Thus Spake The Creator

Themes of the WoT

Quote from RJ: There are a number of themes that run through the series. There's the good old basic struggle between good and evil, with an emphasis on the difficulty in recognizing what is god and what is evil. There's also the difficulty in deciding how far you can go in fighting evil. I like to think of it as a scale. At one end you hold purely to your own ideals no matter what the cost, with the result that possibly evil wins. At the other end, you do anything and everything to win, with the result that maybe it doesn't make much difference whether you've won or evil has won. There has to be some sort of balance found in the middle, and it's very difficult to find.
Another recurring theme is lack of information, and the mutability of information. No one knows everything. Everyone has to operate on incomplete knowledge, and quite often they know they are operating on incomplete knowledge, but they still have to make decisions. The reader quite often knows that the reason why a character is doing something is totally erroneous, but it's still the best information that the character in the book has. I like to explore the changeability of knowledge, the way that, in the beginning, charactes see things in one way, and as they grow and learn more, we and they find out that what they knew as the truth wasn't necessarily the whole truth. Sometimes it's hardly the truth at all. When Rand and the rest first met Moiraine, they saw her as an Aes Sedai, and they thought of her as being practically omnipotent. It's only as they go along that they begin to find out that the Aes Sedai have limits. In the beginning everyone says the White Tower makes thrones dance and kings and queens play at their command, but the characters begin to find out that, yes, the White Tower has certainly manipulated a lot of thrones, but it's hardly all-powerful. Characters learn more about the truth as time goes on, and sometimes found out that what they knew before was only the first layer of the onion. That's a major theme, really, in the whole series, that changeability - the way something starts out seeming to be one simple thing, and slowly it is revealed to have a number of very complex layers.
But for all the grand events and great hoop-la and whoop-de-do going on, the things that really interest me more than anything else are the characters themselves. How they change. How they don't change. How they relate to each other. The people fascinate me. And, of course, there are things happening that major characters sometimes don't even see, and the reader sometimes does. There's a lot going on beneath the surface that major characters don't realize, despite the fact that they do see a lot of what seems very furious activity.

Q: Of the many themes that occur throughout your books, which do you consider the most important? 
A: I think that's for the reader t decide. I like to put things out there and let the readers absorb them as they will. One of the things that has happened that I rather enjoyed was listening to some people talk as they waited for me to sign books... they were discussing the books, then change dthe subject, and, without meaning to, were discussing what I consider one o f the subjects of the books..that was very gratifying. 

Q: A recurring motif in the Wheel of Time series is the differences between men and women. Why did you decide to make this such an important feature in your writings, and why do you take such a bipolar view on gender?
A: I became fascinated with women at the age of three. It's a long story -- too long to go into here. But I quickly realized that for everything that was the same about men and women, there seemed to be at least two or three things that were different. Once I had decided that I wanted to use the One Power in the way that I was using it -- that is, divided into a male half and a female half -- it became obvious to me that the differences between men and women themselves should also play a part.

Q: Some people have found so much depth to your books, that they've claimed you've attempted to start a new philisophical movement, or even a new religion, with the Wheel of Time. What have you set out to do with the Wheel of Time?
A: I'm not trying to create a philosophy, I'm not trying to create a religion. If people think that, they're missing the point.
What I'm primarily trying to do is tell a story. If I get to ask you a few questions along the way, that's good. And if I don't get to ask you a few questions, that's good also. If there are any messages it's that everybody has to struggle against evil, as opposed to good. Because you can't depend on a few heroes to take care of it. If you depend on heroes, evil's gonna win. Also, how it's not easy to tell the difference between bad and good sometimes. Sometimes you think a course of action is the right thing to do. And if you do it and a few million people starve to death somewhere, was it really the right thing to do? Unintended consequences too: every action you take will have at least two results that you never intended and one of them will be a result that you really didn't want. You have to contend with that under all circumstances. You can never figure out all consequences of what you do, and you can't stop them because of that. I'm fascinated by these ideas.

Q: What do you hope readers will gain from reading your novels?                      
A: I do hope that people will occasionally think about "the right thing to do," about right behavior and wrong, after reading one of my books. I certainly don't try to tell them what right behavior is, only to make them think and consider. But mainly, I just want to tell a story. In this case about ordinary people pushed into extraordinary events and forced to grow and change whether they want to or not, sometimes in ways they never expected and certainly wouldn't have picked out given a choice. I am a storyteller, after all, and the job of a storyteller is to entertain. Anything else is icing on the cake. 

Q: What would happen if the Dark One was victorious? And why can the Dark One act on the world but it seems the Creator cannot?
A: Read and find out. It's a good question, and an important theme -- but read and find out.

Q: What do you want readers to see in your books?
A: A good story

Do you have an underlying purpose with your books? Something other than to entertain?
Of course. You always like to write about things, talking about things. The primary goal is always for it to be a good story, to entertain, but at the same time, it would be very nice if you’re able to make people think about certain things, in my case the whole notion of right and wrong, good and evil. There is a popular view today, that, right and wrong are simply two sides of a coin. Dependant, looking in the mirror in different angles. It all depends. It comes from the modern misinterpretation of situational ethics. Today there are no ethical rules, there are no ethical standards. Dues are all because they hold the law. Fact is, there is right, there is wrong. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference, sometimes it’s very easy to tell the difference. Sometimes you study very closely for what is the right thing to do here, and you still make the wrong choice. But even if it’s hard to find the difference, even if you realize later that you made the wrong choice, it’s worth the effort to try. I have some basic rules in my life. I try not to cause harm, to anyone, unintentionally. I try not to give offense to anyone, unintentionally. There are many people who offend, not because it’s intentional necessarily, but because they can’t be bothered not to. There are many people who cause harm, because the can’t be bothered not to. I don’t mean that they go around beating people in the streets, necessarily, but, they harm people, in many various ways. Simply because they can’t be bothered not to. The other people aren’t really real, real to them, no, they’re the only ones that are real. And everybody else is no more than a chequer on a board. And I’d like my readers to be more than that.

Reports from signings

The major theme he tried to put forward in the WoT books he saw as the nature of information: "Information changes, over time, distance and perception. Only way to see the truth is to oneself experience the event, but even then every person percieves it differently". Knowledge and information has an inherent mutability. The example he brought up was Birgitte's _living_ of the history, apart from reading it, and the very different views it brought.

Raina's Hold / Thus Spake The Creator - Index