Friday, 15 November 2013

Robert Jordan

Hello my fellow bookworms, geeks, passionate fans of the classics, and other assorted readers. My name is Dylan, and I am proud to call myself all of these, I am writing this first of, I hope, many entries to the Classics Closet today to tell you about an amazing author who gives us all a good read with his series The Wheel of Time, along with others. But before I begin, let me tell you a little about myself, I am not terribly interesting so I won’t bore you with details. 

I am a high school student who is devoted to books of all types and authors of many different backgrounds, personalities, and from many different time periods. I am a person who, if given the choice, would always have his head stuck in a book, and would let this world dissolve away for another. But sadly the world cannot transform to my imagination as I would wish it to be, yet I like to create my own worlds in my writing within which I can escape for however long or short they may be. But I digress. Onto the topic you are reading this piece for, if I have not yet frightened you off, let us talk about a literary phenomenon who has contributed significantly to my life:

Robert Jordan

Robert Jordan was born James Oliver Rigney, Jr. in Charleston, South Carolina in 1948, he learned to read at the age of four, with the help of a 16 year old brother of course, and was able to grasp more advanced authors, such as Jules Verne, author of  Journey to the Center of the Earth by the age of five. When it was time for college, Jordan chose The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina where he graduated with a degree in physics. After graduating he went on to serve two terms as a helicopter gunner in Vietnam (he claimed he once shot an RPG out of the air) and while serving he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and two Vietnamese Crosses of Gallantry, among others.

After the war he had a short time as a nuclear engineer after which his first book, The Fallon Blood, was published in 1980 under the pen name Reagan O’Neal, which was edited by Harriet McDougal at Tor, Ms. McDougal would later marry Jordan. But this book was not what made him famous nor was his series Conan the Barbarian. What really tipped him over the edge was his Wheel of Time series which has sold over 14 million copies in the U.S. alone!

This is the series that can attract any reader of any age it is filled with sword fights, magic, Trollocs, the age-old fight of the light versus the dark, the Dragon Reborn , Ogiers , wolves in men's skin, Aes Sedai,  and the Dark One (there is one in every good story, Voldemort [Harry Potter], Kronos [Percy Jackson and the Olympians], and of course The Joker [Batman]). 

Then there is Rand al’thor and his friends who are the heroes of these amazing books. This character is what the Aes Sedai refer to as the Dragon Reborn. He is destined to fight the Dark One and can use the One Power. The One Power is basically a way to say magic and, as in most books about magic, channeling too much of it can - and will - kill you.  Rand, however, fits the archetype of the classical hero in that he's reluctant to star his Hero's Journey. He tries to cling to his reality of being a shepherd back home in Two Rivers. In the second book no matter how the Dark One tries to tempt him or make him say he is the Dragon Reborn he just keeps claiming “I am Rand al’thor”.

You are probably wondering why the hero of Camelot and the most famous wizard known to man has suddenly come up. You probably think that these characters have absolutely nothing to do with Robert Jordan or Rand al’thor. But that is where you are completely and utterly wrong.

In the book series there is a mention a great deal of times to Artur Hawkwing but this is not his only name in the series - he is also referred to as Artur Paendrag. How much closer could this be to the name of the Once and Future King - Arthur Pendragon?!  

Do you see the similarities yet? 

If not allow me to continue, you see Arthur is the son of King Uther Pendragon, but Merlin gives the King advice that the child should be raised in secret. In this way Arthur and Rand are the same because no one knows their real identity - not even themselves. But Rand is also like Merlin because they can both use what we call magic. It seems to be that Jordan took these two iconic archetypes and combined them to make an amalgamation.  

The author pays homage to his forerunners when he adds Arthur into the series in his own special way. Arthur and Rand both become amazing sword fighters as their stories proceed, Rand learning from many a master yet especially from the Warder al'Lan Mandragoran who first teaches Rand to use his blade.

Now let us talk about the blades of Rand and Arthur. 

Rand's blade has no name, but a special gift, it was forged by the Aes Sedai and imbued with special gifts during the Age of Legends, he has what is called a Master's Blade. King Arthur has a magic blade named, as many geeks probably know, Excalibur.  

