Welcome back, Constant Listeners, to the latest installment of the Page of the Wind blog, the official blog of everyone’s favourite Name of the Wind podcast! Jeremy here, and in this week’s episodes, we cover Kvothe’s introduction to the mean streets of Tarbean, and how Kvothe makes his hard life even harder. (Spoiler alert, Jordana gets very upset – and with good reason!)
On this week’s blog, I want to talk about the loss of Kvothe’s father’s lute.
In fantasy fiction, we’re used to there being Important Objects. The most famous of all is Tolkien’s One Ring, but the genre’s full of examples – Harry’s Nimbus 2000 broom, Excalibur, Mjolnir are just a few. Now, you’ll notice that all these items are important to the story, and they’re either weapons or useful tools – and they’re all magical. And important items in fantasy stories are often important because they’re MacGuffins – they drive the plot forward and motivate the characters’ actions.
Now, the lute isn’t magical. It’s certainly not a weapon. In fact, with it’s broken strings, it doesn’t even really qualify as a useful object. And it’s not really a mcguffin, since the plot of the book doesn’t hinge on it. So why do we care so much about what happens to it? Why are we as enraged and devastated as Kvothe is when it gets broken?
Simply – we care about it because Kvothe cares about it. The lute isn’t important to anyone else in the world except Kvothe – it’s the last physical link he has to his parents. And because we’ve followed Kvothe and his family for the last hundred pages, and we care about that relationship, we empathize with the loss of the lute.
Something Patrick Rothfuss does throughout the entire Kingkiller Chronicle is imbue everyday objects with significance. Things like Kvothe getting a new shirt, or buying a new lute with his own money, or Auri making soap – these aren’t important because the objects are magical. They’re important because of what they represent to the characters. Kvothe buying a new shirt or a new lute comes as a result of him having to scrimp and save and claw his way out of poverty – and anyone who has had to save for something they really desperately need gets that. Auri spends a week in The Slow Regard of Silent Things making soap as a present for Kvothe. Anyone who’s put that much effort into making a special present for someone can relate.
Everyone can relate to the idea of having an object that means something to them – a wedding ring, a favourite teddy bear, an heirloom – and what it would feel like to have that thing taken away. These everyday struggles keep The Name of the Wind realistic. Not in a “the world is grim and dark and shitty and everyone gets abused” way. It just presents familiar feelings and experiences and grounds them in the emotional reality we can all relate to. It makes Kvothe’s world feel authentic – like it matters.
So if someone makes fun of you for crying when someone in a book loses their father’s lute … they might be a soulless automaton.