Qirien's Fantasy Page | The LotR Page | The Wheel of Time Page
Note: Although The Lord of the Rings is not really a trilogy, the term is used in this essay to mean the same six-book series.
As do many fantasy novels, Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time bears a marked resemblance to J.R.R. Tolkien's famous trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. The most obvious parallels, especially in the first few books, are in characters and plot lines, while the deviations occur mostly in the later books of the series. Common characters include the Guide, the Innocent Villagers, the Protector, the Evil One, and of course the Evil One's Minions. Th Minions. These elements apply not only to The Wheel of Time and The Lord of the Rings, however; many are applicable to stories such as Star Wars, the Shannara series, and even some fairy tales.
The first, and perhaps most obvious parallel characters, would be the Guides. Both Gandalf and Moiraine employ a type of magic. Both seem mysterious and all-powerful to the villagers at first, and both approach the Villagers with an important quest that they are designated to fulfill by events beyond their control. These two characters sacrifice themselves to battle a great evil, appearing to die, thus forcing the formerly naive Villagers to rid themselves of illusions and take upon themselves new responsibilities. For Gandalf, this was when he fell of the bridge in Moria battling the Balrog; for Moiraine, she fell into the ter'angreal while trying to defeat Lanfear. As Gandalf came back to help the quest members in their time of need, so do I believe Moiraine will return to aid the Dragon Reborn.
Second, and already mentioned, are the Villagers, who, once innocent, gain knowledge and experience while fulfilling their quest. Although at first they think it to be merely a holiday from the mundanities of normal life, they soon see their own important role in the salvation of their world. In the LotR, these Villagers are the hobbits, whose carefree and pleasurable life is symbolized by Bilbo's Party. They first misisunderstand the quest and its importance. When faced with the Evil Minions (Nazgul), however, they are forced to fend for themselves for a while until they can reach a safe haven. In the WoT, the Villagers are the Emond's Fielders. Their innocence is set up by the preparations for the spring Bel Tine festival, but they are in for a rude awakening when the Evil Minions (a Myrddraal and Trollocs) attack. Egwene is still out for adventure, and the other Villagers only know that they must trust the Guide and leave. Both the Emond's Fielders and the hobbits must do without their Guide and Protector early on in the story.
The Protector, though of somewhat less importance than the Guide, is also a common thread to both books. Aragorn and Lan are both skilled in the use of a sword and are hardened by a battle that will never end. They both are of royal birth, but have temporarily forsaken this claim to a throne until the time is right. The two Protectors also resist falling in love with a woman who is powerful in her own right, but they are not successful. They never get severely wounded or have any problems finding money to pay for inns, food, etc, and they also teach the Villagers some skills that they will need to complete their Quest; Lan teaches the Emond's Fielders how to use the weapons they carry, and Aragorn teaches history and wilderness survival to the hobbits. As both stories progress, the Protector becomes more of a ccharacter in his own right, instead of being merely a helper to the Villagers.
What would a story be without an Evil Being to liven things up? Both Sauron and the Dark One do little evil themselves; instead, they rely on their Minions to wreak havoc. However, it is only a matter of time before each Evil Being has enough power to destroy life as Villagers know it, if the Villagers do not complete their quests. For Sauron, it is if he finds the One Ring; for the Dark One, it is (probably) when the seventh seal breaks. The Evil Being is also never a real, tangible character, but instead is more of an abstract influence on the novel's world.
The Evil Ones have many servants who, for whatever reason, serve evil instead of good. There is usually some sort of hierarchy where the lesser beings are governed by fear by the greater. In The Lord of the Rings, it is the Uruks who command the orc armies; and in The Wheel of Time, the Myrdraal command the Trolloc hordes. Also, the Evil Ones have special and important servants who used to be normal human beings, like the Nazgūl and the Forsaken. Those higher-ups in the evil side's chain of command make life miserable for the Villagers, and often the other evil beings as well. The main Villager also usually suffers an identity crisis in which he sees himself as similar to the Evil higher-ups. With Rand, this occurs when he finds himself attracted to Selene, and even afteter he knows she is Lanfear, his feelings are confused concerning her. For Frodo, this identity crisis happens whenever he puts on the Ring, for then he is half in the world of Shadow. In both books, the Evil Minions play an integral role.
Essential characters of the classic fantasy novel include the Guide, Villagers, a Protector, the Evil One, and Evil Minions. In The Lord of the Rings and The Wheel of Time, these vital characters are remarkably similar in their attributes, development, and role in the plot of each novel.
Jaim has some more comments on the subject.
In LotR there are the "Paths of the Dead". In case you have not figured it our, they are like the Ways, or should I say, the Ways are like them (the Paths were created first). I have also noticed that in many ways Thom Merilin is much like Tom Bombadil. Even the names are alike. I also see that Tam and Bilbo are alike in that they have both been out on adventures and people thought them odd for this. For Bilbo this was the adventure, in 'The Hobbit', with the dwarves when he aquired Sting (and his mithril coat), and for Tam this was when he went and faught in the Aeil War. This was also where he aquired the Blademasters sword that Rand took with him. So the blades Frodo and Rand carry also have similar points (no pun intended)!