Let’s Read The Name of The Wind ch.11-12


We open with Kvothe giving a riveting lecture on a nearby civilization’s transition from a nomadic to settled lifestyle, which he knows about in a level of detail that would probably require a time machine. The point of the scene is that Ben begins to teach Kvothe how to use magic to make two similar objects influence each other- think quantum entanglement because less interesting.

That’s boring so instead let’s count how many times Rothfuss uses the word “grin” or some variation of it in the space of four pages:

“Historically,” he grinned, “Astound me with your grasp of historical minutiae, E’lir.”

“Sorry, sir.” Ben sat up straight in his seat and assumed such an aspect of rapt attention that we both broke into grins.

He set down the coin. His lecturer’s facade gave way to a grin as he tried with marginal success to wipe the pitch off of his hands with a rag.

I felt a grin capture my face, wolfish.
“Too bad, E’lir.” His grin was wolfish too, and savage.


Kvothe then gives us/Devan a brief explanation of how magic works.

First, energy cannot be created or destroyed

How the fuck does he even know what energy is? The technology level of this world seems to be far below that of the 19th century, which is when the concept in its modern sense was first described.

Look, I know this is a fantasy world. But discoveries in science often rely on certain technological prerequisites- eg, you couldn’t have a universe where microscopic life was discovered before microscopes were invented. And Kvothe’s world is so similar to generic Ye Olde Europelandia it creates a certain expectation that it’s going to behave in broadly the same way. If you want a fantasy setting where the rate of scientific progress is markedly different from our own, make sure it doesn’t feel like our world in every other respect.

There some bullshit about Kvothe’s mom getting mad at him for singing a rude song that just serves to remind me that his parents appear to have largely vanished from the narrative, then the chapter ends.

Huh. That was…. kind of pointless. Nothing really happened, we just got a lot of exposition.

Well, onto chapter 12 I guess.

When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind.

Can I take a moment to say how sick I am of seeing stuff like this come up in fiction?

Childhood is not an idyllic carefree romp- kids experience worry, stress and anxiety just like adults. In fact kids often worry more than adults because they don’t have the experience or maturity to parse real concerns from irrelevant ones and fixate on irrational fears.

I just think it’s bizarre that this version of childhood gets propagated so widely even though it contradicts our own experiences. Do people just completely forget what that period of their life was like?

Anyway, Kvothe overhears his parent and Ben talking about the Chandrian. Kvothe’s dad is gathering information on them for a story but is having trouble tracking down anything accurate (even though in the framing story instructions on burying their pet spider-crabs are apparently common knowledge). We learn that there are seven Chandrian (plus unlimited spider-crabs) and then there’s some fantasy linguistics BS about where the word “chandrian” comes from, because Tolkien. Also the Chandrian’s  motivations are inscrutable, as they tend to simply show up and start wrecking shit with no apparent rhyme or reason.

So on the subject of Kvothe’s parents, I guess I should mention that I like how Kvothe’s mother is portrayed. She’s intelligent to a degree equal to the men around her, possibly more so, and plays an active and important role in the troupe’s work. Given how badly fantasy authors tend to handle female characters this is pretty nice.

“That’s a clever wife you’ve got there, Arl.” Ben spoke up, breaking the tension. “How much will you sell her for?”
“I need her for my work, unfortunately. But if you’re interested in a short-term rental, I’m sure we could arrange a reas—” There was a fleshy thump followed by a slightly pained chortle in my father’s baritone.

Well, okay. There’s also that.

Kvothe overhears Ben telling his parents telling what a genius he is, but for once it’s plot-relevant and not just pointless masturbation. Well, okay, some of it is pointless masturbation. But not all of it which is a big improvement.

“But most eleven-year-olds’ deepest thoughts have to do with skipping stones, and how to swing a cat by the tail.”

Already went over this, it’s just as stupid this time as it was a few pages ago.

“His music stopping barroom brawls and border wars.” Ben smiled.
“The wild women in his lap,” my father enthused, “laying their breasts on his head.”

This is a serious work of important literary fantasy, Kvothe’s Dad, not Love Hina. Also stop making me regret saying I like you.

She swatted at him playfully, and a thoughtful look crossed her face. “Come to think of it, there was a night, about a dozen years ago, a man came to me. He bound me with kisses and cords of chorded song.


Ben suggests that Kvothe should go to the University Wizard School to learn magic.

I’ve been pressing the snark peddle pretty hard lately so I should probably mention that I’m enjoying this section a lot better than the framing story- the Kvothewank is down to just about tolerable levels, the purple prose has mostly stopped and I like Ben and Kvothe’s parents as characters. Which I guess just reaffirms my earlier KVOTHE IS THE MIND-KILLER assertion.


