Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Eye of the World, chapters 3 and 4, in which people talk more

Sorry about the delayed post.  This was a tiring weekend, and Sunday evening I finally cracked EOTW open again and the awareness that I was 35 pages in and nothing has actually happened washed over me like a pile of sodden blankets.  Okay.  Let's do this thing.

(Content: ableism, misogyny. Fun content: more Mallory Ortberg and a secret game of Trivial Pursuit.)

The Eye of the World: p. 32--61
Chapter Three: The Peddler

I really thought this book would take forever to dissect, but it saves a lot of time when I can summarise four dense pages with 'the peddler is a source of outside news and Rand has an emergency backup friend named Perrin, who is stocky'.  The peddler is all theatrical and tells the villagers that just getting eaten by wolves is tame compared to the bad stuff happening elsewhere in the world, like war in Ghealdan.  Apparently someone's popped up claiming to be the Dragon and everyone wants to murder him or murder for him.
"Just as bad as the Dark One!" 
"The Dragon broke the world, didn't he?" 
"He started it! He caused the Time of Madness!" 
"You know the prophecies! When the Dragon is reborn, your worst nightmares will seem like your fondest dreams!"
No one particularly likes hanging out with the al'Exposition family, but no one can deny they're very efficient.  (Is the Time of Madness over, or is it still supposed to be ongoing?  It seems weird to name an era with the expectation that it's going to end.  If it's indefinite, then 'the Madness' seems better, but if you're naming it in order to convince people that it will end, maybe don't call it 'the Time of Madness'?)  Apparently the peddlers and merchants are the only source of this news, since no one in the village goes travelling far, which further raises the question if there isn't just a cartel agreement that everyone will tell the bumpkins about distant atrocities in order to justify higher prices.

The peddler further reports that this one who claims to be the Dragon is the first one who can wield the One Power, opening chasms and crushing walls with words and beckoning lightning at will, though this is all third- or fourth-hand information.  Ewin starts shouting about how men who channel the Power always go mad and die, because it's only safe for women, everyone should know that.  You know what?  I take back my previous compliment about efficient exposition, because this is page flipping thirty-seven and we're still just getting people shouting world-building at each other in a panic.  Women who wield the Power are apparently called Aes Sedai, and bringing them up is Not Appropriate for unclear reasons, but they're the only ones capable of fighting Dragon Dude.  The Dudely Council decide they need to interrogate the peddler directly, over booze, and patronisingly tell everyone else to go home and be patient about buying stuff.

Once again, nothing happens for a couple of pages, so let's talk about this whole 'Time of Madness' and 'the One Power makes men go mad' thing.  I mean, the superficial ableism is obvious--generic 'madness' as a violent affliction that inevitably results in murder and destruction--although I note that they talked about male magicians 'withering away' as well, so I hold out some vague hope that this 'madness' could actually have some nuance to it, and that depression and other such conditions (eating disorders?) might also be considered worthy of note, rather than just the Cackling Maniac style.  Yes, that is how far the bar has fallen here; I'm hoping that the Fantasy Madness might be more inclusive.  Because from here to Lovecraft and beyond fantasy is full of things that are so powerful that they make people 'go mad', and while that has all sorts of problems on a conceptual level, the fact that this madness always takes exactly the same stereotypical form of vaguely making a person hallucinate and talk to themselves and 'become a danger to themselves' is a whole additional level of ableism.  At this point I would actually be pleased to see a case where someone says "No, Rand, don't use the One Power, you will get clinical depression and lose all energy and motivation and feeling and stop eating and die and we don't have comprehensive pharmaceuticals yet" instead of "You'll murder us all because you'll go CaRAYzy".

