Well…This is Embarrassing
Greeting to all the 5 people who might possibly read this blog. Well, like the title suggests, I have not been that successful in posting regularly. Though this may be my second posting for 2020, it will not be the last.
2020 as a year needs no introduction. Covid-19 and the U.S. Presidential Elections are each too much of a dumpster fire to require my commentary. All I care to say about Covid is that as a student of history, in my wildest dreams I never envisioned living through a situation like we now see. As for the presidential elections, every election I have ever voted in, the candidate I voted for did not become president. So, I have voted for democratic as well as republican candidates. And it is a shame that those are the only real options that are given to the citizens of the U.S. But enough about the apocalypse.
In previous blogs, I have mentioned how Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series (WOT) has had a lasting impactful influence on my view of the fantasy genre and my philosophy as a writer. (Even though the last book of the WOT, A Memory of Light, was published in 2013 I feel the need to put in a SPOILER ALERT) I began reading these books while I was in high school and immediately became captivated with the intricately detailed world Jordan had built. Not only are there dozens of main characters, but dozens if not hundreds of supporting characters. And it is my thesis that one of these side characters or arguably main characters and not Rand, Ewgene, Mat, Perrin, Moiraine, or Lan are the most important. Who is this character who is responsible for the saving and redemption of all of humankind? Is it a king, a queen, a great general, Aes Sedai, or even a wealthy merchant? No, try an unassuming, hard-working, family man from Two Rivers, a small town in the west of Andor. A farmer and sheep herder by profession, Tam al’Thor is the unsung hero of the entire WOT.
Jordan was the master of allegory and metaphor, and so it is now coincidence that Rand al’Thor The Dragon Reborn, a Christ-like figure, would have a shepherd as a father. Tam’s background in the few several books of the series is vague. However, as the series progresses, the true greatness of Tam fully emerges.
Tam is an unassuming man who years after the death of his wife, Kari al’Thor, remains unmarried and forever faithful to her memory and to the son they raised together. Everything Tam knew about life, farming, archery, living off the land, and the Void Tam taught to Rand without reservation. Most of all, Tam raised Rand to be a good and unselfish person. Countless times throughout WOT, Rand reaches into his inner being for the lessons that Tam had taught him with unwavering love.
As the main characters make it out into the wider world and as that same world descends into chaos and destruction, Tam is a foundation of stone for all who encounter him. With each book we learn more about Tam’s background. The young man who left the Two Rivers to find adventure would become a soldier and hero. A man who would find love and personal tragedy and become a heron blade master. And on the slopes of Tar Valon, in the carnage of war and death, find a lone babe and give that child his own name.
Tam’s exploits in the later WOT books are nothing more than heroic. At every fork in the road or dire circumstance Tam always rose for the occasion. Fight Trollocs to save his son, sure. Lead the Defense of the Two Rivers, certainly. Give counsel to Rand in his darkest moments, what else would you expect a father to do? How about being a general for the forces of Light for The Last Battle? Is he not Tam al’Thor?
By all accounts Tam was a real badass before WOT and during the series. His role was indispensable for the forces of Light. Tam’s pre-fatherhood exploits would make for a fantastic epic series in their own right. But Tam’s greatest contribution was not being a stoic warrior or general.
I would argue that the outcome of Tarmon Gai’don (The Last Battle) was decided long before the first pages of The Eye of the World (First WOT book). Tarmon Gai’don was decided when the unassuming blade master found the orphaned babe in the snow on the slopes of Dragon mount and brought him home to the Two Rivers. Isolated from much of the world, Tam and Kari al’Thor gave Rand a loving home and instilled in him the virtues of truth; honesty; hard work; and most of all love. Rand even admitted himself, as the Dragon Reborn, he had to come back this time and “do things the right way.” That right way was instilled by Tam during long days in the fields tending to herds and living a simple yet honest country life. Rand knew what it was to work hard for something and what it meant to love and be loved.
Despite all that occurred in the WOT, Tam never waivered in his love and devotion to his son. Even if Rand happened to be the Dragon Reborn and was practically speaking a King of Kings, he was still the son of Tam al’Thor. The battle of Light over the Dark One was not won by skill of arms, but because a righteous man taught Rand what love really meant.
I apologize if I gave too much away in this post. However, the WOT is 14 very large books long so there is plenty I have not gone into detail here. If you ever decide to read WOT, I promise you will not be disappointed. It was as I read the final pages of WOT that I truly realized my appreciation for Tam al’Thor. As a man he endured and lost much in his life. But he never wavered in his love for his son. And that love was the salvation for the world.