Let’s Read The Wise Man’s Fear ch. 124-125

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CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-FOUR

Of Names

Oh good, more names.

Kvothe passed the test, the day is saved, all the Adem are super impressed with Kvothe, blah de blah blah.

She looked at me, her expression trapped between disgust and amusement. “Seriously, it’s like you stepped out of a storybook.”

Oh, how clever. Do you even see how meta this is?

Vashet and Kvothe go to meet Shehyn and we are once again told how super impressive Kvothe was.

“That may be true, but those who watched from hiding will doubtless say what they have seen. Celean herself will have already told a hundred people unless I miss my guess. By tomorrow everyone will expect your stride to shake the ground as if you were Aethe himself come back to visit us.”

The Adem have no actual substance or character; they exist solely to set up temporary road-blocks for Kvothe and tell him how awesome he is.

Shehyn says that Tempi told her all about Kvothe’s adventures at the bandit camp and that he fought a being she calls a Rhinta, which Kvothe works out after a moment is the Adem word for the Chandrian.

I felt hope rising within me. “I have also heard them called the Chandrian,” I said.

Hot-diggity, are we finally going to advance this plot some more? I mean it’s once again a case of Kvothe just ambling around wasting time until someone randomly drops information in his lap, but at this point I’ll take anything I can get.

“Shehyn, I have a great desire to know more of these Rhinta.”

Shehyn was quiet for a long moment. “I will consider this,” she said at last, making a gesture I thought might be trepidation. “Such things are not spoken of lightly.”

No just tell him now. Don’t make me come in there.

Unfortunately more Chandrian info will have to wait, because now it’s time for Kvothe to take part in some sort of naming ceremony. It’s probably going to be something dumb isn’t it, like “Wind Song” or “Blood Shadow” or “ChaosWolf_79xxx”.

There’s an old woman who does the naming.

“I would hear you say something,” she said, still looking intently at my hand.

“As you will, honored shaper of names,” I said.

On a scale of one to ten how much do you want to punch Kvothe right now?

She gives him the name Maedre, but doesn’ tell him what it means.

After the naming Kvothe goes to fight for his right to party at Penthe’s house, where they all get drunk and sit around grinning.

I was pleased to learn the Adem impassivity dissolved quite easily after a few drinks, and we were all grinning like barbarians in no time.

Penthe wants to bone Kvothe because she’s a woman of boneable age who has been in his presence for more than five seconds, Kvothe asks Vashet if it’s okay to bone her when he’s already done boning with Vashet, Vashet is like “yah wtf are u talking about” and explains that it ain’t no thing for Adem to go around boning everyone they want to willy-nilly, because their culture exists solely for Kvothe to learn how to fight and have tons of sex.

“It is a healthy thing for you to do. Why would I be offended? Do I suddenly own your sex, that I should be worried about you giving it away?”

I’m not sure whether to read this as a healthy openness in about sex or a repudiation of the idea of a monogamous relationship. I have no problem with polygamy as long as everyone involved is comfortable with it, but what would happen if an Adem wanted an exclusive relationship with their partner? Would that be seen as weird? How does this affect Adem families, are there tons of multiple-parent setups? Oh there I go again, forgetting this is a culture created entirely to facilitate the protagonist’s needs!

Yeah so to the Adem sex is more or less like a handshake. Are you wondering how this doesn’t result in rampant STDs and unwanted pregnancies? Are you? Well believe it or not, we’re going to get an answer to that question!

CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-FIVE

Caesura

Noun

caesura (plural caesuras or caesurae)

  1. A pause or interruption in a poem, music, building or other work of art.
  2. In Classical prosody, using two words to divide a metrical foot.

A pause or interruption? What part of this book hasn’t been a pause or interruption?

Kvothe wakes up all hung over after the previous night of hard grinning, then Vashet and Shehyn take him to get his Cool Sword. As his teacher Vashet must choose which of the Cool Swords will be Kvothe’s Cool Sword, an idea she seems oddly bothered by.

They were all slender and deadly, each subtly different from the others. Some were curved, some longer or thicker than others.

This seems a little odd, wouldn’t they have a standardized sword type that had been designed specifically to work with their fighting style? Way too many people have this idea of swords as unique works of art lovingly molded by master craftsmen, whereas it’s my understanding that in reality swords throughout history that were actually intended to be used in combat occupied the same position as guns do today- mass produced tools. I know variation existed since this was mainly a pre-industrial era we’re talking about and standardized manufacturing wasn’t really a thing, but different sword types were made for specific situations or soldiers occupying certain roles on the battlefield, not so warriors could choose a unique, signature weapon style that they carried with them into battle. Think of how weird it would be if you had a modern army and every single soldier was carrying  a different primary firearm based on personal preference.

