This is the third part of my insanely detailed re-read of Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind. Please note that it contains spoilers for both The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, and not only that but it would be pretty boring if you hadn’t read them.
This section covers chapters 11-15.
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.
Chapter 11 is called The Binding of Iron, but it’s actually not about that. Binding would be by names, and this chapter is about Ben teaching young Kvothe sympathy.
First, I want to step back and admire Rothfuss’ skill in explaining sympathy to us by having Kvothe disapppinted that it isn’t magical enough. We’re deeply in the head of the first person Kvothe here. This right here is how you do an infodump.
So, we know how sympathy works and it’s magical energy-changing. You can link things better the more they are like each other, and what you do to one you can do to the other. Kvothe learns dozens of bindings. We learn how sympathy works—and it’s magical enough for me, but Kvothe’s dissatisfaction with it makes it all seem real.
Ben calls him E’lir teasingly, his first mentor, just as he said. And we get a bonus history of money—two thousand years ago in Ceald, and Kvothe knows the names of the chieftains. We’re in solid history here, not legend, and that was two thousand years. How long ago was the Creation War?
Then we have the first Lackless rhyme. Kvothe at this age clearly doesn’t know that his mother was Lady Lackless before her marriage. There’s no evidence one way or the other about whether he knows it now as he’s telling the story. But when she says “You can apologise to Lady Lackless and myself...” she is being double-tongued.
The rhyme itself is supposedly a children’s skipping rhyme, with sexual innuendos.
Seven things has Lady Lackless
Keeps them underneath her black dress
One’s a ring that’s not for wearing
One a sharp word, not for swearing
Right beside her husband’s candle
There’s a door without a handle
In a box, no lid or locks
Lackless keeps her husband’s rocks
There’s a secret she’s been keeping
She’s been dreaming and not sleeping
On a road that’s not for traveling
Lackless likes her riddle raveling
Seven things suggests the Chandrian. Also, it says seven but only lists two of them. The ring that’s not for wearing immediately makes me think of the ring Meluan gives Kvothe. The sharp word not for swearing I have no ideas about. Anyone?
There are three possible sexual innuendos to my eye. The first is the ring—especially in comparison to Lady Perial’s hat. Then there are the two things belonging to her husband, his candle and his rocks, both pretty obvious allusions. But they don’t have to mean that. I don’t know much about candles, and it could just be there to rhyme with the door, but it’s a candle by that door that gets Kvothe banned from the archives. And I’m sure candles are forbidden because they have sympathy lamps and there’s a danger of fire around books, but maybe there’s another reason for not wanting them near that door, especially? Maybe?
We know what the box is, we have seen it, but we don’t know what is in it. Her husband’s rocks...or part of the moon’s name....
In the last post, Herelle suggests that to be Lady Lackless she would have had to be married to Lord Lackless, which isn’t the case—in the European nobility daughters of some degrees of nobles get titles. But it draws attention to an interesting thing, which is the presence of a Lady Lackless and her husband, not a Lord Lackless—and yet it’s a typically patrilineal society, and when we meet Meluan she’s marrying the Maer, marrying up, not down to somebody who would take her title. But this does point to something going on with gender and expectations and Lacklesses.
I can’t make anything of the last part—anyone?
Kvothe is supposedly telling us this to say he didn’t spend all his time with Ben and that he did sometimes get into trouble for things. And in the list of things he gives us as his jobs in the last paragraph, one of them is rattling the sheet for thunder as a sound effect. Maedre again.
Chapter Twelve is Puzzle Pieces Fitting, and it has a double meaning. First Kvothe uses it to explain how easily he’d learned the binding, and then it connects to the investigation his parents are doing into the story of Lanre.
So Kvothe is creeping up eavesdropping on his parents and Ben. It’s very hard to write in first person without getting to the point where you need to report conversations that people just wouldn’t have with your POV character there, so you have to resort to eavesdropping. It doesn’t matter if they’re sneaking up like Kvothe, or hiding in a wardrobe trying not to sneeze, the point is the conversation they overhear, and which the participants wouldn’t have if they were there.
The conversation we have here is in two parts. The first part is about the Chandrian, and there’s no reason Kvothe couldn’t have been there for it. The second part is about him, and it would never have taken place if they’d known he was in earshot.
