“I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. You may have heard of me.”
This is the story of Kvothe, the most compelling protagonist I’ve come across in a long while. If you have read the novels of Patrick Rothfuss, you’ll likely agree. If you haven’t, I’ll keep this vague enough to not spoil anything.
Recent years have seen a surge of epic on-screen fantasy. No doubt, improved technology has allowed us to properly explore the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien et al. It’s funny how the further we develop this technology, the more we use it to convey stories in which such technology doesn’t exist. These worlds are rife with magic, and mythology, and characters who capture our attention formore than just the time it takes to finish the film or series.
Rothfuss’ (so far unfinished) trilogy, which begins with the mysteriously titled The Name of the Wind, doesn’t merely fall amongst the classic fantasy tomes. It clatters down the stairs before rallying and announcing its arrival in a strong, clear voice. The story encompasses the life of a man, the storyteller who boasted with the above introduction. We see his childhood in which he plays with magic and deals with tragedy. We experience his adolescence, when childish games give way to real danger, heroic battles, and genuine heartbreak.
All of which supply prime material for screen adaptation. And New Regency and Fox TV know this. They optioned the rights back in 2013 with the goal of bringing Kvothe’s story to television. So why the hold up? Well, there are a few things that are sure to make this a difficult adaption.
Firstly, the story revolves around Kvothe, and only Kvothe. He’s a supremely interesting character to be sure, but TV series tends to reach further. While Kingkiller isn’t a copy of any other novel series, it’s impossible not to see similarities with the likes of Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. Thrones obviously has a myriad of interesting characters and plots, which work like puzzle pieces as they fill in our understanding of Westeros. Perfect for a long running TV show. Potter on the other hand, focused on a single journey, with the very occasional input from others. And this was best suited for a film adaptation. If Potter had gone the TV route, there would have been need to fill in some gaps through the use of secondary characters (time to option some fanfiction).
Kingkiller absolutely has its collection of intriguing players. But they enter and leave Kvothe’s life like merging traffic. Sometimes they stick around for a few exits, but they all eventually leave Kvothe alone on the road. In this way, the pace and layout of the story often seems more tuned to a film series.
But there lies another problem. These books simply contain too much stuff to be portrayed in a one book = one film ratio. You’d need to do the Hobbit thing and split each into two or three films…giving us up to nine instalments by the time its done. It’s a great story, yes, but this is certainly over the top.
So the opted television route is a solid choice. Given the progress of each novel, which each tend to encompass a few years of Kvothe’s life, the realistic timeline could work well with casting. The ageing of characters like Bran in Game of Thrones has been noticeable because he’s grown years in the literary space of months. But with Kingkiller’s passing of time, this kind of natural process could help.
All this aside, the most important choices to be made lie in casting. Kvothe, especially, requires a special kind of actor. One who can spin words like a natural born storyteller. Who can sing with an angel’s voice. Who can project authority and inspire fear despite being smaller and younger than most of his peers. And he needs to be a redhead and look badass in a cloak. Any ideas?
I do hope this doesn’t fall into the background as time passes. The final chapter of the trilogy is due out this year, and with Game of Thrones edging toward its late stages (shudder), there’ll be a huge gap in HBO’s schedule. And Kvothe could be the man to fill those enormous shoes.