This is how Robert Jordan built ‘The Wheel of Time’

In his new book Origins of the wheel of timeHistorian Michael Livingston explores the real-world myths and legends that Robert Jordan used to build his epic fantasy series. the wheel of time. Those influences include characters and motifs from Europe, West Africa, the Middle East, and Japan, among others.

“He’s not confined by any means,” Livingston says in episode 532 of the Geek Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “He has no railings. The world is his oyster, because literally everything can be part of it. the wheel of time. It’s an amazing kind of thing to try to do.”

Livingston lives in Charleston, South Carolina, and teaches at The Citadel, which gives him an advantage when it comes to investigating Jordan, who attended The Citadel and lived in Charleston for most of his life. “Living here and working in the place where he went to school and that meant a lot to him as an alma mater, that was definitely a huge plus,” Livingston says. “When I’m reading the books and I see the name of an inn, I think: ‘That’s the pub next to his house. I know that place.’”

What the wheel of time Expanded to over 10 volumes, Jordan was often accused of deliberately stuffing the series. But Livingston found nothing in the author’s voluminous notes to suggest that this was the case. “I understand that cynicism, but it’s not really fixed in reality,” he says. “They weren’t, then or now, trying to get more dollars out of the fans. He wanted to tell a story, and he wanted to do it well, and he was successful in being able to do it the way he thought was best.”

Origins of The Wheel of Time It’s already been a hit with Jordan fans, but Livingston hopes the book will reach a wider audience as well. “What I’m talking about is biography, how he did what he did, his relationship with Tolkien and just seeing how an author developed as a writer and developed a project,” she says. “Just seeing an artist at work, I hope anyway, he has a point of connection with anyone.”

Listen to the full interview with Michael Livingston on Episode 532 of Geek Guide to the Galaxy (up). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

michael livingston in Origins of the wheel of time:

We pitched it to the heirs, Jordan’s widow and former publisher Harriet. I sent the email expecting not, “No, you can’t do this,” and instead was like, “I think that’s a great idea. You’re the only person who can do this, and I’ve already spoken to the head of Tor Books. , they’re waiting for it.” He went from 0 to 100 very quickly. And yeah, at that point everyone was into the thing. It was really wild to have that experience of a fully empowered [project]. He could look at anything he wanted, he could talk to whomever he wanted, and there was such a warm and welcoming openness from everyone on that side and on Tor. The copy editor who edited the copy the wheel of time books was my copy editor. We did everything we could to get everyone who knew about it to play it.

Michael Livingston at Robert Jordan’s desk:

Here in Charleston we had a book signing. It was the only real official book signing that we did, and a group of people came from literally all over the world, we had someone from England who flew in for the book signing, and I gave a little lecture, here at the school. I was like, “Man, you guys made it this far. Do you want to come see the desk? And they said yes, they would love to do that. So they all came over; there must have been about 20 people that eventually crowded the hallway, trying to take pictures. They were like, “Can we sit at the desk?” “Yes, you can sit at the desk. I do that every day.” …As a professor, it’s not an everyday occurrence that people are lining up in the hallway to take pictures of your office. It’s a bit like, “I guess I need to keep my office cleaner than other people. Now it’s a museum”.

Michael Livingston on Thermopylae:

It is a strange area geographically and has, in fact, undergone vast changes to the landscape as a result. Where the coast was in the days of Leonidas, when you go there, you can barely see the water. They are different kilometers, where the coast is. The ground he was fighting on is far below your feet. This is not just a meter down: the Middle Ages is about a meter down, the ancient world a couple of meters, this is a dozen or more meters down, due to the strange geography of that place. And that weird geography is why it was this battleground for so long, because that geography made it kind of a bottleneck. So yeah, it’s radically different today. You have to go through a considerable amount of work to try to piece that together as best we can, to try to understand what happened.

Michael Livingston on JRR Tolkien:

He says in a letter at one point, I’m paraphrasing, but he says, “As to where I got the word ‘hobbit’, I’ll leave that to future students, I don’t want to deprive them of the fun.” .” It’s like he throws down this gauntlet and everyone ignores him. … Tolkien loved to make these linguistic jokes that only those who saw behind the linguistic constructions would understand. Like the fact that he is “Theodin King”. That is the head of Rohan, “Theodin King”. Well “Theodin” means “king”, so his name is “king king”. Or “Bree Hill.” “Bree” is the word for “hill” in Welsh, making it “hill hill”. He knew it, and he thought it was hilarious, he thought it was a riot, that most people couldn’t see that, but he could see it. And the same I think is true of “hobbit” and “Bilbo Baggins” and a host of other things.

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