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THE WHEEL OF TIME TV Show: The braid tugs, as the writing wills [BOOK SPOILERS]

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, fionwe1987 said:

WoT stereotypes work very like real world ones. Outsiders have a set of assumptions, then you go on and things change.

But a lot of the national descriptions we get are once a character is there or meets someone and thus they don't have those preconceived notions. And I get it - you're gonna notice what's different, and there are gonna be differences. The way I look at is that if a different nations speak the same language, there's good odds they have more than language in common. We can say it's because of the breaking, but that's also a rather superficial reason when you break it down. The world was a much more 'global' place pre-breaking and they would have started from a place of similarity not to mention that the national borders were somewhat fluid over time.

I'd break it down into three major regions west of the spine - the West coast, the Borderlands and the rest. Geography and circumstance makes those regions somewhat separate and within each region, I'd expect a little more bleeding over (to be fair, there are regional similarities, but I wish there were more). Especially since we're not looking at separate tribes of people with their own separate languages and customs that grew up in social isolation. For me, it boils down to "it doesn't feel right'. 

A specific example is Andor and Cairhien. They feel right as neighbors - distinct, but similar enough that it's not jarring. Then we get the little detail that Cairhiennens tend to be short. Why? There is no logical reason for this other than to be different. Sure, perhaps the nobles are shorter because of a king being short and passing that on (or whatever) but it wouldn't effect the whole population, yet they are described that way. That's what a lot of these national characteristics feel like to me - draw three unique things from a hat and flesh it out from there, rather than starting from a place of similarity and finding a reason for there to be differences. 

This sounds super negative, and it's really not meant to be. Also didn't mean to go on for so long. It's just a pet peeve of mine when people hold this up as an example of excellent world-building on Jordan's part (cultures feeling distinct) when I think it's just above average - nothing special, nothing horrible, just ok. I think his world building strengths lie in other places. The Aiel evolution reveal is pretty excellent. 

Edited by Gertrude

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I think Jordan wanted to have a diverse world, but he didn't give much thought to the why's and the how's. There are plenty of things that don't make sense, or at least, not well explained.

Why is the map so empty? The entire land should have nations, whether big kingdoms or small ones, or a multitude of city-states. Instead we have big swaths of land that are sparsely populated. A thousand years is a long time (from the destruction of the War of the Hundred Years), so the world should have recovered. But we get stuff like, there was a nation on the Almoth plain, but it couldn't sustain itself, and collapsed. Same with Maredo, the one between Shienar and Cairhien, Caralain Grass etc. umm why? When a government collapses, it's replaced by another, even if there is a period of chaos and destruction. If a whole nation collapses, it's either because of foreign invaders, or natural calamities of apocalyptic proportions. But we don't get any of that. Instead, nations just die off. There are 2 explanations I can think off, not mutually exclusive:

1) There is a severe lack of natural resources; looking at Andor's weird shape, it has plenty of room to expand northward, but doesn't, instead reaching westwards all the way to Mountains of Mist. There are gold and silver mines there. But I guess the Caralain Grass doesn't offer anything other than more farmland and wood. Still, you would think Andor will lay a claim, and allow for semi-autonomous small countries to exist there.

2) This is a world in decline; humanity in decline, due to the Dark One's influence and the work of so many Darkfriends over the centuries; not just the massive wars that Ishamael started, but everything, from trade to politics; this despite the Aes Sedai's effort to keeps things afloat.

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Posted (edited)

Andor though follows a bit of what you said.  Manetheren fell, and the pieces of it were split between Andor and I think Ghealdan.   But Andor itself was a replacement for Coremanda that fell in the Trolloc Wars, just not as big. 

Perhaps the Aes Sedai played a role to keep the nations with buffers between them, and so as not to lead to many useless wars for territory, and smaller geographic areas to cover.  Or perhaps there was something like a literacy / education crash that just didn't allow much national feeling.

But borders on a map don't really speak to how populated an area is.  Siberia for instance.  Perhaps northern Coremanda wasn't that populated to begin with.

Also, maybe only the Borderlanders are crazy enough to be that close the Blight.  Another Trolloc Wars is a lasting fear.

