It took me nine months, but I finally finished all fifteen books in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series (including the prequel New Spring). Just in time, too, since the Prime Video adaptation releases this Friday.
Before we go any further, here’s a spoiler warning for any who haven’t yet finished the series or those who want to read and haven’t yet had the chance. I’m going to be touching on major events that take place in A Memory of Light, the final book. Seriously, I’m going to ruin the ending for you.
This is your last chance to click away.
Still here and know nothing about The Wheel of Time. It’d take a thousand-plus words to summarize the world accurately and fully for those who know nothing of Jordan’s world. Instead of a mammoth post detailing lore, mythology, and history (and since this post is already going to be long), I’m going to link a video breakdown of the world for any interested in being able to semi-follow along without having read the books.
(A quick fact check on this video: The Dark One did not come into existence at the moment of creation. The glossary states only that he was imprisoned by the Creator at the moment of creation. Most likely, both the Creator and the Dark One exist as counterparts outside the Wheel and Pattern.)
All caught up. Good. Here’s the promised rant. Rand is the worst. Objectively. Definitively. I will brook no argument on this front. Following the familiar fantasy trope of the Chosen One, Jordan gives us Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, the reincarnation of Lews Therin Telamon. The Dragon Reborn is the one who is going to war against the Shadow and walk away victorious, defeating the Dark One and bringing light to a world of darkness. The prophecies of the Karaethon Cycle speak of his coming, how “his blood shall give us light,” how he “shall come like the breaking dawn, and shatter the world with his coming, and make it anew,” how “he calls upon the mountains to kneel, and the seas to give way, and the very skies to bow.” One who commands nature. One who accomplishes salvation through the giving of his blood. One who comes to destroy the darkness. Sound like anyone? Just like in any iteration of the trope, the Chosen One is essentially the Christ figure of any given fantasy realm.
Only there’s just one little problem. Where Jesus Christ lived a sinless life of perfect obedience, Rand is an abysmal human being when it comes to his ethics. He leaves his small town of Emond’s Field the son of a farmer, a naïve young man all but promised to marry Egwene al’Vere, the daughter of the town’s mayor. After the two decide (at Egwene’s prompting) that they just aren’t that into each other anymore, Rand immediately starts a physical relationship with Elayne. Oh, and then there’s that snowy night he spends with Aviendha. And let’s not forget Min.
Initially it’s easy to sympathize with Rand. Holding the traditional values of his hometown, he realizes how wrong his encounter was with Aviendha and proposes marriage. She declines, and it devolves from there. By the end of the series, we have Rand claiming to love all three (yes, I said three) women, having had sex with all three and with all three women having no issue with Rand’s ongoing relationships with the others. Robert Jordan clearly didn’t understand women. But that’s besides the point.
“Rand smiled and turned south. He glanced over his shoulder. All three women at the pyre had turned from it to look directly at him. He could make them out, though not much else, by the light of the burning body. I wonder which of them will follow me, he thought, then smiled deeper. Rand al’Thor, you’ve built up quite a swelled head, haven’t you? Assuming that one, or more, would follow. Maybe none of them would. Or maybe all of them would, in their own time. He found himself chuckling. Which would he pick? Min…but no, to leave Aviendha? Elayne. No. He laughed. He couldn’t pick. He had three women in love with him, and didn’t know which he would like to have follow him. Any of them. All of them. Light, man. You’re hopeless. Hopelessly in love with all three, and there’s no way out of it.“A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
To make matters worse, Elayne becomes pregnant with twins and not only is Rand not present during her pregnancy (he has “hero” things to do) nor does he seem even interested in the fact, but he also rides off at the series’ end without a thought for his unborn children (see above quote). What a swell guy. Though to be fair, Elayne did ride into battle earlier in the story while pregnant so Rand doesn’t have a monopoly on asinine life choices. Throughout this mind-numbing story arc, Rand acknowledges the depravity of his actions–referring to himself as a lecher–yet makes no attempt to change. This is the difference between feeling sorry/guilty and true repentance. The repentant man turns from his wicked ways; he doesn’t persist in them (1 John 3:6-7).
