“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, and Age yet to come, and Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.”
How my heart loves to read those words, which introduces the first chapter of each of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. A series that drives to the crux of human understanding and development. A series that will never really be completed. At least not the way it should.
Because there are eleven books (plus a prequel) in the WoT series, I’m not going to delve into the plot, into the myriad characters, or into writing that puts it on the level with any contemporary literary book. Instead, I’ll just use the cited passage to say that Jordan is, in his fantasy world, able to touch on and embellish the themes that have made for great story-telling for thousands of years, and probably long before the written word.
Think about it. How many books, plays, scriptures, TV shows, can you think of that hit on these notes? “This has all happened before, this will all happen again” (Battlestar Galactica). “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters” and “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Gen 1:1 and John 1:1, respectively). Star Wars. Hero’s Journey. Kafka & Camus. Homer & Sophocles. Tolstoy. It’s all wrapped up right there, in that first passage.
Call me a heretic, but I think that Jordan is even better than Tolkein.
And now I get to the point in writing this where I get seriously depressed.
Because Robert Jordan, who set off to write a trilogy, and then doubled it, and then finally contained himself to writing twelve books, such was the story he wanted to tell, and now will end up with not the beautifully round and symbolic number he thought, but will have 14 (plus the one prequel, though he planned to have three). And why? Not because he rambles on and on and on (though he does) but because he died and someone else has to finish it.
I came to this series a decade after the first book was published. I was young, eighteen, a freshman in college studying English and Comparative Religion, and I fell in love. I can hardly imagine those who have been reading this series for going on twenty years.
While I do have high hopes for Brandon Sanderson’s (who was chosen to complete the series) novel, which comes out next month, it is just not the same. Look at it this way: if something had happened to J.K. Rowling, could Harry Potter have been the same if someone else wrote the last book? Even if the plot was the same?
And that is why I will no longer read series until they are completed. Hunger Games is fantastic, you say? That’s nice. I’ll read it when book three comes out. Because as soon as I pick up a book and see that it is the first or second or third in a series of X books, I put it down again. I just don’t know if I can go through that again: falling in love with an author, watching him struggle valiantly with disease, feeling selfish and guilty thinking “please just let him finish the book”, hearing that he has died, and knowing that it will never end exactly how the author intended it to.
Maybe hits to the heart of the matter: the guilt I feel over my own selfishness. Then again, I don’t know if I’d ever want to write a big series due to that same reason (I’ve always been a bit morbid).
The point is, I’m just not willing to do it again.