Let’s Read Wizard’s First Rule ch. 23

wizard's first rule header

Chapter 23

Before we begin today’s informative analysis, I’d like to point out that I was going through reviews of the latest not-really-a-sword-of-truth-book-but-still-a-sword-of-truth-book that Goodkind put out, which is apparently so bad even a lot of his due-hard fans didn’t like it. While doing this you know what I discovered? Zedd is still fucking in it. I honestly expected him to die fifteen chapter ago. Oh also I read some spoiler about him but since I’m never going to read any of the books past this one it doesn’t matter.

Anyway, Richard and Kahlan trot off the mud people’s (I really hope that isn’t what they call themselves) village.

the village was a collection of buildings constructed of a kind of mud brick, surfaced with a tan clay plaster and topped with grass roofs that leaked as they became dry, and had to be replaced constantly to keep the rain at bay. There were wood doors, but no glass in the windows of the thick walls, only cloth hanging in some to keep out the weather.

Given this is a world where even hermits living in the middle of the woods have comfortable cabins with glass windows, there must be an extremely compelling reason for them to want to live like this. People will pretty generally take comfort if they can get it, unless they have some religious or cultural reason not to.

Adolescent girls with short cropped hair smoothed down by sticky mud sat by the
women, helping.

Also, apparently the mud isn’t for camouflage or anything. They just smear themselves with it, like, all the time, even when they’re just sitting around at home.

The girls are all awed by Kahlan because she’s “a woman whom men feared and respected” (presumably all of these men have yet to be introduced) and a crowd of children come running out of somewhere to gape at her and Richard.

The men tolerated them with good-natured smiles; little children were never scolded. When they were older, they would be put into strict training where they would be taught the disciplines of the Mud People-of hunting, food gathering, and the ways of spirits-but for now they were allowed to be children, with almost free rein to play.

My mind is kind of blown by the idea that Goodkind- a man who wrote a book featuring “evil pacifists”- is portraying people who aren’t cold, steely-eyed justice-robots in a positive light. I was sort of waiting for “the men tolerated them with good-natured smiles, knowing that if the harvests failed the plumpest among them would be murdered and fed to the villagers without a moment’s hesitation, with much grim thrusting of jaws.”

Then again he even had Rahl paying lip service to the idea that people should be nice to kids  so maybe that’s the one area in which he thinks like a decent human being. Unless the mud people turn out to be evil, in which case never mind.

the children continued to dance about, this being the most exciting thing that had happened in their young lives

Seriously? What the fuck is so impressive about Richard and Kahlan?

The hunter guys bring them to some “elders” who are waiting to meet the strangers even though they logically shouldn’t have known that oh never mind

The children stayed back from the pole building, sitting in the mud to watch as the hunting party brought the outsiders to the elders.

Seriously, what is with all the mud. Is it magical healing mud? Because if it’s not magical healing mud this seems extremely unsanitary.

They all do the face hitting thing again, except apparently inside the village it’s just a token gesture so everyone doesn’t go around knocking each other’s teeth out all the time. Still really dumb though. All of the elders then bow to Richard, recognizing him as the book’s protagonist.

Women in the Midlands tended not to like Confessors. They saw them as a menace who could take their men, and a threat to their lifestyle; women were not supposed to be independent.

Oh good we’re getting into Gender Issues, I bet this won’t be a fucking disaster at some point (according to the reviews I mentioned above Kahlan gets kidnapped by villains more or less constantly throughout the series).

“Richard!” she warned in a harsh whisper. “Don’t put food in your mouth with your left hand.”

He froze. “Why?”

“Because they believe that evil spirits eat with their left hand.”

This is apparently (and by “apparently” I mean I read it in travel books written by douchey white guys) an actual thing in many parts of the world, except it’s based on the idea that the left hand is used for unsavory bodily cleansing, if you know what I mean. Which is an actual fairly sensible idea, as opposed to “evil spirits”.

“That’s foolish,” he said, an intolerant tone in his voice.

God fucking damn. Remember at the start when Richard was just a bland nobody instead of a raging asshole?

And okay, yes, if you travel to other cultures you might encounter beliefs or ideas you think are foolish. The proper course of action here is to keep that fact to yourself, because no one else gives a flying shit.

The mud people were apparently expecting Richard somehow (CHHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOSEEEEEENN OOOOOONNNNNEEEE) and are super happy to see him.

