Let’s Read Wizard’s First Rule ch. 27-28

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Chapter 27

So a whole lot of bullshit happens in this chapter. Like a whole lot. The idea of wading through all of that in my scholarly analytical style makes me tired and hungry, so instead I’m just going to summarize the basic events and then give a highlight reel at the end.

It starts off with Richard getting initiated into the ways of the mud people, and because this is a vaguely colonialist-tinged power fantasy it involves sex with nubile tribal women.

See also

See also

There’s a big party and four Richard-aged women come up and he’s supposed to choose which one he wants to impregnate and Savidlin is all “DUUUUUUUUUDE” and then Richard is like “BRAAAAAAAAAHHH” and they basically fist-bump repeatedly over how Richard is totally going to score.

Kahlan is naturally quite peeved about this, especially when Richard keeps saying “Hey Kahlan which one of them should I bone? Kahlan? Hey, Kahlan? Which one do you think is the hottest? That one? It’s that one, right? Eh? Eh? Am I right?”

Long story short Goodkind wins precisely a single point (thus putting his current score at -500,000) for having Richard not actually want to have sex with any of them, but just going through the motions in order to appease the Mud Bros. The thing is he does it in the most asshole-ish way possible, with absolutely zero regard for Kahlan’s feelings (there’s no way he hasn’t noticed she’s into him).

His Clever Ruse to get out of sexing anyone is to eat an apple (remember the Midlanders think all red fruit is poisonous and in this world apples apparently don’t come in any other colours) and then says “well, I’m totally up for doing sex but keep in mind that my semen is poisonous from years of eating apples so if I do sex with you you’ll have a poison baby or whatever”.

Oh also in the middle of all this they eat meat made out of some of Darken Rahl’s goons. You know how these things go, you’re at a party and someone starts passing around the revenge-cannibalism tray and you figure why not, might as well broaden your horizons.

Afterward Richard acts like an enormous tool because Kahlan didn’t tell him ahead of time about the sex initiation thing. Go jump in a fire, Richard. Then Kahlan gets to cry some more on the bird man’s shoulder. He apologizes for pressuring Richard and his niece into the sexing and gives Kahlan his bird whistle as a gift for Richard.

Kahlan goes and meekly apologises to Richard and he whole-heartedly forgives her. He’s such a sweety-pie, that Richard.

Anyway so they’re about to have SECKS (with Kahlan initiating it, which is rare for these kinds of novels) but Richard says she has to tell him what a confessor is first and then she starts crying again and asks him to tenderly hold her in his big strong man-arms. Of course.

Weselan was there, as were the wives of the other elders and she came to sit next to Kahlan, taking her hand and asking with sincere concern how her arm was. Kahlan wasn’t used to having people care about her.

[…]

she put her emotions away, and thought about the job that lay ahead, about Darken Rahl and how little time they had left. And she thought about Dennee.

There are these occasional flashes where you can see how much this book would be improved by having Kahlan be the main character, possibly because the whole RAH RAH I MUST BE HEARD-HEARTED AND PITILESS OH NOES stuff does actually seem to involve some considerable sacrifice on her part, and unlike Richard she has something approaching an excuse for being such an enormous asshole.

“And the venison, it’s good too. Here, have a piece.”

Can I just say how relieved I am that Goodkind is just using Earth animals instead of sticking armour plates on them and calling them Bloobledoops or something like our old friend Branderson.

“This is kind of strange, I’ve never had anything like it before.” He paused, his voice changed. “What is it?” The question had an edge to it that frightened her, almost made her jump. He had a threatening, hard look in his eyes

Why exactly are you so in love with this guy, Kahlan? He can’t even ask about the kind of meat he’s eating without sounding like he wants to murder you.

(It turns out he’s actually playing some weird mind-game to see if she’ll lie to him, just to increase the terrifying abusive boyfriend angle)

He took the girl’s head in both of his hands, kissing her on the forehead. She beamed. The Bird Man beamed. The elders beamed. The other girls left.

[…]

The girl next to him was getting nervous. The elders were getting nervous. The Bird Man showed no emotion

That Goodkind kid’s gonna be a serious writer one of these days.

Chapter 28

We open with a komedy bit where Richard tries to summon a hawk with his new bird whistle and utterly faceplants, much to the amusement of the Mud Bros. If it turns out he’s just pretending to be bad at it so he can do it for real at a dramatic moment later on I’m going to backflip through a car window.