Obviously Rand will end up wielding the One Power and being the Dragon Reborn--I mean, I know this for a fact, spoilers, but even otherwise I would know it because on the next page we learn two more things:
"The Dragon may have started it, but it was Aes Sedai who actually broke the world."
Women fucked up and obviously that means it's going to take a man to fix it.  (What do they mean, 'broke the world'?  I haven't seen any big cracks yet.)  And:
 "I heard a story once," Mat said slowly, "from a wool-buyer's guard. He said the Dragon would be reborn in mankind's greatest hour of need, and save us all."
Apparently lots of people believe this, but they don't say so because it makes the Aes Sedai angry.  So, obvs, the end of this book will concern the ascension of Rand to his true mantle as the Dragon and the hero who will save everyone.  At least I figure it'll be the end, because this fake Dragon will be the Book One villain.  Place your bets.  Apparently 'the stories' vary on whether the Aes Sedai are actually villains, which just confuses me more.  They're the established trustworthy magic users of the world, but some villagers don't believe they exist and some say they're 'Darkfriends' and oh my various deities could we maybe do something before we get introduced to yet another Unexplained Capitalised Title?

Nnnnope.  As they're all talking about the bad luck that befell a neighbour who had the audacity to "name the Dark One", Nynaeve the Wisdom finally makes her appearance.  She is a Strong Female Character, and therefore angry and weirdly violent--she carries a wooden switch for lashing people who displease her, despite her age and her tininess (she's barely shoulder-height to them, of course).  Nynaeve tells them all off, and then Rand notices she's accompanied by Egwene.
Of a height with Nynaeve, and with the same dark coloring, she could at that moment have been a reflection of Nynaeve's mood, arms crossed beneath her breasts, mouth tight with disapproval. [...] Her big brown eyes held no laughter now.
This is more description than any other person has received so far and it includes a completely unnecessary reference to the existence of her breasts, in case we weren't sure she was the love interest.  (Join me in assuming/insisting that "same dark coloring" means both these women have deep brown skin, regardless of whether this lines up with cover art or future adjectives.)  Egwene is two years younger than Rand (+5 to Love Interest) and he fumbles over trying to speak to her.  Nynaeve demands to know what's been going on, and concludes that she will have to take charge:
"The Council is questioning the peddler about what's happening in Gealdan, are they? If I know them, they're asking all the wrong questions and none of the right ones. It will take the Women's Circle to find out anything useful."
So, first: confirmation that the two ruling bodies of the village are the Normal People's Council and the Lady Council.  Second: Mallory Ortberg is a gift that humanity has not earned.

Egwene and Rand don't exactly flirt once she's gone, because they were issued Belligerent Sexual Tension in which Rand asks to dance with her and she agrees and then they spend the rest of the conversation disdaining each other--Rand realises for the first time ever that they're both going to reach 'marriageable age' at the same time, and says vaguely they it's no good rushing things, and Egwene says she might never marry because she's going to become Wisdom at some other village, and anyway she thinks it's not as if Rand would care if he never saw her again.
He rubbed his head in frustration. How to explain? This was not the first time she had squeezed meanings from his words that he never knew were in them. In he present mood, a misstep would only make matters worse, and he was fairly sure that nearly anything he said would be a misstep.
In conclusion: ugh, women, right?  Bro.  Bro.  Level with me.  Bro.  Women.  There's just no reasoning with them and they're so angry all the time for no reason.

It turns out Perrin also saw the Ringwraith black rider and Moiraine also gave him a coin to serve her, though of course Egwene thinks they're all jumping at shadows.

