Reading The Wheel of Time

Why Doesn’t Randland Have an Actual Name?

So, I know I’m rather late to the party here, but why the heck doesn’t the world of The Wheel of Time have a name?

Randland, which (I have recently learned) is what WoT fans call the continent on which our story takes place, consists of many nations bordered by named seas and named mountain ranges. There are also areas of the continent that are distinguished by their geographic features–the Blight, the Aiel Waste, Almoth Plain–and get their own names, but the continent as a whole has no designation. Nor does the area where all the kingdoms are all located, unless you count the slightly derogatory term “the wetlands,” used by the Aiel. (The Aiel are just better at naming things, really, like with “the Three Fold Land.” Each nation has a name, but that’s as far as it goes.

The people of WoT do have a concept of their world as being a distinct entity within the larger part of Creation, although I’m not sure (as of Chapter 39 of The Shadow Rising) whether they understand their world to be a planet that exists in space with other celestial bodies. It does seem likely that they do–most ancient cultures of our world were able to use astronomy and math to figure out that the Earth is round, and even estimate its circumference, and the curvature of the planet would be observable to WoT sea faring cultures, tradesmen, etc.

And of course the Aes Sedai also have the awareness of the existence of parallel worlds or planes that are distinct from their own. Not just tel’aran’rhiod, but also the mirror reality that Rand, Hurin, Loial traveled, and probably other universes or realities that one can access via Portal Stone. Plus there are the redstone doorways that lead to very strange dimensions that are nothing like those of Randland, which are populated by strange beings and where the laws of physics seem to work very differently. Even the Ways appear to work more like a Portal Stone universe–perhaps the Ancient Aes Sedai even knew how to create their own pocket realities.

All of that is to say that the people of Randland have an understanding that I think justifies the use of the capital W that they like to employ now and again.

And the Shadow fell upon the Land, and the World was riven stone from stone. The oceans fled, and the mountains were swallowed up, and the nations were scattered to the eight corners of the World.

–From Aleth nin Taerin alta Camora, The Breaking of the World (from the beginning of The Eye of the World)

We have also seen people use the term “earth” to mean more than just “dirt”, usually when folks are talking about who will have dominion over the world–the Light or the Shadow, the Dragon or the Dark One–as Thom Merrilin puts it in his first gleeman’s speech.

“I will tell of the Time of Madness, when Aes Sedai shattered the world; of the Trolloc Wars, when men battled Trollocs for rule of the earth; of the War of the Hundred Years, when men battled men and the nations of our day were wrought.” The Eye of The World ch. 4

There is, however no capitalization used here, as there is when we refer to the Earth, so Tom’s use of the word doesn’t necessarily indicate that it’s considered a proper name. We do know, though, that this world is supposed to be our world, albeit in a far future/far past Age. So perhaps it really is called Earth, and that name just never came up in anyone’s conversation. At all. Over the course of fourteen books.

Maybe Jordan didn’t want to have anyone actually call the planet Earth, because that would be a bit too on the nose, a bit too close to breaking the fourth wall. Personally, I’m thinking he should have called it Earth, but given us the Old Tongue name for the first several books. And then sometime in The Shadow Rising, in a moment of comedy gold, Matt could tiredly observe how strange it is that the name for the world is just “dirt.”

Upon consulting the English-to-Old-Tongue Dictionary, I have discovered that there is no stated word for dirt. There is, however, a word for earth: zhoub. So as much as I admire and respect Robert Jordan as a writer, I must officially declare that he has dropped the ball in missing the opportunity to call his world Zhoub.

Yet one shall be born to face the Shadow, born once more as he was born before and shall be born again, time without end. The Dragon shall be Reborn, and there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth at his rebirth. In sackcloth and ashes shall he clothe the people, and he shall break the world again by his coming, tearing apart all ties that bind. Like the unfettered dawn shall he blind us, and burn us, yet shall the Dragon Reborn confront the Shadow at the Last Battle, and his blood shall give us the Light. Let tears flow, O ye people of Zhoub. Weep for your salvation. section of The Karaethon Cycle (from the beginning of The Great Hunt)

Sylas K Barrett would like to make a note for all future authors of fantasy worlds: give your worlds a name, xe’s tired of having to write “the world of The Wheel of Time” over and over. Kthnxbai!

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