When I first heard that Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth series was being adapted for television, I was pretty excited. I hadn’t even finished any of the 11 (or 12) books in the series, and the one I had started a while ago (book 3) kind of drove me nuts. But I had heard a lot of good things about the main characters of Richard and Kahlan, which is why I went scouring around in the library to find one of the books to begin with. I always like it when the stuff I read has both strong and likeable female characters as well as male ones. I suppose that’s not so uncommon nowadays, but when I was growing up it was rather unusual to find those kind of females in fantasy and science fiction. That’s probably why I had no problem with what Peter Jackson, et al, did with Arwen and Eowyn in the LOTR films.
When I finally found a copy of book 1, Wizard’s First Rule, I knew I’d have to hurry and read it if I wanted to finish before the tv series premiered. It seemed at first a daunting task because the book is 836 flippin’ pages long (the paperback, I mean). However, only a few pages into it, I became intrigued with the story and was able to zip through it, raising my eyebrows and blinking rapidly once in a while at sudden graphic descriptions of violence, but as they were nothing worse than what you’d see on the X-Files . . . maybe . . . I continued with the fascinating story. That is, until about three-fourths of the way through when I hit the torture chapters. I call them torture chapters because, not only is Richard tortured for pages on end, but it was torture for me to have to read them. So I resorted to skimming lightly, slowing down enough to see if the word “agiel” was in the text, and speeding up again if it was. Finally, those chapters were over. I’m so relieved. But the next thing I know, Kahlan is being beaten up and nearly raped, but ¡phew! she starts screaming her way into ultra-Confessor powers at the last second. Then some very hideous things happen, and an annoyingly sarcastic talking dragon joins the crew, and there's more torture and more violence and more beatings, and finally Richard tricks the bad guy and a happy ending. Until book 2.
As I’ve gone on reading the subsequent books, I’m starting to get a little disturbed at what Goodkind puts his characters through. I’m in book 5 now, and I find myself still having to skim over things. And it’s getting to be like some sort of soap opera, like will they ever be able to live together in peace? Or will stupid things keep happening to get in their way and separate them? And why in the name of all humanity does Kahlan have to be beaten to a pulp or nearly lose a body part or be otherwise violated in every book so far? If it keeps up like that, I may not finish all the books.
As for the tv series, which for some reason is called Legend of the Seeker, I’m enjoying it quite a lot. I was initially a little dismayed at the changes made—like 1) Richard not really knowing who Zedd was in the tv series as compared to being his close friend and student since childhood in the book; 2) Darken Rahl being dark-haired, not to mention way less menacing than in the book, but maybe that’s a good thing; and 3) the women in the Midlands having long hair. I’m able to get over those changes, however. The good changes I can see are 1) the characters in the tv series talk a lot less, if you can believe it. In the books, they blather on and on, in the most unlikely situations. For instance, in book 4 I think it is, Kahlan and Cara stand around in The Pit for 10 or 15 pages talking about how Cara’s Mord-Sith power works on the poor sap who tried to assassinate Richard, when all the while the evil genius possessing the poor sap is listening and learning. Why didn’t they take that conversation to a more genial locale, away from the bad guy? 2) The characters in the tv series are, so far, not as prone to making mistakes as the characters in the book are. The Wizard’s First Rule happens to be “People are stupid”. Well, the characters in the book sure can be. 3) I don’t think there’s going to be as much violence in the tv series. At least I hope not. Poor Kahlan and Richard.
By the way, speaking of the Wizard’s First Rule and people being stupid, Zedd and Richard have a conversation about murder being the way of all living things. (Kahlan wisely decides not to get involved in the discussion.) Richard objects by saying, “Only some of nature. Like predators. And that’s only to survive. Look about at these trees, they can’t even think of murder.”
So Zedd responds that “every living thing is a murderer.” Richard looks around at the trees and sees how the big ones with lots of greenery are the pretty ones, the ones we prefer, and the scrawny little ones that can’t grow in the shade of the big ones are undesirable. He therefore concludes “It was true: the design of nature was success by murder.” Richard is stupid.
Back in the Transformational Linguistics heyday, I took a class in Semantics. I remember we once spent a whole period discussing kill vs murder. Our text diagrammed it thusly:
A lot of the discussion had to do with varying situations, like self defense, war, etc, where the killing is deliberate but is not considered murder. Anyhow, I thought the diagram in the text pretty much cleared up the question of whether “kill” and “murder” mean the same thing, as in they don’t. So how, may I ask, does a big pine tree deliberately kill a scrawny one? Where is the deliberateness? So yeah, people are stupid. And so, apparently, are pine trees.
But even if they include that absurd dialogue in the tv series, I will still watch it. It's worth it to see Richard wield his sword and Kahlan her Confessor power.