Tag Archives: wizard’s first rule

Life Lessons in Fantasy

I’ve long believed reading fantasy books moulded who I am. I have no real basis for this belief except a bunch of things I don’t think I learned from my parents or anyone else, in particular a marked black and white set of ethics. That’s not to say I don’t recognise ‘grey’ areas, but not many, and for me this reflects the good-evil dichotomy of classic fantasy. I love the anti-hero, or the dark hero, but when I started reading fantasy in my formative years, he wasn’t yet in vogue. 

I thought more about this when I recently started reading Raising Girls, since I know find myself in possession of two of them – girls, I mean. The book contains two markedly different stories about young girls faced with their first sexual experience. One is heart-breakingly casual and unfulfilling, and the other never happens. The second girl tells her boyfriend she’s not ready, and he delivers the ultimatum ‘Have sex with me, or I’ll walk’. With uplifting bravery, she tells him to walk, and doesn’t look back, not even when he wants to get back together with her sometime later. 

I firmly believe in ‘if he really cares, he’ll wait’. I don’t believe in sex on a first date – not if the woman is looking for more than casual sex. Once you start having sex, it’s difficult, or impossible, to go back to filling in the emotional gaps, that ‘getting to know each other’ stage that takes place on the first dates. My informal polling of men (in my generation) generally indicates a lack of, or less, respect for women who don’t make them wait. I’ve posed to men the phrase ‘OK to bed, but not to wed’, and it’s met with general agreement. 

This isn’t something my parents taught me, and while I’ve refined all the above thoughts as an adult, I must have had some awareness of the concept as a teenager, because I sure did make him wait.

Then I thought of Richard and Kahlan from Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, which I’ve been reading since I was thirteen. In the first book, Wizard’s First Rule, Richard falls in love with Kahlan. She discourages his affections, and his own grandfather tells him to ‘choose another girl’. He later finds out that any kind of physical relationship with her is impossible – if they were to have sex, her magic would destroy him. 

What does Richard do? He certainly doesn’t run off and pick up the first girl he comes across. Despite the fact he understands his love is impossible, that it can never be, he persists. In the end, he solves the problem. Even having solved it, though, it’s four books before he actually has sex with Kahlan, and despite constant setbacks, he waits. 

It occurred to me there’s a lot of important messages in there for any teenager who might sit still long enough to read it. Here’s a few that I spotted without even needing to think hard:

  • If it’s worth having, it’s worth waiting for;
  • If at first you fail, try again;
  • Fidelity and devotion as virtues;
  • Anything is possible;
  • Follow your dreams;
  • Sex isn’t everything (although I grant it isimportant, and I think that message is probably conveyed by the diligence with which Richard and Kahlan pursue that goal).

Are there other messages in there that you can see? What life lessons or important messages have you seen in the fantasy books you’ve read? Did you learn something from fantasy? Do you hope your children learn something from fantasy?

I do. I’ll be off now to borrow Dad’s illustrated copy of The Hobbit, and my first introduction to fantasy.  

My Passion Play: Richard and Kahlan

Richard and Kahlan

The couple I have selected for my Passion Play is Richard and Kahlan from the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. If I had to pick my favourite books, it would have to be this series. Without a doubt theirs is the greatest romance I have yet read. 

There is so much I would love to say about their tortured relationship but there are eleven books. A twelfth has just been released that follows the close of the main conflict, but unfortunately I have not read it yet. It would definitely ruin the series for any of you who haven’t read it if I was to go on about all the insurmountable obstacles Richard and Kahlan must face. Even the little I will say here will give away some secrets in the first book, Wizard’s First Rule. Don’t worry, I’m not giving away the ending. 

At the opening of Wizard’s First Rule, Richard Cypher is a woods guide in Westland, a land screened away from the magic of the rest of the world by a barrier made of the underworld. Out in the woods, he sees a woman pursued by four big heavily armed men. Although they are obviously trained soldiers and Richard has nothing but a belt-knife, he doesn’t hesitate to interfere. He doesn’t even know why they are chasing her. That’s just the kind of man Richard is. 