Then it’s time for the meeting with the spirits/elders (gosh do you think maybe the elders are just pretending to channel the spirits) and Richard has to go to the thing in the buff but oh noes Kahlan has to be there to translate and she’ll be naked as well whatever will we do. This is really contrived and stupid (I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot lately).

She put on her Confessor’s face.

She keeps it in her purse next to her iPad.

During the ceremony everyone rubs hallucinogenic frogs against their skin to get in the right spirit-communicating mood (if you know what I mean) but Kahlan is skittish about this since if she’s out of her goard on frog-juice she might lose control of her powers and confessor someone she didn’t mean to. Savidlin tells her to deal with it, since she can’t leave and the spirits will kill her if she isn’t frogged up. Again: stupid and contrived.

Everyone took the hand of the person to each side.

The spirit thing is actually bullshit, they just go in here to get high and play duck-duck-goose.

Actually it turns out the elders aren’t yanking everyone’s chains and the ancestors show up as shadowy figures. This scene is pretty cool- the spirits essentially possess the elders and speak through them simultaneously in a voice of the legion sort of way.

Unfortunately this is then ruined by the spirits launching into a long-winded ethical discussion with Richard over the two people he’s killed so far that reads like it’s coming from an overly pedantic forum-user.

The point is, according to what you believe, that you think it is justified to kill in the defense of a friend, then if he was killing to defend a friend, he had the right to kill your friend. He was justified. Since he was justified, that would void your right, would it not?

QUID PRO QUO

Kahlan could tell by his tone that Richard was getting angry.

I haven’t updated the hulk-out meter in a while, but I’m too lazy to go back and check what it was at last. Let’s just say 85,000.

Richard took a deep breath and let it out slowly as he stared up at the void. “Yes. I enjoyed killing him, because of the magic of the Sword of Truth. That is how it works. If I had killed him in another manner, without the sword, I would not have enjoyed it.”

It’s been stated before that Richard’s crazed blood lust is just because of the sword, but I don’t believe it. Here’s why: in order to make Richard both want to kill and enjoy killing where he usually wouldn’t the sword would essentially have to be altering his mind during his hulk-out sessions. But Richard shows no sign of that- he displays no awareness of the fact that his personality is being hijacked, not does the book ever actually treat his rage as if this is what’s happening.

Rather, it comes across like “the sword made me do it” is just a flimsy excuse to justify Richard going berserk and violently murdering people and/or acting like a sociopath. And in fact, if you assume in-universe that the sword doesn’t actually do anything and Richard is just using it as cover to indulge his murderous tendencies the story suddenly starts to make far more sense. I rather suspect this was not the intended reading, however.

“Irrelevant. ”

“What?”

“`If’ is irrelevant. `Did’ is not.

Gather round children, it’s time for Uncle Goodkind’s Morality Theatre!

The argument the book makes here (and the same one made by Zedd way back with the trees, thus rendering this scene pointless) is that actions should be judged solely by their intent. Richard flat-out rejects the spirit’s argument that his motivation is irrelevant and all that matters are his actions, stating that “the deed is not as important as the intent”. He believed he was saving Kahlan’s life, and therefore he was fully justified in using deadly force.

Of course this debate is rendered completely toothless because by any reasonable measure Richard was in fact fully justified in killing the assassin to save Kahlan. But if we assume we’re dealing with a more morally nuanced scenario- let’s say Richard and Kahlan only suspected the man was sent by Darken Rahl and never found out if they were right- then it’s easy to realize what a crock of horseshit Richard’s position is.

It’s certain’y true that intent is important. That’s why there’s a legal distinction between manslaughter and murder, and why ending someone’s life in a genuine accident that you honestly had no control over isn’t usually considered to be either of those things. It would also be perfectly valid to judge Richard in a different light if we discovered that he killed the assassin to settle a personal score or just because he felt like it and then ended up saving Kahlan completely by accident.

But the position Richard seems to be presenting here is that intent is the sole criteria by which we should judge a person’s actions- he even says that in his mind the desire to kill the elders was more or less the same as actually killing them, which is clearly nonsense. A desire to hack elderly men apart is obviously reprehensible, but no rational justice system would ever convict someone just for wanting to do it, because ultimately it’s the action and the effect of it that we judge. Intent is a co-factor in the judgement, not the sole criteria.

Goodkind is actually pulling a fast one on us here. It’s set up as an action vs intent argument with Richard representing intent and the spirits representing action, but in fact the spirits are also making an argument from intent by fixating on whether or not Richard wanted to kill the assassin, which should be irrelevant if they’re sticking to the position the text tells us they hold. It’s a sneaky way for Goodkind to set up the spirit’s position as a strawman that Richard can easily knock down by reducing the argument to whose intentions are the most justifiable. The spirits proceed to ask Richard why he wants to kill Darken Rahl which, again, shouldn’t matter if they’re really arguing from a position that intent is irrelevant.

