Let’s Read Wizard’s First Rule ch.8-9

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[The triumphant return of Let’s Read The Thing! Updates may still be sporadic for a while but we’re mostly back on track]

Chapter 8

Richard awakes from his de-thorning, which is not a sex thing even though it kind of sounds like it should be.

Warm midday light filled the room, and the wonderful, tangy aroma of spice soup filled his lungs.

“Spice soup” appears to be the main staple food of this world, they eat it or talk about eating it all the damn time.

Richard goes out to eat with Zedd and Kahlan and then a whole bunch of bullshit happens that I’m not going to bother summarizing (it involves our old friend INANE FUCKING BANTER) . Anyway Richard has figured out Zedd is the wizard, although somehow Kahlan hadn’t suspected a thing until he announces it.

After some back-slapping and twee declarations of friendship Zedd ambles into the house and emerges with a sword, which is the Sword of Truth, so Richard can become the Seeker. This is all drawn out as if it’s some sort of mystery even though literally everyone in the world figured it out weeks ago.

As if in a trance, Richard closed his fingers around the hilt and pulled the sword free, the blade making a ringing, metallic sound that hung in the air. Richard had never heard a sword make a sound quite like it.

That’s because none of the other swords you’ve ever handled were in bad fantasy novels.

Unless something is missing from my copy the following two sentences appear directly next to each other. See if you can figure out what’s going on:

He felt as if a part of him was now complete.

From deep within, he felt his anger stir, brought to life, searching direction.

I assumed “searching direction” was a typo caused by the conversion to PDF but according to Google Books this is actually what it says. I have no idea what that means or why we’re suddenly hearing about Richard’s “anger”.

Actually I’m going to quote this whole bit because it’s hilariously bad.

As his rage rose, he felt an awakening power rushing into him from the sword: the twin to his own anger. His own feelings had always seemed independent, whole. This was like having an image in a mirror come to life. It was a terrifying specter. His anger fed on the force from the sword, and in return, the wrath from the sword fed on his anger. Together the twin storms spiraled through him. He felt like a helpless bystander, being dragged along. It was a frightening and at the same time seductive sensation that bordered on violation. Fearful perceptions of his own anger twisted with tantalizing promise. The bewitching emotions rushed headlong through him, seizing his anger, soaring with it. Richard struggled to control the rage. He was on the brink of panic. On the brink of abandon.

Such stirring imagery.

Kahlan fell to her knees in front of Richard, head bowed, hands held behind her back. “I pledge my life in the defense of the Seeker.”

No Kahlan what are you doing ditch this loser and go on awesome adventures.

Zedd also declares his allegiance to the Seeker and the united states of Wherever and then Richard is like “wut”.


Richard is naturally confused about all of this, because in epic fantasy novels important information must be concealed for as long as possible just because, so Zedd spends a lot of time explaining things we’ve either figured out or been explicitly told several chapter ago.

Also, Zedd stored the Sword of Truth in a “wizard’s cabinet”, which is invisible. I know this book was published in the 90s but I’m getting a really strong “it’s the 60s and everyone is stoned out of their gourds on weed” vibe from a lot of this.

Richard is terrified to learn that stopping Darken Rahl is now his responsibility. On one hand this is a very realistic way to react, but on the other hand I hate it when fantasy character do this while “I no I can’t possibly be the chosen one” song and dance because we fucking know they’re going to do it eventually.

“There is a magic,” he began, “an ancient and dangerous magic of immense power. It’s a magic spawned from the earth, from life itself. It is held in three vessels called the three boxes of Orden. The magic is dormant until the boxes are put into play, as it is called.

Yes, we know, because you won’t stop saying it.

The magic ofOrden is the power of life. Like all power, it simply exists. It’s the user who determines what use it will be put to. The magic of Orden can just as easily be used to help crops grow, to heal the sick, to end conflict. It’s all in what the user wants. The power is neither evil nor good; it simply exists.