Anyway, what follows is the second scene in the trilogy to remind me strongly of the wand selection bit in the first Harry Potter book, as Vashet has Kvothe hold a bunch of different swords and Ketan moves with them. Again, the idea that she needs to find the “right” sword suited just to him makes no sense to me, surely he’d just learn to fight with a standard sword type everyone else used? And why exactly aren’t the rejected swords suited to Kvothe, it’s not like the Harry Potter thing and he’s establishing a magical bond. It’s a sword, if one person can use it anyone with the right training should be able to.

I took it carefully, but the grip wasn’t right for my fingers.

… why not? I know I’m harping on this a lot, but it’s totally nonsensical. Is there something about Kvothe’s fingers that are different from everyone else’s? Wouldn’t the person designing the sword make a grip generic enough that anyone could use it?

Eventually they find the right sword and Vashet is clearly troubled by it for some reason but like the name Kvothe got earlier they take a maddeningly long time to explain why.

Then she turned and held it out to me. “This is named Saicere.”

“Caesura?” I asked, startled by the name. Wasn’t that what Sim had called the break in the line of Eld Vintic verse?

Was it? How long ago did that happen? It feels like it’s been years since Kvothe was in Imre.

I slid it back into its sheath and the sound was different. It sounded like the breaking of a line. It said:

Caesura.

The epic, almost mythical tone this book goes for so often is completely at odds with the fact that the story mostly consists of a teenager farting around the place doing nothing.

With a dogged and humorless persistence, Vashet taught me how to care for my sword. How to clean and oil my sword.

This seems like it would be the first thing you’d learn about sword-fighting, not the last.

I asked what I should do if the sword broke. Not the hilt or the guard, but the blade itself. Should I still bring it back?

Vashet gave me a look of dismay so raw it verged on horror. She didn’t answer, and I made a point of not asking any more questions for the rest of the morning.

Okay, we get it. There’s something weird about the sword. Although maybe this is Vashet’s bizarre “oh noes he’s contemplating the vague idea that he might actually use this to fight at some point in the future, hypothetically” deal again.

Man, I still can’t get over how dumb that was.

After this Kvothe has to go and learn the story of his sweet new blade.

“In Ademic it is Atas. It is the history of your sword. Everyone who has carried it. What they have done.

Wait, what? They’re not giving him a new sword? Why? Wouldn’t it be liable to break or something? How long can you keep repairing one of these things, wouldn’t it eventually just become unusable?

The sword-story-person, am old woman named Magwyn who is remarkably similar to the earlier old woman who did the naming ceremony, pulls out a big heavy book and starts to narrate the sword’s story (in first person, which annoys me more than it probably should), getting Kvothe to repeat it back to her so he can memorize it.

The history of the sword is extremely long, comprising well over thirty owners, nearly all of whom died in combat. Oddly, there seem to be a whole lot of elderly Adem living in peaceful retirement even though the sword’s history would seem to imply that most of them are killed in battle. Maybe the sword is cursed or something.

“Do not presume to meddle with her name. It means to break, to catch, and to fly.”

Still not going to explain why Vashet is getting so hot and bothered by it? Okay.

Since Kvothe is an arrogant little shit he decides he’s going to re-christen the sword Caesura because the name the people who made it and have been using for it for what seems like several centuries gave it is “wrong” and Kvothe, who got it less than 24 hours, knows what it’s “true” name is.

I don’t mention enough how unpleasant a character Kvothe is. He’s not a raging sociopath like some famous fantasy characters are, but he’s got this quiet, low-key dick-headedness about him. He regards himself as entitled to certain types of knowledge and information not because he desperately needs them to find the Chandrian or avenge his parents but simply because he wants them and whatever he wants he should be given.  He doesn’t actually learn the Lethani, he takes it and makes it his own. When he finds out about Naming magic he seems to regard it as his birthright to learn it even after being told how few people are permitted to do so. He jealously hoards music, looking down on people who don’t do it the “right” way, like he does. If I knew Kvothe in real life I would not want to be associated with him in any way.

Besides, if I was to be a namer, I decided I could damn well choose the name of my own sword.

well sure, no one’s going to stop you. But you shouldn’t, because you’re an outsider being granted the extraordinary privilege of being inducted into another culture as one of their own. The sword and its attached cultural value aren’t yours; you’re being permitted to borrow them. You fucking asshole.