Of course the other thing I have to mention is that this is all pointless author wankery. The spirits just show up and start asking Richard questions for no apparent reason, solely so Goodkind can exposit a bit on his moral philosophies, just like all those other conversations where characters have long winded discussions on moral principles that don’t actually have any bearing on the plot at all, and once more we get a little sermon on the importance of taking decisive action to do what’s right.

“What is the reason, above all others, why you want to kill this man?”

Richard looked down and closed his eyes again. “Because,” he whispered at last, tears running down his face, “if I don’t kill him, he will kill Kahlan.”

Sleeping-Cat

When Kahlan translated, the spirits suddenly howled as if in pain. “We are not allowed to answer that question. The boxes of Orden are in play. This gathering is over. “

I’m sure we’re going to get some sensible explanation for why the spirits aren’t “allowed” to tell him that.

“How many boxes does Rahl already have?”

“Two. ”

He looked at the elders evenly. “You have just disclosed where two of the boxes are.

That’s pretty clever, but it just further highlights how absurd the whole situation is.

Eventually Richard manages to finagle the spirits into telling him the name of someone who knows where the third box is.

 “We are as good as dead,” she whispered.

“Why? Who, is it?”

Kahlan sank back, into herself. “It is the witch woman, Shota.”

Oh man we’re going to have to come up with a nickname for that character or I’m going to crack up every time I see it. If you don’t already know why I’m not going to explain it. Google “shota” if you’re curious, but make sure you’re not at work and have image safesearch on.

She’s located in the “Agaden Reach”, this fulfilling the requirement for all fantasy settings to contain a location with “reach” in their name.

“Darken Rahl is here. He looks for you. ”

Kahlan translated in a rush, jumping to her feet. Richard came up beside her.

“What! He is here now? Where is he, what is he doing’?”

“He is in the center of the village. He is killing people. “

Welp I guess helping Richard didn’t do much for them after all.

The spirits explain that the symbols Richard has painted on him for the ceremony will stop Rahl seeing him and he can sneak out of the village without being noticed, but if he draws the sword of truth they won’t work any more because reasons. Richard is of course determined that he has to save the villagers but the spirits explain that he’d get his ass handed to him and there’s nothing he can do. Oh well time to skedaddle.

Richard’s clenched fists shook. Kahlan could see by the look on his face that he was close to
disregarding the warning, close to going out to fight.

Ugh. Look, this is a perfectly reasonable response but I’ve always found the whole “but we have to do something!” bit when the heroes are faced with an impossible situation really tedious. Yes, it sucks that you have to leave everyone to get slaughtered but you getting killed as well isn’t going to change that. It’s one of those cases where I would recognize this as totally sympathetic and understandable in real life, but I wish authors would just skip it in fiction.

They wait in the spirit house for Rahl to end his murder spree and fly off on his monster-dragon thing, then a bunch of the Mud Bros are pissed because Rahl killed a bunch of people and kidnapped Siddin for his pet child molester. Richard and Kahlan shed righteous tears and march off to go find the Wicked Witch of The Reach.

Also the next chapter starts with a character we’ve never met before being slapped in the face by someone called “Princess Violet”, which made me briefly think a chapter from another book had somehow been spliced in by accident.

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17 thoughts on “Let’s Read Wizard’s First Rule ch. 27-28

  1. Pingback: Let’s Read Wizard’s First Rule ch. 29 | Doing In The Wizard

  2. Fibinachi

    …. I had promised myself I wouldn’t give that away, but, oh well, there’s so much more silliness to mine from Terry Goodkind.

    Sorry if i kind of spoiled Naked Empire for anyone, though.

