Welcome back, constant listeners, to the latest (greatest?) entry of the Page of the Wind blog, brought to you this week by Jeremy. This week’s episodes cover pages 188-194 of The Name of the Wind, in which Kvothe goes in search of a story, and escalates the rivalry between himself and his young nemesis. Kvothe takes a terrible vengeance on Pike – a vengeance that ends up backfiring on him, and ends up setting up a theme of the rest of the book – Kvothe’s vindictive streak.
Kvothe doesn’t just take his revenge by burning all of Pike’s most precious belongings. That would be one thing. But he lingers to savour his triumph – and that leads to a chain of events where Kvothe commits a shocking act of violence. The situation escalates. This kind of relationship is mirrored in Kvothe’s interactions with Ambrose Jakiss, the Draco Malfoy to his Harry Potter. They take an instant dislike to one another – and Kvothe can never seem to leave well enough alone. He crows over his triumphs and when Ambrose gets the upper hand, Kvothe plots an elaborate revenge. In the story of The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear this leads to disastrous consequences for Kvothe – in the long-run, his vindictive streak does him more harm than good.
However, as a reader I’m so firmly invested in Kvothe’s perspective that I didn’t really question my glee whenever Kvothe would get one over on Ambrose, Pike, or any of his other perpetual antagonists (like Hemme). It was only when we recorded these episodes that I was forced to consider that maybe cheering for my hero lighting a person’s most precious possessions on fire … and then lighting that person on fire … is kinda messed up.
This could be read as a commentary by Patrick Rothfuss on the way we, as an audience, are conditioned to applaud violence and vengeance when it’s perpetrated by a fantasy hero. How many of us have read scenes of the hero torturing a flunky for information, or hacking down rooms full of anonymous henchmen who we’re told are the bad guys? How many entire fantasy narratives are predicated on the hero seeking a bloody vengeance on a wrong done them?
By the nature of Kvothe being an unreliable narrator, and given the clues Rothfuss is always giving us that morality is not black and white, and things in this world are not always as clear-cut as they appear, we should be examining the violence and vengeance that Kvothe undertakes.
On the other hand, fantasy stories are just that … fantasy. They’re escapism. And whomst’dve amongst us has not idly daydreamed of taking a horrible revenge on our 7th grade bully? Fantasy stories can be a safe and harmless way for us to experience that kind of catharsis.
What are your thoughts, listeners? Is Kvothe a dangerous vindictive maniac? Or … #KvotheDidNothingWrong ? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook @pageofthewind, e-mail us a letter at firstname.lastname@example.org, or sound off in the comments on this here blog!