Welcome back to the Wheel of Time Roundtable! In this weekly mini-series from Tor.com, we’ll be asking a panel of Wheel of Time experts a number of questions that look at the upcoming final volume in this long-running fantasy series: A Memory of Light.
The questions will range from the specific, to the silly, to the broad, eventually encompassing the Wheel of Time’s legacy itself.
Each week (unless it’s Thanksgiving and we are turkey-bound) a different question will be posed to our panelists, then you, the commenters, will be invited to join in.
We’ve looked at the threat of the Shadow and the threat of everybody else to figure out just what still awaits us in A Memory of Light. Now we turn past the events of the final book, to ponder the layout of The Fourth Age and beyond.
This week’s question was:
The Dragon Reborn’s battle against the Shadow heralds the end of the Wheel of Time’s Third Age. We’ve gotten hints of what the Fourth Age may entail in Towers of Midnight and a scattering of prophecies, but what else might lay in store? Is there anything you’d like to see extrapolate from the events of the series? Is there anything you wouldn’t like to see extrapolate from the events of the series, but feel pretty certain would happen anyway? Will there even be a Wheel once this is through, or will the Pattern become linear? And where are we located? Will the world suffer another Breaking, or a loss of the One Power, before our own Age comes about?
Matt Hatch: The Fourth Age has never been an obsession of mine, but that’s not to say I don’t have a few opinions about what will happen. First, in the Fourth Age there will be a Wheel and time will remain cyclical; while the discussion is a fun one to have and one that will continue to be had over the coming decades of new readers, Jordan did not intend for this to be the moment for the cyclical nature of time to come to an end. Yes, it would be cool. No, it’s not going to happen.
Leigh Butler: None of this “time goes linear” nonsense. There will always be a Wheel in the WOTverse, what, are you mad? It’s like proposing Star Wars without Wookies! Sheesh.
Unless I’m wrong, of course, in which case I was kidding. Yup.
Matt Hatch: Second, the One Power will continue into the Fourth Age; while the ability to access the One Power will be lost at some point in the future/past, channelers and channeling will persist in the coming Age. Although, I do enjoy the idea of a cataclysm of a future Age based on some event or events that bring about the end of channeling ushering in our own Age.
Leigh Butler: It’s been a long-standing speculation among the fans that the end of the Third Age will be demarcated by the end of humanity’s access to the One Power. After all, we know the WOT version of magic has to get “lost” at some point, since our own decidedly magic-free Age is part of the cycle, and I seem to recall that it was implied somewhere that the Age of Legends was defined by the rediscovery of that magic (though that could just be fan speculation as well, I can’t remember for sure).
This idea, while a tad depressing, always made a certain elegant sense in my opinion, because it seems to me that the loss of the ability to channel would be one of the few things that might be a sufficient price to pay in order to seal Mr. Ultimate Evil back in his can. It’s not like anyone can reasonably expect saving the world to come cheap, after all. Another Breaking would suck, sure, but the loss of magic, now that’s a sacrifice.
Aviendha’s visions in ToM seemed to put the kibosh on that speculation, true, but again it’s worth pointing out that the future she saw is still only a possible one, that may yet be averted. So the possibility is still up in the air as far as I am concerned. I don’t like it, exactly, but it makes sense, both in a plot sense and in a meta sense, if that makes any, er, sense.
Jason Denzel: I generally remain pretty conservative when it comes to crazy WoT theories, but I admit I’m fond of the one that states the One Power will be lost. The way I see it, the world is heading into a series of Ages that are all about industry and technology. I’ve always thought of the 7th and final Age as being the one where technology had advanced so much that humanity loses sight of the One Power. It’s then up to the Dragon to re-discover channeling altogether.
So I think the 4th Age will be the beginning of that decline. Perhaps we’ll see an aggressive turn in the metaphysics of the world: maybe the whole world becomes a stedding: a place where people can sense the True Source, but cannot touch it. Maybe that’s the cost of winning the Last Battle?
