Patrick Rothfuss Reread

Rothfuss Reread: The Name of the Wind, Part 10: Like Wheat Before a Sickle-blade

Welcome to part 9 of my highly detailed re-read of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. This week’s post covers chapters 60-65 of The Name of the Wind, but also contains extensive spoilers for the whole book and the whole of The Wise Man’s Fear—these discussions assume you’ve read all of both books. It will fill you with spoilers if you read beyond the cut without reading both books first—this means you, Lenny! Read Wise Man’s Fear and discover why we care about the moon.

Abbreviations: NW = The Name of the Wind. WMF = The Wise Man’s Fear. DT = Day Three, the forthcoming final volume. K = Kvothe or Kote when I can’t figure out what to call him and I’m feeling Kafkaesque. MT: Myr Tariniel. D=Denna

Useful links: The Sleeping Under the Wagon post, in which there are lots of theories. The re-read index. The map.

Denna and the Moon.

We’re going to start this week with Maltheos’s fascinating theory about Denna and the moon from last week’s comment thread:

Denna’s names all hover around Diana ( goddess of the hunt, and of course, the moon). Once again we get back to the moon. It also explains quite abit about how she drifts in and out of his life. ( I would be curious to see how long they are ever together consistently — and if it matches the full or the new moon) This may be me seeing something thats not there, but It just fits too well.

Additionally, the moon has already been pictured as a female, and has definitely been traped in an unpleasant relationship. Just a thought.

And later in the thread Dominiquex:

she is constantly shifting logistically/namingly/emotionally, constantly trying to rename herself (as one who had her name stolen from her might). She says (paraphrase) “I disappear sometimes. Without warning. Sometimes it’s all I can do.” She has extreme emotional reaction to the idea of a man trying to own/control her (as a woman trapped by a man as Ludis was might be). Also, in the break from the narrative at the Eolian where he tries to describe her, he says (again, paraphrasing) “She was beautiful, without flaw, to her core.” That is not something that generally seems too human of a description. And her flightiness is more forgiveable if she literally is as changeable as the moon.


I think one of the things about Denna is that she does not know who she is yet. We know that she has escaped from some not so happy circumstances in the past (as when she was talking to the runaway girl) and she has learned to protect herself (carries a knife). So she always names herself similarly to keep track of herself. But there is also this idea of how changing your name changes who you are – exemplified by the Kote/Kvothe issue.

And DEL:

Kvothe almost always refers to D as Denna. He meets Denna on the road to Imre, but he meets D in the Eolian.

D is Aloine, and Lyra, and the Moon. She is the wildness that should never be tamed or gentled. She is partially trapped by a man who wants mastery and controll over her. He does not have her whole being, her whole name.

D has not settled on a name, or my not be able to access all of her true name. Kvothe sings part of her still free name, and makes a gift of it by leaving lying it open in his performance. He really does meet D for the first time, she didn’t have that part of her name before singing her part. She becomes more herself with this gift.

and more DEL:

References in the books to the Moon’s phase and the presence of D:

-The first appearance of Denna in WMF is a moonlit night

-In Severen-Low when Kvothe follows D she had been gone/missing for a least a span, when he finds her there is only a sliver of the moon showing.

And OK, you have convinced me, and most especially that last bit has convinced me. 

I have always had a problem with Denna, especially in NW, in that she just isn’t like a person, she doesn’t behave like a human being, her motivation makes no sense. And this kind of thing is a problem male writers often have when writing about love interests, they make them tantalising and mysterious and impossible to imagine why any sensible person would act that way. But if she is literally the moon, the personification of the moon—imagine being literally the moon and also a person who needs to eat and sleep out of the rain. Imagine spending part of each month in Fae and what this does to your employment prospects. Imagine being forced to travel. Imagine not having all of your name, and not aging normally and reimagining yourself. This suddenly makes her make perfect sense, and this has shaken her up in my head, the same as the Tarbean section.

So a bottle of strawberry wine for DEL and JMD and Maltheos and Dominquex, to be delivered by tinker. It’s for insights like this from you guys that I’m doing this re-read.

And a further thought—if D is the moon, and if Kvothe gave her part of her name and part of her possibility she didn’t have before, is that why she’s seeking a patron and agency now and not before?

And on to Chapter 60, Fortune.

I suppose in both senses, luck and money.

It’s admissions again, Kvothe’s trying to sell his slot since he can’t prepare anyway, and butts heads with Ambrose. What does Wil mean saying “Hammer and horn,” wearily? They bicker, Kvothe wins on points. His tuition is set at six talents. He goes to Imre to collect his lute, hoping to see D, but of course he never finds her when he’s looking for her. What he does find is Threpe, who wants him to call him Denn but who can’t become his patron because he already supports three musicians. He offers to help find him a patron. Kvothe asks about Denna, Threpe doesn’t know her. He asks Deoch, who says:

“I see her off and on. She travels, always here and gone again.”


