Patrick Rothfuss Reread

Rothfuss Reread: Speculative Summary 8: “I have a patron” Speculations on Master Ash

We’re half way through our over-the-top re-read of Patrick Rothfuss’s The Wise Man’s Fear, and we’re going to pause here for another speculative summary. After we’ve summed up some of the speculation we’ll be moving on. These posts assume you’ve read all of both books The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, and they are absolutely full of wild surmise, speculation and spoilers for all of both books. Please don’t go beyond the cut unless you want that!

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.

We’re going to have one more bonus speculative summary post next week in which I sum up everything I think we know about the Creation War. Then the week after we’ll get on with WMF from the meeting with Felurian.

Master Ash

I think we have two theories about Master Ash, Cinder and Bredon. We also have a pile of speculation about Bredon.

We know from our German readers that “Ash” is the ash tree more significantly than it is the residue of fires, and we know Rothfuss works closely with his translators.

Daedos asks a really interesting question:

Denna never seems to feel annoyed with her actual patron. He is easily as demanding as Kellin, even if he doesn’t keep her locked up in a room. This shows that Denna is not one to be kept around simply for money / jewels (as with Kellin), and must be after something much more important to her in her relationship with Master Ash. He either has some sort of literal hold on her (whether magical, blackmail, or other), or it is a more symbiotic relationship. He has something she really wants and she has something he wants. We’ve speculated a bit about what Denna wants, but what about her patron? What does he have to gain from their relationship?

I think it is her music / voice. Maybe she is a Singer, or has potential to be one. Then again, if she is a singer, her view of Lanre (Haliax) as the tragic hero might conflict with the fact that the Chandrian are afraid (or at least weary) of Singers.

Whoever her patron is, what does he have to gain from having D? Maybe her singing. The whole pile of stuff patrons usually get in the way of goodwill he’s not getting because of the secretive nature. And it doesn’t seem that he’s doing the thing Threpe talks about with training somebody up quietly to reveal them.

Mr Awesome has a suggestion:

We don’t know much about the fae, but we do know that D’s patron was suppressing information about Lanre, probably on purpose because he supplied her with historical texts and also because it seems unlikely he’d have an interest in Lanre if his intent wasn’t to futher suppress the truth. It also would be unusual for D’s super mysterious patron to accidentally help the Chandrian. I feel like it’s unlikely that he wants to help the Chandrian end the world because that would also end his beautiful game, but he does seem to be helping them, at least a little bit, through this misinformation.

Maybe he’s on the neutral side of the Naming/Shaping war, trying to preserve equillibrium?

Maybe indeed. We haven’t heard a whole lot about that side. That would make him a tinker as I understand things. Have we seen any tinkers he could be? Yes… the one Kvothe buys the paper from. But I don’t believe a tinker would beat D.

Chandrian or Amyr?

Most of us seem to think he has to be on one side or the other — though the Chandrian and the Amyr post-date the Creation War of course.

Maltheos wonders:

I think Master Ash is Bredon who may or may not be affiliated with the Chandrian, but who IMHO has an idea of Kvothe’s parentage. Which is why Denna was sent and why its “her job” to keep an eye on Kvothe. Also this explains why Bredon is so helpful to him at court — he is simply playing a deeper game. Additionally it explains his pagan rituals — it is unlikely that his dabling in “the occult” magics of chaning names is held in much good light by the establishment.

CPJ:

I suspect Ash of being Amyr, but if so, why does he tell D the story of Lanre in which Lanre is the good guy?

Somebody suggested way back that D and K could be parallels — as his family were destroyed by the Chandrian and he is becoming an Amyr in opposition to that, she might have had some parallel experience with the Amyr destroying her life and leading her to seek out a Chandrian to oppose them.

If you ask cui bono from her Lanre song, it’s definitely the Chandrian.

Bredon and Cinder

My initial thought was that Master Ash was Cinder. I was very surprised by the suggestion it was Bredon.

Stephan Jones speaks for me here:

I didn’t have the slightest suspicion that Bredon was anything other than a helpful old courtier. Now I think I wasn’t paying enough attention.

Bredon fits in many ways — and whether or not he’s Master Ash he’s still really mysterious. But the further assumption many of us have been making that Bredon is an Amyr — I really don’t think so. The “beautiful game” is in many ways the opposite of the “greater good”. Means vs Ends.