Anyway, it turns out that the sword has had a whopping two hundred and thirty six previous owners and you cannot convince me that anything could survive that amount of constant use. Even if each owner only used it for a single year that would still make it more than two centuries old, and since the actual survival rate of each owner is likely much longer and after you factor in time spent hanging up waiting for someone else to claim it you could be talking a ludicrously long time. Even if it was only used on average for ten years that would still make it more than two millenia old.

Then I realized what this truly meant. If each owner had kept Caesura for ten years, and it had never sat idle for longer than a day or two, that meant Caesura was, at a very conservative estimate, more than two thousand years old.

I honestly didn’t expect this to get pointed out in the text. But Rothfuss wins exactly zero browney points for noticing this but failing to realize how fucking stupid it is. Surely sword-making techniques would have advanced hugely from then?

Kvothe is surprised to learn that he’s to sleep and eat in Magwyn’s place until he’s learned all of the names and the circumstances under which their owner died, which seems like a gigantic waste of time to me (is it even possible for someone to memorize that much information?) but whatever.

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30 thoughts on “Let’s Read The Wise Man’s Fear ch. 124-125

  1. NR

    Is it mentioned that the sword is never reformed? Or is that implied in it still having the same name and all? They could be reforging it so it’s not the sword that’s the same but the metal.

    What I don’t understand is why Kvothe, super arrogant douche, would be interested in swordplay at all. He obviously can magic them all to death. Don’t have your characters learn Kamehameha and achieve level 9000 on page 1 to have them pick up death knitting on page 1400 for anything more than a curiosity.

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      I don’t recall anything about the sword being reforged. If I remember correctly (it’s been a while) there’s just a hand-wavy line about Adem swords being super strong for some reason.

      Reply
  2. Austin H. Williams

    I’ve seen a fair number of swords from 500-1,000 years old. With spectacularly rare exception (e.g. some katanas from the Kamakura period), you would never want to go into a fight with a single one of them. And these are weapons that, at their oldest, are only half as old as the special, magical weapon Kvothe managed to get his mits on.

    The oldest swords I’ve seen, going from the 1-3,000-year old range were, without exception, crumbling, rusted and broken. Even in the best condition, the edges are gone, there are chips all up and down the blade, and the furnishings are decaying to nothing.

    All this is to say, Seriously? 2,000-year old sword? How does he get away with this stuff!?!

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      The book takes place in a generic D&D fantasy setting where sword inexplicably get more powerful as they age.

      Reply
  3. zephyrean

    > what would happen if an Adem wanted an exclusive relationship with their partner? Would that be seen as weird?
    Yes. There are real-life cuiltures that actually work this way. Furthermore, ’round these parts, even people who claim they are theoretically fine with other people practicing polyamory would be alarmed if their significant other told them he/she doesn’t mind the claimant having sex with someone else – that’d be seen either as a lack of love or a prelude to the SO asking to be granted the same freedom. Consider that it hasn’t been much time since people stopped expecting the bride to (pretend to) be a virgin.

    > How does this affect Adem families, are there tons of multiple-parent setups?
    Blood relatives of the mother help to raise the child. Now, the big reveal is that the Adem don’t believe sex plays any role in conceiving a child, and that is stupid. Adem mercenaries are super expensive to hire to the point that one of the richest men in the kingdom can only afford one, and a newbie at that. Add a language barrier, and the result is that the Adem don’t have sex while on missions and don’t conceive — an observation that can’t help but be made in 2000+ years. (Also, lesbians don’t exist, but what else do you expect from Rothfuss?)

    Now, some of the real-life marriage-free cultures believe sperm nourishes the fetus; to that end, they also feed sperm to children to help them grow stronger. So Rothfuss’ worldbuilding efforts could have resulted in something much worse.

    > And why exactly aren’t the rejected swords suited to Kvothe, it’s not like the Harry Potter thing and he’s establishing a magical bond.
    He probably is. Same thing with the tree, earlier: it’s all magical ninja arts, and if you study magical ninja arts enough and attune your spirit to the universe something something newage, you’ll learn to walk on water and evade tree branches and make poodles out of balloons.

    “Wasn’t that what Sim had called the break in the line of Eld Vintic verse?”
    Wait, who’s the Wagon Bro now? Shouldn’t Kvothe know more about verses in the first place? Again the atrocious underlying logic: the break *is* called “caesura”, it’s not a bloody legend or rumor, it’s a fact. You don’t ever think of action and reaction as “what my middle school teacher called Newton’s First Law”.

    > well sure, no one’s going to stop you.
    Noooooooo! Naming doesn’t work that way! It’s been, what, 1.75 books that naming was concerned with finding the true name of an object or a phenomenon via contemplation and firsthand experience. Good job throwing the premise of the first book out of the window, Rothfuss.