Chapter Four: The Gleeman

The gleeman that everyone's been tripping themselves over finally appears, bursting out of the inn, and Rand mostly notices that he has grey eyes (like Rand, and unlike everyone else in town).  He complains for half a page about how badly he's been treated in town, and was just menaced by Nynaeve, whom he of course insists should be off chasing boys.  He proceeds to describe all of the protagonists for us,Rand's height and grey eyes, Perrin's stockiness,comparing them to fantastical beasts.  Literally nothing is happening for pages except pointless banter and the seasoned traveller mocking the rural hicks.  I'm on page 50 of this book and I feel like I'm reading someone's warmup dialogue exercise.  He does a backflip, and juggles as he lists the stories he'll tell, including:
"Tales of great wars and great heroes, for the men and boys. For the woman and girls, the entire Aptarigine Cycle. Tales of Artur Paendrag Tanreall [...]"
First, why is the entire Aptarigine Cycle only suitable for women?  Does it have feelings in it?  Kissing?  Second: Artur Paendrag are you fucking with me Robert Jordan.  Okay.  Deep breaths, Wildman.  Hold it together.  This can--oh.  Egwene asks for stories about Lenn and Salya who travelled to the moon and stars in eagles made of fire, and I suddenly realise that we're going to get cute with the fourth wall.
"But I have all stories, mind you now, of Ages that were and will be. [....] I have all stories, and I will tell all stories. Tales of Mosk the Giant, with his Lance of fire that could reach around the world, and his wars with Elsbet, the Queen of All. Tales of Materese the Healer, Mother of the Wondrous Ind."
Okay.  So.   The whole 'eventually everything becomes legend' thing is getting hammered home and this is apparently happening in our distant future but maybe also the past because time is a Wheel.  I get that, and I'm potentially on board, but I'm deeply, deeply skeptical that this serves any particular purpose to the story, and it's yet again more spewing wink-nudge worldbuilding notions at me instead of having anything actually happen.  This is the difference between having a clever idea and having a story.

Fancy Lady Moiraine and the gleeman spot each other, polite but obviously not pleased to see each other, and then people start pouring out of the bar again and the gleeman runs off for booze.  The Dudely Council has decided to set up patrols around the area in conjunction with the other local villages, and all the boys want to sign up, but Rand's dad says they need to head back to the farm immediately.  On the way home, dad al'Thor explains the intricate village politics and crowd-managing that made it actually a good idea to scare everyone with the prospect of war and roaming mages and then rush off to secret council before eventually announcing their patrol plan.  I remain skeptical.  Also, it turns out that lots of teenage boys have been spotting the Ringwraith black rider (creeper), and so the patrols will be watching for him now too.  The chapter ends with Rand feeling better, knowing that together the villagers have nothing to fear from the rider.  I'm deeply disappointed he hasn't blown the whole place up yet.  Robert Jordan needed to embrace in medias res a little harder.


  1. The problem with looking for nuance in this story is whenever it is there, it's like "well, you'll have to read 15000 pages to find it". I mean, it is there, but… it's so long it borders on having everything in it somewhere.

  2. okay, "Artur Pendraeg" would have been the beginning of my own tale of "How I Threw A Book Against A Wall And Cursed The Author Unto Seven Generations, Also Never to Finish His Own Work Except By A Misogynist Hack"

    (don't get me started on Brandon Sanderson, who totally deserves his initials. Personal anecdote reasons)

  3. Does Jordan believe in homeopathy? Maybe the diluted amounts of nuance just make it more nuanced.

  4. The whole gleeman thing drove me up a wall, too. Out of curiosity, (back when I read this, or attempted to, mind) I went and looked it up to see if it was a real word or just Jordan trying to act like he wasn't writing generic fantasy crap by using a special word for bard. Turns out, it's both.

    A gleeman is a member of a glee club. IIRC, there are no glee clubs in Jordan's world, so he takes a concept completely and utterly out of its actual context to try to hide that he's basically just stealing everything that isn't nailed down (and a few things that are). I mean, I guess you knew that already, what with the Artur Pendraeg business and the Ringwraiths and rangers and all of that. But that always really drove it home for me. Jordan's work is screaming at the top of its lungs about how different and original it is, but it's utter cliched schlock.

    (Caveat: There's nothing wrong with enjoying utter cliched schlock. I do myself at times. But there are some Jordan fans who try to act like he did the most brilliant and original thing ever and just, no.)

  5. "I heard a story once," Mat said slowly, "from a wool-buyer's guard. He said the Dragon would be reborn in mankind's greatest hour of need, and save us all."

    Apparently lots of people believe this, but they don't say so because it makes the Aes Sedai angry.