Dave435 is convinced he’s Bredon:

Bredon=Mr.Ash I think Pat has stated this a plainly as he will state anything. Denna mentions that she is teaching Mr. ash to dance Bredon mentions he has recently taken up dancing. Deanna and Mr. Ash are gone and Bredon is gone as well.

But it could be a red herring!

Daedos thinks he’s connected with the Fae and comes up with some solid evidence:

I think his “pagan” frolicking might be explained in book three. Pagan…Fae? Might he be connected with the Fae? Who plays Tak? Bredon, Felurian…has anyone else ever mentioned the game?

This gets even more interesting if Bredon is, in fact, Master Ash. What might the Fae have in mind for Denna? We discussed the possibility of her going to the other world extensively. Maybe there is some connection after all. This would put Denna’s version of Lanre’s tale into an entirely different light. Maybe it can all be traced back to the Cthaeh…

Greyhood is absolutely sure, but thinks this is part of the beautiful game:

If Bredon was being tried in court for being Master Ash, he’d be convicted. The wolf head is particularly blatant for me. “A man and a fae are as different as a dog and a wolf.” Tak. Denna and Bredon’s appearance/disappearance/appearance in Severen. Pagan rituals. Etc., etc., etc.

Fascinating character. He’s so likeable, and Ash is so twisted and confusing. And his agenda is unknown. It’s going to be a great reveal. I think Rothfuss wants us to know he is Ash so we can try to guess at the beautiful game. And since we know we’re walking into a trap…

The idea of “beautiful game” opens up so many possibilities. K with his unseen enemies, K with Chronicler, Rothfuss with us…

And let’s face it, the “beautiful game” is the opposite of “for the greater good”, and the song benefits the Chandrian, so Bredon/Ash clearly cannot be an Amyr. And the beautiful game is also the opposite of destroying the world, so Bredon/Ash clearly cannot be a Chandrian. And since iocaine powder comes from Australia…

We need a third option.

Shalter asks who the real opponent is in that beautiful game:

1) The Cthaeh is presented as prefectly malicious and aware of every branch of the future. We should be doubly suspicious of anything it trys to emphasize.
2) Bredon emphasizes that it is the overall long term game in which he is interested. When he meets Kvothe, K is more of a piece on the board than a player.

Whom would be a better opponent for the most beautiful, long term game for Bredon—Kvothe or the Cthaeh? At this point in the story, it seems clear that the answer to this question is the Cthaeh. We are pulled by our closeness to Kvothe as the protagonist to imagine that everthing centers on him, but Kvothe is much more a piece than a player.
Both Bredon and the Cthaeh (and probably others) are trying to manipulate Kvothe in the grand game that they are involved in.
Now, does this mean that Bredon is good? We don’t know what his goals are (or even what he is exactly) only that he is playing his long term game. If he is really playing against the Cthaeh, then it does seem that either he must be a long lived entity or he must be a member of a long lived organization. Since he views himself as a player rather than a piece, it seems likely he is long lived and thus not entirely human. Whether he is Fae, Amyr, Angel or other remains to be seen.

And Mr Awesome actually has a suggestion that makes sense of what he’s doing:

Thought: if Bredon’s strategy is to jump into traps headlong and then turn the trap against itself, what trap is he jumping into via his manipulations of D, specifically the propaganda she’s spreading? Why would it be in his best interest to make Lanre seem nice?

and Wetlander NW has a sensible warning against speculating too far:

I find the assumption that Bredon = Ash (on the part of some readers) mildly amusing. It’s possible, maybe even probable, but it’s certainly not yet proven. Trying to figure out Bredon’s motives based on what Denna does at her patron’s instigation might be fruitful, or it might just be a jaunt down the garden path.

and A Fox brings it all back to the Creation War with some very interesting speculation:

I have always believed that Bredon is D’s patron since first reading. I’d like to draw some links between Bredons/M Ash’s behaviour and the Creation war.

CW; Fae were created by the Shapers, who then created Faen etc etc. It seems likely that the Fae also faught on the side of the Shapers. Perhaps by choice, perhaps by command. Perhaps a combination. They were defeated.

The Fae were locked in Fae beyound the doors of stone (it seems likely that this ’locking’ does not completely work becuase of the moon’s power being in both Faen and 4c’s…it cannot be cut from itself s the dr is always ajar to some extent. Perhaps this is why Iax ’stole’ it in the first place? A guarentee that he and his would nt simply be locked away forever?).

