A Map Of The Wheel

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age...

But you all know the rest. Time in Jordan’s books is pictured either as a serpent biting its own tail, or as a wheel with seven spokes corresponding to the seven Ages. In either case, time is clearly circular rather than linear, and on the large scale there is no difference between past and future.

What we actually know about the Ages is as follows:

- The action in the books takes place in the Third Age.

- The Third Age began after the Breaking, which ended what is now called the Age of Legends.

- Thom tells stories of ‘the Age before the Age of Legends’ which sound like distorted tales of our own time:

“Tell us about Lenn,” Egwene called. “How he flew to the moon in the belly of an eagle made of fire. Tell about his daughter Salya walking among the stars."

“Tales of Mosk the Giant, with his lance of fire that could reach around the world, and his wars with Alsbet, Queen of All. Tales of Materese the Healer, Mother of the Wondrous Ind."

- Many people believe that a new Age will begin after Tarmon Gai’don.

- Several of the passages at the beginning and end of each book are histories written in the Fourth Age, which is apparently very different from the Third Age.

And that’s all we know. Given all that, I am now going to present a conjecture of how the Ages come and pass and what happens in each - a map of the Wheel of Time.

The Big Bang: the First Age begins

The Creator makes the universe and imprisons the Dark One. The Big Bang occurs, and everything develops from there, leading eventually to the development of life, Homo sapiens sapiens, and our present culture.

Armageddon: the First Age ends, the Second Age begins

Our Age ends, not too far from now, in nuclear war which brings the almost total destruction of modern civilisation. New cultures emerge and the One Power makes an appearance. Eventually, civilisation builds up to what is remembered as the Age of Legends.

The Breaking: the Second Age ends, the Third Age begins

Just about everyone already knows this. Once again, almost total destruction of civilisation, which begins again at a much lower level. The seals weaken and the Dark slowly gains a foothold on the world. Channeling begins to decline due to the taint on saidin. This is the shortest of the known Ages, when most of the known Prophecies are spoken. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. This suggests that this is the ‘critical’ Age, in which the Dark One may break free; in the rest this possibility does not arise.

Tarmon Gai’don: the Third Age ends, the Fourth Age begins

The Dark One is re-imprisoned and the Shadow driven back. The taint on saidin is cleansed, the decline in channeling stops and reverses, new Talents appear, and technology develops exponentially. Naturally, one of the favourite topics for histories and books is the last Age and the Last Battle.


In other words, a large gap. Almost nothing is known of the Fifth or Sixth Ages, save that each will (and did) begin and end in a catastrophic event. Technology will make enormous strides, and most likely people will spread into space, evolve drastically, meet alien races, and everything else that happens in science fiction. The Dark One may, or may not, be partially freed again. Channeling may, or may not, disappear. In the Seventh Age, entropy will take over and the universe will begin to die, culminating in:

The Great Crunch: the Seventh Age ends, the First Age begins

The end of the universe, when the Dark One will finally be freed. The Creator will then re-imprison it and re-make the universe, another Big Bang beginning the First Age anew. And so on.

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow. 

I was recently pointed in the direction of two Jordan quotes which seem to ruin this theory as currently stated. Both say that the memories/myths go both ways - so that the Third Age is the source of stories from the First, as well as vice versa. This does contradict my idea of repeated creation and total destruction.

However, I still stand by it. Why? Because there are no beginnings or endings to the Wheel of Time - or rather, while there may be many beginnings, there is no Beginning. The Creator is stated to have created the universe. Now if that only happened once, then it is most definitely a Beginning with a capital B. The only way to reconcile these two statements is to suppose an infinite number of creations, and thus an infinite number of destructions.

My theory then needs some way of retaining memories over the course of these cycles of creation and destruction. Now this may sound like a tough proposal, but I do have a suggestion. The souls of the Heroes of the Horn clearly stay constant - held in Tel'aran'rhiod, which is a separate universe, in a way, and thus may not follow the cycle. All we need to do, then, is suppose that the Heroes are the ones who tell the stories. While they don't usually remember their previous lives, they probably do have occasional glimmers of memory which they may interpret as inspiration or ideas for a tale.

Raina's Hold / Raina's Library / Raina's Library - Essays