Please note – this article contains spoilers for The Wheel of Time.
Tarvalon.Net began a re-read of “The Eye of the World” on May 2, 2021. The discussion thread is HERE to follow along and join in the discussion! Our Tower Archivist, Toral Delvar, brings us his perspective in a recap of the first month’s passages.
This set of chapters does have something of the feel of a fairly traditional fantasy series. Since then, there have been many series not remotely following this formula (and even before), but the Lord of the Rings was probably the best known then. There were others, such as the Belgariad and Shannara series, so the idea of simple village folk forced to flee by a strange evil in the company of a mysterious magic user has an element of familiarity. Which continues as they split up and it develops into a fairly standard quest-type plot.
We do see elements of what is to come – Min’s visions for example give a lot of hints; though much of this is not apparent until it happens, and maybe not even then. We also see some things such as the identity of Ba’alzamon, and which of the boys he is after, laid out pretty explicitly. But this is easy to miss, at least on a first read, in part because of one of the themes of the series — people believing and acting on incomplete, or even outright incorrect information. In this instance, we have Moiraine tell the reader that Ba’alzamon is the Dark One, and it is very easy to accept this, rather than ask ourselves “where is she getting this information from, does she have any real reason to be confident it is correct?” When the village folk make such statements however, we already know they are basically ignorant, so when Mat claims Lan can’t be a Warder because Warders spend all their time in the blight in gold covered armor, we don’t think “oh, he must be right.” If anything, we think “yeah, that’s an Aes Sedai and her Warder, shut up Mat.”
Further to this, we see characters refusing to learn from their mistakes, because they think they already know what they need to know. Despite knowing how reckless Mat is, Moiraine and Lan just assume he has the sense not to investigate Shadar Logoth, because they know how dangerous it is. Similarly, he had previously had it hammered into him “just because we don’t specify something is dangerous, doesn’t mean you should look for a loophole,” but persuades the others to wander off because it wasn’t explicitly said not to. We also see a fair amount on one of another common theme — “men and women are different” — along with the idea that “we can’t trust the men to know what to do.” The subplots regarding Padan Fain and the Whitecloaks also get their starts in these chapters.
We get a good feeling for Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Egwene. They are all very much village folk, and somewhat immature, especially Egwene and Mat. But we also see at their core, much of who they later become. Similarly with Nynaeve and Thom. Moiraine and Lan remain more of a mystery, which is likely intentional; so the reader doesn’t really know if they should be trusted, and will largely accept the boys’ decision not to tell her important information such as their dreams. We do see some hints that Lan and Nynaeve had made an impact on each other, and they are responding to each other differently than how they respond to most people.
One of the things that really stood out to me, some 30 years ago when I first read this was the visions, prophecies, and foreshadowing. Min throws out about a dozen, some of which we can be fairly confident of what they are – the sword for Rand for example. Others are still something of a mystery, to me at least, such as flowering around Perrin. Ba’alzamon tells Rand that by sending one of Artur Hawkwing’s sons over the Aryth Ocean, he sealed a “doom yet to come” – What did he mean by this? Was this a dark prophecy, or was he just rambling? A lot of his actions here, from sending trollocs after the boys, to creating bizarre mazes in dreams seem to make little sense. What did he mean that the Eye of the World would not serve Rand? Did that mean anything, or was that just an attempt to direct him towards it?
We see a good amount of worldbuilding. We learn something of Aes Sedai and Warders, and the existence of the Aiel and Sea Folk. Plus both are expecting their prophesied figure, He who comes with the Dawn and the Coramoor; neither of which are really re-visited in any depth until book 4.
Finally, there are many mysteries –- comments about the world that don’t make much sense at the time. Sometimes, these are resolved almost right away, others not until much later in the book, or even series. And some that never really get resolved. There are also things that seem not to come up again. Moiraine’s statement that touching the Source gives her protection from the Dark One – I don’t even know what that means. Nynaeve’s ability to know when someone she has Healed is around, or the “feelings” Elyas gets – are they a Wolfbrother thing? I don’t recall Perrin having them, but that may be something I missed.