Girish Joshi

The Wise Man’s Fear

9 min read

The Kingkiller Chronicle:

IT WAS NIGHT AGAIN. My desk lay in silence, and it was a silence of three months. A while had passed since I inked. A while had passed since I had written anything. Maybe like Kvothe, even I had forgotten the name of the words that when strung together sang for the book. When you don’t exercise a muscle it loses strength. It is the same with writing.

I remember. I remember, almost as if it was yesterday, even though it has been a long time. I remember asking Dewarshi, “What should I read? Everywhere I put my nose, it hurts.” I remember him smiling at me in the sunshine that only spreads in the middle of the sea. On his face, it fell, and on mine, illuminating all the wrinkles time had left on our faces. “You should read fantasy. You need to escape from reality until you are yourself again.”, he told me under the sunshine.

“Until I’m myself again,” I murmured.

The horses of my mind ran towards The Kingkiller Chronicles, the fantasy trilogy by Patrick Rothfuss. I had read and loved The Name of the Wind many moonless nights ago. And I had read a couple of chapters of the second book of the series, The Wise Man’s Fear. “There are times when reality is nothing but pain, and to escape that pain the mind must leave reality behind,” I remember remembering things about the book which drew me in. “I know what I’m going to read,” I told him.

We kept walking on the steel grating upon the open sea until it was time for him to go to work and time for me to go to bed. He served for the day, and I served for the night.

Whenever they saw me walking around the deck with my kindle, they asked, “So what are you reading these days boy?” And I said, “The Wise Man’s Fear”. And then they asked, “What is it about?” And I did not know how to explain. Should I tell them that it’s the second book of the trilogy? Should I speak of Kvothe: unparalleled sword fighter, skilful magician, talented musician, innocent kingkiller? Or should I speak of Kote: the disguised innkeeper of The Waystone Inn, the man who is “waiting to die”? What was the wise man afraid of? And the name of the wind is supposed to be wind, right? The problem was simple: from where do I begin? And that was the same problem that sat with me in silence as I sat to write. Where should I begin? Should I tell them what happened to me before I started reading this book? Or should I speak of what happened when I read this book? It was a decision waiting to be made. The silence that longed for a song. As I began, the wind began to blow and my fears washed away.

It is the story of the storytellers. It is the story of Kvothe. He runs an Inn in a town where people know him by the name Kote. Names are powerful to the point where they become dangerous. You have to know the name of the man, to know the man, and nobody knows Kote here. Nobody knows that he’s Kvothe. The Kingkiller Kvothe. Nobody knows his name, nobody knows his story. Until one day, he saves the life of a chronicler who recognises him and knows his name. Names are powerful.

Kvothe was an Edma Ruh. They say the Ruh know all the stories in the world. They are the performers, singers, dancers, actors, troupers, and above all, storytellers. They travel to places in their wagons and perform for towns and villages to put butter over their bread. For the Ruh, home isn’t a place. It is people and wagons. One day Kvothe’s entire troupe, except Kvothe of course, is murdered by the mythical figure known in the folklore by the name Chandrian. Why? Because Chandrian, this group of seven beings, has set out to destroy knowledge about themselves. Everybody knows something about them. But nobody knows anything. And why Kvothe’s troupe? Because Kvothe’s parents were singing entirely the wrong sorts of songs. The songs that told the story of Chandrians. All the truth in the world is held in stories, and perhaps Chandrians want to keep the truth to themselves. Isn’t it why Voldemort killed Lilly and James Potter? Perhaps not, but that is how it all began.

This may not seem odd to you, but it was strange to me. Growing up among the Edema Ruh, home was never a place for me. Home was a group of wagons and songs around a campfire. When my troupe was killed, it was more than the loss of my family and childhood friends. It was like my entire world had been burned down to the waterline.

“My parents danced together, her head on his chest. Both had their eyes closed. They seemed so perfectly content. If you can find someone like that, someone who you can hold and close your eyes to the world with, then you’re lucky. Even if it only lasts for a minute or a day. The image of them gently swaying to the music is how I picture love in my mind even after all these years.”