Kahlan looked around at their happy, smiling faces. She didn’t know what to make of this development, and so took a bite of the flat-tasting tava bread with roasted peppers to gain time to think it over.

At least they’re eating something other than spice soup.

(By the way, if you were curious what exactly spice is, look no further than Goodkind’s blog. It actually sounds pretty nice)

The mud people believe that Richard is a “spirit man” who brought rain to end a drought, and if they play along with the idea than Richard will be able to get them to do anything.

“No,” he said quietly while holding her gaze.

“Richard, we have an important task to attend to. If they think you are a spirit, and that will help us get the last box, what does it matter?”

“It matters because it’s a lie. I won’t do it.”

Just last chapter you were apparently fine with the idea of threatening them into helping you, so I don’t know why you’re getting squeamish now.

Shortly after this Richard does offer a fairly sensible reason not to go with Operation Spirit Man, namely that the mud people might be pissed if they find out about the deception. He explains that he is not in fact a spirit man and that Darken Rahl sent the clouds that ended the drought to follow Richard (I don’t recall it ever being mentioned that it was constantly rainy or overcast, just that there was one specific evil-looking cloud hovering overhead). He explains that Rahl is bad news and asks the mud people to call a council in order to approve telling them where the last box is. They’s not pleased with this suggestion, stating bluntly that they don’t call a council of seers for outsiders.

Kahlan could tell that Richard was getting angry and straining to control himself.

Jesus Richard we can’t take you anywhere.

Richard asks them to take some time to consider by seeing what kind of man Richard is, and then Kahlan’s spider sense starts to tingle or something.

As Kahlan translated, she was suddenly suffused with the cold feeling that Richard was not talking to the elders. He was speaking to someone else. She suddenly felt the eyes of that other on her. Her own gaze swept the crowd. All eyes were on the two of them; she didn’t know whose gaze she still felt.

Well, at least the book isn’t being confusing or anything.

The mud people elders accept Richard’s proposal and then Richard draws Kahlan’s attention to a grey haired man standing behind the crowd.

Kahlan took a bite of the bread and pepper, chewing as she glanced over his shoulder.
“He is the Bird Man. I don’t know anything about him, except that he can call birds to himself.”

Wait what

Richard looked up at her from under his eyebrows. “Because he’s the one who is in charge around here.”

You’ve never even been here before, how do you know that?

“The elders are in charge.” Richard smiled with one side of his mouth. “My brother
always says that real power is not brokered in public.” He watched her intently with his gray eyes. “The elders are for show. They are respected, and so are put on display for others to see. Like the skulls on the poles, only they still have the skin on them. They have authority because they are esteemed, but they are not in charge.” With a quick flick of his eyes, Richard indicated the Bird Man leaning against the wall behind him. “He is.”

WHAT IS GOING ON HOW DOES RICHARD KNOW ALL OF THIS

Surely if one of them is going to come to this sudden understanding about the Mud People’s political structure it should be Kahlan- the person who has actually been here several times before- and not Richard, the guy who didn’t even know they existed less than twenty-four hours ago. But I guess that would involve Kahlan actually doing something, and we can’t be having that.

As he hoisted her up, she thought about how much she liked the way he always offered her his hand. He was the first person who had ever done that.

What, literally the first person? Even her parents never did that when she was a kid? Maybe Confessors have some sort of ultra-ascetic lifestyle.

They go and talk to the Bird Man, who is all soft spoken and mysterious and shit.

Kahlan translated. Richard laughed. She liked his easy laugh.

Okay kids, it’s time for tell and don’t show! Look what Terry’s brought for the class today- it’s a hackneyed romance sub-plot!

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I don’t think you’re catching their attention Terry, they’re too busy looking at their mysteriously logo-free Apple products.

Okay this is another marathon length chapter so let’s kick this into high gear.

The Bird Man is awesome, Richard is a dick.

His face took on a dangerous expression. He leaned forward. “If, on the other hand, you choose to help Darken Rahl, and I defeat him, I will come back, and . . .” He pulled his finger across his throat in a quick gesture that needed no translation.

Just think of all of those adorable kids, watching as you slaughter their parents! You sure are so noble and heroic, Richard. Die in a fire.

The only way for the Bird Man to call a council is if he makes Richard an honourary Mud Person-

you know what, someone in the comments told me that phrase is actually a really racist slur and I’m getting uncomfortable using it, so I think we need some sort of nickname. Suggestions in the comments.

