Comparison of Battles

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Author: al'Cary Mandoragon

Most fantasy battles are based on battles in real life, either directly, or with slight correlations. No person will spend their time making up totally original battles, because of the time limitations, and even the best can put a foot wrong when creating battles. Robert Jordan is a military historian, so he has the resources to modify and appropriate battles for his own use. This is probably one good reason why his books are so good, and so believable-he bases much of it on real life. My task here is to explore these similarities.

The Seanchan are arguably the most effective and feared fighting force on Randland at the moment. Their invasion pattern, and the story around them suggests that the Seanchan are the Randland version of crusaders, who established themselves upon the lands, that while not exactly useful to them, had cultural and religious significance to them. The First Crusade was begun in 1095, and most of the major battles were over by 1099. The Seanchan initial attack on Randland, was highly successful, taking strategically vital coastal cities, and opening up the path for more to come. They seemed invincible, defeating armies that out numbered them. This pattern fits the crusader pattern, taking several vital coastal cities, and taking a long stretch of land along the Mediterranean coast. The only noticeable difference is that the crusaders took the holy city, while the Seanchan have not been able to capture Tar Valon yet.

However, soon the natives started to fight back. A Muslim army under the amazing general, Saladin, drove the crusaders reeling back to the coast in a little over three months during 1187. Sounds incredibly familiar to Rand throwing the Seanchan back to Ebou Dar. The third crusade, a more powerful and larger army sent to the Middle East, was under Richard the Lionheart, another great leader, like Tuon herself being sent to consolidate her countries hold on the area. After bitter fighting, and the crusaders attempting to fight their way to Jerusalem, but being stopped by Saladin's defences (starting to sound like the Seanchan marching on Illian), they arranged a peace treaty between them, like what Rand is sending Bashere, Logain and Loial to do. The peace treaty negotiated in 1192 seemed unlikely as both foes were bitter enemies, but eventually they saw the need for peace, as all countries involved were being drained of resources. We can see that the Seanchan invasions, and the first two crusades, have many parallels.

Perhaps the largest single battle in the Wheel of Time has been Cairhien. This battle has clear parallels with the Siege of Vienna (1683), during the height of Ottoman power. The basic storyline is very similar. Forces of a country are trapped inside a major capital, and are not likely to hold out for very long, and the forces outside are huge. Then, messengers sent to gather aid return, with news of a massive European army coming to help. The European army routes the Turks, and shatters their power, and the Turks become a much lesser power in Europe until WW1 where they go away forever. This could easily be fitted together with Rand raising the siege of Cairhien, and it seems that Aiel power will be completely destroyed after the Last Battle (ie WW1), due to the Prophecies. Shaido power is also declining steadily, although they are still a problem, it seems likely they will be further weakened by Perrin's army, and the Seanchan army sent to stop their raids.

At the end of book nine, and with the prologue of Crossroads of Twilight available, the similarities between Caemlyn and Constantinople (1453), although not great were there. The monarch was holding a large city with very little army, and surrounded by very large armies. Help was also only a call away, with Bashere and the Aiel only a few miles away, but for political reasons they did not get involved, like the Byzantine emperor did not call for help due to religious differences. However Elayne apparently has it under control, with it looking very likely the besiegers will be defeated.

The Battle of the Two Rivers was the first real example of what longbows could do. The battle of Agincourt (1415), a major English victory in the War of a Hundred Years, was brought about almost completely by the use of longbows. The battle was won by the English building defenses to restrict cavalry movements, using polearms to stop the cavalry away from the archers while the archers butchered the French. The counter charge led by the English king eventually opened up a path through the French army. The women and children of Emond's Field may not have made such a huge difference, but it's the thought that counts. The reinforcements from the other two towns may also be interpreted in this light.

Artur Hawkwing is one of Randland's most well known tales. His empire sounds much like the German Empire of Barbarossa, a major German nation in the Middle Ages, around the time of the second and third crusades.. Both united much of the known world, forming a massive empire. After a while, there grew to be religious differences between the major religious power and the State, and Barbarossa declared war on the Pope, having previously gotten on well with him, Artur Hawkwing obviously declared war on the Aes Sedai. Eventually he sent armies overseas to the Second Crusade, like the invasion of Seanchan. A difference is that Barbarossa went with his crusade, instead of sending his sons. Also the Hawkwing conquest of Seanchan was much more successful. However their deaths have some similarities, both died in quite preventable situations, Hawkwing could have asked for an Aes Sedai, and Barbarossa could have simply removed his armor before going for a swim, his death in 1190 proving a turning point for the power of the German empire.

The Huns were the most feared force in the years following the destruction of Rome as an empire. Under their great leader Attila, they looted and burned their way across the known world, stopping before the very walls of Rome itself, where they turned back for no apparent reason. This strikes some remarkable parallels with the Aiel War, with the Aiel burning and pillaging through Cairhien, destroying every army sent against them. They turned back from Tar Valon, although they were not defeated, for reasons incomprehensible to anyone not an Aiel. Also the major battle between Attila and the remnants of the Roman Legions seems quite similar to the Blood Snows, the invaders were technically defeated, but the defenders were too weak to defend another time, and had defended Rome at too great a cost, the Battle of Chalons (451) being a turning point for the power of the Western Roman empire. The western Roman Empire in this case resembles Cairhien, as the after effects of the Aiel War reduced their territory size significantly, and their grasp on the holdings in the area ravaged by the Aiel. The kings, that grew progressively weaker, relied on entertainment and wine to keep its citizens happy. In several ways the decline of the Western Roman Empire is similar to the waning power of Cairhien.