    This makes no sense. Even for an isolated village like the Two Rivers. This is exactly what the Dragon is prophesied to do! Everyone knows this! Everyone knows that the Dragon shows up and fights the Dark One, eventually, after ten ages worth of books, and saves the world, even if details vary on what's supposed to happen along the way. There is no reason that the Aes Sedai would be angry about peole saying this and no reason that the basic information about the meessiah-figure in the setting's verifiably true religion would be something Mat heard from some random guy! Argh!

  6. 'But I have all stories, mind you now, of Ages that were and will be. [....] I have all stories, and I will tell all stories. '

    And I assume he is also aware of all internet traditions.

  7. So the gendering extends all the way to what stories are allowed to be told to which audiences, instead of having proper epics that contain stuff for everybody and will be far more memorable that way. But no, Harpering isn't for girths, err, no stories of heroes for girls, because the sorceresses who can control the One True Power can't be heroic, apparently.

    Women, amirite?

  8. "You know the prophecies! When the Dragon is reborn, your worst nightmares will seem like your fondest dreams!"

    "Well, that doesn't sound too bad. I mean, I like my fondest dreams. Awfully kind of the Dragon to make our nights more restful, really. "

    "Wait, that can't be right. It's supposed to be a scary prophecy. So maybe he'll sort of compress the emotional range of our dreams so they're all pretty much the same? Like, in your fondest dream you get to eat a hamburger that isn't great, just okay, but in your worst nightmare it's definitely overcooked and the lettuce is wilted?"

    "I guess that would be kind of tedious. Strange thing to bother prophesying, though."

    "No no, it's one of those double colon analogy things. Your fondest dreams : your worst nightmares :: your worst nightmares : the horrible shit that's actually going down once the Dragon comes back. We learned about them when we were studying for the SAT II in Hermeneutics, remember?"

    "You were studying for the SAT II in Hermeneutics. The rest of us took the SAT II in Dung-Carrying, because we knew peasants don't have much time for non-vocational learning."

    "Yeah, well, you'll see. When the Dragon comes back, accurate interpretation of prophecy will be a way more valuable career skill than the ability to balance a two-hundred-pound manure ziggurat on one hand. Imagine it, from agrarian feudalism to an information-based economy in mere months! Why, it's one of my fondest dreams!"

    "Seems more like my worst nightma--oh, bloody hell."

    I hold out some vague hope that this 'madness' could actually have some nuance to it,

    It was instigated by Satan, so I'm guessing not. If tainting Saidin just made male channelers wash their hands a lot, or get really panicked in social situations, or eat too little, then people might be tempted to deal with it by providing the afflicted with therapy and medical care and stuff. The Dark One probably wouldn't call that a win.

    He rubbed his head in frustration. How to explain?

    What's to explain? If Egwene's on a career path that'll take her somewhere else pretty soon, and you say you don't want to rush things, then it sounds like you might not mind letting her leave without you. If that's not what you meant to imply, then you can just say so? With words from your mouth?

    "I have all stories, and I will tell all stories. Tales of Mosk the Giant, with his Lance of fire that could reach around the world, and his wars with Elsbet, the Queen of All. Tales of Materese the Healer, Mother of the Wondrous Ind."

    "Do you have any tales of the actual Indians who lived in the Wondrous Ind? How about Ch'in'a? I hear they had some sweet lances of fire too. Or anything about, um, Aphrika? Efrique? I don't know how to corrupt it into a stupid fantasy-sounding name but you know where I mean."

    "What? Of course not. I have and will tell all stories starring white people. Jeez, I didn't think I'd actually have to say that."

    Also, it turns out that lots of teenage boys have been spotting the Ringwraith black rider (creeper), and so the patrols will be watching for him now too.

    In a better book, it would turn out that everyone knows the black rider, he's Joe the leather mugmaker who's got a thing for riding around in cloaks, and Rand and his friends just haven't been introduced to him yet.

  9. Maybe that's why all the names are corrupted and apostrophe-filled. They haven't been altered by the passage of eons; he just learned how to spell them from tweens on Facebook.

  10. If that's not what you meant to imply, then you can just say so right now? With words from your mouth?

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAAAAAAAAAAAA! ...Sorry. Having spent a dozen books watching Jordan's main characters try to communicate with each other, I just couldn't help it.