Edited by SpaceChampion

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I definitely think the diversity in Randland is contrived. RJ really took a lot of real world cultural aspects and remixed them. It gave the world a unique flavor, but yes, I'm not sure it'll stand to much scrutiny. Here's how I've explained it:

Presumably, the common language but distinct culture is a result of the AoL having a single language and a global civilization that had a lot of cultural variation. We know that during the breaking, though, continents and oceans moved around a whole lot. The Spine of the World, which separates the Aiel Waste from the mainland, was an undersea range, for example. And Shayol Ghul used to be a tropical island, which ended up becoming a sub-arctic mountain fastness.

I guess that makes it plausible that, say, chopstick using, horse rearing, dark skinned Domani ended up in the same part of the world as golden haired Taraboners who wear veils. You'll notice, though, their distinction is in part because they're buffered by the Almoth Plain, over which they've fought for centuries to a stalemate.

The same's the case with Tear and Illian, which are separated by the Plains of Maredo, giving them some excuse for a sharply distinct culture.

 

Andor and Cairhein are less sharply divided, same with the Borderlands, where the cultural differences are gradual and overlaid by many similarities. They're separated from the southern states by large patches of land that aren't part of any nation, again.

 

With regard to why those exist, we're told it's a long decline from the times or Hawkwing. They're not unoccupied, mind. Almoth has Falme, Maredo has Far Madding, and so on. It's just that, post the 100 year war, it looks like the more powerful nations fought each other to a standstill fighting over the weaker one's territories, and they ended up becoming kind of demilitarized zones that act as buffers between the nation's likeliest to feud. Andor and Cairhein are the sole nation's that didn't have this buffer, and they've fought more wars than any save Illian and Tear.

So you can see some outline of a bunch of reasons that maybe justify the way the world is. But it doesn't get much deeper.

I doubt any of that will matter in the show. They'll happily use the visual and verbal tics that identify different nation's to their advantage, I think. And since, despite there not being much justification for their differences, many of these countries do have a kind of cohesive and distinct feel to them, it'll help show the WoT world to be more "lived in", which I think is the vibe I always got. 

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7 hours ago, Corvinus said:

2) This is a world in decline; humanity in decline, due to the Dark One's influence and the work of so many Darkfriends over the centuries; not just the massive wars that Ishamael started, but everything, from trade to politics; this despite the Aes Sedai's effort to keeps things afloat.

This was my read on it. WoT was written at a point where epic fantasy was still very heavily influenced by Tolkein even more so than now and Jordan borrowed a number of elements from Middleearth, this is one of them. The age as a whole is a dark age after the golden age that preceded it - it begun in a cataclysm, it was marked with some huge wars, nightmare creatures of the dark one were a threat that lurked to the north. Its repeated even in the chanellers - they've gotten weaker and weaker over the years and despite the best efforts of the Aes Sedai they've also lost a huge amount of knowledge and it feels like they're losing more rather than slowly recovering it (but this is perhaps just my poor memory). Its only at the end of the age when the pattern starts spinning out the roots for a new age that we see this start to change - it seeds enough strong channelers in Rand's generation to plant the seeds and then suddenly these young chanellers are recovering lost techniques - sometimes due to the Forsaken being loose but in some cases inventing weaves that didn't even exist in the Age of Legends.

Its an age in decline that is losing its magic and wonder and the world shrinks in ever more around them.

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8 hours ago, karaddin said:

This was my read on it. WoT was written at a point where epic fantasy was still very heavily influenced by Tolkein even more so than now and Jordan borrowed a number of elements from Middleearth, this is one of them. The age as a whole is a dark age after the golden age that preceded it - it begun in a cataclysm, it was marked with some huge wars, nightmare creatures of the dark one were a threat that lurked to the north. Its repeated even in the chanellers - they've gotten weaker and weaker over the years and despite the best efforts of the Aes Sedai they've also lost a huge amount of knowledge and it feels like they're losing more rather than slowly recovering it (but this is perhaps just my poor memory). Its only at the end of the age when the pattern starts spinning out the roots for a new age that we see this start to change - it seeds enough strong channelers in Rand's generation to plant the seeds and then suddenly these young chanellers are recovering lost techniques - sometimes due to the Forsaken being loose but in some cases inventing weaves that didn't even exist in the Age of Legends.

Its an age in decline that is losing its magic and wonder and the world shrinks in ever more around them.

Yes. Unlike Tolkien, though, some of this is attributed merely to human stupidity, not the forces of Darkness.

