Jul 23 2009 2:43pm

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


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 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

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.

Kurt Lorey
1. Shimrod
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.

Me too! Except mine came with one of the calendars.
2. dwndrgn
Oh wow. I'm so jealous of both of you! Pull it out of that frame and make copies! Sell them on ebay! I'll be first in line ;-)
3. Jeff R.
But was there an inset sub-map of the Royal Baths to convince us that something was actually happening during those ninety pages...?
Pam K
4. PamK
I always preferred the original Randland map, with the illustrations around it, to the later one. It looks more like something that would be from the WOT universe, you know?

And since we are bragging, I have *that* one as a poster. Somewhere.
John Fitzingo
5. Xandar01
Can't remember where I found it (earlier this year even), but I love the theory discussion of how WOT planet is Earth very far into the future. The Aryth ocean would be the Atlantic, land of madmen is Austalia, Shara is India or southern tip of Africa. Hmmm, where did I find that stuff?
Luke M
6. lmelior
Wow, those Thirteenth Depository maps are fantastic. I just wish they kept tagging their posts with maps appropriately. The only posts with the "Maps" tag are posts with maps of Andor and Shienar. Meanwhile the newest post has a beautiful rendition of Emond's Field, and that Caemlyn map is buried in some post I haven't yet seen. The articles look interesting too. One of these days I'm going to read through the site and collect those maps.

EDIT: Hmm, ask and ye shall receive? There are now ten posts tagged with "Maps," though I still can't find that Caemlyn one (would like to read it, too). Coulda swore there were only two before. Hmmm, perhaps I was reading in binary.
craig thrift
7. gagecreedlives
So Australia = the land of the madmen. Doesnt matter what age it is some things never change
8. Mertle
1. Shimrod
VIEW ALL BY · Thursday July 23, 2009 02:06pm EDT

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.

Me too! Except mine came with one of the calendars.

I got the map with a calendat also. It's hanging on the wall in my office.
9. Acrosstheriver
So, why exactly are we praising the Randland map? It is very pretty, to be sure. But it is a rectangle. There are mountains forming a precise right angle on two sides and the other two are coastlines with features more cute than likely. It has always seemed rather lazy to me.
John Massey
10. subwoofer
Simple is best. I always referred to the maps as a point of reference as to where they are and gives me a scale of the world. I also liked the older- OG versions as it made me think about the Seanchan or White Cloaks laying siege to TV.
Ron Garrison
11. Man-0-Manetheran
The Land of Madmen

In TGS, Rand asks Harine(?) what the sea-folk do with men who can channel. He is told that they are given the choice of either being thrown overboard or stranded on an island. While this may be more of a continent than an island, I think it is where the male channelers of the sea-folk have been dumped.
Ron Garrison
13. Man-0-Manetheran
A new theory postulated over at the TGS Spoiler board is that Demandred's whereabouts might be this Land of Madmen, and the army he brags of is made up of these male channelers.
14. DontDriveAngry
I never liked the Big White Book map- as intriguing a name as "Land of the Madmen" is, after seeing the map for the first time, I could never get my head around the fact that, we're reading about all of this important stuff that's going on, and it's all happening in what appears to be a rather tiny sliver of the world.

Sure, the Seanchan have a role, but notice that it isn't until they reach the coast of that sliver that they really are important. And maybe some Sharans/Madmen show up in the final two books, but wouldn't you think that, in light of all that's happening, and all the implications on all of creation that are likely to occur, that other people from throughout the world might somehow be involved?

I'm not saying you need a Belgariash Fellowship w/all people & places represented, but I just look at that map and can't help but come to the conclusion that most of the Randland World is probably completely oblivious to the fact there's any kind of 'Pockyclypse going on.

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