    > Surely sword-making techniques would have advanced hugely from then?
    It’s magic. And Vashet was pissed at Kvothe’s suggestion that the sword might break, because of course it’s magic and doesn’t break unless the owner dishonors it or whatever. When you have a question about the plot of the world, go for the cheapest cliche, it probably fits right in.

    > which seems like a gigantic waste of time to me
    It makes sense, a prospective sword owner can’t help but learn Adem history on the side. E.g. “the 117th owner was Lady Teshevat, who fell at the Spires of Doom fighting Killmainburn the Darkevil during the War of the Five Dumplings in the year 1523” – this sentence alone contains more incidental backstory than both Kvothfuss books.

    > (is it even possible for someone to memorize that much information?)
    One word: geeks.

    Reply
    1. Signatus

      I think the whole question about the sword breaking is very evident foreshadowing. In one of the interludes (not sure first or second book), I think Chronicler looked, or pointed at the sword hanging from the wall, and Qvothe (or maybe it was Bast), said that it wasn’t the real Saicere/Caesura. Since Rothfuss seems to be falling more and more on the archetype amateurish fantasy book, and getting further from the subversion intention (at least that’s what I think, not like his subversion was all that intelligent or something), I doubt the sword is missing simply because he gave it back.

      Reply
    2. lampwick

      The name Kvothe gave the sword will turn out to reflect its inner essence perfectly, or be its real secret name, or something like that. Haven’t you guys figured out yet how awesome he is?

      Reply
  4. katz

    This is a problem that’s very common in fantasy: Setting your story in some interminable Ye Olde Times and then never having it develop new technology, ever. So if someone tells a legend from 1000 years ago, everyone in the legend will be using the exact same weapons and tools that contemporary people use.

    You can maybe give Tolkien a pass because elves are immortal and traditional and shit, but Kvotheland is all scientific and Enlightenment-ish and ought to reward innovation.

    Reply
    1. FIbinachi

      And that would also make a brilliant subversion, or fun side gag at least.

      “So, remembering the story of The Fox Who Fled, I sallied forth from under the cover of darkness in the hope that I, like the nimble Fox from that old tale, could escape my enemies by slipping past their guard posts. Did I ever actually tell you that story? Well, it goes…

      …. Only, after making my way through two encamped sentries, I realized my mistake.

      In the story of The Fox Who Fled, no sentry had access to a signal flare or a radio, and no way to let anyone else but them know that someone had slipped past. The guy next to me just tapped a sympathic lamp, and I know that somewhere else in camp a bell rang three times to warn of possible intruders. Old stories are not very useful guides…”

      But no. No. It’s all high fantasy and 2000 year old swords. How come the Adem have not invented cannons yet? An unbreakable cannon can filled with as much gunpowder as desired, and shoot far further than any other engineering limit might imply. They’d win everything.

      Reply
      1. katz

        Sympathy is, IMO, the part of these books that could have been awesome if it weren’t so woefully underutilized. The cool-weapon possibilities are endless.

        Reply
  5. katz

    2000 years old. So even if we assume the story takes place in the 19th century, the sword was made with BCE European technology. Gaulish iron swords from this era were notorious for bending whenever they hit anything and having to be stomped on to straighten them back out.

    Have fun with that, Kvothe.

    Reply
    1. Satu

      Actually even Damascus steel was developed several hundred years BC, so Adem swords wouldn´t necessarily have to be pure iron swords. But Kvothe’s sword probably is magic allthesame.

      Reply
  6. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

    Clearly the sword is going to turn out to be magical and owned by one of the Chandrian or Anti-Chandrian people. How do I know this? Well it’s incredibly cliched, hence it has to be included in the story, only we’ll get some smarmy little breaking of the fourth wall that doesn’t manage to justify his unoriginality.

    Reply
  7. braak

    I like three simultaneous comments of, “Wait, if the Adem can make invincible, 2000-year swords, why do they waste their manpower hiring guys out as mercenaries?”

    Reply
  8. Bob Loblaw

    If you can build a sword that lasts two thousand years then that implies they have some pretty amazing building capabilities. Is that discussed at all? If you can forge some kind of metal that lasts that long without breaking or rusting then they should be able to use that metal for other things, namely buildings and fortifications.

    Reply
  9. braak

    Yeah, I mean, the sword stuff is all bonkers. In the first place, swords ARE indeed all made for different purposes. It’s not an accident that a saber doesn’t look like a gladius. And swords are also made in different cultural contexts — a court sword so often looks like a fancy piece of jewelry because the right to carry a sword was a privilege of the nobility in western Europe; you might or might not use it, but you WORE it because you wanted people to see it.

