(Re)imagining Moiraine Damodred On Screen

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Author: Atarah al'Norahn
Published: October 30 2019 Tar Valon Times Blog Link

This article contains spoilers for the entire series.


In the months since we began to receive casting news for Amazon Prime’s adaptation of The Wheel of Time, excitement and anticipation have been rising steadily–and it all began with the June 19, 2019 announcement that Rosamund Pike has been cast as Moiraine Damodred. The fan response to Pike’s involvement in the series has been overwhelmingly positive, and one sentiment that has been expressed repeatedly is that the casting of such an integral, iconic role is what finally made the adaptation begin to feel “real.”

Now that we have our Moiraine and can truly begin to envision how her character might be translated to the screen, I’ve gone to a few of our members to get their thoughts on some important matters! Join our panelists as they cover various topics, including how they imagine Moiraine’s first appearance on screen, the popularity of the Manetheren scene, and the core of Moiraine’s character.

With many thanks to our contributors: Elessa Rohirrim, Eliza al’Shaw, Eqwina, Juliya Karisu, Maibella ni Rhoiden t’al’Varrak, and Thaddius al’Guy.

Q: How do you imagine Moiraine’s first entrance on screen?​
Eliza: I’m not sure about this as the rumors say they might start with some New Spring scenes that I haven’t read. But for the Two Rivers scene, the boys trying to scare a raven, then Moiraine stepping in and the stark difference in her dress and bearing and beauty, an almost “otherworldliness” about her in comparison to the village boys…that’s what I want to feel.

Eqwina: There is so much build up in the books before we actually see Moiraine and I hope the show does the same. I envision the group gathered on the Village Green, talking, and suddenly the camera slowly pans across the village to Moiraine gliding across the bridge towards them. I hope to be able to feel the excitement and awe of the Emond’s Fielders.

Juliya: I imagine her being in the shadows, with a hood on, and then slowly coming up to the boys and coming into the light. I can see her serene face but piercing eyes taking in everything.

Elessa: Her introduction from the books is that she is a visitor, and both she and Lan look strikingly different from the villagers as well as from each other. That is fairly key, so she certainly needs to look “other.” Apart from that, I’d like to see it not over-dramatized—they are trying not to stand out too much but clearly are more worldly than the Emond’s Field villagers. I’d like to think the opening would be pretty low key to start.

Thaddius: Since knowledge of her being Aes Sedai is subdued, I could imagine that the scene in the book would play out very similar visually. I think there will be shots of her entering the village—perhaps not from her point of view, but from other denizens of the Two Rivers, just to give a bit of the intrigue of highborn-looking people coming to the town.

Q: What Moiraine scene(s) from the first two books are you most excited to see on screen?

Eqwina: Immediately what came to mind for me is the scene when Moiraine and Lan are in Emond’s Field getting ready to leave with the three boys. It is after the Trolloc attack and she’s been outed as an Aes Sedai. The town is gathered in an angry mob and she tells the story of the history of Emond’s Field. To me that scene has to be portrayed in the show or I am going to be sorely disappointed. It gives us not only the rich history of Manetheren, but it also shows Moiraine’s power. It gives me chills to think about seeing this scene on my TV screen.

Maibella: The one scene I’m certain just about EVERYONE agrees about is when Moiraine tells the story of Manetheren to the people of Emond’s Field. That scene gives me chills whenever I read it, so I’m super excited to get to SEE it. However, I’m also super nervous, because what if it doesn’t live up to my expectations?

One scene I’m a bit anxious about is the one where Moiraine makes herself appear very large to enable the group to escape from [Baerlon] early in book one. I’m thinking it might be best to cut that particular scene entirely as it is outside the norm of what the Power is used to do throughout most of the rest of the series. It could be confusing to viewers, and it could also come across as very cheesy.

Thaddius: In chapter 12 of The Eye of the World, Moiraine and Egwene crawl into a pile of tree trunks, where Moiraine holds up a blue stone and guides Egwene through her first attempt to channel. It’s one of my favorite early scenes, and I can’t wait to see how they handle it on screen.

