Tar Valon/Amadicia Comparisons
Author: Neisa Alibrylla
Often, when writers create a fictitious land and correlating cultures, the history and culture indigent to the writer plays a critical role in culture creation of the fictitious world. There are many instances in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series when Jordan used events in his cultural history as a basis for that of his fantasy creation. Tar Valon, the most powerful city in the Wheel of Time series, (henceforth known as WoT), bears a striking resemblance to the United States. Also, the WoT country of Amadicia could be reasonably based on the Former Soviet Union, and those in control in Amadicia, the Whitecloaks, are similar to the Communists who controlled the Soviet Union, and many other nations, for so long.
The city of Tar Valon is central power of the Aes Sedai, powerful women who have a large influence in the WoT. According to many, "...kings and queens are little more than puppets, serving the whims and dictates of the White Tower's hidden agendas." (pg.213, TWoRJTWoT) In many respects, Tar Valon is very similar to the United States. The United States, today, and for many years, especially since the end of World War II, has been the main power and influence in the world today. Countries ask for help and can pledge support to the United States, which in turn guarantees the future support of the US. While each individual country has their own sovereignty and rights, the interests of the US is almost always considered in many major decisions. This delicate balance of power is also seen in the WoT. While Tar Valon respects each country, the ultimate end goal is to benefit Tar Valon.
Another similarity of the United States to that of Tar Valon is the power structure of the government. The US is a representative democracy; that is, there are representatives elected by the population as a whole who make policy decisions. The leader of the United States is the President, again, elected by representatives of the general population. Tar Valon is similar in that there are representatives in the legislative body, the Hall of Sitters, and there is a leader, the Amyrlin Seat. The Hall elects the Amyrlin Seat who, unlike the President of the US, serves a life term.
However, the government structure of Tar Valon is not a representative democracy. Only Aes Sedai, those who can sense the One Power, can be in power. Civilians cannot have any title in the power structure of Tar Valon, and as a result, have no say in government business. Also, there is no separate judicial system in Tar Valon. The US uses a system of checks and balances, each branch of government able to check the other branches, which Tar Valon does not have.
Amadicia is a country which is all but in name ruled by the "Children of the Light," or commonly known as Whitecloaks. The similarities between Amadicia and Russia are less apparent, and one must look closer at Russian history to discover the similarities. Throughout its history, Russia has been in turmoil. It was not until the late 18th century that Russia was considered in Western Europe more than just a barbaric wilderness. In the 19th and into the 20th centuries, a powerful line of thought took hold of the masses. Russia, for a very long time, was a country with an elite, and a large population of peasants. When Karl Marx wrote his Communist Manifesto, the idea of equality for all people, erasing status lines became very appealing to most of the population.
The government of Amadicia is completely different than that of Russia. Russia never had a puppet ruler, with a body ruling the country all but in name. Similar to King Ailron of Amadicia, who "surrounds himself in pomp and circumstance," (pg. 263, TWoRJTWoT) the Tsars of Russia indulged in much wealth, without much care of the peasantry. However, this example is not unique to Russia, as most monarchies invariably end up hoarding wealth, leaving little for the masses.
However, the ideological zeal of the Whitecloaks, and that of the Communists are very similar. While their beliefs are very different, the tactics are similar, repression and persecution of a group of people being the most apparent. During the early part of the 20th century, any dissent against the Communist government was quickly suppressed, using various forms, from torture, to work camps, to assassination. Whitecloaks, while they do not have any official power, are a force to be reckoned with. In their quest to find Darkfriends, they often use many of the same tactics used by Communists. Questioners use various torture techniques to discover the "truth," as they see it.
However, to see how similar the US and Russia are to Tar Valon and Amadicia, one should look at the relations between the two. There is constant animosity between Tar Valon and Amadicia. In their case, it is primarily because of long-standing preconceptions. The Whitecloaks have always distrusted the Tar Valon "witches," seeing them as a tool of the Dark One, the ultimate Darkfriend. This distrust stems from the lack of understanding concerning the One Power, and as a result, the Aes Sedai mainly stay away from the Whitecloaks. There were similar feelings between the United States and Russia for the better part of the twentieth century. The United States and Russia had a similar mistrust about their respective agendas; each thinking the other country was threatening their peace.
This mistrust between the United States and Russia eventually cooled off, but for several decades, there was a strong animosity between the two countries, though never quite coming to a full-blown war. In fact, Russia and the United States were allied against Germany during World War II. Though the communists were hated and mistrusted in the United States, the rise of Hitler and Germany created an uneasy alliance, in order to overthrow Hitler's regime. In fact, the United States provided Russia with money, foodstuffs, and arms in the Lend-Lease Act of 1941.
This is very similar to the uneasy alliance between several countries and organizations, including Tar Valon, and the Whitecloaks, fostered in 978 NE. The Aiel, warriors from the East, flooded the mainland to avenge the destruction of Avendoraldera, a peace tree. As a result, countries pulled together to fight back the Aiel. When the Aiel retreated, the Alliance met them at Tar Valon, at the Battle of the Shining Walls. Though the Whitecloaks "grumbled at helping the Aes Sedai" (TWoRJTWoT), they aided the cause because of a greater threat. This is exactly why the US allied with Russia during WWII. Hitler was considered a greater threat. After WWII, the US and Russia immediately had problems, and the Cold War started. The Aiel War has ended, but Tar Valon and the Whitecloaks are still at odds.