Both the Tower's overall decline in channeler numbers and strength come from their arrogant refusal go actively recruit initiates. They leave thousands of potential channelers of the table as a result. In a bare few months of active recruiting, and removing the stupid age cap, Egwene snags about a thousand channelers just from Northern Murandy. Seems pretty clear the Tower can easily expect about 30,000 chsnnelers. And the strength average of this wider selection was better, too, and more representative of strength distribution. The Tower only had itself to blame by being utterly stupid.

Same with weaves. The complete unwillingness to experiment, along with secrecy about whatever was discovered, was a major hallmark of most of the Tower. Once Elayne, Nynaeve and Egwene start doing it, you see Aes Sedai come up with all sorts of weaves. Some because they'd always known and wanted in on the prestige. Others because they were freed from the restraints placed on experimenting due to Aes Sedai groupthink.

/Rant

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22 hours ago, Corvinus said:

I think Jordan wanted to have a diverse world, but he didn't give much thought to the why's and the how's. There are plenty of things that don't make sense, or at least, not well explained.

Why is the map so empty? The entire land should have nations, whether big kingdoms or small ones, or a multitude of city-states. Instead we have big swaths of land that are sparsely populated. A thousand years is a long time (from the destruction of the War of the Hundred Years), so the world should have recovered. But we get stuff like, there was a nation on the Almoth plain, but it couldn't sustain itself, and collapsed. Same with Maredo, the one between Shienar and Cairhien, Caralain Grass etc. umm why? When a government collapses, it's replaced by another, even if there is a period of chaos and destruction. If a whole nation collapses, it's either because of foreign invaders, or natural calamities of apocalyptic proportions. But we don't get any of that. Instead, nations just die off. There are 2 explanations I can think off, not mutually exclusive:

1) There is a severe lack of natural resources; looking at Andor's weird shape, it has plenty of room to expand northward, but doesn't, instead reaching westwards all the way to Mountains of Mist. There are gold and silver mines there. But I guess the Caralain Grass doesn't offer anything other than more farmland and wood. Still, you would think Andor will lay a claim, and allow for semi-autonomous small countries to exist there.

2) This is a world in decline; humanity in decline, due to the Dark One's influence and the work of so many Darkfriends over the centuries; not just the massive wars that Ishamael started, but everything, from trade to politics; this despite the Aes Sedai's effort to keeps things afloat.

I think part of the problem is that Jordan didn't follow through on this idea that the population of the world has been falling. It may have, but it's still pretty big. The combined population of the continent is probably well north of 100 million, which is what Europe hit around 1400-1500 AD (about in keeping with the general tech level of the series, except for gunpowder), although the Westlands are somewhat larger. Seanchan is likely two or three times as populous.

This results in Rand throwing around armies in the tens and hundreds of thousands with somewhat wild abandon later in the series, which gets a bit silly. They should have really had much lower army and population sizes throughout the series.

As for territory, though, there is precedent for that. Before c. 1400, most of Sibera, parts of central Asia, vast chunks of Africa and most of the Americas were completely unclaimed by any nation, even as elsewhere (mostly in Europe) there were really tightly-defined and fiercely-contested borders.

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1 hour ago, Werthead said:

I think part of the problem is that Jordan didn't follow through on this idea that the population of the world has been falling. It may have, but it's still pretty big. The combined population of the continent is probably well north of 100 million, which is what Europe hit around 1400-1500 AD (about in keeping with the general tech level of the series, except for gunpowder), although the Westlands are somewhat larger. Seanchan is likely two or three times as populous.

This results in Rand throwing around armies in the tens and hundreds of thousands with somewhat wild abandon later in the series, which gets a bit silly. They should have really had much lower army and population sizes throughout the series.

As for territory, though, there is precedent for that. Before c. 1400, most of Sibera, parts of central Asia, vast chunks of Africa and most of the Americas were completely unclaimed by any nation, even as elsewhere (mostly in Europe) there were really tightly-defined and fiercely-contested borders.

The army sizes aren't bizarre, though. Most nations have fairly small armies. The big armies Rand uses are mostly Aiel, who have a much higher percent of their poplulation who are active fighters; and the Legion of the Dragon, which is a multi-nation vlunteer army, the existence of which makes sense given that they all believe the end times are approaching. Same for the massive increase in the Tower's forces.

