Let’s Read The Wise Man’s Fear ch. 105-108

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Okay, we’re at the end of the Felurian section now right?


Interlude—A Certain Sweetness


Look, nothing fucking happens during these interludes apart from at the beginning and end of the books so we may as well dispense with them entirely. It’s not like I’m going to forget what’s going on in the present (ie nothing) if you don’t keep flashing back to it.

Bast is all shocked that Kvothe talked to the magic tree for some reason.

Bast closed his eyes and pounded the table like a child in the grip of a tantrum. “Shut up. Shut up! SHUT UP!”

Jesus dude take a chill pill.

Bast starts to explain that the magic tree is just, like, the absolute worst. Like it’s the most evil thing ever in the whole wide world. I guess. I don’t know, this feels completely pointless, Kvothe spoke to it for a few pages then ran off crying, what’s the big deal? It’s not like it’s coming to hunt him down or something. Also, if we’re told that the magic tree that showed up for one chapter is the most evil thing ever it kind of diminishes the impact of the Chandrian. Not that they haven’t been sufficiently diminished already due to not actually showing up for like 600+ pages.

Bast ran his hands through his hair, leaving it in disarray. “I can’t for all the salt in me guess how you slipped past them, Reshi. If anyone manages to come in contact with the Cthaeh, the Sithe kill them. They kill them from a half-mile off with their long horn bows. Then they leave the body to rot. If a crow so much as lands on the body, they kill it too.”

The magic tree is supposed to be heavily guarded so no one goes near it; I guess Kvothe just sort of blundered straight through the tree’s security. Twice. Either that or someone engineered the meeting for whatever reason.

The reason for all this security is that the magic tree can see all possible futures and how to influence them, meaning it can tell a person exactly what they need to hear to set the worst possible course of history in motion- Kvothe puts two and two together and realizes that a massive war in Fairyland that Felurian told him about was caused by precisely this happening.

“An arrow only hits one person, Reshi.” Bast’s dark eyes were hollow and hopeless. “Anyone influenced by the Cthaeh is like a plague ship sailing for a harbor.”

This is a fairly interesting idea that, unless the tree shows up again in a major way, is going to go completely to waste. Hell this could have been a central element of the plot- Kvothe hears about the tree, journeys to fairyland to find it (completely bypassing the naked sex fairy because he has more important things to do) so he can ask about the Chandrian, gets some hella useful advice on how to totally wreck their shit but oh no! It turns out the tree was trolling Kvothe and he ends up fucking everything up, presumably by killing a king.

Boom! Instant fantasy plot. Clearly I should be writing these books instead.

Chronicler expresses doubt that the magic tree is actually as dangerous as its made out to be so Bast turns some ink and blood into a giant crow and makes it explode. Hey how about they just get this guy to kill the Chandrian, he’s clearly got more skills than Kvothe.

“I swear it by my tongue and teeth,” Bast said crisply. “I swear it on the doors of stone. I am telling you three thousand times. There is nothing in my world or yours more dangerous than the Cthaeh.”

Who caaaaaaaares

If it’s just going to show up once to make Kvothe cry there’s absolutely no point in this character being in the book, and spending an entire chapter telling us how awesome and dangerous it is just makes it feel more pointless. Unless the idea is that whatever Kvothe apparently did to cause the war was a result of talking to the tree? Which would be super lame, if his downfall was due to accidentally wandering into an evil tree he didn’t even know about beforehand. And in any case he ran off before the tree actually told him anything too surprising.

Kvothe implies he believes his story is over and he’s going to die soon (because of the cut-flower sound, you see).

Kvothe looked at both of them for a moment, then smiled and chuckled low in his chest. “Oh,” he said fondly. “You’re both so young.”

I don’t think I’ve actually mentioned this before but I really don’t like Kvothe as a character. He’s arrogant, cocky, possessive and massively entitled and his present-day version wallows in selfish misery instead of trying to fix the problems he apparently started and with no concern for how his death wish is going to affect the people around him. Of the entire cast Chronicler and Denna are the only two I actually like, and even Denna gets saddled with a whole lot of irritating character traits when she’s around Kvothe.