    What do they mean, 'broke the world'? I haven't seen any big cracks yet.

    Well, erzrzore gubfr evqvphybhf zbhagnva enatrf naq bqqyl funcrq pbnfg, naq ubj jr pbapyhqrq gung gurer'f ab jnl gubfr pbhyq rire rkvfg va angher?

    The Time of Madness: Vg'f raqrq, naq vg jnf bayl anzrq nsgre vg qvq. Xvaq bs yvxr gur Zvqqyr Ntrf.

    (How do you [everyone] feel about my constantly pointing out and explaining minor worldbuilding details? If it's annoying, I'll stop; here I just rotted them, to be on the safe side. Speaking of which, what's the general spoiler policy?)

  11. I am a professional illustrator and game artist, and exhibited at Gen Con for the past 4 years. I focus on bold lines, bright colors, and a touch of whimsy in my fantasy scenes. My art is family-friendly, with a broad appeal to fans of all ages.

    Oh, man. That *would* be a better book. Someday we'll get a fantasy story where Our Heroes wander into a new area, see a creepy guy in a black cloak riding around in the woods, run to the nearest town to warn them of the danger, and the sheriff and everybody else in the bar just sighs and goes "Yeah, we know. That's Bob. No one knows why he's so into that, but it doesn't harm anyone, so we let him be." And then someone else pipes up that they'd really like to make a sign to let newcomers to the village know, but unfortunately no one is literate because they live in a vague pastiche of medieval England.

    ... actually, the more I think about it, the more surprised I am that Terry Pratchett hasn't already done this. It certainly sounds like a Discworld kind of joke...

  12. In a better book, it would turn out that everyone knows the black
    rider, he's Joe the leather mugmaker who's got a well-known thing for
    riding around in a cloak, and Rand and his friends just haven't been
    introduced to him yet.

    I would really, really like to see that. Actually, I'm kind of surprised Terry Pratchett hasn't already done something like it. It sounds like a Discworld kind of joke.

  13. Personally, I am 1000% okay with you spoiling whatever. I don't usually mind spoilers anyway, and for this book series, which I really don't ever care to try reading, I'd rather just know what all these endless hints are pointing at. But I suppose I can always go read TV Tropes if everyone else would rather not be spoiled.

  14. Egwene isn't the love interest. And there is a point to the time being a wheel thing. But of course it takes 15000 pages to get there. The sexism gets better when Sanderson takes over, but of course that takes 9 or however many books...

  15. Having spent a dozen books watching Jordan's main characters try to communicate with each other, I just couldn't help it.

    Let me guess, if the main characters had passed kindergarten (now, kids, use your words!), the series would be maybe three books long?

  16. I really wouldn't put too much stock in cover art. It's rare (or at least used to be) for an author and an illustrator to talk, and many authors end up unhappy with their cover illustrations. Ursula K. LeGuin, for example, is famously irritated with the lack of character illustrations of her Earthsea novels, which could mistakenly lead one to assume that everyone in Earthsea is pale and European. This is often particularly noticeable with older works, in which information is ignored for marketing reasons, or with books that attempt to handle skintone with a minimum of subtlety. WoT narration points out people the characters find unusually pale as well as people they find unusually dark, so one could reasonably assume that apart from Not-Irish Rand, most of the two rivers people are less than lily white.

  17. Originality is, in my opinion, vastly overrated. I much prefer quality of execution. Derivative schlock
    Comes by the truckload, certainly, but so does oh-so-original, never-use-a-real-word-when-fake-one-will-do drivel.

    Sorry, people disregarding a work for "lack of originality" is a pet peeve of mine, so that may have come out a little hostile. It's not personal, I promise. While I think the quality of execution in Wheel of Time is decidedly uneven, I think there's something praiseworthy in its dedication to synthesizing a monomyth

  18. Ha, you may have explained one of my dislikes about this story. I loathe the concept of a monomyth; multiplicity's always seemed more fun, and I wish we could have seen more of what the Aelfinn and Eelfinn were doing offstage.
    (Although how much of WoT is monomyth and how much is just a massive crossover fic is another question.)