Andor ended up fielding about 200k men, but that was, again, mostly farmers and villagers joining up because of the Civil War, then staying because it was the Last Battle.

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2 hours ago, Werthead said:

As for territory, though, there is precedent for that. Before c. 1400, most of Sibera, parts of central Asia, vast chunks of Africa and most of the Americas were completely unclaimed by any nation, even as elsewhere (mostly in Europe) there were really tightly-defined and fiercely-contested borders.

Yeah, but there's nothing north of Siberia worth claiming by a medieval society. Plus, there were at least large numbers of nomadic peoples in the regions you mentioned. But Almoth plain is wedged in-between 2 wealthy nations. Same with Maredo. And all they have are a few towns, and many villages that are self-governing. 

In ASoIaF, we have the Disputed Lands which are sparsely populated, but they became thus due to the near-constant warfare between the Free Cities. While Illian and Tear often fight each other, same with Tarabon and Arad Doman, it doesn't seem their wars cause so much destruction to not have their borders closer to each other than what the maps show. And there are no wars between the Borlderlands and Andor or Cairhien to leave such wide gaps in the land. For that matter, Tar Valon could control far more land directly than it does.

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2 hours ago, Corvinus said:

In ASoIaF, we have the Disputed Lands which are sparsely populated, but they became thus due to the near-constant warfare between the Free Cities. While Illian and Tear often fight each other, same with Tarabon and Arad Doman, it doesn't seem their wars cause so much destruction to not have their borders closer to each other than what the maps show. And there are no wars between the Borlderlands and Andor or Cairhien to leave such wide gaps in the land. For that matter, Tar Valon could control far more land directly than it does.

Agree about Tarabon and Arad Doman, but the Borderlands developed out of a need to defend against the Blight. I think of those areas kinda like The Gift in ASOIAF. And Tar Valon def could control more land, but the whole reason it is allowed to exist (according to canon) is because people can "trust" the Aes Sedai not to use their power against anyone other than Darkfriends and whatnot. 

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Well, Tar Valon did control a substantially larger portion of land, previously, during the Compact of Ten nation's, when all the land was controlled by one of the ten. It was a large diamond shape area. This area expanded even more in the Free Years, reaching the city of Cairhein itself.

Artur Hawkwing's siege, and the subsequent loss of prestige and power is what resulted in Tar Valon choosing to control far less area than it can, based on it's wealth and military power.

The Fourth Age reference to Great Arvalon implies that holding back is going to end.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Aiel settle in the Caralain Grass, and up to the Waste, and eventually blend in with the Aes Sedai territory.

 

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So I decided to brush up a bit on the series and found a youtuber who offers brief summaries here. It's a good refresher and really hits home the idea that there is soooo much wiggle room in this series. When boiled down to bullet points, it strips the bullshit that bored me or bogged the story down. The writers can take certain themes and insert them on their own terms.

Yes, female/male relations are a theme in this book, and it makes sense in this setting where women can wield saidar freely. I just wasn't always thrilled with how this was portrayed. Perrin and Faile don't want to make me scratch my eyes out when presented without their constant bickering. I mean, sure, keep these things in spirit, but I am looking forward to a fresh way of presenting these things. Please god, no spanking. I've been reading some WoT boards and many people (like some aSoIaF fans)  get hung up on the details. Some small details are fun and you like to see them to reassure yourself the writers understand the books, but we don't need it all. And it's not the end of the world if we don't get a mention of every Aiel custom and hierarchy.

I mean, all of this is kind of obvious, but sometimes you just need something to re-center your thinking on something. These brief summaries reminded me that the bones of the story are really good. With the right handling, I think a tv version could make it great (which is not an opinion I hold about the books overall.)

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I'm trying to avoid that sort of reminder, so that I can hit the show with as-fresh-as-possible eyes for a story that I've been reading for quarter of a century; and have the read the first half-dozen books more times than I probably ought to have.

 

But that's my general feeling about the series - there is an absolutely top tier 8(ish) book series in there, desperate to get out; held back by almost as much filler and a too-superficial examination of some of the more fascinating concepts (eg a world in which women hold the power on a global level, really could have been a fascinating thought experiment - didn't turn out that way though).

 

It's why I have high hopes for the TV; with a good writing team, they could bring that top tier series to life. Alternatively of course, they could go with plenty of filler and cheap laughs, utterly failing to do anything with the source material.

