Channeling on the Big Screen
This article contains a few minor non-Wheel of Time (WOT) spoilers — Harry Potter/Doctor Strange/Avatar — read at your own risk.
I am one of those people who always get a picture in their head when they read, so much so that I have a harder time with comics and graphic novels. The art and my brain don’t always agree on how a scene should look, and it makes me a slower reader. When I first started reading The Eye of the World back in 2003, and learning about Aes Sedai and weaving/channeling, my wonderfully inaccurate and imaginative brain always pictured my fiber-loving Gramma sitting at her loom, shuttle flying from hand to hand between the strings as her feet press down on different pedals to change the pattern of the threads. Realistically, I knew that Aes Sedai didn’t randomly pull out an ickle loom from their saddlebags when work needed to be done; but if I’m honest, it often popped in there in the beginning so I just pushed it away and moved on.
Later in the series, when Mr. Jordan started talking about the way the Source user’s hands moved, my imagination conjured up something that looked more like a maestro conducting an orchestra, or some unknown form of sign language. Neither idea is something subtle, which seems like it would be important if one is trying to sneak about and accomplish their plotsy plans. This imagination did limit itself to hands, and not yarn and loom, so it was a welcome improvement!
It wasn’t until I saw the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that I finally saw something in film that made me think, “This is what channeling should look like!” Granted, they’re wizards with wands. But the way that they moved and used their wands, almost as an extension of their hands, made it seem like it was simply natural. It also helped that they were doing wordless wand magic instead of shouting spells.
Even something like The Librarian’s brainy Cassandra, or more recently the new movie Jingle Jangle’s use of magical equations made me think of channeling. (Side note, Jingle Jangle was fantastically fun, and highly recommended!) It’s math-esq, but still kind of magical in the way they use their hands and you see components coming together.
Probably my most favorite depiction I’ve seen so far is from Doctor Strange. We see Strange learn and grow in his skills via practice and testing, like Tower initiates would do. We see that different hand motions cause different results, and that the patterns/movements matter in the outcome. When Strange gets stronger he can wield his power like a weapon; and with the help of the sling rings (an Angreal/Sa'angreal kind of thing), even makes cool glowing gateways for traveling!
I do hope that whatever they end up doing to show channeling, we are able to tell what elements are being used in the weave – maybe a different light color for each, or a different style of movement? This is where we can look at something like Avatar: The Last Airbender. (I know this is a super popular show, but I am only at the beginning of season two so I am basing comments on that only). I like that their use of elemental power involves their whole body; and depending on which element it is they’re using, they kind of echo the movement of that element. Water for example, is very flowing; whereas fire is much more abrupt and forceful. Each bending style in this animated series is actually rooted in a real life martial art, which is helpful to distinguish the elements as well. Given that Mr. Jordan based so many other elements of his stories in Asian cultures, this approach does not seem unreasonable for the series producers to use.
All these words to say, who knows what channeling in the new series will look like? I guess we’ll simply have to WAFO. No matter what it ends up looking like, I’m simply thrilled WOT is getting a chance to be on screen at all!
How about you? What do you think it will look like? Do you have a favorite visualization from your brain, or some other source? We’d love you to share it.
Here are a few links to the visuals I mentioned. Needless to say, all of these links have MAJOR SPOILERS, so view at your own risk.