“The Wheel of Time” is a massive fantasy series by Robert Jordan (and, later, Brandon Sanderson) that is being developed into a television show for Amazon Prime. It’s cultural impact is huge, the series having sold more than 44 million copies. Here, I continue my series exploring the books from a Christian worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS in this post for the series.
Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan
Action Becomes Reality
In Knife of Dreams, Faile and her companions are being held captive by the Shaido Aiel. In the process, they are forced into servitude and beaten at the whims of their overlords. Faile soon realized the best strategy would be to fain timidity, but also realized the dangers of this:
“[Faile] hoped that Sevanna [one of the Aiel] thought her tamed… She hoped that she was not being tamed. Pretend something too long, and it could become truth… She had to escape before [her husband] got himself killed in the attempt [to rescue her]. Before she stopped pretending.” (167)
Blaise Pascal, after outlining his famous wager (which I defend here), noted that one may align oneself towards belief. That is, when someone begins to act as though one believes a certain way, it can turn into a reality that one believes a certain way. From a worldview perspective, then, we should always be wary of how we live our lives and what we surround ourselves with. However, it is possible to become over-zealous in this regard. After all, Faile herself knew that she wasn’t “tamed” in any way, merely acting the part. In a way, the reluctance or even opposition to role-playing games (eg. Dungeons & Dragons) or other forms of imaginative play in some Christian circles is ignorance of the human capacity for objectivity. We are capable of discerning reality from pretend, and to claim it is inherently dangerous to do the latter is to lose some of what it means to be human–to be image bearers of God by creating anew.
It finally clicked for me as I was listening to the early parts of this novel that the Children of the Light are, in many ways, an analogue for toxic masculinity. I don’t know if this was intentional on Jordan’s part, so don’t read intent into what I’m saying here. But what is clear is the many parallels. The Children’s extreme dislike of the Aes Sedai bleeds over into distrust of women generally. But more than that, the reasons for their distrust of Aes Sedai ultimately can be peeled away as little more than a thin veneer of misogyny. After all, they have to admit the Aes Sedai will be on the “right side” when it comes to the Last Battle, and even admitting that is nearly impossible. Why? Because it seems as though women are rising above their “place” or the limits of power that the male-dominated Children of the Light seem to think they should have. I’m honestly kind of embarrassed I didn’t notice this thematically before.
The name of the group can easily be read as a not-so-subtle riff on New Testament language referring to followers of Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:5). Unfortunately, too many Christians have bought into cultural disdain for women, whether in the earliest days of the church as Gnosticism and Greek philosophy bled into the early church’s writings about women or into today as Christian leaders continue to be at the forefront of saying women ought not to preach, despite the Bible itself saying both sons and daughters will prophesy (Joel 2:28/Acts 2:17). Too often, overzealousness like that of the Children of the Light leads to oppression.
Knife of Dreams is one of my favorite books in the series. In many ways, it is a major turning point not just as the series gets turned over to Brandon Sanderson after Robert Jordan’s death, but also because the plot is turned at last towards the Last Battle and the events that will bring all of the series into completion.
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