Elessa: Definitely the flight from the Draghkar in book one where she draws the mist along the river. I think that will translate incredibly well to screen.

I’m quite sentimentally attached to the story she tells the Emond’s Fielders about their origins and the Aemon’s Field battle, and while I think this could be pretty impressive on screen too, I wouldn’t be devastated if it didn’t make the cut.

I also like the time Moiraine spends with Adeleas and Vandene [in The Great Hunt] and that, as a result, she is able to balefire [the Darkhounds and Be’lal]. I think this sort of character development is the sort of thing that is often omitted but is really important to show part of her character—that unlike some of the Aes Sedai, she wants to learn and values knowledge, and also that she respects age and knowledge as well as strength in the Power. Of course, her having learned and implementing balefire will be an awesome thing to see on screen.

Juliya: Moiraine flinging fire at the Trollocs and when she grows herself to step over the wall at Baerlon.

Eliza: The scene in front of the Winespring Inn telling the tale of Manetheren to the Two Rivers folk, and her meting with Siuan in Fal Dara.

Q: What are your greatest hopes for the on-screen representation of Moiraine?
Thaddius: My greatest hope is that we get a real representation of the character. A lot of actors/actresses will come in and want to do a version of the character they think could be an improvement. I’m not looking for that. I really do hope that they give good direction on Moiraine and we get a non-modified version of the character.

Elessa: The idea of being just slightly other and apart from the cast would be key for me. I’m not terribly bothered if she fits Robert Jordan’s physical description, although I think she needs to look similar enough to any later Cairhienin we meet and different from other nations, as each nation tends to have its own characteristics. I think Rosamund Pike will be able to capture [Moiraine’s] coolness and the level of calm she conveys. I like to think, though, that the inner turmoil she often experiences will be portrayed as well; in later books we learn she could be impetuous and short-tempered, so while she appears calm it is simply a question of self control rather than her natural temperament.

Juliya: I hope that she will have dark hair. I’m also looking forward to seeing the kesiera on her forehead.

Eliza: That cool calm exterior, that implacable energy that convinces the boys to leave the Two Rivers. I don’t want her to be made relatable or “human”—I want her to remain the aloof mentor the way Robert Jordan wrote her.

Eqwina: To me, her physical appearance is the least important aspect of how she is portrayed. Rosamund needs to embody Moiraine’s self-assurance and calm. She will have to convey a lot of emotion from a place of stoicism.

Moiraine arielburgess.jpg

Q: Is there anything you’d actually like to see done differently from the books? And/or is there anything new you think a visual adaptation will bring to the character for you?​

Eliza: The hope I hold is that a change would be to make her at least bisexual, if not a full blown lesbian and forget the whole Thom nonsense!

Maibella: I’d love to see bits of New Spring added in to the early seasons of the show as flashbacks or something like that. It would help flesh out some of the characters without spoilering anything if it is done appropriately. Plus I’d LOVE to see the “altercation” between Moraine and Lan in which she ends up in the pond!

Juliya: I am the type of person who likes everything to be the same as the books. One thing I think will be great about Rosamund Pike is her voice. When I think of her talking, it sounds to me like exactly what Moiraine should sound like—soft but clear.

Thaddius: Not Moiraine specifically, but in general I think if they took a little emphasis off the whole search for Faile portion of the story. It could be pared down quite a bit and would save a lot of time, I feel like. For bringing new things, I have what you could call a “head canon” about certain things, like with Whitecloaks, but I certainly hope that giving me visuals to these characters will add shades of depth to the characters that I didn’t have before.

Elessa: I’m fine with the idea that the series will diverge from the books. Robert Jordan paints a very vivid picture with his words, but there is no reason that a screenplay has to stick to the books entirely. I would almost like them to be distinctly different; personally, capturing the spirit of the characters and the books is more important than adhering strictly to the plot. I think the loss of inner monologue will mean that much more needs to be done with the dialogue to show a rounded character. Jordan’s female characters, while strong and independent, are often a bit flat. A convincing screen version of Moiraine specifically will need to be a much more rounded character than in the books to be engaging. The advantage of books is that you can flesh out the character as you will; screenplay needs to give a 3D character in order not to just be clichéd. Fantasy has come a long way since Robert Jordan wrote The Eye of the World. Readers are more sophisticated and we expect more of our characters now.