You see this crop up in fantasy a lot, where some magic power that makes its user omnipotent or whatever is said to be neutral and neither good nor evil. That might be true in a strictly literal sense, but in practice the danger of such a power being mis-used is so great that it would be much safer to just treat it as inherently destructive and stop anyone from getting their hands on it.

Anyway, once you “put the box into play” (which isn’t the same as opening it) you have a year to open one of them, but you need all three before any of them will open. This naturally makes me wonder why anyone would ever activate a box if they didn’t already have all three, but I guess Darken must have his reasons. If he doesn’t get the third one before the first day of winter he’ll die.

Didn’t the wisp thing say earlier that if Richard and Kahlan don’t stop Darken Rahl by the first day of winter they’ll die? Defeating him isn’t actually the same as making sure he doesn’t win; in the scenario Zedd is presenting they could technically just sit around until the first day of winter and as long as Rahl doesn’t find the last box he’ll keel over without anyone else needing to lift a finger.

Oh also, in a monumentally contrived set of conditions only one box will give Rahl his powers. Of the other two one will kill him and the other will destroy all life on the planet.

Open the other wrong box, and every bug, every blade of grass, every tree, every man, woman, and child, every living thing, is incinerated into nothingness. It would be the end of all life. The magic of Orden is twin to the magic of life itself, and death is part of everything that lives, so the magic of Orden is tied to death, as well as life.

I’m pretty sure that makes no fucking sense but whatever.

Richard assumes that Rahl is after him for the information that was contained in the book, which tells him which box is the good one and which ones to avoid. Given that, you’d think it would have been smarter for Papa Cypher to just destroy the knowledge in the book entirely, thus dissuading anyone from ever trying to open any of the boxes.

Or maybe the thinking is that the knowledge of which box to open would act as a kind of deterrent to prevent a power-crazed megalomaniac from just picking a box at random and nuking everything; as long as they didn’t actually get the information they’d be left chasing after it until they died.

Although frankly, once you bring life-destroying magic into the picture the idea of a magical dictator doesn’t sound all that bad. It would be vastly preferable to allow Rahl to open the correct box than it would be to risk him deciding to wing it and having a one in three chance of wiping out all life, but I’m guessing no one is going to consider that.

Also, Richard already knows all about the boxes but doesn’t tell Kahlan and Zedd about the book because reasons.

“A Seeker is a person who answers to no one but himself; he is a law unto himself. The Sword of Truth is his to wield as he wishes, and within the limits of his own strength, he can hold anyone to answer for anything.”

Who is John Galt The Seeker?

You see, Richard, a Seeker does exactly as the name implies; he seeks. He seeks the answers to things. Things of his own choosing. If he is the right person, he will seek the answers that will help others, not just himself. The whole purpose of a Seeker is to be free to quest on his own, to go where he wants, ask what he wants, learn what he wants, find answers to what he wants to know, and if need be, do whatever it is the answers demand.

I’m getting serious libertarian vibes from this. The Seeker is an extremely important person, someone who may have to save every living thing in the world, and so naturally the best way to ensure they do that is to empower them with absolute autonomy to do as they please. And remember the Seeker isn’t actually chosen based on suitability for the post (this is what the council did to get Zedd so riled up); they’re simply born a Seeker, and no one can object to it.

Zedd even tacitly acknowledges this flaw:

What do you think you were doing in the high Ven? You were seeking the answer to the vine, to your father’s murder. You could have left that to others, others more qualified, and as it turned out, perhaps you should have, but that would have been against your nature, the nature of a Seeker. They don’t leave it to others, because they want to know for themselves.

This makes sense in a libertarian or Objectivist world where certain kinds of people are infallible supermen who can do no wrong, but it’s a terrible idea in reality.

It’s of no importance how he finds an answer, only that he does. As I said, there are no rules.

“The ends justify the means” is generally not seen as a good philosophy to base your actions on for a reason, but I guess no one told Zedd that.

Zedd tells Richard that he needs to get them across the boundary without alerting Darken Rahl. Richard protests that he has no idea how you could do this but Zedd says that of course he can do it, he’s the Seeker. That’s kind of a terrible position to be put in, actually.

