I’m a little behind the times here. The 13th book of Robert Jordan’s epic (yes, “epic”) Wheel of Time saga is hitting paperback next week, and I’m just getting around to reading the first book. I liked it. It’s a good book. I had issues with a few of the names. A legendary king named “Artur Paendrag Tanreall”? Really? If that’s not enough of a nod to the Arthur Pendragon legend, there’s a prince named Galdedrid and a queen named Morgase, too. And the main protagonist in Eye of the World is named Rand al’Thor. Yep. Thor. God of Thunder. I’ll mention why that’s interesting, but only after saying…
SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT
Jordan’s world has no ogres and trolls, but he does have ogiers and trollocs. But what struck me most about the book were the innumerable parallels to the Lord of the Rings. Let me lay out the plotline here for you:
As our story begins, we meet a few country bumpkins (Rand, Mat, and Perrin / Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin) from a small town so far from the main action that current events are basically rumor and legend to them. The main point-of-view character (Rand / Frodo) received an important gift (heron sword / ring of power) from a father figure (Tam / Bilbo). During preparations for a party (Bel Tine / Bilbo’s birthday), an entertainer (Thom / Gandalf) who will figure largely in the plot later provides some entertainment (juggling / fireworks) before larger events in the world set the country boys off on their journey.
The plot is made up of a group of nine travelers who spend much of the story separated: the country boys, a powerful magician (Moiraine / Gandalf), a swordsman (Warder / Ranger) with amazing tracking skills (Lan / Aragorn), and a few others to round out the number (Nynaeve, Egwene, Thom, and Loial / Gimli, Boromir, and Legolas). They have many mishaps on their journey. At one point, their way aboveground is blocked and they’re forced to go through a dark, dangerous underground place (The Ways / The Mines of Moria) that was once beautiful and light. They meet a very dangerous foe (the Black Wind / the balrog) from whom they must flee. They destroy one of the entrances so that no-one else may use it. There is a body of water with a huge tentacled monster in it near the destroyed entrance.
Throughout the saga, our friends are followed by minions of the Dark One (trollocs / orcs) — a race created by corrupting humans. There may be evil men, but there are no good trollocs / orcs. Those minions are led by significantly more powerful creatures, shadowed in darkness (Myrddraal / Nazgul). They are also shadowed by a pitiful creature in rags (Padan Fain / Gollum) who follows them all the way through the dark place (The Ways / Moria), and is eventually captured, where he provides useful information. The forces of darkness are aided in their tracking by artifacts (the ruby-hilted dagger / the One Ring) the party is carrying, and by ravens acting as spies. When a great evil monster (Myrddraal / balrog) threatens the protagonist, another member of the party (Gandalf / Thom) tells the others to run while he takes sacrifices himself to kill the monster. It is later revealed that he didn’t actually die.
At one point in the mission, part of the group encounters an old creature (Loial / Treebeard) from an ancient race (ogier / ent) that tends — and talks to — trees and takes a very long time to make decisions. Part of the group also encounters a human (Elyas / Beorn) with an affinity for a particular wild animal (wolves / bears) who helps them out [yeah, I’m cheating here, since Beorn is from The Hobbit, not Lord of the Rings]. The country boys receive quite a surprise partway through when they find out that the swordsman (Lan / Aragorn) is actually a king.
The forces of evil (trollocs led by Myrrddraal / orcs led by Nazgul) are massing for an attack against a city (Fal Dara / Gondor) that has stood secure against them for centuries. The Dark One (Shai’tan the Dark One / Sauron the Dark Lord) has overwhelming numbers, and is getting into the dreams of the country boy (Rand / Frodo). The Dark One, incidentally, has been defeated before and is returning to wreak his vengeance and take over everything, but this time he appears far more powerful. His flying creatures (Draghkar / mounted Nazgul) threaten our heroes.
After passing through terrain ruined by the power of the Dark One (the Blight / the Dead Marshes), the protagonist (Rand / Frodo) destroys an immensely powerful artifact (the Eye of the World / the One Ring). He goes into the lair of the main antagonist (Shai’tan / Sauron) to destroy him. This, by the way, is where I got the biggest chuckle from the protagonist’s name, for Rand al’THOR wades into battle using his newfound powers of lightning and thunder to rend the ground asunder and destroy the armies of darkness.
Obviously, The Eye of the World is not just a Lord of the Rings takeoff, but the parallels were just too stark to ignore.