By closing off Faen it seems that most of the magic in the 4c’s was also closed off, as well.

We have had mentions of the Sithe court…their customs and duties to protect the Ctheath..or othrs from the Ctheaths influence. How long has the Ctheath been in Faen? Were they thus honour bound during the war? Perhaps then they felt they had no choice but to stay when the doors were closed.

Either way these people have been locked away becuase of others actions. Trapped and persecuted as demons when they do manage to cross.

During the end of the war Lanre traveled to.through Faen and turned his coat, saw from an other perspective. Unfortunately this change came from and/or culminated in the Ctheaths malicious influence. So his reaction was a bit…extreme.

M Ash is an agent of Faen/the Sithe…he finds D, a new yet talented musician and gets her to write the Song of Seven Sorrows, giving an alternative view of the Creation war…one from the perspective f Faen. Notice hw curios it is that Iax isnt glorified…this suggests that the Fae were conscripted/honour bound rather than allies.

M Ash als does this at a time when K is coming nto his powers..possibly the one capable of opening the ways between Faen and the 4Cs.

Of course the gaping hole in this is that the Sithe are mentioned by the 7 as their hunters…mmm…perhaps a rival Faen group?

Either way we know that K will return to Faen and we know he’ll pick up Bast, as well as the clear build up to his beliefs being turned on their head…so we’ll see a lot more f this. And I suspect it will all be GREY.

Other possibilites

The Frog suggests:

what about the possibility that Ben, Bredon and Mr. Ash and maybe even Scarpi are all related or even the same person. Maybe Ben has been watching/manipulating/guiding Kvothe along ever since he left the troupe. We’ve already established the possible connection between Bredon and Mr. Ash. Ben’s been gone so long that we tend to forget about him… Just a thought.

Ben does fit, he’s older, he has a reason to keep away from K because K would recognise him. He can’t be Bredon, at least not without being a master of disguise — and Bredon is personality-wise nothing like Ben. Scarpi, maybe?

Wicked Kinetic thinks Master Ash might be a priest, because of Pupper’s puppet show:

ndicates that Denna’s patron might be an incognito priest in the Tehlin church. Given PR’s painting the church as a corrupt/false/dangerous but impotent remnant of its past power as a primary mover in the previous iteration of the current kingdom – it would only make sense that there is still a section of the Tehlin church that is also dabbling in the Creation War (or post-Creation War) or whatever you want to call what turns out to be ongoing between Amyr/Chandrian/Sithe/Singers/Fae/Tehlu/etc

I find it strange that we do not have any insight into current church members or leadership – only a glimpse that they still have power in the stories of The Trial and the Iron Law and Temic/Tema still being used, and them abducting Skarpi for ’telling the wrong sorts of stories’ or some-such.

Why wouldn’t Mr Ash be a church-figure using Tehlu-beliefs to inflict guilt and control over D

The real argument against this is that we haven’t seen any possibilities. There aren’t any chaplains or priests or anybody really who it could be. And Rothfuss and K are both better storytellers than to have it be somebody we’ve never heard of. And Greyhood points out that the Amyr are/were part of the Tehlin church and that would be sufficient connection for the puppet. But we’re back to cui bono again.

Then CPJ wonders if it might be Caudicus:

who else might Master Ash be? I think Caudicus has been suggested somewhere or other… (visually he matches the ’priest’ suggested by Puppet a bit more closely), and it might be worth keeping track of his movements too.

Caudicus could make himself come across as a gentleman and he leaves the Maer’s presence for long periods at a time. Also, the Maer’s comment about ’which university’ makes me wonder: are were sure Caudicus attended the University… or did he attend another one…? If so, he might have quite different views on things like knowing and shaping…

One reason I wondered about this is that Kvothe doesn’t mention to anyone back at the Universtiy later on that he met this Caudicus fellow who seemed to be up to no good. Granted, a lot has gone on since then, but he probably ought to have mentioned it to Kilvin at least… it feels like an intentional ommission to avoid Kilvin: “Caudicus? Never heard of him…”, though perhaps I’m now just winding myself up in paranoid consipiracy too…

Who is Master Ash and what’s his plan? I wish I knew.


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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