Welcome to Part 6 of my insanely detailed re-read of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. These posts contain spoilers for both The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, please do not read below the cut unless you have read both books. It’s also not going to make any sense unless you have.
This post covers chapters 30-35 of The Name of the Wind.
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.
We left our hero woken up again from his three year “sleep” or fugue after his parents were killed, woken by the mysterious Skarpi, probably by the use of his Name. And we left him reading Logic and Rhetoric in his rooftop hideaway. And how does Rhetoric and Logic start? With Ben telling Kvothe to make him proud at the University, of course, which is what he’s aiming towards from the start this week.
So this is what I didn’t like when I didn’t understand it—K was hanging around helplessly in Tarbean as a victim all this time, doing nothing, and then suddenly, snap, he was transformed back into his brilliant whole self. Now I know (thanks again Susan) that it’s all magic, it makes so much more sense. I think we should bear in mind any time we hear anything that sounds like psychology, that it may well be magic instead.
So Chapter 30 is called The Broken Binding, and this refers to the name of a bookshop, and I guess clever people who were paying attention would realise that it also refers to the binding that’s been keeping K muted all this time. Kvothe goes to the bookshop and pawns Logic and Rhetoric for two talents, and steals three pens and a bottle of ink. He realises he only has five days to get to the University. We also learn that months have forty days, which means they contain four ten day spans within them.
Chapter 31 is The Nature of Nobility. While Rothfuss puts a lot of things in here that are cool and fun, they’re never only there to be cool fun flourishes. I love this, where Kvothe has a bath and pretends to be a naked noble’s son to get some clean new clothes. It’s clever and funny, and the purpose it serves is to tell us that the sons of nobles are a destructive force of nature to be endured and not fought against. It’s setting us up for Ambrose. And of course there’s the nice little bit of byplay with the innkeeper at the end—Kvothe would like to have a nice inn like that, of course he would. And he will.
Chapter 32 is Coppers, Cobblers and Crowds. Kvothe is clean and in new clothes and he feels uncomfortable walking through the crowds and dodges into a store to avoid a guard who wasn’t going to bother him. The store is a cobblers, where he acquires a pair of good but used shoes free—but he leaves some money behind to pay for them because it feels like the right thing to do. He leaves two copper jots, which is enough for a caravan trip to Imre. The new shoes would have been a talent. The clothes cost a talent less two jots. I haven’t figured out the money, has anyone?
And then K joins a caravan for Imre and entirely by chance he meets Denna. And he doesn’t do this foreshadowing stressing thing he has done with significant events, he just records the meeting as if it’s of no more significance than the nice cobbler. Cealdish guy, wife, pretty dark haired girl, worker... as smooth as that. And he doesn’t describe her except to say that she’s about a year older than him—so, sixteen or so—and dark haired and beautiful, wearing men’s clothes for travelling. And then Kvothe goes off to say goodbye to Trapis, who treats him exactly the same, though the other kids don’t recognise him.
Chapter 33 is A Sea of Stars. It starts with the journey beginning, with Kvothe having bought a cloak and a travelsack for what the players in my role-playing game write down on their character sheets as unspecified “supplies.” Needle and thread, salt, spare clothes, a tinderbox, dried apple—travel essentials. (Does he need a tinderbox?) This is his second cloak with lots of pockets—Shandi made him the first one. He does go through them. I like the way he likes them. It’s obviously a reaction to Taborlin’s cloak of no particular colour, but he also has all these sensible grown-up reasons—they make him look good, they have the little pockets, you can hide things under them. It’s as if he has to make excuses for this fashion choice. I find it endearing.
So they set off, Kvothe is happy to be on the move, he is Edema Ruh. Then he exchanges a few words with Denna: seven words. “I was wondering what you’re doing here.”
Then they have an odd conversation. It is objectively a very odd conversation. Denna tries to get Kvothe to guess about her and acts as if she doesn’t know where she’s going—she’s “been wrong before.” She twists the ring on her finger, silver with a flash of blue—the same ring Kvothe goes to all the trouble to get back in WMF. And then she asks where he’s going and he says, and she asks him how it feels to know where you’re going.
