Welcome back faithful followers to another Page of the Wind Blog post! Jeremy here, and this week we talk about episodes 209-215, in which Skarpi is harassed by the Justice of the Tehlin Church, and Kvothe wakes to his true self for the first time since his family were murdered. Heavy stuff.
As we discuss on the show, the Justice and the Tehlin Church are familiar figures. They’re analogous to real world religions that often persecuted and oppressed those with different or heretical beliefs, and so it helps add to the emotional verisimilitude of the world. We don’t know what it’s like (most likely) to have our families wiped out by supernatural evil, but we can relate to the real world experience of unjust persecution.
Fantasy fiction has often used religion, religious persecution, and dogmatic fanaticism as a theme. The High Sparrow of A Feast For Crows is one prominent example – and Westeros is populated with a variety of religious schisms – Melisandre’s religion of Azor Ahai, the fanatical priests of the Drowned God, and the Old Ways of the Northmen and the Wildlings are all at odds with the dominant religion of the Seven. Likewise, in Seth Dickinson’s amazing The Traitor Baru Cormorant, the whole book is about how a colonized person can resist cultural assimilation by a dominating empire – complete with its own culture and religious customs. And Nick mentioned the corrupt and cynical religious figures that are the subject of Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods.
Most recently, I read a great novella by Myke Cole, called The Armored Saint, the first of a planned series. It features a terrifying theocracy who put entire villages to the sword in the name of protecting them from witchcraft – which they believe brings demons into the world. Their goal is noble, but the means they use to carry it out are brutal, and the priests in the story are vicious, vindictive and cruel, hardly in line with the professed teachings of their faith.
Clearly, Patrick Rothfuss is not the first author to have found a rich vein of conflict and drama in religion. And the cool thing about religion in fantasy is that the faithful sometimes get concrete signs of their faith. Sometimes Conan prays to Crom … and Crom answers. Sometimes the gods walk among mortals. And that’s not something we can necessarily discount in The Kingkiller Chronicle. If Kvothe actually was visited by an angel of Tehlu at the moment of his near death, then it raises all kinds of questions.
How much contact (if any) does the Tehlin Church have with Tehlu? Are they actually carrying out his will? Are they merely interpreting centuries-old scripture to suit their whims? What is the nature of Skarpi’s heresy? Of Trapis’? And how might it affect the unfolding story of The Name of The Wind?
Read something you disagree with? Have another great example of a scary fantasy religion? Sound off in the comments, shoot us an e-mail at email@example.com, or drop us a line on Facebook or Twitter @pageofthewind!