Patrick Rothfuss Reread

Rothfuss Reread: Speculative Summary 18: A Good Cloak

My obsessively 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. But we welcome new people who have read the books and want to geek out about them. 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.

I just read both books again, straight through. It’s surprising how absorbing they still are, even after all this, and also what I’m noticing. (I’m almost tempted to start again at a chapter a week.) So this isn’t a standard speculative summary where I summarize your clever thoughts, this is all me.

Cloaks

Kvothe has had six cloaks in the books so far.

The first is given to him by Shandi for his twelfth birthday, it has lots of pockets but we don’t know the colour. He simply describes it as “lovely” and mentions the pockets. Shandi’s cloak was presumably lost when the wagon burned. He doesn’t mention having it in the forest, but if he did, then it fell to rags in Tarbean.

The second was the dark blue cloak he bought when he was leaving Tarbean after he pawned Rhetoric and Logic.

When you’re travelling a good cloak is worth more than all your other possessions put together. If you’ve nowhere to sleep it can be your bed and blanket. It will keep the rain off your back and the sun from your eyes. You can conceal all manner of interesting weaponry beneath it if you are clever and a smaller assortment if you are not.

But beyond all that, two facts remain to recommend a cloak. First, very little is as striking as a well-worn cloak, billowing lightly about you in the breeze. And second, the best cloaks have innumerable little pockets which I have an irrational and overpowering attraction towards.

This cloak, “only one owner from new” was burned when he rescued Fela from the fire in the Fishery.

The third cloak was Fela’s cloak, dark green and black, with little pockets. This is the cloak that got him into trouble with D, because it looked as if Fela was embracing him when she was putting it on him. He lost it in the shipwreck on the way to Severen.

The fourth cloak was the Maer’s gift, burgundy with lots of pockets, very smart but not really waterproof. He traded it to the Tinker on the way to the Eld in return for everything he needed and an old faded black cloak.

That black cloak was the fifth cloak. It didn’t have pockets so he sewed some in himself from material he bought in Cresson. He had it with him in the Eld and lost it when it caught on a branch as he pursued Felurian.

The sixth cloak is the shaed Felurian made for him from shadow, sewn with moonlight and starlight and firelight and sunlight. It billows without wind and keeps Kvothe safe to get back to Felurian. (Has he been back? If not, wouldn’t this be a good time?)

This is a lot of cloaks. The other thing about them is that having a cloak was one of the ways in which he is emulating Taborlin the Great, who had his cloak “of no particular colour.”

Eyes

Three people in the books and three people only have eyes that change colour with their moods. Felurian, Bast, and Kvothe.

I’m not saying this is evidence of Kvothe having Faen ancestry, but it’s strongly suggestive, especially as there’s Arliden’s comment about grandchildren and eye-colour, in the context of stories. Eye-colour is hereditary in the 4C world, as it is here. Arliden, Laurian, and Meluan are not described as having colour-changing eyes.

I think there’s a touch of Fae about Kvothe, and I’d love to know where it comes from. We know very little about Laurian/Netalia’s parents, and nothing at all about Arliden’s. Yet they’re youngish parents, their own parents should still be alive. Netalia’s estranged from hers of course, but where are Arliden’s? It never seems to cross K’s mind.

Lanre

We have three versions of Lanre’s story. There’s Skarpi’s story, which has Selitos as the hero, and which we’ve discussed at length. I think it can be reasonable seen as “The Amyr version.” I feel that Skarpi with his friends in the Church might be an Amyr himself—would that imply that Chronicler also was? It might.

Then there’s D’s version, of which we have only a very brief summary—that Lanre is the hero and Selitos a tyrant, and that she has done a lot of research. We also know that this song does not summon the Chandrian—it’s not the “wrong kind of song”, because it becomes popular and gets sung all over the place. We also suspect, because of Master Ash and parallels, that the Chandrian might want this version of the song out there as counter-propaganda. That doesn’t mean it’s true or not true.