Anyway, Richard needs to go do a quest before he can become a you-know-what. Richard offers to make them non-leaking roofs, because somehow no one else in this place ever came up with a solution to that.

So looks like next chapter’s going to be some pulse-pounding roof-making action OH NO WAIT IT’S RAHL AGAIN never mind.

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14 thoughts on “Let’s Read Wizard’s First Rule ch. 23

  1. Pingback: Let’s Read The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Chapter 1 (again) | Doing In The Wizard

  2. Pingback: Let’s Read Wizard’s First Rule ch. 24-25 | Doing In The Wizard

  3. Signatus

    Ok, I’m going to get some music and go throught this bit by bit because it has to be done (even when I haven’t yet finished to read the whole chapter but…).

    First, on the fact that these houses are built like total crap. Look, I’m no architect, not am I an anthropologists or have ever lived in mud and straw houses like some hunter gatherer tribes out there, but I believe humans are actually pretty intelligent when it comes to efficiently do something. First we had horses, then horses pulling carts, then hundres of horse power into explosion engines, which is really awesome.
    What I mean to say, I’m pretty sure this people would have already found an efficient way to keep roofs from leaking every time it rains. I’m pretty sure hunter gatherers, and even medieval societies where straw and other tipes of vegetation were used as coverage for the house’s roof was actually done in such a way it really kept out the weather. Having to constantly fix the roofs means they have to spend hours they could have spent on something more productive simply on fixing the damn thing, nor to mention the grass from the grasslands would, most likely, not generate quickly enough. They probably are not so many people as to desertify a whole area, but close by they would, most likely, leave it bald pretty quickly.

    Going on.
    The fact that Goodkind keeps hammering stereotypes is pretty depressing. Not in all hunter gatherer cultures men do men things like hunting, and women do women thing while little girls learn their roles. Actually, many of this cultures are very diverse, and at least four are matriarchal societies. The fact that Goodkind talks about how women must be submissive is bullshit stereotype born from a sector of hardcore european catolithism and other cultural influences born around the middle ages forth. He just believes hunter gatherers have the same stupid principle as agricultural based europeans had, and I presume he has extrapolated such absurd principles from some distorted concept of how nature works. In reality, the natural world (and many other human societies), most of the time the female chooses a mate. Females are not submissive, they are heavily proactive, which is the reason why males have to make all this huge display of manhood and power (deer crashing antlers, birds and their elaborated rituals, etc).

    So Kahlan is feared and respected by these men (who have ignored her like shit ever since she walked into scene), and thus dreamy eyes teenage girls being taught to be submissive and obedient look her up with admiration. In reality, we are told she is feared and respected, yet we see absolutely nothing about this.
    At the same time, there is some more infodump about her mating rituals or whatever, and how she’s all independent, which I’m guessing she’s some sort of succubus or something. Just… get on with the freaking thing, I don’t care if she’s a sexual vampire. My dogs have a more interesting sexual life, and they don’t have any.

    As for the whole children bit;
    Goodkind has never, ever, EVER seen real children. They do not act like ADHD. Some might be braver, some might be more cautios, some might even question their elder, others will not even approach, which are sensible, realistic evolutionary adaptations. Dancing around and shrieking is absurd and serves no real purpose on the long term.
    Also, the fact that they are let free, with no discipline, and then, when of age, they’ll be inmersed in a sort of military camp is a very destructive way to go about. Children are totally capable of understanding societal norms, applying them and even beneffiting from the loopholes. In their own games, they have norms, and the kid who tries to skip the norms is shunned by the rest of the group. That’s how social animals like monkeys, wolves and dogs work. From childhood, they are taught the laws of the pack. A pup will stop playing is a brother bites too hard, which will teach the brother he shouldn’t bite hard if he wants to keep playing.
    Toddlers should and are taught to not be savage, uncontrolled beast. They are not less kids simply because their adults start focusing them in the ways of the pack.
    The fact that these kids are not taught any norm or discipline will be even worse. A kid taught to control negative emotions will be a mentally stronger adult. Kids not taught how to control such emotions will break down at simpler, unimportant things (which is kind of an issue in our over protective societies). So these strong hunter gatherers would be a bunch of pussies that’ll break down into a useless heap of tears as soon as they miss a shot.