Jennifer Liang: Well, it’s safe to say that SOMETHING survives, otherwise we wouldn’t have all those nifty epigrams from the Fourth Age scattered about. However, those are just vague hints that confirm nothing but the survival of humanity. We’re far more interested in the fates of our favorite characters.
Two weeks ago I said that the Pattern was throwing Rand’s friends into positions of power and authority as much to prepare the world for what comes next as it is to assist Rand with whatever he has to do at Shayol Ghul. We start to see the shape of what might come next in the moves Elayne and Egwene start making in Towers of Midnight. Not only does Elayne cement her rule in Andor, but she makes the play for Cairhien and starts a formal alliance with the remnants of the Kin.
This is in addition to her “bargain” with the Seafolk. Altogether, these deals give the citizenry of Andor (and soon Cairhien) access to channelers in a way not seen since the Age of Legends. Egwene is making similar moves to ally the female channelers of the world together. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that she might eventually overcome the deeply ingrained distrust of male channelers and create some sort of alliance with the Black Tower in the future.
They’ll need it, because the Seanchan are a problem that just won’t go away. They aren’t going home any time soon, and the occupied territories on this side of the Aryth are the most stable portions of Randland currently. Avi’s vision of a possible future makes it seem certain the Seanchan will be an issue in Randland for years.
Of course, all these alliances of channelers against enslaved channelers might be moot, if, as many have theorized, channeling itself disappears after the Last Battle. Then new technologies like Aludra’s Dragons and whatever Rand’s schools are cooking up will suddenly become much, much more important.
Jason Denzel: I don’t think we’ll actually SEE much of the Fourth Age, however. I strongly suspect that Avhienda’s visions of the future will be as forward as we get to see in this series. Based on that, it seems like we only saw several hundred years into the Age. Things may be far more different at the end of the 4th than what we saw. To give you an idea of what I mean, think of how the year 200 AB (After Breaking) is a vastly different place than the year 1001 NE (New era) where the story is currently taking place.
Matt Hatch: I think the Bore will be sealed in some way that will create a point of thinness in the Pattern, something that will go undetected for many Ages. Finally, in the Fourth Age the followers of the Dark One will dwindle and disappear almost completely thanks to a concerted effort to eradicate followers of the Dark One from every corner of the world and the lack of his direct influence on the world.
Leigh Butler: Our Age, by the way, is not the Fourth Age, I’m pretty sure. In fact I seem to recall Jordan stated that outright at some point, but I could be just losing my mind. Assuming I’m right, I don’t know where we would fall in the cycle exactly, but my completely wild-assed and based-on-vague-and-possibly-insane-aesthetic-values guess would be that we would fall as equidistant from the Second through the Fourth Ages as possible. So, Sixth or Seventh Age. And after
tossing a coin careful consideration, the Sixth Age is my hanging-chad-laden vote. Go Sixers!
Jason Denzel: In the end, I think it’s part of Robert Jordan’s vision for us to all imagine what the other Ages are. He’s laid the groundwork for us to each craft in our imaginations a vision of what the future...and distant past... look like. Also, on that note, I wonder what the NEXT instance of the 3rd Age will be like? Assuming, of course, that the world survives past the Last Battle....
We’ll close on that note this week. (Love the idea of Andor locking down channeling AND technology. Elayne has never been more hardcore.) Chime in below with your own speculation as to post (and eventually pre-) Memory of Light events.
Check back with us next week as we talk about scenes we’d really like to see in the final book.
Jason Denzel heads the internet’s premiere comprehensive Wheel of Time fansite: Dragonmount.
Matt Hatch heads the Wheel of Time online think tank: Theoryland.
Jennifer Liang work with Dragonmount, is the chair for JordanCon, and the director of Wheel of Time content at DragonCon. She also hosts the Wheel of Time Tor.com Facebook and Twitter portals, both of which aggregate Wheel of Time content across the web.