Patrick Rothfuss Reread

Rothfuss Reread: Speculative Summary 13: The Way He Knew His Own Hands

My excessively detailed reread of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles is over, but the speculation goes on. I’m going to post the occasional speculative summary of cool things posted since last time. Spoilers for all of The Wise Man’s Fear and The Name of the Wind—these discussions assume you’ve read all of both books, and frankly they won’t make the slightest bit of sense if you haven’t. This post is full of spoilers, please don’t venture beyond the cut unless you want them.   

Abbreviations: NW = The Name of the Wind. WMF = The Wise Man’s Fear. D3 = 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, 4C = Four Corners, CTH—that thing I can’t spell! IID3Y = Is it Day Three Yet?

Useful links: The Sleeping Under the Wagon post. The re-read index. The map. The timeline. Imaginary Linguistics.

Do you know how many Rothfuss threads have been posted on since last time I did a speculative summary at the end of July? Not how many comments, how many threads? 27. Not tired of talking about this yet, are you? And is it D3 yet? It is not. Not even a little bit.

But Thurule had Pat sign his Kindle!

To save you from ferreting about at the bottom of 27 threads, it’s time for a new summary thread.



Dangerzone wonders about different types of waystones:

One is standing upright and the other laying flat, which we were told happens sometimes from age. However, Arliden’s rhyme indicates that there may be a more meaningful distinction. The rhyme identifies Standing stones, Laystone, and Greystone. 

We’ve talked about the rhyme and “something something ell” but not considered whether there is a distinction there, and there could be. Where do we see waystones that aren’t upright standing stones? That one where he sits with D in the sea of stars, the ones near Trebon, any others? I don’t think we know enough about them generally to be able to tell. Anyone?


Spades Again

Dangerzone considers Elodin’s question from an angle we haven’t examined—not how did he know, but why did he ask that?

When Manet gives Kvothe the business about the spades he’s angry that Kvothe is distracted and not paying attention to the game in front of him. He’s being sarcastic, asking this patently obvious question in order to draw Kvothe’s attention back.

So, I would suggest that Elodin was doing the same thing. The question is who does he think is not paying attention, what game does he think is being missed, and what exactly did he want to draw attention to?

I think it’s the Master’s manipulation of Kvothe who at the very least they must recognize as a powerful and potentially dangerous Arcanist. Elodin is basically saying “Hey! Look at what’s going on around you.” (reminiscent of his line about his teaching Kvothe even though Kvothe refuses to learn).

However, he may also have been trying to get the Master’s attention drawn to Kvothe, a young but talented student that is going to require better than their usual steering in order to keep him in line.

At the very least it demonstrates his lack of respect for the Admissions process which all of the other Masters seem to take seriously enough.

It would be more likely to get Kvothe’s attention, as Kvothe knows what it meant when he heard it before, whereas it would be incomprehensible to the Masters, I’d think?


Justice in Siaru

Dangerzone again—I think you’d better be promoted to E’lir in the department of Imaginary Linguistics.

Rothfuss DID spend a lot of time on a small sequence between Wil and Kvothe. Specifically the definition of “Sheyem” a Siaru word that translates to balanced. Wil mimics a scale with his hands to indicate this.

Capital-J “Justice” Erlus, who arrested Skarpi a few chapters [before], wore a necklace of scales.

The old-woman in WMF who runs the Ademre School is named “Sheyen.” I bet there’s a connection there. At least it would indicate her name means Justice or Judge or something similar.

Except that there isn’t a connection between Ademic and Siaru, is there? And even if there is, while she is asked to judge whether Kvothe can stay, she isn’t a judge. What she is though is balanced—both mentally and physically. If that’s the root of the word it may also be the root of the name.


Ruh, Ruach


It would seem to me (and maybe someone has posted this elsewhere, but I can’t find it) clear that the Ruh are descendants of at least the purpose of the Ruach, singing “songs of power” and all that. Ruh and Ruach are Arabic and Hebrew (respectively) words that mean both Wind and Spirit.

That does seem suggestive to say the least.

Coyote Blue:

“Ruh” is Arabic for spirit or breath, and I’m pretty sure it’s “Ruach” in Hebrew. Edema Ruh = Spirit of the Adem? Adam’s Breath?

The human spirit is associated with the Breath of God in Genesis, since it’s what animates the dust. Hebrew tradition also divides into written and oral versions of Biblical history. Interesting, and possibly not coincidental, that the Ademre seem a bit more focused on exactitude, while the Ruh are prototypical “free spirits” – but they seem related etymologically.


The Stars, Kvothe’s Hands

Dangerzone points out something from right at the beginning, before I was paying attention to hands:

“Looking up, he saw a thousand stars glittering in the deep velvet of a night with no moon. He knew them all, their stories and their names. He knew them in a familiar way, the way he knew his own hands.”

I think there is a LOT in that paragraph. For one, when did he have the time to learn all of their names and stories? Secondly, with all of the discussion about Kote’s hands….

I think if we’re willing to anthromorphize the Moon (and I’m on board with that) then we ought to consider the Stars/Aleu as well.