  19. Lest I give the wrong impression, WoT isn't exactly subtle about its diversity. It's presented pretty bold-facedly anytime anyone enters an urban area. It's just more culturally and ethnically diverse than the painfully awkward cover art would suggest.

  20. I think it's just a question of taste. Jordan's a Freemason, and the masons generally encourage their members to study symbolism from around the world. Whether he's able to weave that knowledge into his narrative with any grace (I'd say again that the results are mixed - some of it so thunderingly obvious as to be worthy of an eye roll, some of it really quite deftly done), he certainly knows his stuff. Fore example, Perrin is obviously Thor, right down to his beard and man-of-the-people attitude (Thor was a common man's god whereas Odin, whom Mat is most closely related to, was more of an aristocratic god), but his two horses Stayer and Stepper make Sleipnir, the eight-legged horse of Odin, and his name is a corruption of the Slavic thunder god Perrun.

  21. Don't rot them. Spoil the book. Spoil all the books so no one else starts reading them!

  22. The monomyth is a sound and even useful historical/sociological theory. All myths come from somewhere, and studying their origins leads to some very interesting insights into human psychology as well as the movements and histories of ancient peoples.

    What Joseph Campbell's monomyth is not, however, is an exciting story template for prospective writers. Which shouldn't be surprising, since it was never intended to be. But star wars made a lot of money and then name-dropped Campbell, so I guess we're stuck with it now.

  23. It doesn't get much better. It gets quite a lot more subtle, though. Which is a pleasant change after those 15,000 words. Egwene turns out to be a badass but it's not worth the slog to get to it. Both in that the slog is terrible and the badassery is kind of dumb and limited to when she's not around one of the boys we just got introduced to. Because of course Rand has to be most badass.

  24. The monomyth is a sound and even useful historical/sociological theory.
    This may be so, but I highly doubt that every story ever is based on one fundamental origin. (And you are so right about its failings as the outline for a story, oh my god.)

  25. ...That's not what the monomyth theory is. It just details one specific story pattern about the heroic journey that shows up in recognizable form in most cultures that have left records. It was never intended to be a creative writing tool. Nevertheless, many great stories have been written that follow the monomyth pattern fairly explicitly: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, A Wizard of Earthsea, etc. People run into problems when they assume that they'll be successful simply by following the formula, without feeling the need to flesh out that skeleton with anything interesting.

    A later Jospeh Campbell book, The Power of Myth, goes on to discuss similar overarching themes in comparative mythology, because it turns out that people are still people regardless of cultural background. And also ancient peoples moved around a lot more than is generally believed, hence cultural cross-pollination. The only single fundamental origin for stories as presented by Campbell is a shared humanity throughout all cultures, that includes recognizable fears and desires. Which, I'd imagine, is hardly controversial.

    Or were you talking about WoT there?

  26. No, it was Campbell (or possibly a simplified reductive bullshit version). And I'm not that convinced that LotR follows the monomyth - I remember reading something saying that it fails somewhere near the end (and according to the analysis that was a flaw rather than Tolkien writing an actual story as opposed to warmed over Chosen One crap).
    "Monomyth" is a terrible name for just one of a number of recurring patterns, though.

  27. A story doesn't have to follow every step verbatim to qualify - most myths will have a majority of steps but leave out a couple or swap the order or something. But the basic idea is that a person in the normal world receives a call to adventure that takes them beyond their usual boundaries into the unknown, initially refuses the call before accepting and receiving supernatural aid, encountering fearsome enemies, undergoes a series of trials in which the hero begins to succeed only after showing a willingness to change, receives further aid in the midst of their trials (usually from a female figure of power-hello Galadriel), faces temptation, fulfills their destiny, and experiences literal or symbolic death and rebirth before facing the choice of remaining in the magical world or returning home to bring a boon back to their people. The Scouring of the Shire is an interesting post world war twist on the monomyth, since usually things are better at the conclusion of the story as opposed to "worse than before but better than it would have been of we hadn't done anything".

