Wheel of Time Master Index

Beyond the Aryth Ocean: BONUS Part 4: A review of selected Wheel of Time maps

Bonus!

Welcome to the Special Bonus, “4th of Three,” All Wheel of Time, Ultra Mega Map Review Article of Dhoom!

In previous articles (here, here, and here) I shared and discussed some of my favorite fantasy-themed maps. We talked about landscapes illustrated for books, digital worlds mapped out for us to explore on the computer, and some unusual maps designed as accessories for gaming.

But now it’s time to reverse course and talk about some maps very near and dear to my heart. I guess no matter how hard I try, I’ll always come back to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Sure, I could talk about WoT all day long on Dragonmount, but I suppose this was to be expected. After all, the purpose of a good map is not only to lead you to adventure, but to guide you home.

The Westlands / “Randland”
When Robert Jordan originally wrote The Eye of the World, he did not immediately intend for it to include any maps. It was Tom Doherty who suggested that such a grand tale should have maps to go with it. Enter Ellisa Mitchell and her amazing map illustrations. This one here (courtesy of Wotmud.org) was the first color depiction of the main continent where the story takes place.

What I especially love about the main continent maps is how they evolved over time. In the first editions of the early books, the included color map was lovely and functional. As the series progressed, the map of the main continent (known affectionately by fans as “Randland” and officially, according to the short-lived d20 WoT Role Playing Game sourcebook as “the Westlands”) became more and more elaborate. Today we have this stunning painting of the land seen here:

I found a large poster of this map being given away for free at a bookstore in 1998 when The Path of Daggers was released. I snatched one up and framed it. Today, it has a prominent place on the wall of my home office.

Not only does each book feature the main continent where the story takes place, but most of the novels also contain full-page illustrations of the various nations or cities visited by the characters therein. Knife of Dreams even has a two-page spread of the city of Malden, where Perrin stages his final effort to rescue his wife.

In 1998, Tor published The World of Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time, which is a really long name for what most fans simply refer to as the Big White Book (amongst other names). One of the great things about this companion book to the series is that it contains several never-before-seen maps of lands outside of where the story takes place. In particular, it has a map of the entire world (again, courtesy of Wotmud.org):

Now if you’re a WoT fan, and that doesn’t get you going, then you’ve been gentled or stilled. Right away, the first question I have is, “What is the Land of Madmen?” That Australia-looking continent in the southeast seems to have more landmass than Randland does directly north of it. Who lives there? Besides, er, madmen? Is it a prison island for men who can channel? Are there organized civilizations there?

Then there’s the mighty Aryth Ocean itself. But if it’s so wide, why did the Seanchan sail all the way across it? Why not sail west, go around the southern tip of Shara, and land at Mayene? Berelain would have welcomed them with open arms.

Now I suspect that this map was whipped together nearly a decade after Jordan dreamed up the Seanchan’s grand Return, and, to be honest, I actually question how accurate RJ would have considered this map to be. He was never completely satisfied with new visual content in this book, and there’s also the idea that he wanted the whole Guide to be treated as if it was written by somebody from Randland itself. Something that was subject to flaw or debate. What do you think? Feel free to discuss in the comments section.

One last note on the WoT maps: We’ve seen home-brewed versions of Mitchell’s maps created by fans for various role playing games, MUD’s, and other reasons. Most recently, the exciting new WoT fan site, the Thirteenth Depository, has been publishing some stunning original maps such as this one of the city of Caemlyn:

What’s fascinating about this map is that it takes us beyond the street locations and highways, and tells a story. Specifically, it recounts the events surrounding the time of Elayne’s capture. That’s… stunning to me. I remember when Knife of Dreams was published, and some people griped that “nothing happened” in the book or “it was too boring.” To those people, I suggest you go re-read those chapters where Elayne is captured and subsequently rescued. Use this map to track your way through the events, and suddenly it becomes far, far more interesting. Check out the Thirteen Depository for other maps related to Andor and you’ll find a huge wealth of information all neatly collected and displayed in these maps.

Well that just about wraps up our map series of articles, folks. For real this time. If you are interested is creating your own fantasy maps on the computer, there are a few options out there:

  • Campaign Cartographer: Hard-core map-making software with lots of different modules. Impressive stuff, but it can get pricey if you add a lot of those modules.
  • Fractal Mapper: Not as feature-rich as Campaign Cartographer, but still a pretty nice program. (I own this one, along with its fun sister application AstroSythesis for mapping galaxies and solar systems)

Of course, you don’t need any special software! If you have a computer, just use the basic paint applications that come with it (or a free graphics application such as GIMP). And then there’s always good ol’ pen and paper. Hey, if it was good enough for explorers hundreds and thousands of years ago, then it’s good enough for us today.

I hope these articles encouraged you to dust off some old novels in search of long-lost maps, or dig through your attic looking for those outdated computer game boxes containing maps. Thanks for following along on this journey.

May you always find water and shade.

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