8 thoughts on “Let’s Read The Name of The Wind ch.11-12

  1. welltemperedwriter

    Re: the “grinned” thing…I’m listening to A Memory of Light on audiobook now and I swear Brandon Sanderson has the characters, ALL of them, regardless of their personalities or the likelihood that they’d actually do it, hesitating before saying something all the damned time. It’s gotten so I twitch every time one of them does it.

    1. ronanwills Post author

      Oh God, don’t get me fucking started on Sanderson. I tried reading Mistborn once and none of the characters could go two sentences without grinning, or winking, or shaking their heads, or sighing.

      Actually I think I have a review of it up on the blog somewhere…..

      1. welltemperedwriter

        I’d never read anything of his before, but it reminds me of Timothy Zahn who does much the same thing…his characters throw glances about with such abandon that it’s a wonder nobody’s been injured.

  2. sanguine_outlook

    I think there’s also another reason that the stuff about childhood rings so false. When I think back to my own childhood, there’s lots of stuff that I understand differently in hindsight. For example, at the time I felt deeply persecuted by the other kids, but looking back now I recognize that all of us at that age, myself included, were just kinda petty and self-absorbed. Or later, I played Nice Guy ™ with a girl I liked, a choice that seemed utterly necessary at the time, but that I’m embarrassed about in hindsight.

    But there’s none of that here. Kvothe-the-narrator (whom we are supposed to believe is jaded and wise and world-weary) totally endorses boy-Kvothe’s understanding of every situation. When boy-Kvothe goes off to wizard school (spoiler alert) he too feels deeply persecuted by the other students… and the narrative confirms that yes, they really are out to get him. He’s a truly egregious Nice Guy ™, and the narrative confirms that indeed, just asking the girl out was totally never an option. And so on.

    1. braak

      Yeah, I think that’s the real problem here (well, two problems). In this particular case, it’s that the story is predicated on a revision of history in terms of present character (which makes it a kind of interesting commentary on the nature of memory), without actually being any kind of revision at all. Kvothe recollects his past and treats it as though it is flat-out exactly what happened, and neither he, nor Devan, nor Bast, nor anybody even for a second says, “Wait a minute, dude, you’re just making that up.”

      [FALSE, I said that but now I remember a part where that did happen, when Bast comments how Denna had a funny nose, but I am not sure that’s significant enough.]

      1. sanguine_outlook

        Oh, yes, exactly! If Kvothe-the-narrator’s purported world-weary bitterness had really been allowed to color the way he tells his story, that could have turned into an interesting commentary on the genre-standard Bildungsroman-cum-messiah-story.

        Alternatively, if there had been hints that Kvothe is purposefully twisting the story to make himself sound better, and if we’d perhaps been able to get glimpses of the true shape of events behind his story, then *that* could have been an interesting statement about The Power Of Narrative or whatever.

        Instead, there are just a few isolated gestures, like the bit about Denna’s nose, or the part in the next book where Kvothe announces he’s skipping over part of the story for the hell of it. These gestures don’t seem to add up to anything coherent, they just seem to be repeated reminders that this is a story within a framing story, Do You Seeee, Is Your Mind Blown Yet, etc.

  3. braak

    You have to refresh my memory, here, because does Dad Kvothe actually seem like he wants to track down accurate stories about the Chandrian? That seems like a really weird thing for a character to do, especially in a world in which 1) the Chandrian are presumed to be fictional (“I can’t write this song yet, not until I can find some accurate information about REAL hobgoblins”), and 2) the person doing it is a professional entertainer (“Homer, you’ve got an obligation to your audience to present them with the truth. Did Odysseus REALLY navigate between a whirlpool and a giant six-headed monster?”).

    The more you go back through this, the less convinced I am that Rothfuss actually has very much of an idea about what folklore is or how it works, which makes it seem a little weird that this would be the espoused point of his novel.

    1. ronanwills Post author

      It’s a bit vague about that. Dad Kvothe (totally calling him that now) doesn’t believe in the Chandrian himself, regarding them as legends, which would seem to imply he’s looking for the mythic origin of the stories. But he also seems to assume that there is one correct story, treating the various folktales about the signs of their coming as corruptions of some sort of underlying truth. Which, like I said previously, is a bit odd given that exact instructions for the disposal of the spider-crabs have survived fully intact in the form of children’s songs.

      That’s a perceptive point about Rothfuss not understanding the nature of folklore; certainly he doesn’t seem to understand about a lot of things he includes in his story, whether that be history, science, childhood or the nature of poverty.

      I’m going to make an effort to analyze the story’s handling of folklore in more depth in future posts, given that the creation of a legend is supposed to be the entire point of the plot.


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