And thus begins the journey of the Kvothe. The killing of his parents leaves him in trauma and Tarbean at the same time. When he gathers himself together and protects himself from being shredded into thousand pieces, he finds himself at the University. All these years, his music, his lute had kept him alive, and held him from the door of madness. Now at the University, he has a home. The first book, The Name of the Wind chronicles his early adventures at the University. Kvothe is barred from the Archives, the university’s library from where he could learn about Chandrians, thanks to Ambrose Jakis—his archnemesis. By the end of the book, he eventually learns to call the Name of the Wind.

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts. There are seven words that will make a person love you. There are ten words that will break a strong man’s will. But a word is nothing but a painting of a fire. A name is the fire itself.”

In the second book, The Wise Man’s Fear, Kvothe leaves the University for a term to travel to a kingdom far away called Vintas. He’s set to meet the king of the Vintas and offer him his services in return for his patronage. And thus begins another adventure in which Kvothe saves the life of the king from his healer, helps him get his ladylove, and gets rid of the bandits for the king. He sleeps with a Felurian, talks to the Cthaeh, and trains with the legendary Adem Mercenaries. He learns Ketan, the sword fighting technique and Lethani, the Adem philosophy. And his love for Denna grows and so does his understanding of the Chandrians.

Bast is Kvothe’s assistant. At the end of the first day, also the first book, he grabs hold of the Chronicler and tells him to make Kote remember that he isn’t some Innkeeper baking pies, he’s Kvothe. At the end of the second day, also the second book, Bast sends two soldiers to rob the Waystone Inn, so that Kvothe can fight with them and remember who he once was.

Now that I think of it all, I remember that these books are about remembering. Kvothe remembering who he was, who he is.

I have heard what poets write about women. They rhyme and rhapsodize and lie. I have watched sailors on the shore stare mutely at the slow-rolling swell of the sea. I have watched old soldiers with hearts like leather grow teary-eyed at their king’s colors stretched against the wind. Listen to me: these men know nothing of love.

So yes. It had flaws, but what does that matter when it comes to matters of the heart? We love what we love. Reason does not enter into it. In many ways, unwise love is the truest love. Anyone can love a thing because that’s as easy as putting a penny in your pocket. But to love something despite. To know the flaws and love them too. That is rare and pure and perfect.

One of my favourite parts of the book is the Adem philosophy of Lethani.

“What is the heart of the Lethani?” I asked Vashet.
“Success and right action.”
“Which is the more important, success or rightness?”
“They are the same. If you act rightly success follows.”
“But others may succeed by doing wrong things,” I pointed out.
“Wrong things never lead to success,” Vashet said firmly.
“If a man acts wrongly and succeeds, that is not the way. Without the Lethani there is no true success.”.

“Love is the willingness to do anything for someone,” I said. “Even at detriment to yourself.”
“In that case,” she said. “How is love different from duty or loyalty?”
“It is also combined with a physical attraction,” I said.
“Even a mother’s love?” Vashet asked.
“Combined with an extreme fondness then,” I amended.
“And what exactly do you mean by ‘fondness’?” she asked with a maddening calm.
“It is . . .” I trailed off, racking my brain to think how I could describe love without resorting to other, equally abstract terms.
“This is the nature of love.” Vashet said.
“To attempt to describe it will drive a woman mad. That is what keeps poets scribbling endlessly away. If one could pin it to the paper all complete, the others would lay down their pens. But it cannot be done.” She held up a finger. “But only a fool claims there is no such thing as love. When you see two young ones staring at each other with dewy eyes, there it is. So thick you can spread it on your bread and eat it. When you see a mother with her child, you see love. When you feel it roil in your belly, you know what it is. Even if you cannot give voice to it in words.”.
“You obviously understand the Lethani,” she said. “It is rooted deep inside you. Too deep for you to see. Sometimes it is the same with love.”.

There are many reasons to love this story, and I have only attempted to enumerate a few. In case you are looking to escape reality for a while, and are ready to go on a journey, read the first two books of The Kingkiller Chronicles, and like the rest of us, start weeping and praying for the release of the final book.

“A story is like a nut,” Vashet said.
“A fool will swallow it whole and choke. A fool will throw it away, thinking it of little worth.”
She smiled. “But a wise woman finds a way to crack the shell and eat the meat inside.”.

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