Throughout his books The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fears, Patrick Rothfuss consistently returns to music to create his fictional world. Narnia and Middle-earth are both sung beautifully to life in their creation accounts, but Rothfuss uses music somewhat differently. Music creates many of the actual characters in his book. Take away their instruments and songs, and you take away their identities.
The following excerpt is from the first book of the series, The Name of the Wind. The narrator, Kvothe, is describing the scene directly following the murder of his parents and all his friends. They had been nomads in a troupe of musicians and actors, so their loss leaves him homeless and alone on a road between towns. Before I lend out my copy of the book, I wanted to get this down so I could remember it. Mark the music:
In the beginning, I was almost like an automaton, thoughtlessly performing the actions that would keep me alive.
I ate the second rabbit I caught, and the third. I found a patch of wild strawberries. I dug for roots. By the end of the fourth day, I had everything I needed to survive: a stone-lined fire pit, a shelter for my lute. I had even assembled a small stockpile of foodstuffs that I could fall back on in case of emergency.
I also had one thing I did not need: time. After I had taken care of immediate needs, I found I had nothing to do. I think this is when a small part of my mind started to slowly reawaken itself.
Make no mistake, I was not myself. At least I was not the same person I had been a span of days before. Everything I did I attended to with my whole mind, leaving no part of me for remembering.
I grew thinner and more ragged. I slept in rain or sun, on soft grass, moist earth, or sharp stones with an intensity of indifference that only grief can promote. The only notice I took of my surroundings was when it rained, because then I could not bring out my lute to play, and that pained me.
Of course I played. It was my only solace.
By the end of the first month, my fingers had calluses hard as stones and I could play for hours upon hours. I played and played again all of the songs I knew from memory. Then I played the half-remembered songs as well, filling in the forgotten parts as best I could.
Eventually I could play from when I woke until the time I slept. I stopped playing the songs I knew and started inventing new ones. I had made up songs before; I had even helped my father compose a verse or two. But now I gave it my whole attention. Some of those songs have stayed with me to this day.
Soon after that I began playing…how can I describe it?
I began to play something other than songs. When the sun warms the grass and the breeze cools you, it feels a certain way. I would play until I got the feeling right. I would play until it sounded like Warm Grass and Cool Breeze.
I was only playing for myself, but I was a harsh audience. I remember spending nearly three whole days trying to capture Wind Turning a Leaf.
By the end of the second month, I could play things nearly as easily as I saw and felt them: Sun Setting Behind the Clouds, Bird Taking a Drink, Dew in the Bracken.
Somewhere in the third month I stopped looking outside and started looking inside for things to play. I learned to play Riding in the Wagon with Ben, Singing with Father by the Fire, Watching Shandi Dance, Grinding Leaves When it Is Nice Outside, Mother Smiling…
Needless to say, playing these things hurt, but it was a hurt like tender fingers on lute strings. I bled a bit and hoped that I would callous soon. (140-141)
Karoly Ferenczy, Orpheus