Murukesh Mohanan

Echoes

  1. Literature

Recently I started reading Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. Each book is well written, and the characters strong and memorable, the tales themselves grand. The series itself vies with the Mahabharata, considered by most Indians to be the greatest epic. One thing I noticed time and again is the number of similarities, echoes, as it were, of tales from elsewhere, books and movies. By itself, it might seem like a weakness, but no! It is a strength, for each echo strengthens the feeling that the tale is your own experience long forgotten, from a different life perhaps, for it is familiar and yet strange. Perhaps like the feeling Birgitte Silverbow has for the memories of each of her adventures with Gaidal Cain.

I have always loved the Lord of the Rings, but that was always tinged by a touch of disappointment over its inspiration from Christian myth. But it was while noting the similarities between it and The Wheel of Time, and 今日から㋮王! (God (?!) Save The King!), one of my favourite anime shows, that I realised how different it was. In each case, the central villain, whether Shai’tan, Sauron or Soushu, was imperfectly defeated – waiting to return for a final confrontation. (Just like Tom Riddle, some of you will point out. I’m sure it is a common enough theme, like Loki being bound till Ragnarok.)

In both the Lord of the Rings and The Wheel of Time, the creator of the universe… uh, well… creates the universe and then lets the drama play itself out, not interfering any more (except in one unique case in LOTR). The Aes Sedai are like the Elves - long-lived, highly respected, deserving of respect - yet as human, as petty as any around. Curiously, the Ogier are more like the Elves than the Aes Sedai, long lived, with an affinity for things that grow, living in some isolation from humans, yet deadly when raised to arms. Both have created incredible wonders, cities more beautiful than any by man, and neither will involve themselves in the affairs of men, but both will fight the Shadow. Orcs are perversions of Ilúvatar’s creations by Morgoth, just as Trollocs and other Shadowspawn are perversions by the Dark One and the Chosen. Barad-dûr, close to Mount Doom within Mordor is where Sauron hides, and Shayol Ghul north of the Blasted Lands is where the Bore to the Dark One’s prison lies - and Morgoth’s fortress in Angband, Thangorodrim lies to the north of Anfauglith (the Gasping Dust). In each world the armies from the lands to the west of the ocean are quite powerful, but Seandar’s armies are like kids imitating soldiers when compared to Valinor’s armies. In both cases ships attempting to reach the lands to the west have failed for quite some time. In both worlds, the world itself was altered - in LOTR, once during the hiding of Valinor when the Arda was made round, and again in defeating Morgoth when Middle-Earth was shattered, and in the other during the Breaking of the World that followed the madness.

In both 今日から㋮王! and The Wheel of Time, the central character, the hero who would defeat the villain once and for all is someone who has no idea of their initial power, but has to learn to control it and use it. And there the most striking contrast presents itself: Yuri Shibuya is truly the most decent hero I have ever encountered, and that’s counting Goku. Anyone who has watched the Dragonball series will know the import of that. On the other hand, Rand al’Thor is, at least until the 12th book, a hard man. Oh, if ever there was a crossover between to The Wheel of Time universe, what wouldn’t I give for Yuri or Goku to meet and befriend Rand! The tale of Lews Therin Telamon and his One Hundred Companions riding to Shayol Ghul to seal Shai’tan’s prison always reminds me of the anime scenes featuring Shinou, the Great One, in his battle with Soushu, the Originators. In both cases they somewhat succeeded, at great personal cost. The Great One was infected by the Originators, saidin tainted by the Dark One’s counter-stroke. Shinou was taken over by the Originators towards the end until Yuri freed him and Lews Therin went mad and gained his title, the Kinslayer. Another pair of reflections: Callandor, the Sword that is not a Sword, the Sword that cannot be claimed, save by the Dragon Reborn and Mullem Desoive Eligh Morgif, the Demon Sword that cannot be wielded by any save the Demon King. Both are virtually useless as swords, but both are incredibly powerful. The humans in 今日から㋮王! fear Demons, those who can wield magic, and people in The Wheel of Time fear those men who can channel the tainted saidin. al’Lan Mandragoran reminds of Conrart Weller, with their sword-mastery and training of the hero.

And the most recent echo, the one which prompted me to write this post, was not from LOTR or 今日から㋮王!, but from a movie. The second meeting between Egwene al’Vere and Elaida do Avriny a’Roihan, the confrontation that results is strikingly similar to the climax of A Few Good Men, right up to the spectacular collapse of both antagonists. You can’t handle the truth, indeed! Unfortunately the ends to these confrontations are in contrast.

And that’s not speaking of the echoes within The Wheel of Time itself,like Perrin Aybara, Rand al’Thor and Matrim Cauthon’s belief that each was no good at handling women and the other two were. Each time that’s mentioned, it makes me chuckle. I’m sure I can spot more similarities, more echoes when I read through the Lord of the Rings and The Wheel of Time and watch 今日から㋮王! again. For now, this will do. It feels good to write (?!) and I hope I’ll do it soon. Truly, though, the numerous threads of this tale do weave a most splendid Pattern, a Pattern that will be a joy to behold when finished! Ta!