Returning? Does that mean we’re leaving Fairyland? Please say we are.

Kvothe sits around Felurian’s sex grotto and mopes for a while after his encounter with the magic tree. No running off to save Denna or anything? Not worried about how much time might be passing in his world while he waits around Fairyland for days? Kvothe is one of the most passive fantasy heroes I’ve ever seen. If a magic tree told me the love of my life- or even just one of my friends, which is what Denna basically is to Kvothe- was being regularly abused I’d drop everything to go and help them. I’d expect any decent person would have the same reaction, but Kvothe just wallows in self pity over his dead family. I know that’s a tough situation as well, but they’re dead. There’s someone suffering in the present and Kvothe is as far as we’re aware the only person who even knows it’s happening. He’s got a clear moral imperative to at least try to help her.

Felurian brings Kvothe a succession of wacky fairyland fruits and foods and animals, all of which demonstrate the same surprising creativity on Rothfuss’ part that I talked about earlier. I’m really starting to think he might have some untapped talent at surrealism and he’s wasting his time trying to write Tolkien-esque epic fantasy.

Eventually Kvothe recovers from his funk- still no concern for Denna though- and Felurian gives him his finished Shaeaeeaaeaead. Then they have sex again.

After that I knew my time in the Fae was drawing to a close.

Okay? Off to rescue Denna, then?

The fact that I had been within a stone’s throw of the man who had killed my parents and not realized it left a bitter taste in my mouth that even Felurian’s kisses could not erase.

Well yes, but first

And what the Cthaeh had said of Denna kept playing over and over in my head.

Ah, there we go! It only took, like, a week or something (it’s implied he spends a lot of time moping).

Kvothe gets dressed, feeling weird about actually wearing clothes again. And then Felurian leads him back to the waystones and we finally end this stupid part of the book.

Kvothe arrives back the Pennyworth Inn and finds Marten regaling the audience with tales of their encounter with Felurian. Naturally Kvothe picks the most dramatic moment to walk in and be like “lol you thought I was dead but I’m totally not and also I did sex with Felurian”. It seems Dedan and Hespe are finally an item as well.

But that only scratches the bare surface of it. I felt out of place in my own skin. It was profoundly irritating to be wearing clothes again, and I wanted nothing more than to be comfortably naked.

Man, Kvothe really loves being naked. I wonder if Rothfuss is a naturist or


…… what were we talking about again? Something about…. gnome hats….. body hair?

Anyway, Kvothe is all out of place since his time in fairyland, which was apparently even more extensive than I thought. He sees a woman and has to fight the urge to immediately start kissing her. Which is really kind of creepy and gross, actually.

Looking around the room again, everything seemed terribly ridiculous. These people sitting on their benches, wearing layers on layers of clothing, eating with knives and forks. It all struck me as so pointless and contrived.

And Mom and Dad make me mow the lawn sometimes too! All these stupid sheeple and their pointless traditions!

“Come now, I am Kvothe. I am Edema Ruh born. I have studied at the University and can call down lightning like Taborlin the Great. Did you really think Felurian would be the death of me?”

God what a fucking toolbox.

The Inn patrons start to doubt that Kvothe is really as amazing and special as he claims and we can’t be having that so luckily his Shahwaawaaeaeaeahaheraed starts to move as though being blown in the wind.

That hot serving woman who was inexplicably attracted to Kvothe earlier comes over and can tell that he’s been in fairyworld….. somehow.

Losi turned and spoke hotly. “There’s a look a man has when he knows his way around a woman, Ben Crayton.

Can any women in the audience confirm if you and your fellow women actually possess magic sex radar? Asking for a friend.

Kvothe starts to tell them a story about how he escaped Felurian and claims to embellish it even though it’s pretty much identical to what did happen apart from leaving out the magic tree and making the bit where him and Felurian fought with magic slightly more dramatic.

I shouldn’t be coy, I suppose. I implied rather strongly that Felurian thought quite highly of me as a lover.