“Zedd, I don’t think I’m qualified to be Seeker. I don’t know anything about the Midlands.”
“Sometimes it is easier to make a decision if you aren’t burdened with a knowledge of history,”

I’m starting to think Zedd is actually a spy sent to sabotage the quest by giving Richard really terrible advice all the time.

Richard pussy-foots around for a while about whether or not he’s going to take the sword and be the Seeker so Zedd tells Kahlan to explain how evil Darken Rahl is.

“Darken Rahl is a practitioner of an ancient form of magic called anthropomancy. He divines the answersto questions by the inspection of living human entrails.”
Richard felt his anger ignite.
“It’s of limited use; he can at most get a yes or no to a single question, and sometimes, a name. Nonetheless, he continues to favor its use. I’m sorry, Richard. Please forgive me for telling you this.”

If you remember, Richard’s dad has his intestines pulled out. I wasn’t really expecting nuanced characterization from a guy called “Darken Rahl” but this pretty much confirms we’re in stereotypical evil overlord territory.

Richard’s righteous anger comes spilling out or whatever and he accepts the sword. Turns out this was actually a test.

“I told you before. Weren’t you listening? A Seeker appoints himself. Before you could become Seeker you had to pass one determinative test. You had to show me you could use all your mind. For many years, Richard, you have kept part of it locked away. Your anger.

So the Seeker is a free agent unrestrained by rules or ethics who goes after “the truth” by any means necessary, by getting really angry. In other words Richard has just become the world’s most powerful Reddit user.

“Show me how the magic works, wizard.”

Now that he’s become Seeker Richard gets +20 to his asshole stat.


9 thoughts on “Let’s Read Wizard’s First Rule ch.8-9

  1. redsilkphoenix

    Quite a while ago, someone mentioned being puzzled about the absolute ‘fire ban’ that the bad guys put in place, and why Goodkind put it in the story. After thinking about it some, I came up with a possible explanation for it: it’s a metaphor for gun control.

    Specifically, it’s an anti-gun control rant. All the arguments used against fire, I’ve seen used by those advocating gun control. And Goodkind seems to want to show why the gun control arguments are all shades of wrong, but doesn’t want to engage in an actual debate with ‘those people’. So to avoid the debate and ‘those people’, he chooses ‘fire’ as his gun analogue instead of the obvious – and far more logical – ‘bows and arrows’. Plus, as a bonus, it is a subtle metaphor, and writers are supposed to be subtle when writing messages into their works, so the Literary Critics(TM) can point at it and praise Goodkind for his great subtlety…..

    Am I on to something here, or just full of something? 🙂

    1. braak

      No, I am pretty sure you’re exactly right. It’s especially interesting because there were a lot of historical bans on certain kinds of weapons — swords, for instance — against which an intelligent and reasonable argument could be made, thus simultaneously making a coherent argument and adding a level of verisimilitude to his fancy world, but Terry Goodkind I think is some kind of idiot?

    2. braak

      Also, I want to point out that Goodkind has clearly made this argument on the grounds that it’s self-evidently evil and ridiculous, but the WAY he talks about outlawing fire — like you’ve got to go and get a license for it or something in order to start a fire — actually isn’t very different from laws obtaining in many communities that aren’t out in the middle of the woods.

      Where I live, for instance, if you want to burn your giant pile of leaves, you need a permit from the township — for good reason, as it turns out, since burning leaves, in addition to potentially setting people’s houses on fire if you fuck it up (“Only irresponsible leaf-burners would do that!” Well, if only the fire they set would contain itself to their irresponsible houses), if you burn the wrong kinds of leaves can release poison into the air — someone in my area actually died last summer because some idiot burned a pile of poison ivy, and the allergens in the smoke caused her throat to swell up.

      Likewise, in a lot of cities, you can’t just make a fire whenever you want, in the sense that there are a number of laws about ovens and stoves and fireplaces that you have to 1) get a permit for, and 2) adhere to when you build your house.

      Fire, it turns out, is regulated even in our own, non-fantasy world, and hey, now that I think about it, maybe that’s not such a bad idea.