    Most feel-good sports movies follow the formula pretty closely; Lord of the Rings definitely counts, even if it doesn't meet every step in exactly the form proscribed in Campbell's essay. For example, the temptation step is called Tempted By Woman or something similar. Frodo doesn't literally refuse sex at any point in the book, but the temptation of the ring becomes a much more central part of the story just as the end of their journey grows near, which fits in with the broad structure of the Hero's Journey and captures the spirit of the step if not the letter.

    In contexts other than comparative mythology, I think the Hero's Journey is a lot like the Bechdel test: it's a very useful tool for examining broad trends and themes in large groups of stories, but not particularly useful at determining the quality of an individual story.

    Incidentally, "Hero's Journey" is the much more descriptive alternate title for the monomyth. I believe the term "monomyth" comes from the fact that nearly every culture that has ever been recorded has a story that conforms pretty closely to the structure of the Hero's journey, even if every other aspect of their culture and mythology is nothing alike. So it's less "this is the only story" and more "pretty much everybody has some version of this story".

  28. The monomyth can be boiled down to: you start with a hero, he goes and does heroic things, he stops doing heroic things. Essentially, if you boil enough myths down to sufficient mushiness, one bowl of mush looks kind of like the others.

  29. So it's basically an overly-long page on TV Tropes that people have got inordinately excited about?
    (I wish I could remember what book it was that criticised LotR for failing to map slavishly onto it; iirc the author had some academic qualifications that somehow weren't in fundamentalist theology...)

  30. In the most reductive possible sense, yes. The same could be said for most literary theories. Anything can sound trite given a sufficiently simple explanation. But then I think comparative mythology is exciting, so what do I know?

  31. I spent the first however many books wondering why the book jacket said that Robert Jordan was married when from the text it was hard to believe he had ever spoken with a woman at all, or heard one speak. That part got better with Robert Sanderson. It stopped being "and then Elaine smoothed her skirts and Nynaeve fiddled with her braid." He still had to follow Robert Jordan's plot outlines, but the women started to be people when he took over and I appreciated that.

    And I got a different impression than you did from the last book: it seemed like the whole point of the last book was that it wasn't about Rand, than it wasn't just Rand, that Rand wasn't the most important or even the most interesting, that the fate of the world depended on everybody else, too. Rand was important because he was the protagonist but the last book really hammered home that everybody else was just as important and just as vital in victory (i hope it is not a spoiler to say that there will be a victory. it's like saying the murder mystery ends with them figuring out who did it).

    overall, the books are pretty terrible and this was THE series that made me swear not to read white male authors anymore (a decision I've been mostly happy with. there are problems with non white non male authors too (ableism in particular) but "appears to have never talked to a woman before" and "inexpicably all the characters are white" are not among them at least!)

  32. Hey, I'm not wishing to bash comparative mythology, I just wish the Hero's Journey would go away for a while and give us more varied and interesting stories. And/or be less focused on Special Men going through allegorical adolescence but I suspect the adolescence part at least is kind of endemic to the structure...

  33. That would be really nice. Shoe-horning a three act structure into a story that doesn't call for it leads to dull and awkward narratives. It's really noticeable in John Carter or Conan adaptations, since the originals are deliberately picaresque, which is like the opposite of a heros journey. The adolescence thing is probably inseparable from the structure - its too universal a symbol of personal growth to go away. It's a shame when a story structure that is meant to be explicitly about maturation and accepting responsibility gets used to let dudes wallow in self-congratulation, because while sticking to that three act structure is a good way to manufacture drama, its also good at manufacturing a sense of accomplishment, which can really sneakily prop up a toxic narrative in much the same way tht protagonist centered morality does.

    Women feature in some hero's journeys as well, though you don't see as much of that for some totally unknown and mysterious reason.

  34. Coming late to this, but howcome All The Stories just happen to be concerning Europe and Europeans. Oh wait, anything else would need research like going to a library and opening a book about the history of the non-white world.