While Rand’s immorality is enough to mark him as an antichrist figure from a biblical perspective despite the signs and wonders he’s done (Matthew 7:15-20, 24:24), the series’ ending also reveals him to be a false Dragon. False dragons are marked by the fact that they eventually disappear, are captured, gentled, or die before fulfilling the prophecies. Fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the Rebirth of the Dragon is the major tell in determining who is a false Dragon and who is actually the Dragon Reborn. Though Rand al’Thor fulfills most of these prophecies, I would argue he doesn’t fulfill those that are most important as seen in his final encounter with the Dark One.
Part of the Karaethon Cycle reads as follows:
Twice dawns the day when his blood is shed.
Once for mourning, once for birth.
Red on black, the Dragon’s blood stains the rock of Shayol Ghul.
In the Pit of Doom shall his blood free men from the Shadow.
His blood on the rocks of Shayol Ghul,
washing away the Shadow, sacrifice for man’s salvation.
So does Rand’s resealing of the Dark One’s prison at the end of the series count as washing away the Shadow/freeing men from the Shadow? It seems to me Elan (Ishamael) was right. As long as there are infinite turnings to the Wheel of Time then the Dark One has an endless number of opportunities to wreak havoc on the world. It’s illogical to assume the prison could never again be breached by the folly of men. Not only that but evil/chaos has clearly not been banished from the present turning of the Wheel after Rand defeats the Dark One, as evidenced in Moghedien’s continued rebellion against the Light. Then there’s the question of why our current world events/time period, the First Age in WoT lore, is so rife with evil if the Dark One never had any direct influence during our time. It seems to me, then, that Rand banishing the Dark One back to his prison actually accomplished nothing in terms of bringing about peace or salvation for men. Even if Elan was right, the answer is not to join with the Dark One but to look for a true Savior, one who would permanently “crush the serpent’s head” (Genesis 3:15).
Maybe Rand isn’t technically a false dragon, at least not by WoT standards, but certainly when compared to the complete victory Christ achieved over sin and death on the cross of Calvary. Our Mediator, fully God and fully man, gave Himself as a willing sacrifice for His people, died on our behalf, and rose again on the third day. His blood actually brings about man’s salvation through the twofold obedience of Christ–His perfect life and willing death–and the imputation of His righteousness to those who believe. Jesus Christ didn’t fake his death as Rand did. And His sacrifice didn’t temporarily hold off evil until a new turning of the Wheel witnesses yet another breaching of the Dark One’s prison and a new cycle of destruction in a distant age. No, He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf, taking God’s wrath upon Himself. Those united to Christ by grace alone through faith alone are made new creations and look forward to the coming of the new heaven and earth where all chaos and agents of chaos will be removed from creation permanently (2 Peter 3:13). The eschatological end for the Christian is a world without death, destruction, or decay, an eternal world where our God will dwell with us (Revelation 21:3). And a holy God can only dwell in a place of pure holiness.
“I’m going to kill him,” Rand said passionately, leaning in. “I’m going to end the Dark One. We will never have true peace so long as he is there, lurking. I’ll rip open the prison, I’ll enter it and I’ll face him. I’ll build a new prison if I have to, but first, I’m going to try to end all of this. Protect the Pattern, the Wheel, for good.”A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
I suspect that Robert Jordan believed (and/or Brandon Sanderson who completed the series after Jordan’s death) that the kind of sinless/evil-free existence brought about by true salvation (as Christians anticipate in the new heaven and new earth) makes one a mindless puppet. Was this not the reason Rand was convinced not to kill the Dark One? He saw a world without the Dark One as one where people were stripped of their personality, robotic in their goodness. John 8:34 tells us that “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” Sin results only in chaos, death, and destruction. Sin is bondage. The idea that retaining your fleshly nature and its sinful tendencies somehow equates to freedom is a concept that only the unredeemed man would, in his blindness, believe. But then the natural man will always rebel against the goodness of God.
6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.Romans 8:6-8, ESV
Much more could be said about the theological problems within The Wheel of Time–the influence of Eastern religions (particularly the theme of reincarnation), feminism, moral relativism, etc., but all else pales in comparison to narratively constructing a false representation of Christ. I enjoyed reading through WoT. It’s one of the few fantasy series that doesn’t contain gratuitous profanity, explicit sexual content, or grimdark level violence. As Christians, though, we also need to be on guard against the nefarious worldviews presented in the entertainment we’re consuming. When you watch, read, or listen, do it mindfully.