“Men fall before her like wheat before a sickle-blade.”

Sickles are traditionally associated with the moon, because of the new moon shape. I keep seeing more moon-evidence.

Then he goes to see Devi, paying just the interest and admires her book collection. She has Teccam, and the Mating Habits of the Commin Draccus. He can’t figure out if she’s being flirtatious or friendly, because he’s a fifteen year old idiot.

Then he goes to see Kilvin and pays the debt he has run up in materials. Kilvin asks where he got the money, and Kvothe tells him. Then Kilvin says “Music is a fine thing but metal lasts” and Kvothe mentally disagrees, “Metal rusts but music lasts forever” and then “Time will eventually prove one of us right.” Which is good, because if the world burns down, it won’t, metal and music will go up in flames together.

And then he finds an inn that will give him board and lodging and two talents a month to play three nights a week, now that he has his pipes. He feels immensely safer for having this financial security. After that he goes looking for D fourteen times without any sign of her.

Chapter 61 is Jackass, Jackass.

The title is of course the song Kvothe writes about Ambrose. And the chapter starts with Ambrose poisoning the nobility of Imre against Kvothe so he can’t get a patron. Then Threpe and Kvothe write the song: “a ribald little tune about a donkey that wanted to be an arcanist” “it was catchy and vulgar and mean-spirited.”

Then Kvothe meets Viari, one of Lorren’s gillers who acquires books from all over the world. He’s also a Ciridae I bet you—”pale scars that ran over his knuckles and up his arms.” Scars, not tattoos, now that they’re underground. I think this confirms Lorren’s Amyr-hood. He speaks Siaru to Wil and tries Yllish on Kvothe, guessing wrong because of the red hair, and then getting it right and saying “One family”, the Ruh greeting. He then dashes off. I’m sure he’s going to be significant. I also think he has the best job—that’s the job I’d want if I had to live in that world. Travelling around collecting books and having adventures!

(Are all Yllish people red-haired?)

Lorren reminds Kvothe of the Silent Doctor figure in Mondegan plays who signifies disaster in the next act. I wonder if he’s related to the Chteah? (Not Lorren, the Silent Doctor.) Lorren gives him Rhetoric and Logic back, but won’t let him back into the Archives until he has demonstrated patience and prudence. It occurs to me how much like Elodin refusing to teach him this is—he offers both of them excessively more than rational things, and they both decline until he has learned better sense.

Then Ambrose puts him on the horns for “conduct unbecoming” for writing the song. Kvothe gets ordered to make a public apology, and Ambrose gets told not to make such a fuss. Elodin sings some of the song, which is indeed catchy and vulgar.

Ambrose’s real revenge is buying the inn where he’s staying and persuading the other inns that Kvothe is bad news. Kvothe winds up at Ankers inn. Anker says fools like Ambrose think they could “Buy the sun out of the sky” and Kvothe says he could afford it “and the moon too if he wanted the matched set to use as bookends.” Anker gives him a room and board in exchange for playing four nights a week.

Then Kvothe’s public apology is a very insincere letter plus the lyrics and music posted up everywhere—and that was why “Ambrose tried to kill me.” This whole chapter is one after the other escalating their feud. Is it Ambrose or Kvothe who’s the jackass?

Chapterc 62 is Leaves.

This term, Kvothe studies Advanced Sympathy, works in the Medica and continues his apprenticeship in the Fishery. And it’s at the Fishery we start, with the arrival of the bone tar—and I like this scene because it’s so exactly like a chemistry lab with people behaving exactly the way they do. It’s set-up for the rescuing Fela scene—she’s mentioned as working in the Fishery for the first time here.

And that night he sees D at Ankers, and at first he doesn’t think it’s her. She asks him to take a walk, he gets the room singing Tinker Tanner and leaves with her. Tinker Tanner, which is mentioned fairly often, including in the frame, is here glossed as “the oldest song in the world.” Interesting.

Kvothe goes up the wall to put his lute away. They have some wordplay about gentlemen, and he asks her about Sovoy, and says “honour among thieves.” She looks him in the eye and says “steal me.” Two thoughts here. Firstly, how dumb can anybody be not to realise that this is a direct come on? Secondly, Kvothe is always talking about stealing the moon, and of course Iax did steal it. As they walk on, “the moon was shining, making the houses and shops around us seem and washed pale.” So a full moon then, I would guess?

They have a flirtatious conversation about what flower she is like, and he picks selas, which she claims not to know. Selas is often sought and seldom found, both shadow and light (moon) and we learn in WMF that it’s night-scented.