…..but she did. Remember? Remember THE SCENE? I’ve got the blog post Kvothe, 260millions of people saw it! In fact Kvothe actually makes his story less impressive by saying he’s proud of his newfound sexing skills whereas in the actual event Felurian was already impressed with Kvothe’s sexing skills before she ever taught him anything.

Then him and the hot bar woman have sex and we get this….. thing:

But how could that be? I hear you ask. How could any mortal woman compare with Felurian?

It is easier to understand if you think of it in terms of music. Sometimes a man enjoys a symphony. Elsetimes he finds a jig more suited to his taste. The same holds true for lovemaking. One type is suited to the deep cushions of a twilight forest glade. Another comes quite naturally tangled in the sheets of narrow beds upstairs in inns. Each woman is like an instrument, waiting to be learned, loved, and finely played, to have at last her own true music made.

Some might take offense at this way of seeing things, not understanding how a trouper views his music. They might think I degrade women. They might consider me callous, or boorish, or crude.

But those people do not understand love, or music, or me.




Hey Kvothe, remember that whole thing about Denna being beaten by her abusive patron? Like possibly right this very instant? No? Just gonna have sex some more? Well okay then.



Quick as in “quick, rescue Denna!” right?

WE SPENT A FEW days at the Pennysworth while our welcome was warm.


Yes I’m going to keep harping on this every chance I get.

Tempi continues to teach Kvothe how to fight, because after getting magic skills and sex skills he needs fighting skills to complete the triumvirate of gary stu traits. And make no mistake, he is an example of that trope. Kvothe’s only self-identified weakness or flaw was his supposed-but-not-actually awkwardness around women, which has now vanished under the tutelage of the sex fairy who was way impressed with his ability to do sex before she taught him sexing.

I also pieced together a song about my Felurian experience. I originally called it “In Twilight Versed,” which you have to admit wasn’t a very good title. Luckily, the name didn’t stick and these days most folk know it as “The Song Half-Sung.”

Because that’s so much of an improvement.

Kvothe also brags to all the bar patrons about his great deeds, which I guess is how his legend spreads. Because of course these bar patrons hear “I was admitted into wizard school at the age of 15” and immediately run out the door and start telling people about how he was admitted to wizard school as a zygote after arriving to Earth in a rocket made out of solid gold.

After leaving the Inn Kvothe and co meet some travelling musicians (but not wagon bros) and Kvothe plays his Felurian song for them.

I’d written it to be easy to remember and simple to sing, but I still had to repeat it twice before he caught all of it. As I’ve said, they weren’t Wagon Bros.

More of that Wagon Bro elitism.

He thought some more. “I heard Alveron’s getting married to the Lackless woman.”


“I know a poem about Lackless!” The young boy chimed in again, and began:

Seven things stand before

The entrance to the Lackless door—

Kvothe finally realizes that the door might be interesting and asks the kid to tell him the whole poem.

Seven things stand before

The entrance to the Lackless door. One of them a ring unworn

One a word that is forsworn

One a time that must be right

One a candle without light

One a son who brings the blood

One a door that holds the flood

One a thing tight-held in keeping

Then comes that which comes with sleeping.

“Then comes that which comes with sleeping”? What?

Also, hey, Kvothe? Kvothe?



Kvothe is in the middle of practicing the KETAN when four Adem mercenaries approach all stealthy-stealth like. Tempi goes to talk to them. Kvothe approaches and one of them pushes him away; without thinking he starts using Adem-fu to fight back.

Without thinking, I made Break Lion, taking hold of his thumb and turning his wrist away from me. He loosed his hand from mine without any apparent effort and moved to trip me with Chasing Stone. I made Dance Backwards and got the balance right this time, but his other hand struck me in the temple just enough to dizzy me for half a second, not hard enough to even hurt.

I remember reading about how the sword-fighting system in Wheel of Time, which is based on formalized patterns with stupid names, is basically bullshit and was deliberately made to be cinematic rather than realistic. The Lethani seems to be similar; it’s my understand that fighting styles made to actually be practical tend not to have formalized fancy move-sets like this, which are usually the domain of martial arts intended for sports or tradition, although obviously there’s some overlap between the two.

