Let’s Read The Wise Man’s Fear ch. 82-84

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are among the most tired of fantasy cliches and are rooted in a simultaneous disdain for and exotification/appropriation of cultures and civilizations deemed to be less “advanced” than the white euro-centric sphere that most traditional fantasy springs from. If you’re a creative type who vomits out this awful, over-used, idiotic character archetype than congratulations, you fail.

…… so anyway this chapter doesn’t actually have anything to do with dudes in loin cloths, I just needed to get that out of my system. 

Don’t even get me started on elves.

Kvothe wonders how to communicate with Tempi, a topic he seems inordinately obsessed with.

How could I make intelligent conversation with a person when I had no idea how he felt?

How about don’t? You don’t actually need to talk to the guy if he’s not interested.

Tempi saunters into the camp naked after washing himself and approaches Kvothe in a scene that momentarily made me wonder if some fanfiction had somehow been spliced into the manuscript. It turns out Tempi is covered in Cool Scars as well because scars are cool you guys, almost as cool as swords and wizards and this one Metallica shirt I got did you see it yet

Then we get some lessons on Adem hand gestures and wow Rothfuss is really interested in this character for some reason. In Adem people make gestures with their hands instead of using facial expressions, because whatever. And yes, according to Kvothe he’s been making these hand gestures all the damn time so I guess Ademites(?) telegraph all their emotions like robots as well.

“But smiling is natural,” I protested. “Everyone smiles.”

“Natural is not civilization,” Tempi said. “Cooking meat is civilization. Washing off stink is civilization.”

The Ademre only show facial expressions around family, because faces are natural, like farting, and you don’t fart around people you don’t know, or something. I’m not making this up, he literally says that. The non-Ademre are like barbarians to him, what with their facial expressions and all.

“All children barbarians. All smile with face. All children rude. But they go old. Watch. Learn.”

This seems like a pretty depressing place to live, I have to say.

He paused thoughtfully. Choosing his words. “Barbarians have no woman to teach them civilization. Barbarians cannot learn.”

Nope not addressing this yet, it will come up later moving on.

Kvothe is one of those douchebros who upon learning about another person’s culture decides to copy it, so he gets to work learning Tempi’s hand movements and kata-like stretching exercises in order to spite Tempi for calling him a barbarian.



Lack of Sight

The bandit bros sit around telling stories after twelve days in the woods. Kvothe continues his transformation into the Adem version of a weeaboo.

Every day I continued to follow him in his strange dance, and every day he pointedly ignored me.

Maybe he doesn’t appreciate an uneducated outsider playing cultural tourism with his way of life.

Marten tells a story about Taborlin the great, most likely setting up for the ZOMG SUBVERSION when we find out he was an ordinary dude who turned into a legend just like Kvothe do you see. Or time travel/parallel universes will be involved somehow and it will turn out he literally was Kvothe.

But I held a special place in my heart for Taborlin’s cloak of no particular color

Kvothe and his love of quirky internet cloaks.

Lastly he brought out his copper sword, Skyaldrin


I feel like I increasingly don’t need to actually comment on what I’m reading here, it speaks for itself.

They start bickering about whether the sword was really made of copper or not. This tends to happen whenever people tell stories in these books, which I’d like to interpret as commentary on the stupidity of genre fandom, but I have a feeling if you look up “fantasy fan” in the dictionary you’ll find a picture of a certain gnome-hatted author there.

Kvothe starts to tell his own story about a boy born with a golden screw instead of a belly button who grows up and travels all over the world to find out how he got screwed (so to speak).

The boy followed the road over the Stormwal to ask the witch women of the Tahl

So there is something to the east of the Stormwal mountains.

At the risk of inciting arguments over the hot-button topic of wizards vs witches in the comments thread, I’m going to express the controversial opinion that witches are totally rad and are way better than wizards, and people should write more books about them.

Then the high king made a gesture, and his seneschal brought out a pillow of golden silk. On that pillow was a golden box. The high king took a golden key from around his neck, opened the box, and inside was a golden screwdriver.

I think Kvothe might have been eating the good mushrooms before telling this story, if you know what I mean.