Rhinna/Roah Wood

GBrell has a typically interesting insight:

Perhaps that wood has the unique ability to trap things. There are at least two entities that are known to be trapped: the Cthaeh and Iax. So it’s certainly possible that the box holds something keeping those entities trapped.

If this is the case, what is K doing using it for his mounting board for Folly? Does he want to trap Folly? (Good luck with that!)

And Tim Kington has a thought on Folly:

“It looked as if an alchemist had distilled a dozen swords

What if this is because Kvothe Shaped the sword using a Name for Sword? It would be the very essence of a sword then.

It would, wouldn’t it? And it would be a foolish thing to do too, maybe?


K’s State Again


I’m personally convinced that he is in the same state he was as a stray in Tarbean but this time he has affected this change upon himself purposely. I believe that he isn’t fully awakened after being Named by Skarpi until he plays the lute at the camp fire on the way to Imre and that the song he plays is his own name (there’s been plenty discussion on this relating to his playing the names of things when in the forest, etc.). I’m of the solid opinion that the reason there “of course” is no music is that it would open the doors of the mind to his hidden self and that’s what he needs to avoid at all costs.


That’s how I’ve read the Kote/Kvothe divide as well.

Assuming that we’re right, however, we need to consider a couple discrepancies.

Kote/Kvothe is able to fight the scrael. This doesn’t seem to involve sympathy, but seems to require his fighting talents. As an explanation, in WMF, he tells Bast that he “picked the time and place for the scrael rather carefully” which seems to imply that he can undo at least some portion of the Kote binding.

I’m also not sure our awake/sleeping distinction explains the fight with the two soldiers. Kvothe is clearly winning until one of the soldiers “jerked his arm roughly out of the innkeeper’s grip. Kvothe had half a moment to look startled before the soldier’s elbow caught him in the temple.” Do we believe that Kvothe acted out the fight prior to that point subconsciously? He has the talent until he seems to lose it.

After that point, he tries to do the two-handed variant of Break Lion (or at least that’s what I’ve always interpreted his attempt as), but can’t make it work. This is like the sympathy with the skinwalker, knowledge of the skill, but an inability to perform it.

The two aren’t really the same. And I’m not sure the conscious/subconscious divide explains them.

We also need to explain Kote/Kvothe’s “one single perfect step” on the last page of WMF. Do we interpret that as implying that the Ketan and his Ademic fighting skills aren’t lost to Kote, just unpracticed? I’m more inclined to believe that he would have lost those skills as well as his ability to perform sympathy. (This is also a problem for any theory that argues that the Waystone Inn itself limits Kvothe, as is the exploding wine bottle.).

My opinion at this point is that Kvothe’s alar broke, much like the much-mentioned Ramston steel. This prevents him from performing conscious sympathy, but doesn’t limit his sleeping mind.

I think it’s likely that he has re-Named himself, owing to the giant foreshadow with Elodin at the end of WMF. How that affects him specifically is completely unclear to me, but I think you’re right that music reharmonizes him to his true Name. Hence why he was recognized by the traveler at the beginning of NotW after he sang.

How this fits with whatever is held in his thrice-locked chest is also unclear to me, but I think Jo’s theory of his lute is probably the most logical. Although, part of me thinks that Marten’s story of Taborlin the Great may give us more clues. In it, the King Scyphus placed Taborlin’s sword, staff, cloak, key and coin.

We haven’t seen a staff, but Kvothe has certainly acquired the sword, cloak, key and coin. Perhaps those are the items in the chest?

He could get a staff in D3 and put it in.

There used to be weird small ads in the back of magazines when I was a kid that said “Open Joanna Southcott’s Box!” I always used to wonder what they were talking about and why they were so vehement about it. Sometimes they said things like “Perplexity and distress of nations will continue until they open Joanna Southcott’s box!” I have transferred all desire for box opening to Kvothe’s chest, and it’s only because there’s an internet that I’m not posting cryptic ads.

Thistlepong, following on from this in regards to K’s alar:

Assuming his Alar is broken, what if there’s nothing esoteric (well, beyond it already being magic) about it? What if whatever betrayal he suffered constituted an irreconcilable challenge to his ability to believe. I can imagine his certainty with regard to a few things already being core to Kvothe-in-the-story. Destroy one and he undergoes the existential crisis, unable to really believe in anything without doubt anymore.

Could be.


Alexandria Quartet


I can’t help but think that we’re going to see an Alexandria Quartet style novel all from Denna’s viewpoint, once the main sequence is finished. Or maybe just how awesome that could be.

That would be totally awesome and I would buy it in a heartbeat.


A Hint from the Brazilian Translation?

Bernardo says:

i’d like to point out that in brazilian’s edition there’s a translation mistake (probably) that seems to give out something.

master ash in portuguese version is ‘mestre freixo’
and cinder is ‘gris’

in page 516 denna sais ‘freixo gris’ instead of ‘mestre freixo’ or just ‘freixo’

If this is an error because the translator knew something, it would certainly be evidence, but it’s the kind of real world external evidence I don’t like. Still.