  2. braak

    The thing that has always struck me about these books (in principle; I haven’t actually read more than about half of the first one), is how the defining characteristic of the Seeker of Truth isn’t some kind of superhuman creativity, or magical clarity of understanding, or some kind of Sherlock fucking Holmes power of reason, but his rage.

    It’s part of, I think, a broader confusion among Objectivists that they persistently mistake subjectivity for objectivity — they argue not only that there is an objective universe, but that that their own individual perspectives, by virtue of having acknowledged the objectivity of the world, must therefore be objective.

    And that’s pretty much what Richard Cypher does, he runs around with his Sword and his Rage just being fucking certain about things, and hacking the shit out of anyone who disagrees with him. Later on you’ll see, the Sword doesn’t actually even give a shit about truth — Zeddicus lies to Kahlan about some tree or something, and she can use the sword to eradicate the tree because she hates it.

    Even though doubt and skepticism ought, by all rights, to be the defining characteristic of a Seeker of Truth (since you can’t find the truth about anything you’re already certain of), it’s Richard’s volcanic surety that’s the source of his power — so much so that he actually loses his power if he begins to doubt the correctness of his actions.

    1. Signatus

      Which makes sense in the context of this stories. These books are based on the absolute certainty that there is a mensurable and totally objective evil, and good, and both are the two sides of a spectrum which are clearly differentiated and thus we should be rooting for the good guys (who generally talk about love and friendship).
      The bad guys are evil because they do evil things, like necromancy, and the good guys are good because they do things (good or evil) in the name of goodness, and thus, even when they do evil things, it is totally justified.
      The fact that nor the good guys, nor nobody in the story tends to look twie and say; “wait, are we actually doing the correct thing?”, is astounding. Bad guys tend to get killed, or reformed and passed to the good side upon seeing the wrong of their ways.

      However, reality is not that simple. I wont break Godwin’s first law, but you can check any of the worst evils of XX century, they thought they were doing what was best, and the other side also thought they were doing what was best. There is no such a thing as inherently good or evil, it is all a subjective construct based on culture and our biological nature.

      Said this, when you take into account this variables, it is funny how you can be reading a totally different story. The best example I can think of is Eragon, Eldest and Brisingr (I haven’t read the last so I can’t tell).
      The story revolves around this dude who joins a group of rebels to fight the empire. The funny thing is, the evil empire, guided by the evil emperor, has been kept at peace for the last 100 years. That is, you have a dude who grew tired of some elitist pricks, made a coup and overthrew them after an intense revolution. Then he proceeded to govern the land and managed to do so in absolute peace.
      Not only that, but he battled and kept at bay a group of brutal savages which are often told to do raids over human encampments leaving only mauled corpses behind, which I would believe is actually a good thing for the people.
      If political science teaches us something, you can’t possibly keep people at peace unless their basic needs are met, and they have a level of happiness, which pretty much explais why we hate our politicians while eating our double cheese burguer at home as we watch the news. Not only we can feel the land lives in relative prosperity, we actually see this. People have food, homes, and there are guards that protect them.

      Yet we are supposed to root for the guy who woke up one fine day, stole an egg that does not belong to him, and decided to join a group of terrorist rebels that want to overthrow what seems to be a fine governor.
      This hero commits genocide, has slain crying kids who were pleading mercy, has cursed a girl by turning her into a monster, and is basically an entitled idiot who has no real grudge against the king, and could have avoided the whole of four books by just giving back the funny looking stone he found. Oh, and he sides with the brutal barbaric nation that previously tortured and massacred full towns, and rides a meat eating monster lizard that spits fire.
      Everything he does is perfectly fine because he’s the hero, yet the author, probably realizing his bad guy is starting to look like a pretty fine dude, throws in some evil elements. He sides with the evil creatures from beyond the sea which… actually we don’t see them doing bad things, aside from killing the protagonist’s uncle in their search for the stone (again, give them the fuc… stone, and your uncle would have been spared). We see a bunch of people claiming them to be gods, but people are idiots like that (and Paolini has no understanding of how religions work).
      Then our evil emperor makes his armies feel no pain to make them more resilient, which is pretty stupid, and makes them oath loyalty to the kingdom, which is actually a sensible thing to do when faring with terrorists.

