This week’s art by Chillalord.
Welcome back, faithful listeners and readers of the Blog of the Wind! It is I, Jeremy, and the theme of this week’s pages, and this week’s post, is mentors! Abenthy was introduced a few pages ago, but it’s in this week’s episodes that he and Kvothe begin their friendship.
The Kingkiller Chronicle is very much in the mould of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. Abenthy is the first of Kvothe’s many teachers, but of all of them he really fits best into the mold of the mentor, who shows the hero some kind of secret knowledge, and sets him on the path to adventure.
The Campbellian pattern is easy to find in many other fantasy narratives. As we allude to on our podcast, it’s probably no accident that Kvothe calls him “Ben”. Could that be anything other than a reference to another “crazy old wizard” from a galaxy far, far away, who puts a precocious young student on the path to incredible power? However, unlike old Ben Kenobi, Abenthy’s portrayal calls to mind the grumpy, funny, kindly-uncle characteristics of Gandalf in The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring, or the depiction of Merlin in Disney’s The Sword in the Stone. His fondness for drink, his perpetually burned-off eyebrows and his inventive swearing, all give him the added dimension of human fallibility to his mythic role as a wielder of great power and a bearer of mysterious knowledge.
Abenthy is in the story for less than a hundred pages overall, but he leaves a vivid impression on Kvothe and the reader. Indeed, Ben is so characterized as a bit of an absent-minded professor that it is all the more shocking when he shows us just how clever and powerful he really is. (If you’re reading The Name of the Wind and you want to skip ahead, the sequence i’m thinking of happens in Chapter 14.)
Rothfuss knows he’s using a trope – something we often discuss on our Name of the Wind podcast – but he also knows how to make that trope come alive, make Ben into more than a cardboard cut out in a story we’ve all read before, but breathe life into him, and make him feel fresh and new. And that takes some real magic.
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