    ““That’s foolish,” he said, an intolerant tone in his voice.”

    I really want to know how an intolerant voice sounds like. Not to mention this is a redundant, stupid sentence.
    Yes, Richard is an intolerant idiot with rage issues. I think I’d rather keep Doc Oc around, less dangerous.

    The cloud things. Actually, I’m pretty sure it was Zedd who summoned the clouds to hide the snake cloud that Rhal sent to follow Richard around, but I might be mistaken.
    Not so sure about the weather tho, it has been raining from a while back, but I’m not sure when that started. I remember foggy weather too, so…

    What’s funny about this chapter is how they have been all “end justifies the means”, to the point killing is not much of an issue, but they get squimish about lies. Sure, it is sensible, they might discover he’s not a spirit and everything would go wrong, but that’s not the main reason why Richard refused, which pretty much means Goodkind is writing the characters as he feels fit the plot needs. Now he has to be a goody two shoes, later on, we’ll see.

    Why is offering a hand such a big deal? I mean, I view this more as Richard considering Kahlan is too weak to even stand up on her own than as a nice, polite gesture towards her. That’s not because I’m a radical femaleist who thinks men try to submit women through this kind of gestures, but because it has been portrayed throughout the book Kahlan pretty much needs Richard’s help to keep breathing.

    What a hypocritical person Richard is. He goes on about not wanting to threaten the tribe to get their help, yet threatens the tribe. Fantastic!

    (And I see you reached the same conclusion I reached about the roofs)

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      Actually about the roofs: how about thatching? They have grass don’t they?

      And you can totally make roofs out of mud, some of the earliest known buildings were mud huts. Or use stone, there are millenia-old buildings near where I live with stone roofs that don’t involve cement or anything- they’re literally just stacked in a spiral pattern with earth on top.

      What strikes me about this roof thing is how uncreative they are, it’s like they just decided NO THIS IS UTTERLY IMPOSSIBLE LET US NEVER SPEAK OF IT AGAIN and that was that.

      Reply
      1. Signatus

        Maybe there isn’t much stone in the area? Makes me wonder why some hunter gatherer tribes choose mud of even manure to build their houses, although it can be a climate sort of thing. Anyways, you’re totally right, there are various materials and techniques that can be applied to make a resistant, efficient roof.
        I presume there wouldn’t be a chance for Richard to proove himself if he has decided to fix roofs in exchange for becoming one of the tribe.

        Reply
      2. braak

        Or tree bark shingles or the like. It’s especially weird because in most climates, building an effective roof is actually kind of more important than walls.

        Reply
    2. Reveen

      Oh also I read some spoiler about him but since I’m never going to read any of the books past this one it doesn’t matter.

      I gotta say, if you say this at that point. Then you never had a chance, the fuckery in this book alone hasn’t even started.

      And in case you’re wondering whether Goodkind improves his prose between then and now.

      Richard laughed. Owen laughed. Cara gave Marilee an approving clap on the back. And then all the men laughed.
      Betty pushed in and with a flurry of tail wagging got the point across that she didn’t want to be left out.
      Richard knelt down and scratched Betty’s ears. “And you, my friend, from now on I don’t want you letting any Slides using you to spy on people.”
      Betty pushed her head against his chest as he scratched her ears, and bleated as if to say she was sorry.

      That’s the eight book.

      Reply
      1. Signatus

        I saw an improvement in my writing by the second book. Even bigger improvement by the third. And so on.
        That’s a man who has stopped giving a shit as long as bills keep raining down.

        Reply
      2. ronanwills Post author

        “Richard laughed. Owen laughed. Cara gave Marilee an approving clap on the back. And then all the men laughed.”

        AAAARRGGGGGHHHH

        Reply
    3. havocfett

      “This is apparently (and by “apparently” I mean I read it in travel books written by douchey white guys) an actual thing in many parts of the world, except it’s based on the idea that the left hand is used for unsavory bodily cleansing, if you know what I mean.”

      As an Indian Muslim, yeah, this is accurate. Evil spirits have nothing to do with it. You’re, ah, cleansing yourself with your left hand so you eat and shake hands and stuff with your right.

      Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      No the rains arrived shortly before Richard did (I think) and restored all the mud, so they can roll around in it constantly.

      Reply
  4. Pingback: Let’s Read Wizard’s First Rule ch. 22 | Doing In The Wizard

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