“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.
The Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
The penultimate book in the Wheel of Time series is a doorstopper. It’s got plenty to discuss, and I’ve only picked a few themes out. Let me know what you think in the comments!
Renewing of Creation
There are several times in the book in which Rand shows up and makes a kind of renewal of creation. In chapter 1, we see a town relying on their apple harvest to prevent them from starving, only to have it corrupted and destroyed. Rand shows up, and after a brief discussion with a farmer, the apples are blooming and ready for harvest again. I think of Isaiah 35:1: “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom” (NIV). But this isn’t the only thematic parallel to the renewing and refreshing of creation. Later, Rand tells a group to open their sacks of grain (chapter 25). All they’ve opened so far has shriveled grain mixed with pests. But they follow Rand’s direction and find abundance of good grain. It’s like Jesus telling the disciples to fish on the other side of the boat, or turning water into wine. Rand’s parallels with the Messiah here are strong, though in the world of the novels it seems more like he’s bringing balance than making all things new.
Rand, as he continues to step into the memories of Lews Therin, decides the time for subterfuge is over (chapter 13). “Today is a day of reunion, not of death,” Rand says as he sends Darkfriends out of his camp. I felt this was a kind of Narnia-esque moment, where evil is made plain but not completely destroyed–all things must happen in their times. Whether the parallel is Aslan willingly giving himself up, or allowing servants of the White Witch to flee, I was strongly reminded of similar feelings and scenes.
Malice or Ignorance?
It’s easy to assign the label “darkfriend” to others, just as we today can easily assign labels like “heretic,” or “apostate” to those with whom we disagree. When Maradon is opened at last to Ituralde’s army (chapter 24), it is only because someone took the initiative to overrule its governor. The question is raised over whether he was a darkfriend, and it is somewhat ambiguous whether he is or not. But the question arises in how we assign malice so often when it might be ignorance or cowardice instead. We need to be careful to assign labels to those who don’t deserve them and be willing to try to convince others of seeing things our way instead of so quickly other-ing them and rejecting them.
Prophecy is a recurring theme throughout the series, and questions of how to interpret prophecy abound. Late in The Towers of Midnight, there’s a discussion of how prophecy works in the world (chapter 51). Rand points out that if he’d been just a bit earlier in meeting up with the borderlanders, he’d have destroyed them for daring to slap him. They took something as a prophecy and a test, but he took it as a “foolish gamble.” While Paitar claims his family analyzed the prophecy “a hundred times over,” he says the words “seemed clear.” Rand points out that some prophecies are “not like the others”–they’re a “declaration of what might happen, not advice.”
Often, Christians see verses they take as prophecies in Scripture and then assume they can discern clear meanings. After all, one’s family or theological forebears analyzing a prophecy a “hundred times over” cannot be wrong, right? But if we choose to act or not act based upon how we take a prophecy which we may or may not be interpreting correctly, is that truly what the verses are there to tell us? Christians all too frequently ignore prophetic utterances warning against greed, accumulation of wealth, and injustice at the expense of seeking headline-grabbing events that they take to tell us about end times. Instead, perhaps those actions are “foolish gambles,” working to try to discern hidden meanings in prophecies rather than acting on ethical demands.
The Towers of Midnight is another excellent entry that somehow manages to stay action-packed and intense despite its absurdly long length. What worldview-level questions did you find in the novel?
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