      Fantasy, I see, is so inmersed in good Vs evil dinamics, authors write without ever taking in consideration what they are writing. I believe this is also a consequence of the self entitlement of truth we humans often have, believing our side is the one and only, and the other side are evil communists or whatever who want to ruin our country.
      It is a pity, because a fantasy scenario can do for much more than good Vs evil- Save the world dynamics. It can be used to talk about gay rights, about genocide, about the invasion of other countries to spoil their resources, about racial segregation, political affairs, natural disasters… the possibilities are endless!

      And yet we have every single freaking author writing about good Vs freaking evil, and manly man heroes with a sword the size of my sedan!

      1. NR

        Late to the let’s read but Sig, I totally agree with this post. What strikes me about this Sword of Truth is how close it COULD be to an interesting examination of the power of belief — that in order to accomplish something unusual (good or evil) you often need to believe with absolute conviction that you’re right. Good: MLK believed with certainty that civil rights needed to happen to make the movement happen. Evil: Hitler (breaking Godwin’s) needed to believe that the Jews really needed to go rather than being causally indifferent. And other examples abound. If the sword was named the Sword of Belief then it critically examined how our beliefs can be manipulated and led astray at the same time as positively motivate us then the sword could be an interesting symbol complete with nuance. However, I suspect (not having read the thing) that Goodkind is absolutely certain in his particular ideology and therefore rage is already justified.

  3. Cecilia

    My best guess translation for ‘searching direction’ is that he actually meant ‘seeking direction’ but didn’t want to use the word ‘seeking’ so hit the thesaurus and got it wrong.

    And the boxes of Doom! It’s like the Monty Hall problem but with horrible death instead of goats.
    I suspect the ‘righteous anger’ thing is because he’s a MAN and MANLY MEN are ANGRY.

  4. Signatus

    “Show me how the magic works, wizard.”

    Am I the only one who voiced this in a deep, He-Man like voice? This was OC even for Goodkind.

    Anyways, the whole anger thing was one of the most stupid super-powers I’ve ever heard about. It’s kind of the Hulk but in reverse, or something. Makes no sense, I don’t find it helps in any possible way, and it shows Goodkind has as much knowledge about how emotions work as how to write a book. As I’ve said before, during emotional rapture, you do not have cognition. That is, if Richard has to get really angry every time he has to use his power, chances are he’ll kill everything around him without even noticing.

    As for the whole “only the chosen one can be Seeker” bullshit, I happen to consider myself a pretty good person, and I also happen to be a ruthless pirate in an online game. If MMO have taught us anything is that, when you have a bigger weapon than the other, and more power than other people, you do not become a superhero, you become a supervillain.
    If a person was to have more power than everyone around him, and no limitations to do as he willed, chances are they would become evil dictators.
    Not to mention, however, that good and evil as mere ethical concepts dependant on culture and personal thoughts. That is, he who you might consider evil, others will consider a hero. So there is a big chance the super awesome Seeker, in a realistic world, will have a legion of fans behind him, and a legion of detractors. But that’s thinking too much to write a book, it seems. (I happen to be writing about that concept right now).

    Funny how evil people have to do evil things. Was talking about this with my boyfriend last night, concerning Sanderson’s book and the representation of slavery. How it seems that slavery is very evil when the slaver treats them like shit, starves them, and has them locked up in filthy cages. As if slavery was less evil if he had them traveling in nice, cozy waggons, fed them meat and veggies to keep them strong and healthy, and had them clean and shinny to sell them at better prices.
    Fantasy writers are very simple people.

    Anyways, as I read, I keep getting the feeling Goodkind is making up shit as he writes. He seems to be tossing stuff into the book as he thinks them up and finds them to be some awesome idea. The whole boxes of Orden shit seems to be a second idea insert because, why not? You can’t have an evil emperor wannabee without him trying to get super powers…. wonder how populist dictators manage it in our magicless real world?


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