Things probably wouldn’t have turned out so well for him except for the intervention of ‘thunder without sound’. Of course, things also wouldn’t have turned out so well for her without his intervention either. From their very first meeting, Richard and Kahlan rely on each other.

The woman he has rescued is Kahlan Amnell. What Richard doesn’t know is she is the Mother Confessor of the Midlands, a land of magic on the other side of the underworld barrier. The Midlands lies in great peril from a tyrant named Darken Rahl and she has come searching for the long-lost great wizard to name a Seeker of Truth.

What we, the reader, gradually learn is that a ‘Confessor’ is a woman who has the power to compel others to love her. When she releases her power it makes ‘thunder without sound’. A terrible power and one the Confessors are bound to use in the name of justice. The Confessors travel the Midlands enforcing the law and taking ‘confessions’ when necessary. A heart-breaking part of her duty is when someone condemned to death requests a Confessor. She knows he must be innocent to ask to be touched, but she must touch him anyway and in so doing destroy him. 

The problem for Richard and Kahlan’s love is two-fold:

  1. Once touched by a Confessor’s power, that person is wholly and solely devoted to her, forgetting all responsibilities, family and friends. The person they were is destroyed. There is no cure to a Confessor’s touch, although sometimes someone proven innocent by a Confessor’s touch can be changed to an animal, which lessens (but does not remove) the effect of the Confessor’s touch; and
  2. A Confessor does not ‘summon’ her power, she ‘holds it in’. It requires effort on her part to do that. If she forgets, she will accidentally release her power and anyone touching her will be destroyed. A Confessor is rarely distracted enough to forget to hold her power in… except, say, in the ultimate moment of passion?
For this reason a Confessor’s mate is always a man she has touched with her power and never someone she actually cared. To make love to a man she cared for would be to destroy the very man she loves. 

What hope do Richard and Kahlan have?

Everyone else would tell them none, but Richard is a ‘rare person’ and to his mind every problem has a solution. It is this very quality that has made him ideal for the post of Seeker of Truth. Richard always finds the truth. No exceptions.

I’m not going to tell you how he gets around it. All I will say is have hope! 

Not too much, though, because their relationship is fraught with just about every conceivable hurdle.
I have been told by a few of my readers (OK, not that I have many just yet) that I do terrible things to my characters. I am but a humble apprentice at the feet of the master. The things Terry Goodkind does to his characters boggles the mind. Re-reading this series can be hard (as much as I love it!) because I read in anticipation of the horror I know is coming. 

Just to touch on some of the things Richard and Kahlan must overcome, there are several forced separations and kidnappings, the mistaken belief than one or both of them is dead (fortunately they don’t deal with this Romeo and Juliet style), and forced, consummated marriages to other people. 

No matter what terrible things Terry Goodkind does to this couple, I read on for the last 50 pages of each book. I read on, comfortable in my faith that all will be set right and generally bloody and terminal things will happen to the bad guys.

I live for the ‘You really shouldn’t have done that’ moment in each book. I crave it. Maybe it’s what I love the most. Richard is not unstoppable (no convincing good guy is) but there is a line that cannot be crossed. It usually involves something someone has done to Kahlan. And once crossed, there is no coming back. 

Down that road lies only the bringer of death and his Sword of Truth.

Author’s Note:There is a TV series loosely based on these series of novels. The books are much better. I haven’t even finished watching the TV series because watching it just made me miss all the cool things that happen in the books but not the TV series. Richard’s total awesomeness just doesn’t come across in the TV series, although I commend Craig Horner for his depiction of Richard. The limitations were due to the script deviating from the books and not Craig Horner’s performance.

Today’s dragon picture is of Scarlet, Darken Rahl’s red dragon, with Richard and Kahlan.