TT: It may surprise you to learn they are not C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald. No, those men are as far above me in the writing realm as I am above a real turtle. I may kneel at their feet and marvel, but I do not aspire to match them.
One is the author I know as Robert Jordan. I recently learned this was a pen name. It doesn’t matter. To me, he outgrew the shape of a real man a long time ago.
He may be best known for his fantasy fiction series The Wheel of Time. Not surprising. He did write 12 books about it. And therein lies my despair.
When I began reading The Wheel of Time series, I suspected this was something extraordinary. As time went on, as the books continued, as the world advanced, I knew I was in trouble.
I could never do this. I could never build a world so complete. So real. So full of people and their problems and all the sticky stuff that goes with a fantasy series.
I mean, Jordan has people-groups. Races with their own languages, clothing, customs, humor. He has maps of everything. He has names for sword-fighting moves, for goodness’ sake. A Domani woman wears see-through dresses, but an Aiel won’t be caught dead without his shoufa. You can tell the social status of a Seanchan by how much hair is shaved on which side, but for Seafolk you must look at the number of ear and nose piercings and how many medallions of which kind of precious metal hang from them.
Not only has Jordan created the world of the Third Age, where his story unfolds, but he went and created stuff for the Second Age, too, just so that when we go back in time -as we occasionally do through magical items- we have something to see.
But a world, even a detailed one, is nothing without people, the little people whose lives we follow. You know, the reason we read about all the other stuff.
And what people he has. Magicians by another name, flying frogs and flat-nosed gentle giants who build cities shaped like trees. Shepherds and blacksmiths and horse traders. Innkeepers’ daughters and village Wisdoms. Nobles and common folk. All mixing together. All trying to scrabble their own little place in the world while it crumbles around them.
Should I spend the rest of my life trying, I will never do what Jordan did.
Until I remembered I’m not Robert Jordan (I’m not Stuart Stockton, either, for that matter). I’m just me, Robynn Tolbert, writing what I know the best I know how.
I’m going to make mistakes. I’m going to fail to reach some goals and surprise myself with success on others.
I did not create the world of the Third Age. I can’t imagine writing about the same characters for more than twenty years.
I can imagine dying without my stories being told, and the thought breaks my heart a little. How must it have affected Jordan to know he was dying with his tale unfinished?
At one point near the end, the “main” main character expresses a wish to leave a legacy of more than breaking and bloodshed. He wants to establish universities in every major city and save as many of the best minds as possible for the age to come.
Was that Jordan’s dying wish, too? To pass on his knowledge? Did he understand how much his work would affect those who follow him?
I don’t know. Like Mr. Vane from George MacDonald’s Lilith, I am the sort who would rather read the book than speak with the author. I don’t know the man behind the pen name. I only know the words he wrote.
I will never forget them. How could I? They’ve been part of my life for fourteen years.
TT: And, Stuart, don’t let me down. I want the rest of Rathe’s tale, too.