“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.” Robert Jordan
Last September, I started reading a 15-novel fantasy/fiction series called The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. Last night, I finished. That’s fifteen novels in about 7 months – about two per month. All but one were over 600 pages, meaning I read at least 9000 pages – probably more like 10,000. Who knows how many hours have been given to this one very long story.
If you are interested, I’ll let you look into The Wheel of Time for yourself. I’m certainly not going to attempt to recap a 15-novel series and seven months of reading in a single blog post! I will share that The Wheel of Time is like all of the great epic stories – good vs. evil, heroes and villains, danger and unpredictable outcomes, plot twists and turns, and ultimately a climactic event that points to a future beyond the story’s dramatic conclusion. Most important, of course, are the characters themselves. And, with all great stories, those characters become part of you. To one degree or another, they became your friends.
For the last seven months, I’ve journeyed with Rand, Mattrim, Perrin, Egwene, Morraine, Lan, Lloial, Thom, Nanieve, Elayne, Avienda, and many others. I’ve fought beside them. I’ve worried for their safety. I’ve been frustrated by choices they’ve made. And, especially in the last few chapters, I’ve mourned some of their deaths.
Actually, last night, as I finished the final page, closed the book, and set it on the shelf, signifying the close of the this literary chapter of my life, I mourned the story ending, and that I won’t be spending time with these characters – my friends – any more. They are part of me now, and I’m not ready to let them go.
Of course I can read the novels again, someday, and I likely will. But, I’ve felt the same about many fictional characters. Over the years, and through the pages, characters have become part of me – King Arthur and Robin Hood; Frodo Baggins, Gandalf, and Aragorn; Harry Potter, Dumbledore, and Hagrid; Beatrice and Tobias; Katniss, Peta and Gail; Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent; Jon Snow and Eddard Stark; Jon and Nick Darrow and Charles Ashworth; and so many, many others.
One of my favorite novels is Steinbeck’s, East of Eden and one my favorite fictional character’s is Samuel Hamilton. Samuel is an endearing, wise good-hearted, imperfect patriarch. I remember weeping (maybe sobbing) when he died – a fictional death, of course. But, nevertheless, my friend and mentor was gone.
That’s how great stories are – they engage you, draw you into the drama, and the characters become real. The story becomes part of you, and I suppose, in some way you become part of the story.
There’s another story like that. It too is full of intrigue, conflict, heroes and villains, good versus evil, plot development, and great characters. Some of those characters have also become part of me through the years – Adam, Joseph, Samuel, Ruth, David, Elijah, Jeremiah, Esther, Amos, a pair of Johns, Peter, James, Paul, and, one man in particular, named Jesus. There are others who have become part of their story too – St. Augustine, St. Patrick, St. Francis, St. Aelred, John Wesley, Oscar Romero, Mother Teresa, and so many others. They’ve inspired me, challenged me, confused me, frustrated me, disappointed me, and invited me to join the story, walking with me on my own epic journey, shaping my story page by page, chapter by chapter, sentence by sentence, word by word.
But, there is one big difference – THIS story, and THESE characters aren’t works of fiction. They are real and they are alive, and one day I will know them face to face. If fictional characters can affect me so deeply, I suspect these men and women can do so even more.
So, last night I said goodbye to some dear friends from The Wheel of Time, who I may or may not visit again in the future. I will always remember them, to one degree or another. But, this other story and these other friends, well, they will continue to be with me, in a very permanent way, today, tomorrow, and forever more!