I tried to read The Name of the Wind once, but I couldn’t. Not because it was too hard a read, it wasn’t. Not because I didn’t have enough time, I did. There was just one flaw in the book that ruined it for me.
From the moment the protagonist begins to tell his story, I knew that he was going to lose everything that mattered to him.
All my respect to Mr. Rothfuss, but I have a hard enough time some days keeping hope that wrestling through that book wasn’t worth it. Which is sad, because it had a cool world and characters.
I don’t know whether this need to have hope in stories is a me thing, a modern thing, or a human thing. There’s been a proliferation of apocalyptic stories and tragedies the past couple centuries, but there’s always something more that happens after all that bad is done. Horatio lives to set the kingdom in order after Hamlet dies. Armageddon is averted, or if it isn’t, there are survivors to continue the human race and teach their kids to do better this time. Someone magnificent dies, but their loved ones are able to move on and hope that they are happy in their new place.
This isn’t true for all the stories. In some of the oldest forms of the myth of Ragnarok, everything actually dies. That’s it. Surt sets fire to everything and the gods die and that’s the end. But even Ragnarok has a happy ending now–a new world rises from the ashes of the old, and the survivors of the flames move on to continue the cycle of life and death.
Science tells us that eventually the universe will die, but how many of us believe that enough to be upset about it? Even with that idea of the universe dying, science fiction is full of stories in which a new universe comes from the old.
Our stories can be full of disasters in every flavor there is, but there has to be hope in them somewhere.
Otherwise, what’s the point? Why bother breathing or getting up in the morning if that can’t change the fact that terrible things are going to happen?
Well, because of the good things. Because there’s more to life than dying, because there is joy and wonder and hope and magic to be found if we look for it. Because most of us believe that who we are continues to exist after death and that someday the bad things will turn out sort of okay.