let’s read the wise man’s fear ch. 37-39

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Looks like I managed to sneak in some time for another one of these before #Studython2013 begins. Enjoy!


A Piece of Fire

Fire doesn’t come in pieces, Kvothe. Jesus Christ man get your shit together.

It’s story time with the Wizard Bros. Basically, the deal is that there’s a fictional place called Farninnel Faernininin Fern Gully Faeriniel, a land composed entirely of roads that travelers from all over the world use to get around. An old man wanders one of these roads, hungry and exhausted.

He barely even owned his own name, and even that had been worn thin and threadbare through the years.

This is one of the few sentences I’ve read so far that feels as though it was written by a competent author.

The old man meets a group of rich merchants, who refuse to give him food unless he can pay them. Next he meets a group of badass mercenary warriors who won’t talk to him because they’re all silent and mysterious and stuff.


He scurries off and encounters some dudes whose pack mule has died. They suggest tying him to the cart and making him pull it, which doesn’t seem like it would work very well. He escapes and at the next fire runs into some people who think he’s a zombie and want to kill him.

At the last fire he meets one of the Amyr. There’s an interesting bit here where Wilem and Sim interrupt the story to ask Kvothe questions, with their dialogue presented in italics. It’s actually pretty entertaining and doesn’t interrupt the flow of the narrative much. I wonder why Rothfuss never uses this device in the main book, since it’s also a story within a story.

The Amyr is sympathetic but only has a tiny amount of food, which he decides to keep for himself because he needs to make a long journey to save someone’s life the next day. It also turns out he’s one of the Cricket Brigade, which means he has fancy tattoos and can act completely above the law.

Earlier Moon Fey-chan said that Kvothe looked like one of the Ciridae because he had blood on him in a similar pattern to the tattoos, which I guess was supposed to be significant because it indicated she knew something she shouldn’t have; but now Kvothe is telling this story about the Ciridae, a story he claims is common among the Edem- the Ed- the Bardsketeers. Why was it so surprising that Moon Fey would know about them?

The old man leaves and spots a campfire in the center of Roadsville in the middle of a circle of Waystones, which belongs to some Wagon-bros similar to Kvothe’s troupe (if you can’t tell, I am trying very hard to avoid having to type the actual name of his people again as I fear it will trigger a fatal aneurysm). The leader of this particular cadre of Trundlesmiths offers him a bed for the night and laments the fact that everyone is so mean to them.

Can we get a discussion going on why Rothfuss is harping on the Minstrelites being oppressed so much? I have an idea.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that Kvothe is a wish fulfillment character, presumably for Rothfuss himself. Going a bit further with that, he’s identifying with the Wagon-bros to some extent. There’s a strong tendency for people who are never likely to experience oppression themselves to invent fictitious groups when writing about discrimination rather than include a real life minority in their writing. Generally the fictitious group will be composed mostly or entirely of white, heterosexual middle class people who happen to have some other feature or characteristic that supposedly draws the ire of their white, heterosexual middle class neighbors. The mutants in X-Men have genetic mutations. The wizards in Harry Potter have wizardliness, while the muggle-borns in wizard society have a lack of sufficient wizardliness. The vampires in True Blood are violent sociopaths who regard humans as cattle (True Blood is pretty stupid). The Bard-Rollers in Rothfuss’ books have…. wagons, I guess.

They’re presented as a cultured, intelligent elite who work to entertain the idiotic masses who happily lap up watered-down versions of their creative output, leaving the more respected “pure” versions of their plays and songs to be appreciated only by the Wagon-Bros themselves and a small group of dedicated fans in places like Imre . Would it be reading too much into it to speculate that the Wagoneers represent genre fiction authors, and perhaps maybe their fans as well? There is a certain breed of SFF writer who genuinely holds this view of their chosen field.

(Take a look at the parody Iron Dream review linked to at the start of that post, it’s seriously the best)

Anyway the Wagon Bros are super nice to the old man and feed him well despite having little themselves. I’m somehow not surprised that they wrote this story themselves.

“Sceop,” he said at last. “I am called Sceop, and you?”

Sceop. The old man is named “Sceop”. Meanwhile the Wagon Bros have names like Shari, Benthum, Fent and….. Peter. Okay then.

 Silla gave him a heavy ladle of potato soup, a slice of warm bread, and half a golden summer squash with sweet butter in the bowl of it

Hang on, this is making me hungry brb

The Wagon Bros ask Scallop to tell him their story as payment for the food, which he does. At the end of telling the story of how he went around the different camp-fires and got super trolled by everyone they invite him to join them.

The beggar shook his head. “My blood is not yours. I am not a part of your family.”

“What does that have to do with the price of butter?” Terris asked. “We Wagon Bros decide who is a part of our family and who is not. You belong with us. Look around and see if I am lying.”

Okay, see, this just strengthens my theory. SFF fans (as well as hardcore video game fans and probably other geek groups as well) like to present this idea that their fandoms are super-egalitarian melting pots where everyone who’s interested in the subject of the fandom is welcomed even if they’ve been shunned by mainstream society. Often they’ll present themselves as the only such group in existence.  Of course anyone who has spent any time in these social circles will tell you that this is complete bullshit, geek fandoms are among the most aggressively conservative and normative social enclaves in popular culture. It’s telling that an interest in stories is presented as being what binds all of the Wagon bros together.


Kernels of Truth

The Wizard Boys spend a lot of time talking about how they expected the old man to turn out to be someone important, but you see that’s what happens in fake stories, but this is a real story and do you see how clever Rothfuss is being with all of this? No? Well he’s going to spend five pages explaining it to you.

But I know what kind of story you two are thinking about. Those are stories we tell other people to entertain them. This story is different. It’s one we tell each other.