Thankfully Kvothe doesn’t turn out to be a martial art savant and is no match for the more experienced Adem. The one who struck Kvothe was actually a woman, and I’m relieved to see she isn’t sexualized-

But while she was whipcord thin, the tightness of her mercenary reds still revealed the lean curves of hip and breast.

Women must always be hawt am I rite. Can’t be having a woman of sexable age show up without talking about her hip and breast. Her single hip and breast, apparently.

It turns out Tempi is in major trouble for teaching Kvothe secrets of the Lethani and has to travel back to Ademland to face judgement. Kvothe remembers what Felurian had said about going to the Stormwahl (a wall for storms, if you will) mountains to find info on the Chandrian and asks to accompany Tempi. Now I could criticize Kvothe some more for the whole “not saving Denna” thing but to be fair he did sort of get Tempi into trouble by pushing Tempi to teach him; I know Tempi ultimately chose to do it, but Kvothe still shares some responsibility so I can understand going with him, especially since Tempi says that Kvothe going with him will help him greatly with his trouble.

“Accompany?” Tempi asked, his hands moving in a graceful circle intended to break the long bones of the arm.

“Travel with. Follow. To Haert.”


“Would it help your trouble?”


“I will come.”

“I thank you.”

Dawwwwww. I hope they develop an epic bromance on the road.


46 thoughts on “Let’s Read The Wise Man’s Fear ch. 105-108

  1. Cat

    “It is easier to understand if you think of it in terms of music. Sometimes a man enjoys a symphony. Elsetimes he finds a jig more suited to his taste. The same holds true for lovemaking. One type is suited to the deep cushions of a twilight forest glade. Another comes quite naturally tangled in the sheets of narrow beds upstairs in inns. Each woman is like an instrument, waiting to be learned, loved, and finely played, to have at last her own true music made.”

    For fuck’s sake, women are not musical instruments!

    You know what really bothers me? Kvothe is screwing around with tons of random women while he could be finding Denna and helping her. A female character who screws around with random men instead of helping the man she loves would not be looked upon kindly at all, yet the readers are supposed to sympathize with Kvothe instead of thinking he’s a pig.

  2. braak

    Interestingly, the thing the Adem most remind me of is the Bloodguard, from The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant; that series has got its own set of problems, obviously (problem #1 being that long stretches of it are very boring), but one key difference with Donaldson is that in those books, the civilization of reclusive kung-fu monks worked as bodyguards, not as soldiers or mercenaries.

    This seems a lot more plausible to me.

    Unless we start seeing wars in Kvothesylvania, and they end up looking like those battles at the beginning of Red Cliffs, where the regular soldiers’ job was to create a labyrinth out of shields so that Guan Yu could just personally wreck the enemy army with his giant spear.

    1. Reveen

      We should making a list of all the cool things and concepts that we will probably never, ever see in these books. Shield wall tactics is number one.

    2. cetaillefer

      I mean shit, even Jacqueline Carey got that highly trained, fancy showmanship warrior individuals work as body guards, not soldiers, and she basically peddles fantasy smut

  3. q____q

    The whole set-up of Ademre society is pretty much bullshit: If I remember correctly they work as mercenaries all over the world because their land is to barren for farming and they don’t have other resources. So they train as warriors and send the money home so the families can buy food or something.
    The all sex and no STDs-thing would be more or less believable if they where a society walled in by mountains with no contact to the outer world. But since large parts of their people work abroad, STDs would surely brought in from the outside (yes, they are warrior monks and don’t sex if they don’t want to and blah but look how they just make in exception when stupid Kvothe showed up).
    Haha, just imagine him being responsible for the downfall of Ademre because he actually had a STD.

  4. Zenobious

    “The Lethani seems to be similar; it’s my understand that fighting styles made to actually be practical tend not to have formalized fancy move-sets like this, which are usually the domain of martial arts intended for sports or tradition, although obviously there’s some overlap between the two.”