Then the high king carefully turned the golden screw. Once: Nothing. Twice: Nothing. Then he turned it the third time, and the boy’s ass fell off.

…… what

Then the high king carefully turned the golden screw. Once: Nothing. Twice: Nothing. Then he turned it the third time, and the boy’s ass fell off.

…. no seriously, what?

Then the high king carefully turned the golden screw. Once: Nothing. Twice: Nothing. Then he turned it the third time, and the boy’s ass fell off.

This is naturally supposed to be just hilarious and indicate what a ROFLOL wacky funster Kvothe is. Tempi starts to laugh uproariously. Here’s a hint, if your character tells a super-funny joke you better make sure it’s actually super-funny and not just weird and nonsensical.

Tempi gives Kvothe a man-hug, which is apparently considered normal among the Adem so yay for throwing off stereotypical notions of masculinity. Might the Adem’s culture differ from our own in other, surprising ways? Will the book’s handling of this topic be nuanced and intelligent? I guess we’ll just have to wait and find out!

(yes and no)

Kvothe explains that his dad told him the golden-screw-ass-fall-off story when he was a kid to give his super-brain something to occupy it with. The story was presented as some sort of riddle but really Kvothe’s Dad was just trolling him.

I trailed off as realization burst onto me. Elodin. That is what Elodin had been doing. Everything he’d done in his class. The games, the hints, the cryptic riddling. They were all questions of a sort.

I can see the value in trying to teach your students how to think instead of just feeding them information to memorize, but eventually you do need to provide some sort of guidance. Elodin’s teaching method seems to be to just annoy people until they randomly stumble on the correct way to do something.

What I had taken as a malicious crypticism on his part was actually a persistent urging toward the truth. I sat there, silent and stunned by the scope of his instruction. By my lack of understanding. My lack of sight.

This is bullshit, you don’t learn from having an eccentric old man waste your time for weeks on end. This Wizard School is clearly not up to international wizarding standards.



The Edge of the Map

The bandits continue to elude Our Heroes and they become more and more irritable as time goes by, similar to how I am growing more and more snarky as this sub-plot drags on. Tempi and Kvothe move closer to brohood and Kvothe slowly becomes better at Tempi’s fantasy-kata.

I tried to remain stoic about the exchange, but I took this as a great compliment. Had I known more about the Adem, I would have realized it was far more than that.

Kvothe is of course going to be awesome at fantasy-karate. It’s a good thing Tempi is white or Kvothe would obviously be even better at Ademing than a real Adem thanks to the power of his mighty aryan genes. This all gets described in excruciating detail, to the point that I’m starting to wonder if this bandit hunting business is just an excuse to introduce Kvothe to Tempi.

Marten finds a plant that apparently dies if you so much as get a drop of sweat on it, and theorizes that they may be able to use dead plants to track the bandit’s location. I sure hope that happens soon.

Just in case you’re having trouble remembering:

Homeless in Tarbean —————-> sitting around talking to people and looking for money

Wizard school————————–> sitting around talking to people and looking for money and books

Working for the Mayor————–> sitting around talking to people and looking for books and poison and Denna

Bandit forest————————–> sitting around talking to people and looking for bandits


26 thoughts on “Let’s Read The Wise Man’s Fear ch. 82-84

  1. A. Noyd

    This is way late, but since no one else mentioned it…

    The ass falling off story has been around at least since I was little kid in the 80’s, but probably longer. I heard it at summer camp and a few other places and also told it to other kids. In most of the versions I heard, the kid with the screw wanted it removed so he could be normal, and he eventually ended up praying to god while laying on top of a mountain. Then a giant screw driver would descend and relieve him of the screw, and when he tried to get up, his ass would fall off.

    So, yeah. Rothfuss couldn’t even be arsed to make up his own stupid little story.

  2. NR

    I’d just like to note two things. First, great blog. Second, for the last 50 chapter summaries I’ve been using the meow-meow image replacer, which substitutes in a random cat gif for every image and I feel that random cats almost always feel appropriate for whatever Kvothefuss was doing in the story.

    1. ronanwills Post author

      Actually that’s a good point. It’s sort of like when an author wants to indicate a character is foreign by having them randomly pepper words from their native language into their speech even though presumably no one they’re talking to can understand what they’re saying.