OK, another moon reference “she caught a piece of my smile and shone it back to me.” I really don’t think this can be other than deliberate.

And he reminds her of a willow. A willow? “Beyond all other trees the willow bends to the wind’s desire.”

They are talking very poetically, but not actually in rhyme. You could put line breaks in quite easily though.

When he’s thinking about kissing her (go on, idiot) he says “I resisted the pull of her” and then “the way the moonlight cast shadows across her face.”

“I had talked too much I had said too little.” I think that’s literally true.

So why is this chapter called “leaves”? Because it’s what she keeps doing? It’s flowers and branches they discuss. What did I miss?

Chapter 63 is Walking and Talking.

Kvothe meets Wil and Sim and they tease him about Denna while his lute drinks the sun. Wil can tell when he’s telling the truth—because he looks more sincere when he’s lying. They tell him to tell Denna how he feels—what sensible advice—but he won’t because she’s too special and what would she see in him and all that nonsense. He also tells them he has permission to start his journeyman project for Kilvin. He doesn’t walk in this chapter, though he talks about walking with D in the chapter before.

Chapter 64 is Nine in the Fire.

The title comes from something Kilvin says: “A moment in the mind is worth nine in the fire”—so another piece of advice in favour of thinking before acting.

It starts with Kvothe looking for D and not finding her. Deoch tells him it’s her nature to disappear.

Then Kvothe shows his journeyman lamp to Kilvin. Kilvin admires the workmanship but tells him the design—shining light in only one direction, like a burglar’s lamp—is unethical and it can’t be sold. They talk about Kvothe’s cleverness and showing off. Kilvin sees perfectly well that Kvothe is clever and needs to be wiser, but Kvothe can’t see it. Kilvin also doesn’t know about Kvothe’s financial straits, to be fair.

He asks Manet if there’s a secret way into the Archives, and Manet says there is but he won’t show him. “You’re young, you have all the time in the world, but if you get expelled that’s forever.” More good advice!

And Kvothe takes his lamp, which will let him sneak about, and the knowledge that there is a secret way into the Archives and he just has to find it, and leaves without having learned anything at all despite Kilvin and Manet both trying to hard to teach him.

Chapter 65 is Spark.

The spark is D.

Kvothe takes Wil and Sim to the Eolian, where they can drink for free on his credit made from people buying him drinks. He asks Wil to sneak him into the Archives, and Wil sensibly declines. Then D shows up, hugs Deoch and comes over to them. She’s dressed up, which she never has been before. She has changed again. He offers her a drink, and she says she was hoping that he’d buy her dinner if she can steal him from his friends. Always stealing each other. “She stood with a motion like a willow wand bending to the wind”—but it’s him who is supposed to be the willow?

They buy a bottle of strawberry wine and a loaf of dark bread and go for a picnic in a park. Kvothe mentions the seven words that can make a woman love you, and she asks if that’s why he talks so much, hoping to hit on them by accident. And then she shows that she does remember their first meeting by quoting the seven words he said then. And how can anybody be such a moron as to be told that he said the seven words that would make a woman love you without realising that she’s saying she loves him? Sheesh, points whizzing over your head much today Kvothe?

They talk about her name. She says she’d almost forgotten Denna—less than half a year ago. She says “She was a silly girl,” talking about herself in the third person or as if she’s a different person now. He says she was like a flower unfolding. He asks her what happened in Anilin, and she says “nothing pleasant, but nothing unexpected either.” Can anyone make anything of that? A routinely unpleasant thing?

Oh, we have moonlight. And they make a plan to meet at noon the next day, which of course he won’t make. And then Deoch warns him against her, saying women are like fires and she’s like a waterfall of spark—and Kvothe replies in proper verse, and let’s set it out like that, though it’s formatted exactly like ordinary conversation in the text:

Deoch, my heart is made
Of stronger stuff than glass.
When she strikes she’ll find
it strong as iron-bound brass
Or gold and adamant
together mixed.
Don’t think I’m unaware,
some startled deer to stand transfixed
By hunter’s horns. It’s she who should take care,
for when she strikes
My heart will make a sound
so beautiful and bright
That it can’t help but bring her back
to me in winged flight.

RushThatSpeaks says that he improvises verse about as well as people do it in real life, and that’s really a good way of putting it. It isn’t perfect, but it’s about as good as you’d expect from someone with his training extemporising.

And we’ll start next time from chapter 66 and the disaster in the Fishery and Ambrose trying to kill him.

More from last week

Flodros notes that Kvothe meets the first two of the three things a wise man fears in the first and second books, and suggests he might meet a moonless night in DT.

And there’s also great stuff on Auri and the Amyr.

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and nine novels, most recently Among Others, and if you liked this post you will like it. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.


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