    Specific techniques tend to have names whether you’re learning a combat sport, a ritualized art form, or a “practical” martial art. Martial arts from non-Western cultures — which is where many popular combat sports come from — often carry over names from their native language when taught in the West. Rothfuss appears to be going for that sort of “exotic” feel here, by giving obfuscatory names for what would probably be basic techniques in a grappling or wrestling art. I suspect this is at least partly because Rothfuss has no idea how fighting actually works, and is just throwing out some random names to describe the action-movie sequence in his head that he’s attempting to put onto paper.

    In the case of the closest approximation to what Rothfuss is talking about, namely medieval and Renaissance martial arts, formalized techniques were the norm, and sometimes had fanciful names as well. This can be seen in the surviving martial arts manuals of the time, which typically depict sequences of blows and counter-blows, occasionally with colorful names given. Yet these were eminently practical arts, and with the exception of jousting and foot melees in tourneys, they were intended to be used on the battlefield, in potentially lethal duels, or in self-defense — likely of the nasty, street brawling sort.

    Now, I certainly wouldn’t want to imply that Rothfuss is actually doing well with his depiction of the Adem or their martial art. Instead of actually educating himself on the subject — which there is a broad and deep body of scholarship on — Rothfuss just went for the most shallow genre conventions possible, depicting a vaguely-Eastern vaguely-monkish martial arts-oriented society. The big “reveal” about how the Adem fight so well is that they have a formalized body of fighting knowledge, which they comprehensively train into people — and that’s how they are the best warriors in the world.

    This is, of course, utterly bizarre. Not that the Adem have such knowledge and training, but that nobody else seems to, judging by how much they value the Adem for doing it. Formalized martial arts trained into a warrior class are a common feature of most human societies since the ancient world. What does Rothfuss think everyone else in the world does, just randomly swing their weapons around and hope they hit someone? This appears to be a repeat of the annoying trope where “martial arts” are some sort of exotified feature of strange societies, almost inevitably Eastern and full of monks, instead of the natural result of any human culture interested in warfare. Score more points for total lack of cultural sensibilities!

    The saddest part of it all is that the “clever subversion” which Rothfuss set up, where Kvothe initially thinks that the Adem store up their words as energy to fight with, is more interesting than what we actually get. When I first read that, I had a glimmer of hope that Rothfuss wouldn’t go down the generic-Dungeons-and-Dragons-monk path — but then he did anyway. Haha he’s so clever! He totally played on our expectations!

    Last of all, the martial arts we see the Adem practice aren’t the ones that would make for a very successful large-scale military in medieval or renaissance times. Practicing grappling or individual swordsmanship or the like are nice and all; but ancient and medieval combat hinges mostly upon the ability of hundreds or thousands of soldiers to work as a unit… yet we never see the Adem practicing fighting in a formation or as a group. Mercenaries such as the Swiss weren’t highly valued because of amazing individual skill at tying people up in knots with fancy wrestling moves; they were considered the best in the world because they trained rigorously and extensively at forming a block of hundreds or thousands of pikemen that could move and fight effectively as a group.

    Anyhoo that’s quite long-winded, but as a student of military history the fact that Rothfuss so badly misunderstands the basics of warfare on both large and small scales annoys me a fair bit.

    1. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

      Perhaps their isolation is what led them to focus on such esoteric martial arts. If they actually had to fight they would have mastered something practical. Going by the map they only border one country so they’re not surrounded like The Swiss were/are and it doesn’t sound like they have a helot class to subjugate. The only reason for their super special martial arts culture seems to be-you guessed it-authorial fiat. Which really does deconstruct my preconceptions seeing as how I expect a writer to create cultures that are vibrant and three dimensional.

      1. Reveen

        I’m going to assume from now on that the Adem have a class of slaves up in the farmlands that they murder whenever they want. And Kvothe just goes ahead and completely ignores them.

      2. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

        I wonder if they also practice institutionalized pederasty too. They seem not to have many hang ups about sex but I doubt Rothfuss is that “enlightened” especially because it would probably raise questions about Tempi’s training of Kvothfuss and NO HOMO NO HOMO NO HOMO. Do the Adem have any negative cultural traits? They seem like the Wagon Bros. without any flaw and utterly perfect.

