Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Robert Jordan, The American Tolkien

Given everything stated in the Rumors of the Wheel page (read the additions if you have not already), I think the epithet American Tolkien is not inappropriate to award Robert Jordan. Indeed, when I first began The Eye of the World, I kept telling my family that "I feel like I am reading another Lord of the Rings!" I am sure people will note the partial irony here, as I was once one of George R.R. Martin's most avid fans, calling him – as many did and do – the American Tolkien; until I named him the Anti-Tolkien, naturally. Why one and not the other? A good question, seeing as I listed a host of similarities between the two; a list which came after me saying that Jordan's Game of Houses is every bit as devious as GRRM's Game of Thrones. And before I answer that question I will lay forth another likeness between the two series: treachery. Anyone familiar with A Song of Ice and Fire is well aware that trust is valuable thing and sadly often repaid with a knife in the back or another form of treachery. As I have said, Westeros offers little aside from "blood, porn, and amoral lessons that corrupt the soul." The Wheel of Time is, blessedly, not like that and yet whom to trust outside of the core protagonists is just as large an issue...because one never knows who might be a Darkfriend. I will not say much so as to avoid spoilers, but Darkfriends are are humans who have been tempted with promises of immortality and power by the Dark One, or by other Darkfriends, into serving the Shadow. There are Darkfriends in all nations, people and communities, even those dedicated to fighting the Dark One, such as the Borderlanders, Aes Sedai and Whitecloaks. You never know who is secretly sworn to Shadow and their plots checker the series, mostly manifesting in strings of murders and betrayals of the most heinous kind. There were several characters whom I trusted who turned out to be Darkfriends, and countless more whom I and the core protagonists were afraid to trust for fear that they might be. In short, just as who to trust is subject of ripe speculation in GRRM's work, the same holds true in Robert Jordan's. Which brings one back to the question of why name one the American Tolkien and not the other? Because Jordan keeps to the Spirit of Tolkien even while playing the Game of Houses; even in the midst of Darkfriend plots where torture, betrayal and murder are planned. Where armies number in the tens then hundreds of thousands, the land wracked with war, crippling droughts and merciless winters, among other things. Because The Wheel of Time is not Grimdark Fantasy – which is, of course, the antithesis of the moral centeredness that defines the High Fantasy. As I have said, it is NOT a clone of The Lord of the Rings; indeed, it is far from it after the first book. But the bright souls of the two masterworks are kin.

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