    Reply
  3. Fibinachi

    (No war! No war! No war!” the people shouted as Richard led the men up the street at a dead run.
    “Out of the way!” Richard yelled as he closed the distance. This was no time for subtlety or discussions: the success of their attack depended in large part on speed. “Get out of the way! This is your only warning! Get out of the way or die!”
    “Stop the hate! Stop the hate!” the people chanted as they locked arms.
    They had no idea how much hate was raging through Richard. He drew the Sword of Truth. The wrath of its magic didn’t come out with it, but he had enough of his own. He slowed to a trot.
    “Move!” Richard called as he bore down on the people.
    A plump, curly-haired woman took a step out from the others. Her round face was red with anger as she screamed. “Stop the hate! No war! Stop the hate! No war!”
    “Move or die!” Richard yelled as he picked up speed.
    The red-faced woman shook her fleshy fist at Richard and his men, leading an angry chant. “Murderers! Murderers! Murderers!”
    On his way past her, gritting his teeth as he screamed with the fury of the attack begun, Richard took a powerful swing, lopping off the woman’s head and upraised arm. Strings of blood and gore splashed across the faces behind her even as some still chanted their empty words. The head and loose arm tumbled through the crowd. A man mad the mistake of reaching for Richard’s weapon, and took the full weight of a charging thrust.
    Men behind Richard hit the line of evil’s guardians with unrestrained violence. People armed only with their hatred for moral clarity fell bloodied, terribly injured, and dead. The line of people collapsed before the merciless charge. Some of the people, screaming their contempt, used their fists to attack Richard’s men. They were met with swift and deadly steel.
    At the realization that their defense of the Imperial Order’s brutality would actually result in consequences to themselves, the crowd began scattering in fright, screaming curses back at Richard and his men.

    Terry Goodkind: Naked Empire)

    Reply
    1. Straw Man

      I invite you to consider the publication date of that novel: 2003. Goodkind’s hero is basically slaughtering the pansy asses who didn’t want to invade Iraq.

      This is in keeping with Rand’s hawkishness: the Vietnamese deserved to die because they either supported, or failed to stop, the commies.

      Reply
  4. Fibinachi

    Thomas Covenant novels, and this is right about the part where Mr. Covenant got to get away scot free with raping a fourteen-year old villager and all…

    Oh hey, the Unbeliever.

    Ah, that takes me back.
    To place I don’t want to go.

    Dammit, fantasy fiction, why must you contain so many terrible things?
    —-

    Anyway, the hilarious thing to me about the sequence with the apple is that it shows, with utter brilliance and clarity, just how much of an asshole Richard is.

    His plan is actually good – it’s almost brilliant in its simplicity “Sure, I can, but I’ve been eating red fruit all my life, so it might kill someone” is exactly the kind of quick thinking plot-call back stuff I like from protagonists. Maybe that’s just me, but I like that kind of clever thinking.

    Only, instead of being clever about it, he’s just an ass. The scene itself is not:

    “I wish I could, but I might kill you, so I’d rather not take that chance – can I do something else to be a Mud Person?”,

    But it is Richard going: “Oh, sure, I’m totally willing to murder one of your women with my poisonous seed. I’d be sad about it, but if you lot all want me to go ahead, I’ll get right on that murderizing with my semen. Yep. I’m probably going to make that nice lady die in excrutiating agony, writhing as her body melts but I’m totally up for it if you lads want me to go ahead.”

    It’s subtle, maybe? But instead of him taking a stand and giving off the appearance of integrity (“I am not willing to kill someone else with my poison body, it’s a risk I won’t take”) it relies on him doing brinkmanship with the Mud People and having them back down (“I am willing to take this risk, are you willing to sacrifice your niece?“)

    One is a hero who uses his intelligent and compassion to play to the preconceptions of others, and also maintain a stance of minimal harm.

    The other is a blundering asshole willing to play casually with the lives of others.

    The end result is the same (Accepted as a Mud Person), but in one version, if the Mud People press (Say the Bird Man was willing to offer up his niece despite the red fruit poison possibility), the guy gets to go “I’m not willing to risk killing someone”, while in the other, Richard becomes, once again, someone perfectly willing to sacrifice innocent bystanders.

    You sorta get the same thing with “Killing the elders” or the “intent versus action” or a lot of other things, but this is the part of the book where it’s just the clearest.

    I can totally see where Signatus gets the “Abusive person” vibes from (And condolences to you for that experience, hope all is well these days!). It’s because Richard totally is!

    Reply
    1. Austin H. Williams

      It almost seems like the Yearded One wants it both ways: he wants the wide-eyed farmboy who can do no wrong and whose heart has never fathomed evil while at the same time he wants the grizzled, cynical, borderline-sociopathic Knight Templar who will get the results, no matter what the cost!*

      He wants Sam Vines and Carrot Irounfoundersson to somehow be the exact same person. Also: he’s removed all of the wit, tenderness and empathy from Sam Vimes’s personality. The result is a mantasy wish-fulfillment disaster.

      *I encourage everyone reading the words in italics to think of it in their best movie-trailer narrator voice

      Reply
      1. Fibinachi

        When a mob of unruly war protesters spew their vile pacifist hatred against the use of righteous force, there is but one man with the moral clarity to stop them.

