The Wheel of Time is one of the biggest fantasy blockbusters of all time, and I have read and loved the fantasy novels for decades. I was beyond thrilled to see that an adaptation was coming to Prime TV, and now that it’s here, I thought it was worth looking at the show from a Christian worldview perspective. I will have reviews of the series on my other site, Eclectic Theist.
“The Dragon Reborn”
The Way of the Leaf
The Tinkers were one of the (many) highlights of this episode, and their worldview of “The Way of the Leaf” challenged Perrin and Egwene at multiple points. The Way of the Leaf was explained by Ila, a leader among the Tinkers, as a worldview. In response to questions about what they do if they are violently attacked, she described the Way of the Leaf–the leaf must fall to the ground, die, and then it gets absorbed again into the soil to grow again. This is another reference to the way the world works in The Wheel of Time, with reincarnation and “another turn of the Wheel” being part of the basic background of the worldbuilding. But it goes beyond that as well; the Way of the Leaf is a kind of fatalism that is both compelling and off-putting by turns.
On the one hand, the Way of the Leaf is compelling because who doesn’t see the appeal of a truly pacifist world? If, as Ila states, we could each convert two people to that Way, and each of them two, and so on, then the whole world would gradually become more and more peaceful as more sought nonviolence. Indeed, one of the strongest lines of the whole show so far is found when Ila asks Perrin whether he’s been happier or not since he picked up an axe–an especially terrible question since we as viewers are the only others who know what happened when he accidentally killed his wife during the Trolloc attack.
The Way is also off-putting in some ways, though. Intuitively, the objections Perrin and Egwene each raise make sense. What do you do if violence comes for you? It’s small comfort to think that falling over and dying as the leaf does might bring a better world when you’re the one dying. One also wonders if a robust view of sin would go against this thinking. For example, if one sees original sin or depravity in the world, a hopeful Way seems less attainable without the ultimate reconciliation from outside: Christ entering the world and bringing peace through Himself. Another aspect that is off-putting is that the Way of the Leaf doesn’t really offer much hope in the here-and-now. It’s a long-term look at the world that is, yes, hopeful, but also frustratingly vague. Perhaps one day more peace will exist than does now. That seems hollow comfort in a world in which Trollocs are stalking the land. In our own world, I think we all ought to hope for peace, and certainly work for it in every possible instance. However, we also must be realistic in the here and now in that some threats must be confronted.
Christians have offered many different ethical stances, including several which are similar to the Way of the Leaf. I believe that Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s ethics that acknowledge the reality of both peace and violence is a great way forward (see, for example, my look at a book exploring Bonhoeffer’s ethic).
History and Truth-making
Thom continues to be a hugely entertaining character. He also delivers a fairly wise line here: “Nothing is more dangerous than a man who knows the past.” We live in a time in which people are making war against knowing the past. People are trying to outlaw things like teaching about Civil Rights in schools. The connection of nationalism and Christianity is pernicious, and looking to the past of the United States and other countries helps highlight the dangers we face.
Only by acknowledging the past and confronting it in a realistic way–only then can we truly begin to heal and make rational, good changes for all. If people continue to try to run from the past or even insist that it doesn’t get taught, that is an effort in re-making the past that will only make those who know the past even more dangerous. Christians must stand against these efforts to silence calls for justice and righteous examination of the origins of many societal ills.
The Dragon Reborn is a prophecy from of old, and it is clear that many false Dragons have come before the time of this show. This makes for some interesting reflection, because Logain is so well-spoken and even preaches a message of good news, wanting to bind the world rather than to break it. We also must be wary of false Messiahs and false teachers–and of anything that would turn us away from Christ.
I have hugely been enjoying this adaptation of one of my all-time favorite series of books for television. I hope you are, too! Let me know what you think in the comments.
The Wheel of Time– Read all my posts on the series, both the books and the TV show.
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