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Posted (edited)
On 7/17/2019 at 8:38 PM, fionwe1987 said:

The army sizes aren't bizarre, though. Most nations have fairly small armies.

They have fairly small standing armies, yes, but when they call up the levies the sizes get quite ridiculous, quite quickly. The fact that they even have standing armies is a sign that the population is large and the economy is much more developed and sophisticated than the otherwise medieval level of technology would indicate. The city sizes - half a million for Tar Valon, 300,000 for Cairhien, Caemlyn, Illian and maybe Tear and Tanchico - also confirms that. These are way, way too huge for medieval polities (we could also comment on how each nation having one and exactly one major city of note is ridiculously unrealistic, but anyway).

Using the 1% military potential figure, the population of Andor by itself appears to be ~20 million, about the same as the population of the four Borderlands combined. Cairhien probably matches Andor. Arad Doman and Tarabon appear to be around 10 million each, maybe Illian and Tear in the same bracket or larger. Altara may be larger still (based on how big it is but also how densely populated it feels in the back half of the series, which dicks around in its territory for way too long), but not as big as Andor. Ghealdan and Amadicia appear to be pretty small (well under 10 million apiece).

Even if we took the organisational and bureaucratic organisation of the nations to be superior to the medieval norm, saying going up to 1.5 or even 2%, That still adds up to a continental population in the region of 100 million.

Edited by Werthead

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Werthead said:

They have fairly small standing armies, yes, but when they call up the levies the sizes get quite ridiculous, quite quickly. The fact that they even have standing armies is a sign that the population is large and the economy is much more developed and sophisticated than the otherwise medieval level of technology would indicate. The city sizes - half a million for Tar Valon, 300,000 for Cairhien, Caemlyn, Illian and maybe Tear and Tanchico - also confirms that. These are way, way too huge for medieval polities (we could also comment on how each nation having one and exactly one major city of note is ridiculously unrealistic, but anyway).

Using the 1% military potential figure, the population of Andor by itself appears to be ~20 million, about the same as the population of the four Borderlands combined. Cairhien probably matches Andor. Arad Doman and Tarabon appear to be around 10 million each, maybe Illian and Tear in the same bracket or larger. Altara may be larger still (based on how big it is but also how densely populated it feels in the back half of the series, which dicks around in its territory for way too long), but not as big as Andor. Ghealdan and Amadicia appear to be pretty small (well under 10 million apiece).

Even if we took the organisational and bureaucratic organisation of the nations to be superior to the medieval norm, saying going up to 1.5 or even 2%, That still adds up to a continental population in the region of 100 million.

I'm not disagreeing with your population estimate. Only saying that the army sizes aren't ridiculous.

And WoT certainly wasn't in a medieval period, tech wise. The story starts just before the invention of the steam engine. Even leaving aside the printing press surviving the Breaking and Ogier stonemasonry advancing human building skills, the rest of the technological abilities certainly seem closer to Renaissance levels.

As for the sense of decline, keep in mind we're starting from a 10 billion world population, in the Age of Legends. Even if the population decreased by 80% over the breaking, that still leaves a starting population of a couple of billion spread over three major landmasses. For one of those to have a population of about a 100 million 3000 years later is a pretty sharp decline.

Edited by fionwe1987

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Major casting news today on the official Twitter account of the show. So far:

Rand - Josha Stradowski

Perrin - Marcus Rutherford

Nynaeve - Zoë Robins

Mat - Barney Harris

Egwene - Madeleine Madden

Edited by David Selig

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48 minutes ago, David Selig said:

Major casting news today on the official Twitter account of the show. So far:

Rand - Josha Stradowski

Perrin - Marcus Rutherford

Nynaeve - Zoë Robins

Mat - Barney Harris

Egwene - Madeleine Madden

Tor.com has links to the  instagram postings about each character/actor.

I wonder if the quotes given are from the pilot script.  Gives a vibe of telling the story from the 4th-Age perspective, but more personal than the quotes from dry history tomes used in the books.
 

Madeleine Madden (seems to be aka Tiger Madden based on her twitter handle) looks like the most experienced in acting of the four.

Can't tell from the head shots, but their Perrin -- Marcus Rutherford -- found a video of him and he's really tall.  He needs some Thor arms though.

Edited by SpaceChampion

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