The Eye of the world

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The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, Book 1)
by Robert Jordan

"The Eye of the World" is the introductory volume of the mammoth and immensely popular "Wheel of Time" series. It lays the foundation to the series by introducing us to three young men who are central characters in the great and cosmic conflict against evil, describing their difficult and dangerous journey to the Eye of the World, constantly facing the perils and powers of magical abilities wielded by friends and foes. The series bears the unmistakable imprint of two main influences.

1. The worldview of Tolkien.
Tolkien´s "Lord of the Rings" was the ground-breaking fantasy that firmly established the future direction of this genre. His originality and imagination pioneered the structures of the fantasy playing field within which Jordan works. Although Jordan´s characterization, description, and use of language rarely equals that of Tolkien, many of his concepts and ideas (notably "The Dark Lord" and his "black riders") will be recognizable, and this epic fantasy with its cosmic conflict is superior to most other modern efforts in the genre.
Like Tolkien, Jordan´s characterization and conflict parallels much found in the Christian Bible. Underneath the trappings of fantasy, "The Wheel of Time" is actually a very religious book. Aside from the central struggle between good and evil, there are many unmistakable Biblical parallels and allusions, such as the idea of the tree of life, and the multitude of prayers to "Light".

One only has to substitute the constant references to "Light" with "God" and the point is already made. In contrast to the Creator and the "Light", is the Dark One, "Shai´tan". Is it a coincidence that this sounds like the Biblical "Satan"? "Shai´tan" shares many other titles with his Biblical namesake, notably the "Father of Lies" and "Lord of the Grave." And just as the fallen Satan and his angels of the Bible were destined by God to be bound in "Sheol" or realm of the grave, so Shai´tan and his followers ("the Forsaken") are bound in "Shayol Ghol." Jordan closely mirrors the eschatology of the Biblical Revelation, where Satan is set free from his prison, leading to a final cosmic battle between good and evil that ends the world. There is even a Messianic Christ figure - "the Light in the flesh" (p.779 ) - upon whom the hopes of the world rest, and like Jesus, Rand is tempted by Shai´tan to receive great power by kneeling before him. Jordan plainly borrows from Tolkien, and from the source that inspired Tolkien´s cosmic conflict - the Bible.

But this is not to say that Jordan is not original. Quite the opposite: he is far from a Tolkien carbon copy! Within the contours of a Tolkien-style genre of fantasy, he has created his own medieval type world, with his own conflicts and cast of characters. "The Eye of the World" has captured the hearts and imaginations of readers by its own strengths, not merely strengths borrowed from Tolkien. Although he rarely matches the epic grandeur and heroic tone of Tolkien´s classic, Jordan in fact even surpasses Tolkien in suspense and action.


2. The worldview of Taoism.
Yet Jordan does not slavishly follow Tolkien´s Christian worldview, but significantly departs from it by strongly incorporating elements of New Age Eastern thinking, particularly Taoist religion and philosophy. In contrast to Tolkien and the Bible, where history is portrayed as linear, progressing towards a final goal, the history portrayed in "The Wheel of Time" is circular, repetitive, and without end. Jordan describes history as a "Wheel of Time" (a symbol for eternity) which turns, and ultimately repeats itself. Not surprisingly, this history features reincarnation. At the heart of the wheel of history is the "True Source" of power, consisting of equal male and female halves (saidin and saidar). This is clearly the Taoist yin-yang (Taiji) concept dressed in new clothing. Jordan´s universe is actually very pagan in character, because the characters do not find success and salvation by reaching to God, but to the magical powers of this "True Source." Jordan´s fantastic universe is governed not by the Creator, but by the "Wheel of Time", which leaves little room for the exercise of free will, since history is destined to repeat itself, and events are largely determined by the previous revolution of the "Wheel of Time". The Creator makes the wheel, but then it is the "Pattern" which weaves - "Everything is part of the pattern. We cannot pick or choose." (p.143). "It will be as the wheel weaves." (p.422). It is the Deistic, deterministic, circular universe of Taoism.

But don´t let the underlying philosophy behind the universe of the "Wheel of Time" scare you. I found it stimulating, particularly the notion that all of history and even my individual life is part of a grand pattern, woven by the hand of an unseen Creator. But "The Eye of the World" is not primarily a book about philosophy, but an exciting story. Although I do not share much of the thinking behind the implicit world-view of the "Wheel of Time," this did not prevent me from enjoying the book as an engrossing story. Jordan has created a series that lacks Tolkien´s grandeur, but is more readable. Admittedly, the first hundred pages are somewhat di...

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Inactive member [2001-05-08]   The Eye of the world
Mimers Brunn [Online]. http://mimersbrunn.se/article?id=577 [2018-08-19]

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