“You’re there to curry favor. That’s the high stakes game. Besides, fortune follows favor – as they say. If you get one, you’ll have the other.”
~ Patrick Rothfuss from his book “The Wise Man’s Fear.”
Commentary: In this scene, Threpe, a man of moderate nobility, genuinely seeks the good of the protagonist, Kvothe. He has arranged for Kvothe to have a job interview, and while quickly walking Kvothe to the ship that will sail Kvothe far away to the job interview, Threpe gives Kvothe several words of advice.
Threpe is not intended to be portrayed as satirical, comic, or a wind bag. But the scene has a similar feel to Polonius’ giving words of wisdom to his son Laertes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” or “To thine own self be true.” Polonius, at other times also says these well-known aphorisms: “Brevity is the soul of wit” and “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t” and “Clothes make the man” and “Old friends are the best friends”.
I never quite knew how to interpret Polonius because there seemed to be wisdom in some of the things he said – even if he was written to be considered an overbearing fool, full of misplaced, clearly self-serving, “good” intentions.
One of the frequent, artful things Rothfuss does in painting his imaginary fantastic “old world” in his fiction is: He regularly writes “old, well-known sayings” that are slight twists to actual existing well-known sayings.
For example, while the quote atop this post may sound like a well-known cliché, a quick Google search will show you the more common clichés that use those words include these variations:
Fortune favors the bold
Fortune favors the prepared mind
Fortune follows courage
May the winds of fortune be at your back
As I interpret Rothfuss, his stories emphasize social observations, social politics, and social cues. That is probably one of the reasons I like reading what his writings. I’m not as interested in where his characters travel or where they end up. I’m more interested in how they interpret each other along their travels together.
Specifically examining the above quote, I think it is advice worth consideration. After the above quote, the dialogue continues:
“It’s like what Teckham wrote: The cost of a loaf is a simple thing, and so a loaf is often sought.”
Kvothe finishes the “well-known” quote, “But some things are past valuing. Laugher, land, and love are never bought.”
I don’t share quotes because they reveal “The Truth.” I share them because they may be novel and interesting enough for further questioning and consideration.
When a person is pursuing something they perceive to be of great value, they might be well-served to pursue favor as much or more as they pursue the object (or objective) they perceive will add to their fortune.
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