Welcome back, constant readers, to the latest Page of the Wind blog, brought to you from Jeremy, deep within the bowels of his writing hutch. This week we talk about pages 223-229, in which Kvothe continues to acquire the trappings of a proper young lad, as opposed to a street ragamuffin.
This sequence of the book involves Kvothe meeting a series of increasingly helpful shopkeeps, who help him acquire the things he needs to get on a caravan going to the university. These characters do feel like people with ongoing lives that aren’t part of Kvothe’s story. (Indeed, there is some debate on the podcast as to just how much thought Patrick Rothfuss put into the life of the cobbler – does he have a tragic past involving a long-dead child?)
This is also an example of The Kingkiller Chronicle imbuing a mundane activity with dramatic import. When Tywin Lannister buys a new doublet, it doesn’t mean much. He’s rich – he can buy all the doublets he wants. When Kvothe needs a new shirt, it’s going to cost him a significant portion of his net worth. Getting the gift of shoes means so much to him because he has so little, and has had to save and scheme to get what he has. And of course, we know Kvothe will value that shirt and those shoes way more than someone who had the means to purchase them without hassle. So we’re biting our nails a lot in these scenes, and every little victory means a great deal to us, the reader – assuming we’re all on Kvothe’s side.
However, they also fall into a trope familiar to genre readers and roleplaying gamers. From Harry Potter’s wandmaker Mister Olivander to the merchants who sell you arrows and bombs in Legend of Zelda, to the beloved merchant your D&D party gets all their gear from the helpful (or untrustworthy) shopkeep is a genre institution institution.
Nor are these the last merchants Kvothe ends up dealing with – from mysteriously helpful tinkers, to more mundane purveyors of musical instruments, going shopping is as much a part of The Name of the Wind as pickpocketing or crafting items in the Fishery.
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