      1. Andrea Harris

        That whole hand-gesture thing… white authors use that not just to indicate Foreign Exoticness, but to stick it to supposedly repressed white culture, where presumably white people have all the emotional expressiveness of wax dummies. But that’s not exactly true — depending on the country and region, white people have their own sort of body language that they use to communicate as much as anyone. Only we’re culturally so self-unaware that we don’t see this, it’s so ingrained as “normal” that we nod, or blink, or shrug or whatever, instead of using a hand gesture, say. And we come again to the problem of white Middle American culture being the norm from which all others deviate. I don’t care if he calls his fantasy character “Kvothe” and make him a wizard, his roots are in an Ohio suburb or wherever it is Rothfuss comes from. And that’s because as a rule white middle-class Americans are raised to see themselves as not having a distinct “culture” but simply existing the way people are “supposed” to be. It’s a completely insulated view of existence that pretends it’s universal. It’s annoying.

      2. katz

        Not too fond of his You No Take Candle accent, either.

        Although his name is another nice entry into the “everyone’s names sound the same no matter where they’re from” pattern. I’m a little disappointed that he hasn’t thought even slightly about what the languages sound like or how they might be different (there’s just one “common” language and then a bunch of smaller languages that you occasionally run into someone who speaks…just like an RPG, hmm?).

      3. welltemperedwriter

        The main reason I could think of to do this would be if the word had no direct translation, or the speaker couldn’t remember it.

        My brother’s wife and in-laws speak Chinese as their primary language. They sometimes switch languages mid-conversation, but they don’t drop single words into the conversation in English or Chinese.

  3. shardbaenre

    Agreed about Andre Norton. She wasn’t flashy, but you believed in whatever world she was crafting. She did a lot in far less page time and was no less the richer for it.

    1. Andrea Harris

      Also there was a level of respect, for her readers and her characters, that I don’t see in a lot of today’s stuff. I guess people find that attitude stiff and old-fashioned. Whatevs.

      1. Andrea Harris

        Going to work on that. I have to make a distinction between my personal faves and what are actually her best works.

  4. Andrea Harris

    “At the risk of inciting arguments over the hot-button topic of wizards vs witches in the comments thread, I’m going to express the controversial opinion that witches are totally rad and are way better than wizards, and people should write more books about them.”

    This makes me sad that apparently no one remembers Andre Norton ever existed. (In fact, the whole “where are interesting non-stereotyped main character women in SFF?” argument makes me think this. In case no one knows who I’m talking about, Andre Norton started writing before World War Two and didn’t stop until she died at the age of 90 a few years ago. She started out in SF writing “juveniles” with male characters (hence male pseudonym, her real name was Alice Mary Norton) but her best fantasy titles have women as main characters and in fact most of the practitioners of magic were female. But her worldbuilding wasn’t flashy and her novels were too short to give you a hernia when you lifted them so she’s gone out of fashion. Too bad, she’s one of my major influences and really should be remembered more.

  5. Reveen

    Getting the drop on bandits might be a little tricky when you’re team is constantly talking, laughing, roughhousing, and generally making a scene like a bunch of beered up chuckleheads on a hunting trip.

    Is Kvohfuss even capable of writing tension? Has there been any part of either of these book that was actually intense?

    1. magpiewhotypes

      Yeah, that seemed odd to me too. Two minutes of Internet research confirms that yes, you can make a copper sword, but it would not be very useful if you wanted to wound someone with it–you know, the purpose of a sword.

      However, there are several RPGs that involve “copper swords,” so Rothfuss quite possibly got his information from RPG history.

      1. braak

        It is POSSIBLE that this is purposeful — the same way when they talk about Chronicler’s “paper sword” in the story they made up about him in the other book. The problem, as always with Rothfuss, is because so much of it SEEMS blundering and inept, it’s hard to tell if he’s stumbled onto an interesting reversal in spite of himself, or just backed into a regular old dumb idea.

      1. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

        And let me guess, the men are promiscuous while the women are monogamous and try to trick men into staying around and helping them raise the children.

        Also has Rothfuss bothered to write any words from the language the Adem speak, seeing as how they speak *english poorly, or do they just communicate in gestures?


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