The unwashed masses only want shallow, derivative stories. SFF fa- I mean, the Wagon Bros, appreciate deep, original, thoughtful stories.

“But the Wagon Bros were especially prized. They hunted us like foxes. For a hundred years Bro-hunting was a favorite pastime among the Aturan upper crust.”

Are we going to get an explanation for why everyone hates them so much?

“Still,” I said. “There’s some truth in most stereotypes. A seed they sprouted from.”

No, actually. A lot of stereotypes were just made up by the people at the top of the social ladder to demonize people they don’t like.

It’s implied that Sim has some kind of beef with his family and the Wizard Dudes finally work up the courage to scale the mighty bridge in front of them.



In this chapter we get the scoop on what the deal with Sim and his family is. He’s the son of a duke in Atur and ended up going to Wizard School more or less by default since his older siblings had already taken up the “respectable” jobs that someone of his status would be expected to go into, but which he had no interest in. His studies are financially supported by his family, but he’s had no contact with them since leaving home. This already sounds way more interesting than anything in Kvothe’s back story.

Sim’s father likes to hunt, fight, drink, and wench. I suspect our gentle, bookish Sim was probably not given the love a clever son deserves.

The bookish, nerdy child is ignored in favour of his jock siblings. Hmmmmmm.

The Wizard Boys hit up the library for some rad studying action in order to settle an argument they had in a previous chapter about what Waystones are all about. Wil finds a book about one of the stonehenge door configurations Kvothe and Denna spent so much time at in the previous book, claiming that

at certain times men could pass through the stone door into the fair land where Felurian herself abides, loving and destroying men with her embrace.”

If you don’t know who Felurian is, well. Just wait and see.

From reading a few details about what happens later I’m fairly certain this is actually correct, which is interesting considering Rothfuss’ usualy insistence on subverting fantasy cliches and messing with your expectations oh do you see. I wonder why this isn’t as important when it involves ancient sex fairies.

Kvothe and Sim find documents giving contradictory accounts of why the Amyr were disbanded, or something, I don’t care. In order to settle the issue they decide to go and visit Puppet, some sort of quirky library expert who’s been mentioned several times.

So, like I said in my last post there’s probably going to be some downtime in these Let’s Reads. This presents something of an opportunity.

The book has been getting even more dull and repetitive than usual and I feel like I’ve just been saying “nothing’s happening” and “this is just repeating the first book” for a while now without much else of substance. So. What I propose is that over the next while I prepare one big mega-post covering the period between now and when Kvothe leaves the University, which I’ve been told is where the story starts to pick up again. Rather than do it chapter by chapter I’ll just hit the important parts and get this part of the book out of the way as quickly as possible.

What do you guys think? Yes? No?


11 thoughts on “let’s read the wise man’s fear ch. 37-39

  1. braak

    “There’s a strong tendency for people who are never likely to experience oppression themselves to invent fictitious groups when writing about discrimination rather than include a real life minority in their writing.”

    I agree that this is true, but on the other hand it might also be fair to give the X-Men a pass — certainly, they’re NOW mostly written by people who are not at all likely to be oppressed, but they were created by two very working-class Jewish guys who grew up in the 20s and 30s. This may be a case in which the quality of being an outcast or minority was actually very explicitly a coded reference to actual oppression.

  2. q____q

    Thing is: when he get’s out of the university things only speed up in a o so clever genre-reverting manner for a page (spoiler: by not going into detail about the interesting things that happen but coming back to the story when it gets tedious again. Ha. Ha. Ha.) and then it gets dull for 400 pages again (mayor episode) until things seem to get interesting (hunting bandits) but they don’t until … Felurian. Oh and the sex-ninjas, that wasn’t actually that boring only ridiculous.

    Anyway, I vote for detailed. Make this Let’s Read even longer but much more interesting then the stupid books. You’re awesome (I like you thoughts about the elitists singer club nerd/geek culture).

  3. halikon

    While condensing your reviews from now until the real plot of TWMF would be a very efficient use of your time, it would also mean that this Let’s Read would be over that much faster. And I would rather have more of your posts to read than less.

    So a “nay” from this reader.

    (Can’t wait for you to get to Felurian.)

    1. ronanwills Post author

      I also am looking forward to Felurian, although from what I’ve heard I fear that that part may kill me.

  4. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

    I approve this glossing over inane repetitive bullshit idea. Also something odd about this book is that many people who loved the first book hate this one. Since TWMF hasn’t deviated yet from TNotW I doubt there’s anything to go on but I hope you can shed some light on this mystery once you’ve made progress.

    1. ronanwills Post author

      TWMF is more slow paced and dull than TNoTW, but not a huge amount. If someone loved the first book I really don’t see why the second one would change their mind.

    2. Reveen

      I suppose the more overt creepiness, sexism, and wish fulfillment bullshit is enough to shake some people out of the trance long-ass fantasy books put people in. But I can’t imagine why the people who didn’t like Wiseguy’s Fear didn’t look at the last book in hindsight.

  5. Gabriel

    I’m entertained by your comprehensive, line-by-line panning of it, but if you wanted to power through it (to get done with it faster), I wouldn’t blame you. 😛

    I haven’t read this one — I read the first one, and so many people had been like, “It’s the best book I’ve ~EVAR READ~!” and so I was disappointed at being disappointed by it.

    I’m rather less heterosexual than Kvothe, so I didn’t identify with his stupid romantic dramas nearly as much as I was probably expected to, and I thought he was an idiot with his money, but that was was the extent of my opinion about the book. It took a different friend reading it and going rageface at the gender politics to make me realize that it was actively bad in addition to being passively bad.


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