    In the second place, there is no way that regular Ketani is just “adapted” to fighting with a sword — like, you learn to fight with yur hands, and then you hold a sword and it’s just the same thing. That doesn’t make any sense, the whole point of a sword is that it’s NOT your hand, it doesn’t work the same way at all.

    In the third place, I mean, maybe the Adem make magic swords? They talk about some kind of fancy steel in the books, right (Ramston?)? Maybe it’s supposed to be that magical damascene steel that always shows up in fantasy books, and so the swords are invincible or something?

    Interestingly, “famous metalsmiths who make invincible swords” actually makes a little more sense for the Adem to have as their jobs. They’re in the mountains, they’ve got plenty of time, they send their guys to fight a lot of battles. If they were primarily swordsmiths, rather than mercenaries, it also makes sense that their swords might be of varying different styles and shapes, and also that their fighting style would be a duelling style, as opposed to a battlefield style.

    I don’t remember if Ademre is all full of smithies, though.

    Reply
    1. braak

      Hahah, remember that episode of Avatar: the Last Airbender, when Sokka goes to Piandao to learn the art of the sword? And he keeps doing the exercises in a weird way, not because he doesn’t respect them, but because he’s just a lateral thinker? And then at the end it turns out that using his head in a fight is really what all those exercises were about in the first place?

      Reply
  10. Signatus

    I’m going to make a stop at the reading just to coment this was one of the chapters that most irked me. There are a few main reasons for this. One of them was how cliched everything is. Special sword, with special name, specially designed by destiny to fit his fingers. All right.
    I believe Terry Pratchet did a superb subversion of this trope in Guards! Guards?, where Carrot appears with a sword as common as a doorknob; “It wasn’t magical, it wasn’t beautiful, it was doubtlessly a unique sword!” (I’m writing from memory but it went something like that).

    However, that didn’t bother me as much as Kvothe’s arrogance. How arrogant and self centered can someone be to take a millenary sword and claim; “Every one of it’s 200 users is wrong. I know her real name because I’m Qvothe the great!”
    Really? I have met cardboard cut villains to be more sympathetic than the hero we’re supposed to root for.

    Reply
    1. Signatus

      Ok, now that I’m done, I see you’ve felt the same way I did when reading this chapter.

      I know nothing about swords, but it does sound ridiculous that you need the perfectly balanced sworf totally fit for your hand. I don’t believe it is much different to driving a car. Sure, the first days it is hard getting used to it, but after a while you drive the new car as comfortably as the old one.
      I believe that, if you’re versed in the art of Katanas, you won’t be able to handle a Claymore, as fighting styles are totally different. But it makes no sense teaching a certain fighting style that can incorporate Katanas, Scimittars or Bastard Swords, as these are totally adapted to very specific fightstyles that are not alike in any possible way.

      Then again, if would have been nice if Qvothe just got into a shop and bought a nice sword. Maybe the Adem could have been like Toledo (Spain) in medieval ages, and their steel be most favored by the nations. That would give the Adem a much more tangible resourse to trade with than manpower hired as mercenaries. After all, if they are a warrior cast, and they handle weapons, it just makes perfect sense they are able to forge them themselves, and not depend in other nations.

      As for millenary swords, if they have had intensive use, I don’t believe there would be much of the sword left.
      Then again, Terry Pratchett did a brilliant subversion of this in one of his books. Sadly, I don’t remember the title of that one. It was basicly about a millenary artefact from some hero or whatever, which had dissappeared. By the end you realize the artefact did not dissappear, it was one of the numerous copies that dissintegrated after the passing of years, as the original did long ago, because nothing lasts forever.

      I guess that is the difference between a brilliant writer, and a mediocre one.

      Reply
    2. Gowan

      Wait … the sword is referred to as “she” and “her”? That doesn’t make sense! Objects are given female names and considered female in English-speaking patriarchies because objectification of women. It does not make sense in this alleged “matriarchy”.
      Also, I know that it’s called “matriarchy” in real life if women aren’t oppressed and in charge of some unimportant ceremonial thingies, but I don’t think that makes a lot of sense in real life, and it sure doesn’t in fiction.
      Men sure aren’t oppressed in Adem culture. They can do all they want to do, from what we’ve seen. Most importantly, they can leave the country and go live in a patriarchy.
      Rothfuss just makes up this society that, for some reason, believes women are better fighters, and then show us that this has zero effect on the society. I can see why; they wouldn’t teach Kvothe how to fight if they were as serious about oppressing men as the other cultures are about oppressing women. But then why even imply that this is some kind of matriarchy? Why not just tell readers that it’s a more equal society with some quirky beliefs and leave it at that?

      Reply

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