Writing Wednesday: Lost in Translation of The Wheel of Time

Last Week’s Goals

My blog entries were all posted on schedule. All my submissions were returned to markets as soon as they arrived home. There is a market sitting on two of my submissions now (they allow multiple submissions.) By Literarium’s calculations (and my own) they are overdue to reply on both, but it’s possible that they are one of those sites that will contact an author if they want to buy a story, but doesn’t bother to let authors know that they’ve been rejected – it would be  nice if they had the courtesy to either send an email to that effect, or offer a link to check submission status.

I wrote on six days but only made my daily quota on two of them. I again failed to make my weekly quota, with only 2,239 words of fiction on the draft of Swordsmaster #3 (currently 6,693 words.)


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So, About Translation and The Wheels of Time

When I was about to return to work on Swordsmaster #2 (and #3) I began re-listening to Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. There were two reasons for this – firstly, because the tone of Jordan’s work is so close to what I’m trying to maintain in Swordsmaster that I didn’t feel it would negatively affect my work.

The second reason was the anticipated arrival of Amazon’s episodic version of The Wheel of Time; I wanted the series fresh in my mind when I watched it.

It can be hard to watch the video treatment of a book you love. Of course, any audience will consider the version and medium in which they first experienced a work as the “original” against which they judge all others.

When I was in college back in the… many, many, many years ago, one of my professors explained the difficulties of translation in a discussion of the Marx Brothers movie “Duck Soup. There’s a routine where a play on words is made using the similarities in English between “Why a duck?” and “Viaduct.” When translating the film to German, a literal translation would pair “Warum eine Ente?“ with “Viadukt“ – no similarity in sound, and so the humor is lost in translation. Translating the actual feel of the exchange requires a non-literal translation (sorry – I don’t know what the German version wound up with – feel free to post in the comments if you know.)

I am not a purist. I’m willing to accept changes to a story I like when it moves to another format if those changes help with the translation. You see, moving a piece of literature to video is as much a form of translation as moving from one language to another.

There are things that work well in literature, but are very hard to do in film, such as showing what a character is thinking. At the same time, there are things that film is good at – showing and establishing settings, for one thing (a picture is worth a thousand words.) There is also the issue a film-maker needs to deal with of how to compress a huge story into something viewable.

There were many changes in Peter Jackson’s treatment of J.R.R.Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but with very few exceptions I was willing to accept them as necessary to move from one medium to another (and to compress what was a very lengthy piece of literature.) Jackson’s visual treatment of the film managed to capture the tone and feel of what I remembered of my dozen or so readings of the trilogy, and that helped me accept the movies – I actually liked both equally.

So – to Amazon’s The Wheel of Time. There may be spoilers here, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

To start off, the changes were jarring for me. Emond’s Field is a much darker and primitive place than in the books. The main characters have been aged to twenty instead of the sixteen or seventeen they were (I suspect this was because the creators wanted to do more “mature” activities with the protagonists.) Perrin has a wife. Moiraine and Lan are there, but Thom Merrilin isn’t there at all, and appears so briefly a few episodes in that if you didn’t know Jordan’s story, you wouldn’t care that he was there at all.

Moiraine is looking for the Dragon Reborn, but now she thinks it could be one of FOUR people – including Egwene, in what feels like a bowing to the need for there to be a female inserted whether in the original or not (mind you, there are tons of strong women in the original, maybe even more women than men.) In yet another bow to current pop (or should I say woke) culture, Moiraine and Siuan are in a lesbian relationship, which is particularly odd considering their relationships with men in the books, and the mention that Moiraine was not jealous of the women who threw themselves at Lan. Both of these changes clouded the story for me – they added nothing except for the all too common bow to wokeness.

There are other changes that have compressed travel, eliminated tons of settings, and the activities that happened in them have been redistributed and reordered. These changes may have been necessary because – let’s face it – how long will Amazon be able to keep a series going that ran through fourteen plus books? Aside from being disappointed that things are being skipped over, I can understand that sort of change (and it does add a little intrigue, trying to figure out what else they’re going to change – I’ve even wondered if they’d chosen to kill off a couple of major characters already, which wouldn’t have been a possibility if they stuck to the exact story.)

I’m caught up with what’s been aired so far, and I’m waiting to continue with the next Friday episode release. Regardless of my disappointments and annoyances, they do have me caring about the characters, and I will watch for a while longer. I just hope I don’t wind up just watching out of obligation (like I did when Ralph Bakshi’s dreadful The Lord of the Rings hit the theaters those many, many, many years ago.)

I’d rather be watching because the show is good, not because of my loyalty to te work of Jordan and Sanderson. Just saying…

Current Book Promotions

In a Flash Detective Jimmy Delaney eBook CoverPurrMission-MainTall_025For information on my current promotions (including FREE starter eBooks for my Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire series and my Detective Jimmy Delaney series and the release weekend of Ups and Downs: Detective Jimmy Delaney Collection #3), look HERE on my CURRENT BOOK PROMOTIONS page.

Reaching Out

William Mangieri’s writing has been published on Daily Science Fiction and The Arcanist. His ninety or so short stories and related collections can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:

Want to help me make a go of this writing gig WITHOUT IT COSTING YOU A PENNY? I’m in the Amazon Affiliates program, so any time you click one of the links I provide here to my books on Amazon, and then make a purchase of something like, say, a TV, I get a small percentage of Amazon’s profit. So PLEASE consider using one of my links to get to Amazon before you make that next purchase. Thanx!


or on twitter: @WilliaMangieri

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