    2. rmric0

      We never actually get any indication of what wars and fighting are like in Kvotheistan, Also thanks to crappy world-building we have no idea if any of the polities are at war or even capable of making war on one another. If someone gave you a pop quiz about it, I don’t think anyone would be able to tell anything about the relationship between Ersatz-Scotland, Vintas and Magic School.

      So with that in mind, it’s probably that the Adem aren’t hired en-masse for their ability to turn the tide of a war, but in small groups for either specific jobs or as guards where karate-chop action is a more valuable skill than massed infantry tactics.

      1. Zenobious

        You’re right — I was taking for granted that Kvotheland followed some sort of medieval/renaissance patterns of war, but there’s such scant evidence that it may be an overly hasty assumption. I want to say that there’s some sort of reference to an ongoing war at the beginning of the first book in one of the Kote tavern scenes, but I can’t recall exactly and it’s not worth looking up.

      2. rmric0

        There’s a war on in the framing narrative for sure (at the very least they’re raising an army) now that you mention it. Maybe they do have other skills apart from kung fu fighting? Or there’s enough low-level conflict between minor nobility that you can have a lot of loose mercenaries around but not need full-blown companies.

        I like to think of this like the murderous equivalent of day laborers. They all show up at an Inn and some lord says that he just needs ten guys.

    3. halikon

      Spoilers for Ademre:

      They don’t believe that sex makes babies, so I guess it’s kind of failing in biology (and basic observation skills) on their part? The explanation for this is that, because everyone has sex with each other all the time, they never figured out that when a man and a woman love each other very much and hug in a special way, they might create a child that shares traits from both parents. The upshot of all this sexing is that they think women just spontaneously generate children, which is why their society is matriarchal.


      1. Reveen

        Soooo… the only reason they’re matriarchal is because they’re a bunch of clods who don’t know how pregnancy works?

        Slow clap for Rothfuss everybody! You win feminism!

      2. katz

        So I guess they don’t keep any domesticated animals? Not even horses or anything?

        Aaaand they also don’t talk to anyone from any other part of the world?

    4. braak

      Uhm, I’m pretty sure that regular mercenaries don’t need formalized training manuals. They are FIGHTER class, so they automatically get a martial feat every even level.

  5. katz

    I know there are a million other things to complain about, but I want to mash my head against a wall every time he talks about how old he is and how everything is over for him and he’s just waiting to die. You’re like 25! Plenty of people your age haven’t even figured out what they want to do with their lives yet! You can royally fuck up everything up to this point, start over from scratch, and still end up having a meaningful and fulfilling life!

    Maybe I just take it personally because I’m 27 and unemployed. Welp, time to declare my life a failure, I guess.

    1. ronanwills Post author

      Yeah, I just turnd 16 and Kvothe, who is supposed to be a *year younger than me*, comes across like someone decades older.

  6. Signatus


    This is one of the very things that irks me. Qvothe is 26, and he’s telling a 25-24 year old that he’s too young? Come on!

  7. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

    So the Adem are supposed to be some sort of culture of super badass warriors who send their members out into the world to be mercenaries for whatever reason. They sound like a cross between Sparta and The Swiss. The things is both cultures were renowned for their fighting skills because they were fairly small and otherwise weak and so they needed to hone their military skills to stay alive. The thing is both of themed practiced a single for of fighting and both of them were eventually defeated by states practicing more advanced forms of warfare, even if they lacked the same dedication of training. While Middle Kvothe lacks guns because of Tolkien it would still be fairly easy for an army using medieval weaponry to defeat the Adem.

    So what I’m getting at is; who wants to kill the Adem and why haven’t they yet since it seems the Adem weren’t founded last Tuesday. Even if their original neighbor is no longer around there would still be countries who would be hostile, that want the Adem gone for whatever reason and they would have the advantage of learning from the defeat of their predecessor.

    I’m actually happy Rothfuss didn’t think this because he would probably have had Kvothfuss learn the techniques from the last living Adem martial arts master so Kvothfuss could be even more super special and a unique snowflake.

