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The Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time (abbreviated by fans to WoT) is a series of epic fantasy novels written by the late American author James Oliver Rigney, Jr., under the pen name Robert Jordan. Originally planned as a six-book series, it now consists of eleven published novels, with one more planned. There is also a prequel novel and a companion book available. The author began writing the first volume, The Eye of the World, in 1984 and it was published in February 1990. The author passed away while working on the final volume, which will now be completed by fellow author Brandon Sanderson for publication in late 2009. The series draws on elements of European and Asian mythology, most notably the recursive nature of time found in Hinduism and Buddhism and the concepts of balance, duality and a respect for nature found in Daoism. The series was also partly inspired by Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.

The series is notable for its length, its detailed imaginary world, its well-developed magic system and a large Wheel of Time characters. The eighth through eleventh books each reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. As of 12 August 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.

Premise

At the dawn of time, a deity known as the Creator forged the universe and the Wheel of Time, which spins the lives of men and women as its threads. The Wheel has seven spokes, each representing an age, and it is rotated by the One Power, which flows from the True Source. The One Power is divided into male and female halves, saidin and saidar, which work in opposition and in unison to drive the Wheel. Those humans who can use this power are known as channelers; the principal organization of such channelers in the books is called the Aes Sedai or 'Servants of All' in the Old Tongue.

The Creator imprisoned its antithesis, Shai'tan, the Dark One, at the moment of creation, sealing him away from the Wheel. However, in a time called the Age of Legends, an Aes Sedai experiment inadvertently breached the Dark One's prison, allowing his influence to seep back 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, so he might remake time and reality in his own image. In response to this threat, the Wheel spun out the Dragon, a channeler of immense power, to be a champion for the Light. In the Age of Legends the Dragon was a man named Lews Therin Telamon, who eventually rose to command the Aes Sedai and their allies in the struggle against the Dark One's forces. After a grueling ten-year war, Telamon led his forces to victory in a daring assault on the site of the earthly link to the Dark One's prison, the volcano of Shayol Ghul, and was able to seal it off. However, at the moment of victory the Dark One was able to taint saidin, driving male channelers of the One Power insane. Lews Therin killed his friends and family and then himself. The other male channelers devastated the world with the One Power, unleashing earthquakes and tidal waves that reshaped the world. Eventually, the last male channeler was killed or cut off from the One Power, leaving the human race all but destroyed and only women able to wield the One Power safely. The Aes Sedai reconstituted and guided humanity out of this dark time. Mankind now lived under the shadow of a prophecy that the Dark One would break free from his prison and the Dragon would be Reborn to fight him once more, and although he would succeed he would devastate the world a second time in the process.

Over the next three and a half thousand years, the human race returns to a level of technology roughly comparable to that of the Middle Ages, with the difference that women enjoy full equality with men in most societies, and are superior in some. This is put down to the power and influence of the female-only Aes Sedai spilling over into everyday life. Several major wars have ravaged the main continent since the defeat of the Dark One, such as the Trolloc Wars, when the surviving servants of the Dark One tried to destroy civilization once more but were defeated by an alliance of nations led by the Aes Sedai; and 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 also left humanity divided. Even the prestige of the Aes Sedai has fallen, with their shrinking numbers and the emergence of organizations such as the Children of the Light, a military order who hold that all who dabble with the One Power are servants of the Shadow. The nations of the modern era are able to unite against the warrior-clans of the Aiel, who cross into the western kingdoms on a mission of vengeance after they suffer a grievous insult, but are too divided to work effectively together in other areas.

Plot Summary

The prequel novel, New Spring, takes place during the Aiel War and chronicles the end of the conflict and the discovery by the Aes Sedai that the Prophecies of the Dragon have been fulfilled and the Dragon has been Reborn. Aes Sedai agents are despatched 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 district of the kingdom of Andor, a near-forgotten backwater. An Aes Sedai, Moiraine Damodred, and her Warder Lan, arrive in the village of Emond's Field with news 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 men it is: Rand al'Thor, Mat Cauthon or Perrin Aybara, so takes all three of them out of the Two Rivers, along with their friends Egwene al'Vere and Nynaeve al'Meara, whom Moiraine has determined can channel the One Power and learn to be Aes Sedai. 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. Broadly speaking, 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 people of a long-lost colony of Artur Hawkwing's empire across the western ocean who have returned, believing it is their destiny to conquer the world. The Aes Sedai also become divided between those who believe the Dragon Reborn should be strictly controlled, and those who believe he must lead them into battle as he did in the earlier war. 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 or main cast to extended cameos.