I think there is a magic thing going on with Kvothe and Denna, where they are in some ways following the same path and in some ways mirrors, and where the way they can’t find each other when they’re looking. Now when I first read NW I thought Kvothe was just being a teenage oaf, but now it’s clear it’s more than that. I mean he is being an idiot in not seeing that she likes him, but I’m sure there’s something going on with the whole relationship. I’m also sure the ring is magical and significant, but I have no idea why.
Just looking at this chapter, Denna is on the road to Anilin, with a caravan. She’s sixteen and beautiful and alone. Where has she come from, why is she going, who is she—all complete blanks. I wonder how much she knows about him? She knows where he’s going, but has he told her where he has come from and what has happened? I don’t think so.
They spend a couple of days in what K describes as “slow courtship” which culminates in sitting on a fallen greystone that extends out into a lake, in a sea of stars, talking. He wants to touch her and ask her something and doesn’t because he has nothing to offer.
K describes his feelings for her in very conventional terms. I mean usually he’s very inventive with language, but not when he’s talking about how he feels about Denna, he’s tongue-tied.
Oh, and I don’t think this is the same pool with waystones where he goes when he is mad in the forest. There are two waystones here, and it’s too close to the inn, surely. The inn is on the road. The Chandrian ambush wouldn’t have been near the inn. It’s not impossible, but I don’t think so.
And I just realised when I wrote “mad in the forest” that “mad in the forest” is an Arthurian trope, it’s what Lancelot does and Merlin and I used it in The King’s Name, it’s a thing. But it generally connects with prophecy—but if he is playing Names?
Chapter 34 is Yet to Learn. And we begin the pattern that is to be repeated over and over. Kvothe gets a bit of Denna, and then she takes up with another man who means nothing to her. Kvothe means something, but it’s the other man who gets her attention, who gives her things. Kvothe is jealous. Then it cycles, he gets her, etc.
Josn is a traveller who joins them at the inn. He flirts with Denna. Kvothe sulks. Josn has a lute. And when Kvothe sees it, he claims that “I can honestly say that I was still not really myself.” But I think he’s lying and he knows it, making an excuse for why he played somebody else’s instrument. But what he’s saying is that he played a Name on the lute—three years Waterside at Tarbean—and it finished the process of coming back to himself that Skarpi started. And then he goes off alone and cries, but K says out of the distance of storytelling and the frame that he didn’t know what sorrow was.
Chapter 35 is A Parting of Ways. The caravan reaches Imre, Kvothe gets some money back and realises he doesn’t know Cealdish customs and isn’t as world-wise as he had thought. Then Denna invites him to stay with them and go to Anilin, and he declines, even though he knows (though he is wrong) that he’ll never see her again. He chooses the University—the possibility of the University. He chooses the possibility of knowledge over the possibility of love.
And we’ll start next week with the admission to the University.
But first—comments from last week! There’s a whole lot of great stuff in last week’s comments, go read them all. I want to pull together a couple of things.
TyranAmiros rexamines the theory of Imre as “Amyr-re” and suggests that instead it might be MT. The geography really doesn’t work, as MT is in the mountains. However, C12VT points out that Imre/University are at one end of the Great Stone Road, and maybe MT is at the other, mountain, end. And AnotherAndrew suggests that in that case, maybe I/U, being twin cities, are the remains of the twin cities of Murella and Murilla, which kind of sound like “Imre”? The Underthing could be part of the ruins. But Thistlepong points out that Denna’s letter is addressed to Belanay, (and TyranAmiros confirms that Kvothe’s letter to Ambrose in WMF also has this) which makes it seem that Imre must have been Belen—though I don’t know how the name could have done that. I suppose it could have been refounded by the Amyr as Amyr-re.
And TyranAmiros suggests that since we know one of the cities wasn’t destroyed, maybe that was Tinusa, and maybe that is now Tinue and that’s why people are always asking how the road there is, especially if the road is the Great Stone Road and it was the only city left. I love this.
The other really cool thing from last week is C12VT’s comparison between the Lay of Sir Savien, with its complicated harmonies and melodies and duet, with the actual work we are reading, that is also doing these kinds of tricks, but in textual form. I think this gets this week’s insight award of a bottle of strawberry wine, deliverable by passing tinker.
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.