    1. braak

      Well, maybe not an issue, because Ademre is walled up in the mountains (like the Swiss) but not actually in the middle of anything (unlike the Swiss); based on Kvothe’s descriptions, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of reason to bother invading Ademre. There’s nothing there that anyone wants, it’s not on the road to anywhere else, &c.

      1. braak

        The origin story of Adel martial arts is, if I recall, actually pretty okay

        The culture does not do ANYTHING else, because Patrick Rothfuss does not understand culture, civilization, logistics, &c.

        Well, they do bone a lot, I guess.

      2. Reveen

        I don’t know, highly militaristic societies that sent out mercenaries tended to piss a lot of people off don’t they? I guess the Adem just take stupid grabastic RPG quests like “kill these bandits” and never actually take part in wars.

  8. braak

    The relationship of martial arts to “practical” fighting is…well, it’s kind of complicated. Forms (like what Kvothe is learning) CAN be very helpful in training (also, a lot of it is showing off, depending on the kind of form), in a way if you imagine that one-handed push-ups are helpful in a fight. Like, it’s helpful if you want to win a fight if you can do a bunch of one-handed push-ups, because that means your arms and shoulders are very strong, but you generally are not going to use a bunch of one-handed push-ups in a fight.

    Having names for the techniques isn’t necessarily a sign that they’re bullshit, though — kung fu, for instance, has a whole series of joint lock and grappling techniques that are not practically distinguishable from fight-oriented martial arts (i.e., Jiu-Jutsu, ketai, &c.), and they’ve all got great names like Old Man Carries a Fish on His Back or Monkey Steals the Peach — they’re just convenient ways of remembering what you’re doing when you practice, and there’s no reason that MMA gyms couldn’t give their techniques names like that.

    I think the real issue is that, while forms can be a really useful tool for practicing techniques, they aren’t practice for fighting. While you could get very good at kicks if you were Kvothe the-super-genius who excels at everything he does, it’s utterly bonkers that you’d be able to deploy it in a fight unless you also spent a lot of time sparring, which is a completely different experience from practicing forms.

    1. braak

      I guess it doesn’t really matter that much, but since the theme of the book is the difference between stories and reality, you’d think the difference between a formal, historical, traditional martial art and its applications in actually fighting would be a subject that you could devote some time to.

    2. welltemperedwriter

      ^^^ This, pretty much. I studied kung fu for a number of years (until my teacher died last year; I still practice but we don’t have a teacher we’re training with) and I know there ARE fancy names for some of the stuff we do, but I don’t know what they are, because our teacher didn’t teach that way. (The kung fu he taught was distinctly not arts-oriented, which I gather is rather unusual.)

      The upshot is that I can do a number of fairly basic things reasonably well, but they wouldn’t look fancy to a bystander, and when sparring I’m not thinking “Now I shall counter his Move X with my Move Y”–generally I’m not thinking at all in that sense. This way of writing fight scenes always struck me as rather silly, but I can see why someone would do it this way.

      As braak notes, though, Rothfuss missed an opportunity here.

      1. braak

        whuuut, what style do you practice?

        It’s not cool to make fun of someone’s lack of facility with English, but in the case of my teacher the fact that English is not his first language kind of hilariously makes it sound like he’s making up the fancy names of all the techniques off the top of his head.

        “This one is called…tiger…tail…uh. Kick.”

        “I thought you said it was called Dragon Claw Kick yesterday?”

        “Some people call it tiger tail, some people call it dragon tail, it’s the same.”

        “Wait, dragon tail, or dragon claw?”

        “It’s the same.”

      2. welltemperedwriter

        My teacher called it Non Classical Gung Fu, which I gather was a term of his own invention. His name was Jesse Glover.

        He never used the Chinese names for anything but stuck to very basic English terminology. The end result is that when I do something with someone from another kung fu style, the conversation goes something like this: “That’s a $TERM_X.” “If you say so.”

      3. welltemperedwriter

        Given when he started teaching, I suspect it was his way of saying, “If you’re looking for David Carradine, look elsewhere.”


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