So we’ve had the Chandrian in the Taborlin story, and we’ve had them in the children’s rhyme, and we’ve had them mentioned as what the story is about, and now we get to them. Arliden is composing a song about Lanre, and he thinks he’s figured out the Chandrian’s motivation—though of course he doesn’t share this! And he’s been working on the song for more than a year, without retribution yet, and retribution is quite a while off. So whatever summons them, maybe moving about helps and maybe it takes a lot of repetition. In any case, we don’t hear anything here about the story of Lanre, only that it’s really old. What we learn about the Chandrian is that the name means “seven of them” and that it’s Tema, a language a thousand years older than Temic. The thing we already know about Tema is that it’s the language Kvothe learned in a day, and when we get to it this is for a church trial—so it seems to me that it’s reasonable to treat it as being like Church Latin.
Ben and Kvothe’s parents discuss the Chandrian for a while, the signs—rotted wood, rusted metal, black-eyed, blue flame, cold touch, bricks that crumble, dead plants, shadow-hame....
Then there’s Ben’s interesting “no smoke without fire” explanation of why he doesn’t want to name them, because people are afraid of them everywhere, and there are no funny songs about them. This is doing a good job of building them up as something to fear.
We also hear, incidentally, what people fear regionally. Demons in Atur, in parts of Vintas the Fae and in other parts draugar, and in the Commonwealth shamblemen. We later see shamblemen scarecrows being burned at Trebon, and of course when the path to the Fae opens it is in Vintas. I do hope we don’t run into any draugar or demons—but the people of Trebon think the draccus is a demon, and the people of Newarre think the scraelings are. So maybe “demon” is a catchall title for things people don’t recognise or undetstand.
The second part of the conversation is about how smart Kvothe is, and how he could go to the University. This is a new thought for him, and an appealing one. His parents are fairly open to the possibility.
I think Kvothe really is that smart. He doesn’t necessarily have application for things that don’t interest him, and he has the smart person’s typical problem of giving up when things get hard because they’ve never been hard and he has no experience of how to deal with that. He has the flaws of being very smart—his emotional intelligence running far behind his intellectual intelligence, and thinking that he is the person who ought to deal with everything, and that he’s thought of everything, and that he can think rings around everyone else. He’s bratty in the right way. (Peter Falk voice: “Yes, you’re very smart. Now shut up.”) Isisel and others were arguing in last week’s thread about how good a student he is, and I think that’s a separate question from his actual intelligence. He’s really smart. He’s a prodigy. And he’s going to have the prodigy problem that Isaac Asimov describes of still thinking he’s a prodigy when his hair is silver.
And the chapter ends on a foreshadowingly elegaic note for his parents “That is how I like to remember them.”
Chapter Thirteen is Interlude: Flesh with blood beneath.
So, an interlude, we’re back in the Waystone and the frame, and as if to remind us where we’ve come from it starts “In the Waystone Inn there was a silence.” Kvothe has stopped talking, he wants a drink. He goes to get one and he calls out Bast. There’s a bit of banter about Bast eavesdropping, all normal and friendly, which makes it a surprise when Chronicler recognises Bast as fae and instantly attacks him.
It’s interesting how he does it—he uses the iron charm the robbers didn’t take to call the Name of Iron. I’d have guessed that was a guilder. But it isn’t, because Kvothe says he’s “at least Re’lar” and he’d have recognised a guilder in plain sight on the table being used for magic, surely? So maybe a gram? Or what? This is the third time we’ve seen a Name used, the first time directly. Taborlin uses the Name of Stone to break the wall and the Name the Wind to float down. Then Ben uses the Name of the Wind when Kvothe first meets him. But both of those are inside stories, and this is out in the frame.
Now Chronicler uses the Name of Iron and is one of “perhaps two score people” who know it—and yet he’s been generally the most normal person in the story so far. We’re in a loose omniscient point-of-view here, when K isn’t narrating, and we mostly alternate between seeing Chronicler’s angle on things with K and Bast, but we get much closer to Chronicler. We hear him thinking that the difference between being in a story and hearing one is being afraid. He has been mostly used as a stand in for the reader, a receptive person who wants to know the story. I find it hard to see him as somebody with an agenda beyond hearing the story—it never occurred to me until Jonathan Duerig mentioned it that as a Lochees and therefore also a Lackless he might have a part to play.
It’s therefore surprising to me to see him act—especially as he was so useless in the scrael attack, and the bandit theft. If he could use the Name of Iron, couldn’t he have kept his horse? And how about against the scrael—they’re fae creatures, and vulnerable to iron? Well, nothing comes of it. Bast leaps at him, and K puts out his hand and stops him. No messing about with magic, or losing physical prowess, he just does it. And he loses his temper, and his eyes go dark. Then he insists they make friends and turns back into the innkeeper.
