THE WHEEL OF TIME’s Showrunner on the Meaning of Thom Merrilin’s Song

In adapting a sprawling book series to the screen, changes must happen. It’s inevitable. And one somewhat significant change in The Wheel of Time TV series comes with the introduction of Thom Merrilin—or rather, how he’s introduced. The character, a gleeman, came to the Two Rivers to perform for Bel Tine in the books. He met Moiraine, Lan, and the youths and traveled with them from the beginning of their journey. But in the TV adaptation, Thom (Alexandre Willaume) doesn’t appear until the third episode. Rand and Mat encounter him in a seeming mining town near Shadar Logoth, as Thom performs in a tavern.

Thom Merrilin with his hands resting on a guitar in The Wheel of Time
Prime Video

Gleemen, skilled entertainers, wander the lands; people know them for weaving captivating stories, juggling, singing, and more. A gleeman typically wears a signature cloak made of many vivid patches. Everyone recognizes the cloak and its meaning. Here, we see Thom’s patches on the inside of his coat. He performs with a guitar rather than a harp and flute as in the books. And his introduction fits the character. The rowdy tavern patrons go quiet as Thom takes the stage. His presence commands the room, and when he starts singing? Forget about it.

Thom performs a piece not from the books, but rather, inspired by them. As the lyrics go on, book readers may pick up that Thom is singing about the previous Dragon, Lews Therin Telamon, the one responsible for the Breaking of the World. Willaume beautifully croons this immensely sad piece about a tortured soul in a prison of his own making.

The colors of his morning, the darkness of his night
Little graves that gave no warning, a sun that brought no light
He saw his whole world breaking, that tortured soul I met
In a prison of his making, the man who can’t forget
I can still hear the way that he cried for the ones he was missing
I can still hear the way that he cried for the ones he had lost
He saw them in the rivers, he felt them in the rain, in dreams he heard them whisper the truth that is his pain
He caused the whole world’s breaking, that tortured soul I met
In a prison of his making, the man who can’t forget
Thom taking in applause with Rand and Mat in a tavern in The Wheel of Time
Prime Video

The Wheel of Time showrunner Rafe Judkins told Nerdist about creating this song for Thom. “We had started pulling lyrics from the books and then Dave Hill, the writer handling that block of episodes, actually started working on this idea of ‘What if you told a story about the last Dragon and the Breaking of the World and it’s very, very subtle?'” he said.

He continued, “I don’t think non-book fans will catch much of it, but I think you’ll get this idea that the world was broken. And that the idea of the world having been broken and the emotional toll on previous characters that we will later realize who is who and what is what with that. I think that that could be a scene that when played back when people know the full story of the show will have much further impact.”

Indeed characters in the series have mentioned the Breaking of the World more than once, though they haven’t shared details. But Judkins’ comment makes us wonder if perhaps we’ll get a flashback…

The Wheel of Time premieres new episodes on Fridays on Prime Video.

Amy Ratcliffe is the Managing Editor for Nerdist and the author of A Kid’s Guide to Fandom, available now. Follow her on  Twitter and Instagram.

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