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Preeti Chhibber

Where Do You Belong if You Don’t Fit Anywhere? Cultural Deterioration and The Wheel of Time

Towards the end of Towers of Midnight, the penultimate volume in Robert Jordan’s epic Wheel of Time fantasy series, there are two chapters that are from Aviendha’s perspective: In them, Aviendha has gone to Rhuidean to become a Wise One among her people, the Aiel. To do this, she must walk through ter’angreal, magical constructs that will cause her to see visions; every one of them through the eyes of a different person. At first, she is a young girl, starving and trying to sneak into enemy territory to find some food. They mention carriages that don’t need horses, and light that needs no fire—presumably cars and electricity. Gradually, Aviendha realizes that she’s not seeing the world’s storied hi-tech past, but an unspecified point in the future.

The girl is shot and killed by a Seanchan soldier as she rummages through the trash for food. As she dies, they call her “Bloody Aiel.”

Aviendha is understandably confused. How could that scrawny, hungry girl be of the great warrior race Aiel? At first she refuses the reality of what she sees, but each progressive vision shows her that these are her people fallen and broken, a shadow of what they once were. And in each successive vision, Aviendha inhabits a generation (or three) closer to her own. She sees the whole train of how the Aiel end up becoming next to nothing.

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