Master Ash

Arcticcivvie summarises the Cinder argument very well:

Maybe the biggest reason I feel this way is that Kvothe is actually pretty good at naming, although he doesn’t realize it. I think that’s a deliberate theme on Rothfuss’s part. He names his horse “One-Sock” on accident. He names “Auri,” and that’s significant too, according to Elodin. He even guesses Nell’s name. Just like he often says seven words around Denna, he often names things correctly. And so when trying to pick a name for Denna’s patron, Zizoz is right- he picks all F names in a row, getting very close several times to Ferule. Then he settles on “Ash,” which is (in English) another word for Cinder.

Also, Kvothe has an interesting exchange with the Ctheah, who, of course, spends the conversation teasing him with hidden truths and wordplay. The Ctheah gives him some hints and details about Cinder (although Kvothe is having a hard time figuring it out). Then in his next sentence he says “He beats her, you know…” referring to Denna and her patron. Read straight through, it seems like a subtle reference, telling Kvothe exactly who Denna’s patron is, although Kvothe misses that, too.

I don’t think we can get any further with this without new information.

Coyote Blue has an off-the-wall new suggestion:

The “seven words” sequences are what make me consider it. Kvothe says seven words upon first meeting Denna that make her fall in love with him. Elodin asks Kvothe about seven words during the first entrance exam. Denna later asks if “writing stuff down” magic exists, and constantly points out whenever Kvothe says charming sentences of exactly seven words. Elodin uses Fela as an example when explaining to Kvothe why he doesn’t get naming…but when Kvothe “forces the issue” near the end of WMF, he doesn’t use seven words, and Elodin’s romantic lesson remains unlearned.

Elodin is already the dangerous-but-loveable third rail. He clearly doesn’t give a rip about his reputation, and knows too much. What if he’s playing both sides? What if the ill-fated relationship with Denna is in his interest? 

I really don’t think so because of how he reacts when Kvothe mentions name-changing. If he knew D, he’d know about that and he wouldn’t react the same way.


The Ever Moving Moon


We know from the frame that the moon is still moving. At the beginning of NW there’s no moon. At the end of WMF there’s moonlight. So, regarding Jax’s box and the Loeclos box, one of the following must be true. Thery’re not the same, or he doesn’t open it.

That does seem inarguable.


The Name of the Wind

Wallace Forman has an intriguing idea:

Remember when Elodin makes his class look for twenty books and Kvothe finds all of them except for one, called “En Temerant Voistra” which no one seems to have heard of?

If that isn’t it precisely, then it is some other name which Elodin is trying to trick the students into chasing without realising it.

My guess is that it literally means “The name of the wind” or “The Wind’s Name” in some language Kvothe and the other students do not know (but is not the wind’s “true name”), and master Elodin was attempting to force the students’ sleeping minds to seek out the wind’s name, unbeknownst, the traditional first task of student namers.

I love this. Anyone Imaginary Linguists got any evidence one way or the other? I love it, it just seems such an Elodin thing to do.


CTH and the Frame


if Rothfuss’s original draft didn’t have the frame story, did it not have the Cthaeh? (or Bast?) Because the frame story as currently written has Kvothe unaware of the extent of the Cthaeh’s influence until midway through day 2. This means that if the Cthaeh were included the Cthaeh would have influenced the story in the original draft, but never gotten textual credit.

This is the most meta worry of all time! I swoon with my hand on my forehead. And how very like the CTH it would be to do that and nobody know!

Seriously, I don’t think these books would be anything like as good without the frame. It’s the narrative cleverness that makes them worth paying attention to. And of course Rothfuss knows that, and it’s why he rewrote them. Is rewriting them.

A Fox:

I am a firm supporter of the theory that K is waiting as honey in a trap, playing his own beautiful game, the right way (hopefully!). I like to imagine that the frame would have appeared last, following his story in a linear manner, but that it was rearranged to add more drama and mystery. 

Drama and mystery and narrative tension. Don’t underestimate narrative tension. There’s warp and woof here because of the frame, we have the border but not the middle.

Me, on how the CTH messed up Kvothe:

Going to Ademre meant that Kvothe missed the wedding, where he might have learned a lot. And it meant that he killed the false troupe—he had the skill and he was in the right place—which made a break with the Maer. If he hadn’t spoken to the CTH he wouldn’t have gone beyond the Stormwal in pursuit of the Chandrian and might have had a completely different time back in Severen.



Valyrian asks:

Has someone already tried to put the various pieces of “road” and “path” imagery into context? We have the broken road in Hespe’s story. We have Tehlu’s two sides of the road in Trapis’ story. Then Kvothe’s quote about music and how the Lethani relates to roads/paths (it’s not a path, but it helps choose the path). Anything else? The Edema Ruh live on the road. I feel like it turns up too often to not be related somehow, but so far I can’t make sense of it.

The Old Stone Road?

Lots more great speculation on the Tinker Tanner post, far too much to summarize all of it.

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and nine novels, most recently the Nebula winning Among Others. 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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