Eqwina: This is tough for me because I have so much love for Robert Jordan’s work. I cannot think of anything I would change in the first two books. It still feels unreal to me that this series is actually coming to life. I have mixed feelings of excitement and terror, but I just keep reminding myself that nothing can change my own visual images and that the show can only enhance my personal experience.

Q: Is there a specific Moiraine line that you cannot imagine being cut?​

Thaddius: “The Dark One is after you three, one or all, and if I let you go running off wherever you want to go, he will take you. Whatever the Dark One wants, I oppose, so hear this and know it true. Before I let the Dark One have you, I will destroy you myself.” These lines from The Eye of the World show that while she wants to see Rand, Mat, and Perrin to the endgame, she will destroy them if necessary. She is loyal to upholding the balance of the world. I do not doubt she would lament having to destroy them, but if it is to keep the Dark One at bay, then all avenues must be considered.

Juliya: “The wheel weaves as the wheel wills” must absolutely be in there.

Eqwina: When she tells the three boys “Before I let the Dark One have you I will destroy you myself.” It really shows her unrelenting commitment to her cause. Her commitment to a cause is not something that I can personally relate to. I am a passionate person, but I have never been as committed as Moiraine. I think it is one of the reasons I find her one of the most interesting characters in the series.

Eliza: Her exact conversation with Siuan [in The Great Hunt]. It’s perfect. And obviously if she doesn’t constantly say “The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills,” I’ll be disappointed!

Elessa: Honestly, it’s been a while since I read the books, but even when I was current with them I don’t think there were any real standout lines for me. I actually don’t think Robert Jordan’s dialogue particularly offers that sort of line. It’s very much in line with all his prose; there is more inner monologue and descriptive information that goes on in the books than good dialogue. It will be interesting to see what the script writers do with this as there is an awful lot of unspoken information that will need to be conveyed.

Q: Which other character are you most excited to see interact with Rosamund Pike’s Moiraine?​

Juliya: I am really, really hoping they get someone awesome for Lan. Someone who works seamlessly with Rosamund Pike and really represents the Warder bond.

Eqwina: My favorite character has always been Mat. I think a lot of people will fall in love with his boyish charm and fierce loyalty if his character is portrayed correctly. I also think that his distrust for Aes Sedai will be interesting to see come alive. I am also very excited to see Lan. His transformation in the series will be interesting to see played out on the big screen.

Eliza: Siuan and Lan as people who know her personally, but also Rand. She needs to be someone who is frustrating to him while alive, but sorely missed later in the series.

Maibella: The relationship between Moiraine and Lan is something that I think has to be done just right, and I’m excited to see who is selected to play Lan.

Thaddius: Mostly, the Aiel. I am really looking forward to everything about that.

Elessa: I will be interested to see what the screen writers do with Nynaeve—for all she is a strong and potentially interesting book character, she isn’t particularly engaging and I don’t think the early book portrayal of her and Moiraine’s interactions will be great on screen. I’d like to see Moiraine and Thom’s interactions, as the budding relationship they suddenly had seemed to come from nowhere in the books. In general I think her interactions with people she is close to and has respect for will be key to her character development on screen.

From the start, it’s been clear that the showrunners will have a lot on their hands in order to do justice to Moiraine’s character—not to mention the entire series. I can’t help but think that at times they might feel a little like Moiraine during her test for Aes Sedai, fighting off Trolloc after Trolloc all while creating difficult and intricate weaves.

With so many possible directions for them to go in, we’re all waiting on the edge of our seats to see what they’ll do in the end. We already know from Brandon Sanderson that changes will certainly be made. What will make the cut, and what won’t? Which scenes and lines will be considered integral to Moiraine’s character, and what will be deemed expendable?

Tell us your thoughts in the comments!