And there’s the third version, which is what Kvothe gives Ben when he idiotically binds all the air in the world to the air in his lungs, Ben tries to talk to him afterwards about power and wisdom. He starts by asking Kvothe if he knows the story of Lanre, which strongly implies that Lanre’s story has a useful moral for this situation.

I thought of the dozens of stories I’d heard my father collect over the last year, trying to pick out the common threads.

“Lanre was a prince,” I said. “Or a king. Someone important. He wanted to be more powerful than anyone else in the world. He sold his soul for power but then something went wrong and afterward I think he went crazy or he couldn’t ever sleep again or…”

Ben says he didn’t sell his soul, that’s just nonsense. Now Ben ranks very highly in my hierarchy of trust, and it’s also not in the other versions. But what do we have as a summary of “dozens of stories”? There’s no Selitos, no cities, no betrayal—just somebody important who wants to be more powerful than anyone else and something went wrong with that so he couldn’t ever sleep again.

Ben abandons the attempt to use Lanre as an example and goes on to talk about power and damage. So he must have felt that there are parallels between what Kvothe did and what Lanre did. I think that has to be having lots of power and no sense of proportion. Lanre did something powerful and stupid, just like Kvothe did with the air, and just like that it was something he couldn’t undo—only with Lanre is was something nobody could undo. And Kvothe did something with sympathy to himself. Maybe Lanre did the same. What happens when you change your mind? I mean literally? Lanre wouldn’t have been using sympathy, which was invented at the University (according to Elodin). He’d have been using Naming or possibly Shaping. What happens when you change your name with Naming? Is this what Kvothe did? Is it what Lanre did—we know his name is Alaxel, or Lord Haliax, we do know it for sure isn’t Lanre any more. I think he changed his mind and changed his name.

We don’t actually have any idea what Lanre did in between the Bloc of Drossen Tor and the destruction of the cities. We don’t hear anything of D’s version of what Lanre did, and in Kvothe’s “dozens of stories” version it’s sold his soul for power, immediately corrected by Ben to not selling his soul.

Skarpi’s version doesn’t tell us either, because Skarpi is deep into Selitos’s POV. He mentions Selitos hearing rumours that something had happened to Lyra. But in his version, by the time Selitos talks to him Lanre has done something that means he can’t be killed in the long term—he can be killed but he will come back. He also can’t go mad or sleep—all four doors are closed to him, sleep, madness, forgetting and death. Lanre has broken the doors of the mind, and the only thing he can imagine can fix things is to destroy the universe.

I do hope this isn’t what Kvothe did, or anyway… if it is, I really hope that whatever is in the thrice-locked chest really is the V and the H. We have seen him sleep, though only once, when Bast was singing, but we have seen him sleep, so he isn’t a new Chandrian. Isn’t that a relief!

The other possible Lanre version we have is Tehlu vs Encanis, Trapis’s story, where the demons (and we know there are no demons) are driven out by Tehlu and the chief of them is bound on a wheel and burned and held onto the wheel by Tehlu. “Blackened body of God!” as people say. I think this is a different story, or anyway that it happened later—Tehlu is one of Aleph’s angels according to Skarpi, and Tehlu could have had a run in with Haliax at any point afterwards.

The Earl of Baedn-Bryt

Chronicler’s unreasonably worried about being late for a meeting with this guy. He’s not just another noble, he’s somebody important. He might be Chronicler’s patron? But Chronicler blanches at the thought of being late. And “The earl would be furious. No telling what it might take to get back in his good graces.” And Kvothe hasn’t actually said that he will let Chronicler leave at the end. We’ve talked about Kvothe deliberately delaying Chronicler or playing a beautiful game with him. But this earl is somebody significant. He’s meeting him in Treya. (Known to the map reading public as “Where?” And did you see Pat in his AMA say that Newarre was just down the road from Rannish?)


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