        As the monstrous blobs of creed-less humanity with no dedication to a cause hold hands and pray for peace, a confused world looks to The Ultimate Warrior, The Seeker, Richard Cypher, the one man with the true virtue and keen perceptive mind unblemished by valueless debasement of Life to ride through the throng on his steed and, with the flick of sword and mighty thews, cut down the vile wanton women who dare to detestably debate the righteous Objectivist cause!

        Richard Cypher IS:

        Pummeling Protesters

        Reply
  5. Austin H. Williams

    With as much toxic shit as this book already has in it, I’m actually kinda’ surprised that Richard didn’t get to do the deed with the nubile natives. There are so many things from this book that remind me of those dreadful Thomas Covenant novels, and this is right about the part where Mr. Covenant got to get away scot free with raping a fourteen-year old villager and all…

    It’s almost enough to make me wonder if some stouthearted, clear-minded editor finally spoke up and said, “All right, we’ll leave in the abusive relationship. We can let Richard be an amoral psychopath with a messiah complex. The useless philosophising, the irritating cooky old wizard, fine. But THIS is where we draw the line!”

    Reply
    1. Straw Man

      A bit late to be replying, but about your surprise at Richard’s failure to close the deal…

      That’s pretty consistent with Ayn Rand’s attitude to sex, which was weirdly puritanical. She answered accusations of prudishness by pointing to the mind-blowing, best sex EVAR began Galt and Taggert, but the key seems to be that for Rand MOST sex is just animals rutting. The only sex that’s acceptable is the idealized kind between two intellectual equals who have formed a mystical bond–and then only if they’ve earned it by being objectivist übermenschen.

      Richard and Kahlan earn it, eventually. Spoiler: the solution to her confessor problem involves being objectivist übermenschen.

      This author has fetishes of his own, and they’re prominently displayed soon enough, but the sexual aspect is mostly sublimated. IIRC, since I read this a while ago, actual sex is mostly treated like the objectivist sacrament it is, or else is portrayed as a dirty sin. There’s no plain old sex sex, without the moralistic baggage.

      Reply
  6. Signatus

    I was in an abusive relationship once, and it is way MORE terrifying than most people can imagine. You start trying to appease your boyfriend because you fear his anger will make him hurt you. It is a horrible life, riding into the car not knowing if he’ll crash it and kill us both (he used to run 190 km/h in the tiny shitty car just to frighten me), going out not knowing if he’ll beat me on the way home. I felt so vulnerable that, when I managed to get out of it, I spent over 2 years without letting anyone ride me… not even my parents. I’d cry and scream with the sole idea of it, and worst of all is I felt so ashamed they didn’t know what was going on.
    Ashamed of what? I don’t know, but I felt like a total failure.

    Richard is starting to remind me of my ex. Everytime I see the man-power portrayed in fiction and how females fall in love with such a controlling, aggressive, dangerous figure, I cringe.
    I was NOT in love with my ex. I stopped being in love with him after the first time he threatened to murder me. I was TERRIFIED, and kept going to him the same reason a dog keeps licking the hand that beats him, because I FEARED leaving him would make him attack me.

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      Man, that’s rough 😦

      Hope you’re alright now.

      “Everytime I see the man-power portrayed in fiction and how females fall in love with such a controlling, aggressive, dangerous figure, I cringe.”

      Popular commercial fiction seems to be just awash in this trope for some reason. The low-hanging fruit everyone goes for is Twilight, but honestly Edward Cullen looks like the perfect boyfriend compared to some of the other examples out there.

      Reply
      1. Signatus

        It’s been over ten years and I managed to get very far away from him, which helped me a bunch. Thanks for your concern. 🙂
        I’m still a bit… no touching, and a bit nervous around cars (when it’s not my own), but I’m alright.

        Edward is a perfect example of this sort of abusive relationship, in that he becomes controlling, but after the last book he’s such a crybaby I couldn’t take him seriously any more. The books are such a wreck!

        Richard, on the other side, is funny how he’s falling into the sequence of the abusive boyfriend. They always start out as gentle, charming and educated men, and change while also changing you. The process is so slow you never see it coming until the raging lashes beging, and when they do, you’ve been nullified to the point you’re too weak to fight back. Even worse, you believe you deserve it, that it is your fault.

        I really hope Goodkind was not doing this on purpose, otherwise he has a lot to explain. We not only see rape, pedophilia, but gender violence as well. What a charming book!

        Reply
  7. Pingback: Let’s Read Wizard’s First Rule ch. 26 | Doing In The Wizard

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