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2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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Amongst others. Any group that believes to know the Truth with a capital T and want you to believe the same. Mostly it's based on groups like the Teutonic Knights, however, since they don't hide behind anything. The Church in the early Christian days, like the Taliban now, are people who know the Truth, and they will kill you if you don't believe the truth.
He did not pick up bits and pieces of groups like the Ku Klux Klan, but the Whitecloaks are simply that, a group of people who know the truth, Veritas.
The Seanchan also are the melting of things that have come from many different human cultures to make their culture. There have been many rigid stratified, rigidly hierarchical cultures. It's a very human thing. The concept of being able to climb above your station is a relatively new one in human culture. You were born where you were born for a reason, and that is the place you will stay, that has been the norm for human culture, for most of history.
I mean, even the groups...the Whitecloaks are the people who know the truth. Not just truth, they know Truth, they know Veritas, they know Truth with a capital T, they're the Taliban, the Ku Klux Klan, they're the people who know the truth and you must believe their truth or they will kill you. but they're not the Taliban, they're not the Teutonic Knights, they're not the Ku Klux Klan. They are simply that concept.
For Children of the Light, the Whitecloaks were inspired by the Inquisition, the SS, the Teutonic Knights and others. In fact, they were inspired by all those groups who say, "We know the truth. It is the only truth. You will believe it, or we will kill you."
Perrin is my favorite character in the series, and has been since I was a youth. Like many readers, I was frustrated by his choices through the later books, though the writer in me really appreciated Robert Jordan's skillful guidance of the character. The problems Perrin confronted (sometimes poorly) highlighted his uncomfortable relationship with the wolves, his unwillingness to cut himself a break, and his ability to devote himself so utterly to one task that everything else vanished. (As a note, I feel this is one of the major things that made me empathize with Perrin for all those years. Of the main characters, he is the only artist. However, he's an artist like me—a focused project builder. A craftsman.)
Though I wanted to be careful not to overdo the concept, one of my goals in these last few books was to bring back ideas and conflicts from the first books—creating parallels and emphasizing the cyclical nature of the Wheel of Time. Again, this was dangerous. I didn't want these books to become a series of in-jokes, homages, and repetitions.
However, there are places where it was not only appropriate, but vital that we return to these themes. I felt one of those involved the Whitecloaks and Perrin, specifically the two Children of the Light he had killed during his clash with them in the very first book. This was a tricky sequence to plot. I wanted Perrin to manifest leadership in a way different from Rand or Egwene. Robert Jordan instructed that Perrin become a king, and I loved this plot arc for him—but in beginning it with the Whitecloaks, I threatened to leave Perrin weak and passive as a character. Of all the sequences in the books, I struggled with this one the most—mostly because of my own aspirations, goals, and dreams for what Perrin could become.
His plot is my favorite of the four for those reasons.
I had other goals for Perrin in this book. His experiences in the Wolf Dream needed to return, I felt, and push toward a final climax in the Last Hunt. This meant returning to a confrontation with Slayer, a mirrored character to Perrin with a dual nature. I wanted to highlight Perrin's instinctive use of his powers, as a contrast to the thoughtful, learned use of power represented by Egwene. People have asked if I think Perrin is better at Tel'aran'rhiod than Egwene. I don't think he is, the balefire-bending scene notwithstanding. They represent two sides of a coin, instinct and learning. In some cases Perrin will be more capable, and in others Egwene will shine.
The forging of Perrin's hammer, the death of Hopper, and the wounding of Perrin in the leg (which is mythologically significant) were in my narrative plan for him from the get-go. However, weaving them all together involved a lot of head/wall-bashing. I wanted a significance to Perrin's interactions with the Way of the Leaf as well, and to build a rapport between him and Galad—in my reads of the characters, I felt they would make for unlikely friends.
Of all the major plot sequences in the books, Perrin's was the one where I had the most freedom—but also the most danger of straying too far from Robert Jordan's vision for who the character should be. His instructions for Perrin focused almost entirely on the person Perrin would be after the Last Battle, with little or no direction on how to bring him there. Perrin was fully in my hands, and I wanted to take extra care to guide my favorite character toward the ending.
I will note, by the way, that Verin's interaction with Egwene in The Gathering Storm was my biggest surprise from the notes. My second biggest was the Thom/Moiraine engagement. Robert Jordan wrote that scene, and I was surprised to read it. (As I said, though I loved and had read the books, there are plenty of fans who were bigger fans than myself—and to them, this was no surprise.) I didn't pick up the subtle hints of a relationship between the two of them until my reread following my getting the notes.