Wheel of Time fans have shifted between elation and concern, and back, for two years, with every new piece of news about the first season of The Wheel of Time television series. Understanding such fan excitement and trepidation, Rafe Judkins, the showrunner and devoted Wheel of Time fan himself, has answered many questions about what fans can expect to change and stay the same. Specific to the changes, during JordanCon in April of this year, he joined a panel about the show, and explained why some changes were necessary.
If my job is protect the spine and the heart of what's there, sometimes that is changing things, because sometimes if you did them exactly as they were, a new audience to it wouldn't actually understand the heart of what's there because a lot of it's expressed inside someone's head or it's expressed by a character that gets a POV chapter in a way that we can't really do on television.
With that in mind, here are all the announced changes so far, from the books to the television series. There will be spoilers, below.
1. Fewer stops along the journey from Emond's Field to The Eye of the World, and fewer cuts than most fans might think
Rand and Mat will not be making every stop on the road to Caemlyn. During an AMA on Instagram in March of this year, Rafe Judkins wrote:
The hardest thing is the physicality of production. In the first book alone they go to more than 20 villages and cities. To try to do that is physically impossible for the show, so most of the work we [do] in the room is geographical, figuring how to condense the story and move it through places we can physically create.
Later in the same Instagram AMA, Rafe gave insight into his initial answer.
I genuinely think we are cutting less than most people think. When I see people ask questions like “are you cutting Min?” It blows my mind. I don’t know how you do an adaptation without some of these characters. I think it’ll be more of the smaller stories you’ll miss. We can’t have Rand and May [sic] travel to many many inns on their travels across the countryside for instance. It’s just not producible. So that will be more of what you miss I think, and the books always exist to read for that
2. The show will include "off-camera" scenes, chopped scenes, and rearranging of scenes from the books
During a Twitter Q&A in 2018, Rafe answered a question about using "off-camera" scenes from the books to "progress the story in a fresh way" by stating:
Ding ding ding. This is a big part of things I want to add.
Beyond "off-camera" scenes, Rafe also suggested they may be rearranging the order of events to increase the fluidity of the story:
There will be lots of chopping and rejiggering to make the story as fluid as possible on TV.
For example, we know scenes from "The Eye of the World" will be used in future seasons, according to Rafe's answer to a fan:
[...] there are already aspects of EoTW that I plan to use in different seasons
What do you think will be taken from The Eye of the World and used in future seasons? Leave a comment!
Recently, Wheel of Time fans and YouTubers, Daniel Greene and Matt Hatch, discussed what changes should and should not take place in order for the show to succeed. Do you agree?
3. New characters, but only as combinations of characters or individuals inspired by characters in the books
Rafe clarified a significant annoyance for some fans: the idea that the television series will introduce new characters, even though thousands of named characters already exist in the books. During that same AMA, Rafe explained:
Anyone “new” is inspired by characters in the books or a number of characters combined. If we paid to cast all speaking roles in the book we could only afford to have a radio play
Adding more clarity to the above answer, he replied as follows regarding a question about merging Min, Aviendha, and Elayne:
Girl you crazy, I’m not going to [combine] huge characters like that. Maybe sometimes a minor character folded into a more major one to make better use of our cast but nothing nutso
One known change as it relates to a character's name, is Alanna's warder Owein. In the show, that character is being played by Taylor Napier who has been given the name Maksim, making him the first originally named character on the show. When asked why the character was named Maksim instead of Owein, Rafe replied on Twitter:
If a name sounds literally exactly the same as someone else’s we will change, but otherwise try to keep the same. Yara drove me crazy every time
Apparently, Owein was too close to the name of Thom's nephew, Owyn.
Jon from the WoT Up! YouTube Channel did a full walk-through discussion of all the answers Rafe gave during an AMA on Instagram.
4. The first season will include an Aiel, other than Rand, that will shock us
When asked whether we would have to wait until the second season to "see any Aiel," Rafe replied:
Nope. And the one you see will shock you. Haha. Amazon shouldn’t let me be on here when I’ve been cooped up for a week.
5. Rand's romantic sub-plots will not remain the same
Rafe was unequivocal in his reply to a question about Rand's romances whether it would remain the same, where he likes one girl at first but ends up with three in the end:
Let’s just say I’m much more interested in polyamory than polygamy. And maybe give me a little more credit than assuming I’m gonna gut that entire story and ruin everything off a one word answer? ;)
Will there be other big changes to what the most renowned characters of The Wheel of Time do? Nae'blis posted two videos that tackle this idea. Are you on board with these changes?
Did you enjoy that? Then, watch three more things Nae'blis would change.
6. The latter middle section of the books will be condensed
After repeated questions about how he will condense the books into seasons and episodes, during the 2018 Twitter Q&A, Rafe replied:
I mean let's all be honest, I'm gonna be condensing in the latter middle section of books ;)
No shock here.
7. Logain's storyline will be expanded
I really like Logain and plan to not only retain, but expand, his role in series.
If you are curious about how those expanded changes may take shape for Season 1, watch Geekyeri's Block 2, Episodes 3&4, breakdown, which highlights Alvaro Morte's initial Prague timeline.
EVERYTHING I know about Block 2 of The Wheel of Time on Prime
8. Fain's "true-self" will be disguised more in the television series than in his introduction in the book
There was no doubt in Rafe's answer to a fan's inquiry as to whether he planned to disguise Fain's "true-self" from viewers who had not read the books.
Someone needs to ask Rafe if he has adapted Paitr straight from books.
