(Re)imagining Egwene al'Vere On Screen
This article contains spoilers through Lord of Chaos.
From a young runaway seeking adventure to a powerful Amyrlin with the weight of the world on her shoulders, Egwene has one of the most monumental story arcs in The Wheel of Time. Particularly given the many changes Egwene’s character undergoes throughout the series, fans are understandably curious to see how her character will develop on screen..
Join us as Ebona din Casei, Elanda Tonil, Jocasta Braithe, and Mhor Blathnaid discuss some of Egwene’s most determinative scenes in the first two books, what they hope to see from the screen adaptation of her character, and what makes Egwene who she is!
Q: What Egwene moment(s) from the first two books are you most excited to see Madeleine Madden play on screen?
Elanda: I think I’m most excited to see Egwene and Perrin’s journey together after Shadar Logoth and Egwene’s captivity with the Seanchan. I think those two periods are among the most important early-book periods in helping Egwene grow from the naive, spoiled girl she started the series as to the woman she is at the end. I think the visual medium of the show will really drive home just how horrible her time as a damane was. Robert Jordan described it very well, but I think the visual component will make it even more potent.
Ebona: Egwene touching the Source with Moiraine for the first time, using Moiraine’s blue stone as a focus. I think this will be a great scene, as well as teaching the viewers more about the Source and the setting.
Mhor: When Egwene and Perrin are separated and travel with Elyas.
Jocasta: I find the scene where Perrin, Elyas, and Egwene are running from the ravens to be absolutely terrifying in the book, and I’m hoping they give it the full treatment in the show as well. There’s a part where Perrin goes to shoot a raven down, and Egwene beats him to it. I love how capable she is in those moments. I’d also like to see her interact with her parents, because she’ll have so little time for family but it’s still a big influence on her character.
Q: Is there anything new you think the television adaptation will bring to Egwene’s character for you? What do you hope Madeleine Madden will be able to bring to the role?
Mhor: Madeleine Madden is an Aussie so I am familiar with her [as an Aussie myself]. I have always liked her in the things I have seen her do. I am excited to see her take on Egwene. I do have a love-hate relationship with Egwene. She can be very frustrating but she also has one of the best character arcs in the books. I would like to see the TV show modernize things a little in regards to some of the stereotypes that flow through it. They have a chance to be faithful to the material while also not being a slave to some of the older ways of thinking from the periods the books were written in.
Elanda: I’m hoping she’ll be able to make Egwene feel naive and young without the character feeling quite as annoying as she felt (to me) in the early books. Towards the end of the series Egwene was possibly my favourite character, and it would be very nice to at least like her at the beginning too!
Jocasta: I hope she will be able to show Egwene’s perfectionism as the two-edged sword it is. It’s what drives her to learn and excel, but it also cuts her off from people and isolates her.
Ebona: I don’t know what she could bring that is “new.” I’ll be happy if she’s simply faithful to the character. I hope she’ll bring that combination of innocence and curiosity that Egwene has in the beginning. And I hope to get some foreshadowing on how great she’ll grow to become in the end. I demand that Egwene isn’t reduced to a passive “package” with no agenda or voice of her own (as so many women in movies and television series are). Strong female characters is such an important part of what The Wheel of Time is.
Q: If you could pick one new Egwene-centric scene to be created for the first season, what would it be?
Jocasta: I’d like to see her interact with her sisters. She’s the youngest of five sisters, but you never get to see much of them at all.
Ebona: I’d love a flashback scene or two where she reflects upon what her life in Emond’s Field was like and what she expected her life to become. Rand has these in the books, but they could easily be given to Egwene.
Elanda: I would like to see her interactions with her parents a bit more. Leaving the Two Rivers was a big deal for these characters, but leaving their families would also have been almost unthinkable. No one ever left the Two Rivers; everyone had generations of family living there. I would like a scene that shows us those relationships so we understand just how much her world was changed when they left.
Mhor: I would like to see a scene with Egwene and Rand and their connection BEFORE Winternight, to give the audience and non-book readers a chance to see where they started.
Q: Is there a scene or a line from the first two books that you see as absolutely central to Egwene’s character in The Wheel of Time—something you can’t imagine being cut?