This is a blade that has many powers and was given to Arthur by the Lady of the Lake. Most people believe that the sword he pulled from the stone, that named him King of England, was Excalibur, and in quite a few renditions of the tale it is, but in many tales, it is said to be given to him by The Lady of the Lake.

While we've drawn some connections between Jordan's world and that of Arthurian legend.  Let's face it though, you're here to see the parallels between this fabulous book series and the world of ancient Greece and Rome.  

You must be extremely confused on who this is, unless of course you love Greek myth, so allow me to shed a little light on the subject. Perseus is a hero in Greek mythology that goes on many an adventure and helps defeat monsters such as the Gorgon Medusa. He saves his wife from a sea creature, defeats Medusa, and helps many people. 

Where Rand is poor Perseus is royalty; where Rand is in his teens Perseus is speculated to be in his late-twenties. Superficially, they aren’t too similar. One would think that because they are so different that this ancient Greek prince and our heroic figure would have nothing even vaguely in common. Yet Perseus and Rand share a commonality of major significance. 

Neither aspires for power that they could so easily attain! Once Perseus defeats the king of Argos, he could easily have proclaimed himself king, but he doesn’t do this. Rather, he gives the power to his brother whom he believes more worthy of the throne. Rand could have fame and fortune easily in many cases, yet he doesn’t want it; our protagonist doesn’t want the power he has and could easily abuse. He could get whatever he wanted or do whatever he wanted, but he tries to live his life as if he was completely normal and never tries to give himself an advantage as he easily could.

The two are both heroes, and both have adventures that could supply to any man a lifetime of fame.  

Rand and Perseus are so uniquely similar, yet so different all at once. It seems to be that Jordan used this Greek archetype as a model for his fantastical hero. The enemies that both face are challenging, and they each confront their challenges with courage, cleverness, and, sometimes, caution. When they face their enemies, they almost always win their battles through whatever method they may use. But they both also share a common fatal flaw, both will do anything for their families and friends which, in my opinion, isn’t a bad thing. But, looking at it strategically, this makes them easy to take subdue and easy to bend to someones will.

Sadly, as is the case everywhere, all good things must come to an end. Jordan was diagnosed with a rare blood disease - Cardiac Amyloidosis, in 2006. This disease causes misshapen proteins, formed in the bone marrow, to be deposited into the heart and against the walls of the heart. He was told he would only live for about four more years to which he wrote on his blog, quoting from The good, the Bad and the Ugly, saying “Don’t talk to me about no stinking odds, gringo. I’ve got promises to keep.” 

Some wondered what promise he meant, what promises had he made?

He meant to finish his series loved by so many, yet sadly they nailed his coffin shut before he finished the 13th - the final book. As his life grew shorter, he finished his twelfth book, but knew he was fading fast. He couldn’t leave the series unfinished, so he wrote the final paragraph to the thirteenth book and worked backwards from there. 

He died on September 16, 2007 his series incomplete, the last book unpublished. Thankfully, it would not remain incomplete. His wife - and former editor - set out in search for the perfect person to finish the series and bring it to its conclusion. She chose a man she had never met nor seen based on a eulogy for the amazing author posted online.  

This man was none other than Brandon Sanderson, a former Mormon missionary and then fantasy novelist, he was asked by McDougal to finish her husbands work and he graciously agreed. The series finally had an end to its amazing legacy, a legacy that consisted of almost 4,000,000 words, close to 11,000 pages, and countless characters.

My dear friends and readers, here is where I must bid you adieu. The journey through Robert Jordan's life has been all too short, and we have hardly seen a single layer of the author. If you feel the need go right ahead and learn more about this amazing man yourself, I promise you will not be disappointed. I hope you enjoyed this article, and if so I will certainly write more. 

But who knows what will happen because as Robert Jordan put it, and as the Aes Sedai say, “The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills. No eye can see the Pattern until it is woven.” So with that dear readers I will say goodbye and may the light illumine you. I leave this for another time but read on my companions, read on.
-Dylan Martin