel and allow the Wheel to correct the Pattern should it ever get a little messed up.
What about Forsaken? Are their threads still woven by the Wheel, or has the Dark One’s influence somehow removed the Wheels’ influence to affect them?
Sorry Chosen, you can’t escape the Wheel. “The only known forces outside the Wheel and the pattern are
1.      The Creator, who shaped the Wheel
2.      The One Power that drives it (WHAT? It makes sense, but if I ever thought of it that way, I have forgotten about it)
3.      As well as the plan for the Great Pattern (you wouldn’t want someone in the Pattern able to read the Pattern, unless you wanted them to, which is where prophecies and future visions come in)
4.      And the Dark One.”
I reckon the Wheel is still weaving the Forsaken’s threads, using a Forsaken, and their misguided jealousy or lust to auto-correct the Dark One back into the Bore. Anything in the Pattern must serve the Pattern’s needs, right? And there’s only those four things that are outside the Pattern.
Anyway, having this info laid out in a reference book makes it a little more reliable than in-series philosophical musings by even a highly knowledgeable character. I’ll have to remember next time we theorize some mumbo-jumbo about the seals and the Dark One’s prison.
Recalling a particular scene when Rand is considering the implications of reincarnation, I find myself surprised at how blatantly reincarnation is laid out in the very 5th paragraph of this reference book:
“No ending, even death, is necessarily final within the turning of the Wheel. Reincarnation is a part of the way of the world.”
We spent a lot of time at Theoryland arguing about various means of resurrection, others always keeping an eye towards limiting its use, myself arguing it was fair game and happened all the time. Between examples like *Finns having dead men’s memories, balefired killers, Heroes getting Ripped out of tel’aran’rhiod, Asha’man remembering past lives, and others, it seems clear enough to me that there is more than one way to bring a dead person back to life.
In-story, reincarnation was easy to dismiss since in the beginning there seemed to be nothing proving it was anything more than a catechism characters said in times of worry. We knew characters came back to life in another Age, but it might as well not be true for all the effect it would have had on the story. So was Jordan trying not to let readers think about it too much? If so, he succeeded. Every theory I ever read leaned towards the impossibility of resurrection. Or was he instead hoping to make us take it for granted as characters do? In that case it worked for the mythology surrounding the One Power and the Dark One, but not for the mechanics of reincarnation.
In-story, what proof could a character possibly have for determining the structure of the Wheel, and reincarnation as fact? I submit that these are the only true pieces of knowledge that have survived the Breaking. We can’t prove it’s true, but the Aes Sedai say that the Age of Legends people said it was, so we’ve got to trust them! I guess the characters just accept it as true and go on with their day. Trollocs from the Blight might remind you that you shouldn’t doubt these truths (and in interviews, it’s been said that no one in-story does doubt), I don’t see how southerners maintain this belief. Or maybe the doubters are the Cenn Buies of the world.

Writing lessons: Even when the mythology and rules are all worked out in your story, you’ve got to deliver the info to the reader in a way that is believable in-story, and is complete enough to make them correctly understand (and trust me, Theorylanders can ‘correctly’ understand a dozen different ways!)

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