Elanda: Her time with the Seanchan. This is the first time she truly has to look inside herself and find the core of who she is and rely on that. It’s also the first time Egwene truly understands that everyone has their limits and everyone can be broken and that being stubborn or strong doesn’t mean you can withstand anything. And honestly, it’s one of the most powerful moments of the entire series, in my opinion. Watching her realize she is being trained in spite of all her resistance, her visits from Min, her belief that she could be rescued, and everything else she has going for her, and then to see her also realize that she is slowly starting to lose who and what she is, that’s pretty horrifying. And after all that, seeing her try to readjust to life again after that indescribable experience—I don’t think that’s something they could cut without completely changing her character.
Jocasta: I don’t want to speculate on what could or could not be cut, but I think when Nynaeve and Elayne rescue Egwene at Falme and she immediately turns on Seta with the a’dam and begins to torture her, but then decides in that moment that she is not going to be like the sul’dam… I think that’s a critical moment in Egwene’s character development that needs to be shown.
Ebona: The scene with Moiraine where she learns about the One Power is absolutely essential. As Egwene will grow to become not only an Aes Sedai, but the epitome of what an Aes Sedai is, that one scene sets her on the path.
Mhor: Perhaps her first meeting of Siuan. Or this exchange with Perrin:
"What did you spend so much time talking about with Ila? If you weren’t dancing with that long-legged fellow, you were talking to her like it was some kind of secret.”
"Ila was giving me advice on being a woman,” Egwene replied absently. He began laughing, and she gave him a hooded, dangerous look that he failed to see.
"Advice! Nobody tells us how to be men. We just are.”
"That,” Egwene said, “is probably why you make such a bad job of it.” (The Eye of the World, Chapter 27)
Q: How do you imagine Egwene’s first entrance on screen? What kind of feel do you hope it will have?
Mhor: Honestly I think having wishes like that is were disappointment lies. I think as long as she has her hair braided the first time she is seen by the boys on Winternight and we see their shock (or at least Rand’s shock), and as long as we catch a glimpse of her strength, I will be happy.
Ebona: I think we’ll see her at the inn, either serving tables or helping out in some other way—telling Mat and Rand off for being lazy, maybe. It will be daytime, either morning or afternoon, and the mood will be light (to contrast the dark and foreboding scenes with the Myrddraal). We’ll see a regular country girl, with good work morale, who maybe tries to act older than she really is. Everyone there will be wearing rough clothes of browns and tans, to make a striking contrast to Moiraine’s blue silks.
Jocasta: I’m hoping it will be flirtatious with Rand! I’m imagining her in her Two Rivers style party dress and long braid walking inconspicuously across his field of vision, trying to catch his eye without being obvious, hoping he’ll notice that her hair is braided for the first time. I think it could be really fun and lighthearted and set the stage for their relationship.
Elanda: I hope it’s a fairly understated entrance. She starts out the series as kind of a tag along, not central to Moiraine’s goals at all, just hitching a ride with them on their trip to the White Tower, and I like the idea of her entrance matching that. I’d like her to just kind of slip into the room and then be there thereafter. We know that by the end of the series her position in the story will have changed a wee bit, but I like that contrast from unassuming beginning to what’s going on at the end.
Q: Which other character are you most interested in seeing interact with Egwene on screen? Is there a relationship dynamic from the first two books you’re particularly interested in watching play out?
Ebona: I’m really looking forward to the relationship between Egwene and Nynaeve growing and changing—for example, when Egwene decides to not braid her hair, or when she learns to touch the Source whilst Nynaeve is still blocked. Nynaeve used to be someone Egwene looked up to, a mentor of sorts, and that role is usurped by Moiraine. I’m curious how they’ll show these things on screen.
Elanda: I hope they capture the feeling of her relationship with Perrin through their trip together, and also the loss of her relationship with Rand. I also hope they have the chemistry between the Egwene-Elayne-Nynaeve trio that’s there in the books. It’s a complex chemistry with the different stations between the three of them (Egwene as Wisdom-in-training and novice; Elayne as Daughter-Heir and novice; Nynaeve as Wisdom, Accepted, and wilder), but I think it added a lot to the books.
Mhor: Besides the main group, not particularly. Maybe Egwene with the Tuatha’an.
Jocasta: I’m hoping they’ll keep the puppy love/lost love dynamic between her and Rand. That relationship feels so true to me. It’s meaningful, it’s real, but they both change and outgrow it and neither is possessive or resents the other for moving on. I hope they explore that growing up process a little.
One of the advantages of adapting a series like The Wheel of Time is its completion; the script writers know exactly where characters like Egwene end up and how they get there. The question, of course, will be how they actually utilize this information to set the stage for Egwene’s long and complicated journey. What are your thoughts on how Egwene’s character might be portrayed on screen?