The Wheel Rolls On

***This post contains spoilers about Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, stop here if you have not completed it!***

So I finally finished reading the Wheel of Time, twenty two or three years after starting it.

I am so glad I did. The ending is worth the wait, or it was for me.

I read the last 450 pages in one orgiastic sitting. It was fantastic.

Yes I have quibbles and issues. But I got plenty of page-burning excitement and moments of elation and sadness, pity and joy. It was a fitting finale, and I loved that at last it could be written that it was not the end, just an end. Perfect.

I am a writer. Living in a glass house, I have decided not to throw any more stones than I did last time out, and I threw those with love. I can go join the forums over at dragonmount.com and debate all my crazy pet theories there, and probably get schooled!

The Wheel of Time is an astonishing achievement, vast in breadth and detail. Not everything is going to dovetail nicely together. There will be unresolved conflicts, hanging threads of the pattern, as it were. The story rolls on in our minds – another impressive achievement. I wonder what directions the fanfic has taken!

Okay, one pet theory – just one!

Ourobouros isn’t just a motif on the cover. We’ve been warned from the start that this story never truly begins or ends – so how did we really expect this telling of the tale to end? With the Wheel of Time broken? Then there would be no more beginnings and endings. That rather destroys the conceit Jordan spent years of his life creating and explicitly stated at the outset of every book. I might have liked it to end that way, with Rand being a total badass and breaking the Wheel by destroying the Dark One and essentially daring the Creator to recreate a Dark One, if he, the Creator, thought it so necessary. That would be an intriguing twist.

I did not entirely buy the vision of a world without the Dark One, but I could see why it was shown not to work within the framework of the Wheel of Time universe built around the idea of Yin and Yang. So, in a very real sense, from the beginning of the series this kind of end was predicted. Only the details are allowed to change in the Wheel of Time, the overall structure remains the same, played out again and again. Is that enough for everyone? I have philosophical issues with determinism vs free will in this series. I mean, is Rand truly free to make any decision other than the one he does? Will the pattern let him? He pulls the Dark One into the pattern during the final confrontation, so at that time Rand is also within the pattern as he his physically holding the Dark One, so they must both be exposed to the pattern. So can Rand really resist the pattern’s unfolding in that circumstance? The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills. And even if he, Rand, were still outside of the pattern, everything he is, his instincts and experiences, all are products of the pattern. Hard to escape them. So he imprisons the Dark One as it was before the bore was opened, and the Wheel starts a new cycle. It isn’t the Dark One who always wins, but the Wheel.

The text tries to say that the Dark One had never been the true enemy – the implication being that humanity had been its own enemy all this time, humanity which had foolishly opened the bore, and humanity that needed to have the wisdom to close it again. But can humanity learn anything in a deterministic universe? You could argue that the Wheel, and the pattern it lays out is the real enemy, if you belive that free will is a necessary and good thing. Rand does not appear to come to that conclusion, as his actions ultimately maintain the status quo and keep the Wheel turning. I find it hard at times to look beyond the pattern, and everyone trapped within it but the Dark One, the Creator, and, in very special circumstances, the Creator’s champion, the Dragon. Or is he the pattern’s champion? Either way the effect is pretty similar. For me that creates very significant limitations on what can or should change in this universe. Ever. Moridin’s nihilism becomes a rational response, and the poor bastard is doomed to be spun out over and over again to make the same choices and feel the same insanity and despair! No wonder he just wants it all to end! Is there a worse fate? (I can imagine a few, a minor one being this: who wants to be destined for a trolloc cookpot for eternity, or to be a trolloc??) But as a story, the finale had to unfold that way. It absolutely had to. In my opinion!

I love that these books, in addition to telling me an incredible story with characters and settings that will live with me for the rest of my life, also gave me the opportunity to reflect on such fundamental concepts as free will and determinism in a new way, through the prism of a deeply crafted world. And get a very pleasant brainache from it! Not a standard response to a fantasy novel! Another outstanding triumph for Mr Jordan.  Another reason to thank Mr Sanderson for completing the series and giving everyone the ending Mr Jordan wanted us to have.

There can probably be no endings to such discussions, but I have come to an ending for this one.

My new cat is licking my head. It tickles. Farewell!

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