9. Bela will be played by two horses
According to Rafe, two horses are necessary to fill this one pivotal role:
We’ve already had to have two Belas. It turns out a horse for riding on film is not the same as a horse for pulling a cart and SHE MUST DO BOTH
In addition, during a Twitter Q&A in 2018, Rafe explained why Bela was difficult to adapt for TV:
It's hard to get the same horse to do every scene. So we'll probably be doing some horse make-up on a team of Bela lookalikes.
10. Less Cenn Buie
When asked if we'd lose any minor character who Rafe loved, but would need to cut for time, surprisingly he elaborated:
We lose a lot of Cenn Buie, and I like his grumpy old manness.
11. Unspecified changes around "troubling aspects of the books"
This Twitter user's full question adds helpful context to what Rafe means by "a lot of those things will be changing."
Question: Many female villains getting raped or ending up in permanent bondage while males just die, rigid Mars-Venus gender division etc- troubling aspects of books. Plans to update/improve these? WoT’s gr8 to discuss gender but it isn’t without problems.
Rafe: I’m a feminist and it’s very important to me that the show is feminist in today’s context. So a lot of those thins will be changing
12. Less braid tugging and dress smoothing
When asked specifically about these two iconic character tendencies, Rafe may have disappointed braid tugging and dress smoothing aficionados, when he replied:
Less than the books
13. More LGBTQ characters
When asked if he would be incorporating more LGBTQ characters than are made known in the books, Rafe's answer was clear:
He elaborated, in another answer:
I think that gender is such a key theme of the books, and discussing gender without a full representation of LGBTQ+ people would be a disservice to that discussion. Rest assured, their will be pillow friends out the wazoo.
14. We will see the Bel Tine celebration
After The Wheel of Time on Amazon Prime Twitter account posted a short teaser with an image of The Winespring Inn, Rafe tweeted that he would answer three questions. One fan asked if we'd see the Bel Tine celebration, to which Rafe responded:
This one might be a spoiler, especially for Winternight enthusiasts, but yes.
Did you see the short Teaser from The Wheel of Time on Amazon Prime? Lauren, from the Unraveling the Pattern YouTube channel broke it all down for Wheel of Time fans.
15. Master Hightower will drown
This change was accidentally revealed through the metadata of an image given to Brandon Sanderson by Amazon, which he posted in November of 2019. The photo was taken during Brandon's visit to a set of the show. That metadata is as seen below:
“Wheel of Time” S01_Ep102_D06 – 2/06 pt 2/3 – EXT OPPOSITE SHORE – PIER TO COMPLETE – HIGHTOWER wants to return LAN won’t allow him. “The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills”. HIGHTOWER drowns going after the sinking ferry
For more on this, check out this article on WoTSeries.com.
16. Casting is emphasizing high caliber acting over perfect physical matches
Question: How much emphasis will the writers and showrunners place on actor's physical traits with the characters?
Answer: I’m of the belief that my most important job is to bring the truth and heart of these characters to life. I’m much more concerned about acting than physicality. I remember being a kid and seeing Hugh Jackman would play Wolverine and was furious - he’s 6’3” and Wolverine is 5’3”!!
To me, it was against the very core of the character that he would be tall. But the truth is, when I saw X-Men — of course Hugh Jackman was Wolverine. It’s so much more important to me to get someone high caliber who embodies the character than a perfect physical match.
Plus there’s a lot we can do with wigs and dye and lighting to still achieve the “iconic looks” of the WoT characters. I think #Twitteroftime will be happy when they see it ;)
Rafe confirmed as much in March of this year, when asked on Instagram whether they were going to use taller actors for the Aiel, or "camera trickery."
Trying to get tall folks. But I’m less concerned with height and more concerned with acting ability.
What has Brandon Sanderson said about changes from The Wheel of Time books to the screen?
Brandon has been as transparent with fans as he can be. In May of 2019, on Reddit, he described his thoughts about changes he was aware of:
I found the mast [sic] majority of these decisions to be excellent choices–things that will give the show its own soul, but still in line with the feel and tone of the books. I can’t say for certain, but my instincts say the fanbase will in general respond to them positively. There are a few I offered suggestions on, and we’ll see.
I can’t say too much, not just because of NDAs, but also because the show is very much still in flux as Rafe makes decisions on how he wants things to go. As the alterations go, I’d say they fall in line with positive changes made in bringing LOTR to the big screen–things that were altered in order to make the films work for the medium.
Overall, the thing I’m most impressed with is Rafe himself, who really seems to be guiding this show with a balance between love for the source material and his own creative vision. I’d much rather get this, personally, than something like the first two Harry Potter films–which felt like someone trying to bring the books to the screen with exact scene-by-scene recreations.
I’m certain there will be polarizing decisions made by the team, but the changes are coming from a good place, and I really like most of them. And let me tell you, the first of the two scripts I read was sharp. Excellent dialogue, nuanced characters, great pacing. The second of the two was in a rougher shape, so while still good, obviously was still undergoing revisions.
Almost a year later, during an interview on The Dusty Wheel Show, Brandon elaborated on his role and his views on adaptations, including a discussion on potentially divisive changes.
That's it...so far, but that won't stop fans from speculating!
With the recent discovery of even more audition tapes, fans are buzzing with ideas, so be back here next Monday, for comprehensive list of "All the Wheel of Time TV Speculation!"
Of course, if you can't wait until Monday, watch this primer on the latest Season 1 Episodes speculation, and then follow that up with a detailed analysis by the Talk'aran'rhiod Podcast about the most recent leaks and audition tapes!
One last thing!
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Editor's Note: Thank you to Celticmyst and Geekyeri for research and fact checking. You can find follow them on Twitter, and see their work as writers for WoTSeries.com.