Bast is introduced as “Bastas, son of Remmen, Prince of Twilight and the Telwyth Mael.” So unless K is deliberately lying here, not his son by Felurian. Telwyth Mael we haven’t heard elsewhere, and unlike most of the names here it sounds Welsh to me and therefore probably standard fantasyesque and elvish to normal people. Remmen I definitely haven’t seen elsewhere. And is K saying that Bast is a prince of Twilight or that his father is? Bast is mysterious.
And when they won’t make friends, he is again “dark and fierce” until they do.
He’s so young, Chronicler marvelled. He can’t be more than twenty-five. Why didn’t I see it before? He could break me in his hands like a kindling stick. How did I ever mistake him for an innkeeper, even for a moment?
Then they shake hands, and K turns to pour a drink and
This simple gesture changed him. He seemed to fade back into himself, until there was little left of the dark-eyed man who’d stood behind the bar a moment ago. Chronicler felt a pang of loss as he stared at the innkeeper with his hand hidden in a linen rag.
again when he comes back with a snack
Chronicler watched him covertly, finding it hard to believe that this man humming to himself could be the same person who had stood behind the bar just minutes ago, dark eyed and terrible.
It must have been a heck of a spell that could do that. I think he may have changed his name, or shut part of it in the box. (The “v” and the “h,” for instance...) I think that’s possible. But he gets bits back when he wants them, or...maybe not when he wants them, maybe when they are needed. That doesn’t seem like really really changing his name and his nature. I think reading this that it might have been something he has consciously done with his alar to push parts of himself into his sleeping mind, a frame of mind like heart-of-stone or spinning-leaf, which is reinforced by the physical normality of being Kote. He gets angry, he teaches Bast, he is Kvothe. But every time he reaches for a bottle or a cloth he becomes Kote.
He goes back to the story, saying it goes “downward, darker, clouds on the horizon.”
Chapter Fourteen is called The Name of the Wind. And this is of course the book title, too. Unlike WMF, we know what “The Name of the Wind” means pretty much right away. And in this chapter we see Ben use the Name of the Wind when Kvothe has done something really silly—binding all the air to his lungs, so he can’t breathe. Ben reacts just as you’d expect—Kvothe nearly killed himself doing something Ben had taught him to do, being too clever. He consequently slows down the pace of instruction—Kvothe is twelve, and most people don’t learn this until they have some wisdom to go with their smarts.
The only other notable thing in this chapter is the greystones. The Edema Ruh stop at them. The poem Arliden half-remembers about them mentions leading you into Fae. They are also called “waystones” and compared to lodestones drawing people to them. But nothing happens at this one. We’re just being told they exist and the traditions about them. It’s set-up. They are grey and twelve feet tall—except that Kvothe has seen plenty of them that aren’t standing, that are toppled. They have been there a while. How old are the roads?
This chapter again ends on a warning note “our time together was drawing to a close.” All of this “how I like to remember them,” “getting darker,” and now this, isn’t so much foreshadowing as trying to ease us gently into an expectation of coming disaster.
Chapter Fifteen is Distraction and Farewells. This is where Ben leaves, and this happens in Hallowfell, which is on the map, in the south-west peninsula of the Commonwealth. I think it’s the first place that has been on the map.
So, Ben’s leaving to run a brewery, marry a widow, and tutor her son. Kvothe is twelve and it’s his birthday. The troupe puts on a big celebration, and as part of it Arliden sings the beginning of his Lanre song.
All we learn in this song is that he fought, fell, rose again to fall again, and that Lyra called him back from death. No Chandrian, no Chandrian names, no betrayals. If singing it in public (“entirely the wrong kind of songs”) is what attracts their attention, then they are listening really hard. And it can’t be Lanre’s name, because Arliden has been asking about Lanre for more than a year.
Then Ben leaves him Rhetoric and Logic, a book he hates, and writes in it:
Defend yourself well at the University. Make me proud. Remember your father’s song. Be wary of folly.
We have already considered that in the context of the sword being called Folly. What’s interesting about this as parting instructions is that it’s exactly what Kvothe does. Defending himself well at the University and remembering his father’s song define his career as we have it so far.
Rhetoric and Logic is going to be important as a physical object, but does he ever read it?
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.