By the eleventh novel, it has become clear that the Last Battle, caused when the Dark One is able to exert its influence directly on the world once more, is imminent. According to both Robert Jordan and the author finishing the final volume, Brandon Sanderson, the Last Battle will be depicted in the twelfth and final novel in the series, A Memory of Light.

Eternity or infinity motif

Jordan's Wheel of Time concept and art, while fictional, recalls common circular motifs from world religions and folklore. Buddhism has the Wheel of Law and the Wheel of Life; Hinduism, the Wheel of Rebirth. Taoism and other major and minor religions make use of the wheel symbol, in the round or twisted, to symbolize eternity. The snake or dragon swallowing its tail is found in folklore as a hoop snake and in fiction and elsewhere under the name "oroborus". The symbol for the One Power is similar to the taijitu, a Taoist icon representing the harmony of opposites.

Books in the series

# Title Pgs. Chs. Words 1st Edition Notes
0. New Spring 332 26 121,815 January 2004
1. The Eye of the World 832 53 305,902 15 January 1990
2. The Great Hunt 736 50 267,078 15 November 1990
3. The Dragon Reborn 704 56 251,392 15 October 1991
4. The Shadow Rising 1008 58 393,823 15 September 1992 No Prologue
5. The Fires of Heaven 992 56 354,109 15 October 1993
6. Lord of Chaos 1024 55 389,264 15 October 1994 First with an Epilogue
7. A Crown of Swords 896 41 295,028 15 May 1996
8. The Path of Daggers 704 31 226,687 20 October 1998
9. Winter's Heart 800 35 238,789 7 November 2000
10. Crossroads of Twilight 864 30 271,632 7 January 2003 Also has an Epilogue
11. Knife of Dreams 793 37 315,163 11 October 2005 Also has an Epilogue
12. A Memory of Light (working title) due Fall 2009 To be completed by Brandon Sanderson
Current Totals: 9685 528 3,430,682

All page totals given are for the most widely available paperback editions.

There is also a companion book to the series, entitled The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, 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.

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 notes prepared for these, and it has not been ruled out that Brandon Sanderson or other authors could expand them into full novels, although the final decision will be taken by Jordan's widow and publishers.

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.

There is a short story available on the web, " The Strike at Shayol Ghul", which predates the main series by several thousand years. That story is also found in The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time (ISBN 0-312-86219-9).

Prologue ebooks

  • Snow: The Prologue to Winter's Heart (September 2000)
  • Glimmers: The Prologue to Crossroads of Twilight (17 July 2002)
  • Embers Falling on Dry Grass: The Prologue to Knife of Dreams (22 July 2005).

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 six books to Tom Doherty, the head of Tor Books. Doherty approved the idea and 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 JRR 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, 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

Jordan had repeatedly said that the main sequence would conclude with the twelfth book, with a working title of A Memory of Light. Numerous times, including most recently at ComicCon 2006, he said he would hold to this statement even if it has to be 1500 pages long. Before his death Jordan had planned to write two more short prequel novels, an encyclopedia, and possibly two or three other side-plot novels. Aware that he might not live to complete the series, Jordan prepared notes so that the series could be finished the way he wanted it to be.

With Jordan's death on 16 September 2007, the conclusion of the series was in question. On 7 December of that year, the publisher, Tor Books, announced that fantasy author Brandon Sanderson would finish A Memory of Light, using notes, written chapters, and audio recordings of the story provided by Robert Jordan before his passing.

Sanderson has said on his website he has begun writing the final book in the series. He also stated that he wants to finish the series in the final book as planned, but later acknowledged that the book may be up to half again his originally-planned length, and publishing in one volume may not be practical.

Offshoots

PC Game

The online game Wheel of Time Multi-User Dungeon (WoTMUD for short) is the oldest authorized game based on the series (started 1993), and various commercial game adaptations have also been spawned, including a video game released by Atari for the personal computer, and a role-playing game based on d20 rules released by Wizards of the Coast. There is also a soundtrack album. There was a collectible card game based on the books, but it has been out of print since 2002.

Miniseries

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.

Graphic Novels

On 1 July 2008 Dabel Brothers Publishing announced that they will be responsible for adapting The Wheel of Time into graphic novel format. The first volume of which is slated for release in December 2008.

Movies

On 12 August 2008, Variety.com reported that Universal Pictures had optioned the rights to produce feature film adaptations of the Wheel of Time books. The movies will be produced by Red Eagle Entertainment.

References

External links

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