Willfully turning aside from the truth is treason to one’s self. In memoriam Terry Goodkind

On the 17th of September 2020, Author Terry Goodkind, well known creator of The Sword of Truth series, as well as beloved characters such as Richard Rahl, Kahlan and Nicci, passed away at the age of 72.

I admit, my relationship with Mr. Goodkind’s work has not been an easy one.

Stone of Tears artwork by Keith Parkinson
Image © Keith Parkinson

I was first recommended Goodkind’s books when I got to university at 20, and (due to sketchy audiobook availability at the time), had trouble getting hold of them.

The only book I could get was fortunately, Wizard’s First Rule, and I loved Richard and Kahlan’s quest for the boxes of Ordon, complete with dragons, cute children, barriers of evil and magic spells.

Half way through Wizard’s First Rule though, something hit me.

Richard, was captured by a Mord-Sith, a magical torturer, and subjected to extreme physical and sexual abuse in an effort to break his mind and gain control of his magic.

I was suddenly shocked, literally and physically shocked, especially when it was revealed that Richard survived this experience due to partitioning his mind, putting part of himself away where the Mord-Sith’s degradation could not touch him, and even more especially when Richard defeated the Mord-Sith by the power of forgiveness.

Yes, the passage is disturbing, as any description of prolonged torture is disturbing, but I did not realise why it had the profound, mind numbing affect upon me that it did.

It wasn’t until 2007, when, rereading Wizard’s First Rule this time with the rest of the series on hand, I suddenly made the connection.

Terry Goodkind was here detailing the first description I’d ever read, of a man enduring sexual abuse by a woman!

Showing a woman as a sexual predator, and furthermore, detailing Richard’s survival, damage and forgiveness, albeit with a fantasy twist.

At the time I was myself going through a severe breakdown, just realising that the experiences I’d had for years as a teenager at the hands of a group of girls were not just ordinary, or even bullying, but actually qualified as public sexual abuse.

Here however, was an author, a respected fantasy author not only acknowledging that yes, women could sexually abuse men, but also detailing that such experiences, even in a dark, extreme and rather overblown fantasy form, could be something a person could recover from.

I went on with the series after that, and I didn’t always find them easy.

Goodkind’s objectivist philosophy at times felt a little too obtrusive, his characters slightly too self-righteous, and far from trauma and recovery, he seemed to descend into a world of shock horror where every man who wasn’t a main character was a rapist (plus a good few women as well), and where anyone who did not show the fortitude of recovery was just being weak.

Yet, there was still a solid fantasy world in there, with characters I grew to love (especially reformed Mord-Sith Kara and grumpy wizard Zed), some amazing moments and a plot that kept me reading right up to book eleven and the defeat of emperor Jagang.

I also watched all of the legend of the Seeker TV series, which provided me with some rollocking good action, (as well as some cursing at the differences from the books), and an awesome and sinister villain in Darken Rahl.

In truth, whether I will ever go back to Goodkind, finish his series or reread the books I previously read, I don’t know, since in all honesty much of our philosophy about life, equality and gender seems a little too diametrically opposed.

Yet, I cannot forget that it was Goodkind who was the first author to validate my experience, not to mention giving me a fantastic world to explore, while I recovered from that experience, and for that, thank you.

Death is a fact of humanity and is a part of the cycle of life itself. Death, in reality, is not the same as not-existing. Death, in truth, is a transformation, or changing, from one being into another, and the transporting, or moving from one realm, (world) into another. We cannot change the natural cycle of life. What we do have power over, however, is how we create the world in which we presently live.

Warheart, chapter 52, one of Mr. Goodkind’s sentiments with which I unreservedly agree.

May you rest with the good spirits Terry Goodkind.

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