I entered a completely new landscape in the past few days, a land where women are incredibly powerful and racism does not exist. This land exists in the new series “The Wheel of Time” on Amazon Prime. I should preface this by telling you I never enjoyed fantasy before this. I walked out of the first “Lord of the Rings” movie because I found it all so male and predictable. The “Wheel of Time” is a series of high fantasy novels by American author Robert Jordan and spans 14 volumes. The first volume “The Eye of the World”, was published in January 1990.
This high fantasy has many characters all on a quest to save their world from “the Dark One.” Set in an alternative world very unlike ours, the main characters are dynamic, compelling women who wield amazing and unpredictable powers. Filled with subtlety and rituals, I found this story to be the opposite of most fantasies in that nothing was easily predictable about their quest. First of all, the women were the wise ones and leaders in this world. They held most of the power, unlike human traditional society for the past few centuries. I found it entertaining how sexist I could be in my own mind when the women took charge and ruled the world of The Light. The characters dealt with dilemmas like women needing to mask their power in the past and how they might show no shame when they embrace their power now.
I also enjoyed the way both European and Asian mythologies are displayed, most notably the cyclical nature of time found in Buddhism and Hinduism, and the characters’ respect for nature found in Taoism. The metaphysical concepts of balance and duality are well displayed as well as a creation story where the creator is Light, not the Lord, and the “Dark One” wishes to destroy human life on earth.
I found the casting amazing in that all cultures, skin colors, and languages of people were expressed. It seemed there were no “races” in this world. They also seemed to make a point of not selecting the most beautiful or attractive for the lead roles, all were represented like life itself. So much about the casting was the opposite of traditional Hollywood practices and it struck me how surprised I was with that. I LOVED IT!
The other thing I loved was how much I learned from the characters, both men and women as I watched. For example, there is a group of travelers called “The Way of the Leaf.” They are totally non-violent and their wise woman Ila explains why. At one point in the past Ila’s daughter was killed “for sport” and she wanted revenge! Then she discovered:
“What greater revenge against violence than peace? What greater revenge against death than life? If I can change two peoples’ minds I’ve left the world better than I found it.”
The Wheel of Time created a geologically-interesting, beautifully appointed imaginary world to live in for a while with magic, subtlety and ritual, all things I was encouraged to abhor as a child. Most imaginary worlds have the same basic rules as our present world for me. They just seem too predictable. Not that portrayed in “The Wheel of Time.” I was left guessing the whole time and I loved that.