Welcome to part 9 of my extremely detailed re-read of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. This week’s post covers chapters 51-59 of The Name of the Wind, but also contains extensive spoilers for the whole book and the whole of The Wise Man’s Fear—these discussions assume you’ve read all of both books. Not only would it spoil you for them if you read beyond the cut without reading all of both books, it would also confuse the heck out of you. But having said that, if you buy them now, you could have them both read before next week’s post. And if not, these posts are still going to be here—come to that, these posts are still going to be here when DT is published and all our speculations are lying exposed to the full glare of the sun like dry bones in the desert.
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
Chapter 51 is Tar and Tin, and it’s an account of how Kvothe learned sygaldry in seven days when it took normal people a whole term. There’s an explanation of sygaldry—writing runes on things, and how complicated it is. There’s the list of rules, including “teh= lock”—which is Chrispin’s clever catch from two weeks ago on Tehlu. Then there’s Kvothe’s Tom Lehrer method of learning them by setting them to music—along with the first intimation of Auri. He doesn’t meet her yet, but it’s clear she’s there in the inaccessable courtyard, listening to him practicing the lute.
Any thoughts on the other runes and their meanings?
Chapter 52 is Burning Out. The title has two meanings—the normal metaphorical one and also the literal burning of the candles in the duel.
Kvothe overdoes things, Sim and Wil get him to stop working at the Fishery so he can sleep, and because it’s his only paying job he asks them about the Eolian as an alternative way to make money. This chapter also contains a sympathy duel between Kvothe and another student called Fenton, explaining to us exactly how binder’s chills work, and reinforcing the whole thing with sources. I think at this point we understand sympathy well enough for what we need to understand later. Sim and Wil’s concern is a nice touch, cementing the friendship. And Kvothe taking risks to make money gambling on himself is the same cocky too-cleverness he has shown all along. The thought at the end that he has to learn the work in the Fishery properly and there aren’t any short cuts is the closest to a mature thought he has ever had.
Chapter 53 is Slow Circles, and he says the title refers to the slow circles in which he and Denna have always moved together. But we don’t get to Denna in this chapter....
I don’t think people’s speculations that Devi or Auri are the important woman hold up to examination at all. I’m not saying they might not be more important, or certainly more interesting, but to Kvothe “she” is Denna, as SaltManZ put it last week, Kvothe is a Denna-addict. And what he says is “the Eolian is where she was waiting.” And it’s one of his starts of the story, her voice twining with his. Sorry BAM, Ryanreich and RobMRobM, he really is making all this fuss about Denna. Oh well.
The chapter begins with a description of the Eolian and the talent pipe system. I’ve never heard of anything remotely like this in real life, has anyone?
Kvothe tells Sim he’s going to try for his pipes, getting some build up. And then we have Auri—not Kvothe meeting Auri, but Auri as an established fact to whom he is bringing bread. And when he tries to coax her up onto the roof he says “Not much moon tonight” as if to say that makes it safe.
Everything he says about her beyond the physical description is a guess. He guesses she’s no more than twenty, that she was a student who has gone shy and feral. These are only guesses. She could be anything, any age at all. All we know about her is that she is extremely odd and she lives under the University—and she has been there for long enough to know the place extremely well. I wouldn’t be surprised if she had been there since Belen fell, or alternatively if she turns out to be a lost student, or a colleague of Elodin’s, or the genius locus. She could be anything, and yet she has a lot of personality. I like her.
Kvothe chose the name he uses for her, Auri. Later this gets Elodin to decide to teach him. But he thinks of her as his little moon-fey. It’s interesting that he connects these two things with Auri, the moon and fey. I don’t think she is a fey—or rather I don’t think her first language is Faen. Kvothe at this point doesn’t believe in the Fey. The moon, however, she certainly is connected with in some way.
He says it has taken weeks to coax her out, but we see them with an established relationship, exchanging gifts. His to her is food stolen from dinner, but she gives him a key. The first couple of times I read this, knowing nothing about the moon, I read the conversation as whimsy, but now I don’t think so, I think she is serious.
Something gleamed in the moonlight. “A key,” she said proudly, pressing it on me.
I took it. It had a pleasing weight in my hand. “It’s very nice,” I said. “What does it unlock?”
“The moon,” she said, her expression grave.
“That should be useful,” I said, looking it over.
“That’s what I thought,” she said. “That way if there’s a door in the moon you can open it.” She sat cross legged on the roof and grinned at me. “Not that I would encourage that sort of reckless behaviour.”
If it really is a key to the moon, why would she have it? Well, in Hespe’s story of Jax the moon is a woman and her name gets shut away. The Lockless box doesn’t have a keyhole, so the key can’t open that, but I wonder. If it’s one of the keys for the Four Plate door then she might have found it in the Underthing. But maybe it’s connected in some way to the moon and so is she and she knows Kvothe is also part of that same tangle, by inheritance and temperament?
When Kvothe gives her water and she asks what’s in it, he says he put in the part of the moon that isn’t in the sky tonight, and she says she already said the moon. Does Auri know about the moon? I think she definitely does, whatever the key might be.
Theories and speculations on Auri?
It has been mentioned in comments that Pat said extra-textually that Auri came to the story in a late draft, which just shows how writers shouldn’t say this kind of thing, because people read it as meaning something’s not important. Let me say that I have had some crucial ideas at the last minute. And the thing is that you can go back and put them in and nobody knows—unless you tell them.
Even if Auri has no purpose in the story Rothfuss first thought of, she has a purpose in the story as we have it, which is all that matters, she’s in the text to analyse. And maybe she’s the moon, and maybe she has the key to it, but the main thing she’s doing right now is showing us a nicer side of Kvothe. He’s much more human because he takes the trouble to coax her out and buy salt for her. Elodin teaches him because of her—maybe because he named her, but maybe not, maybe because Elodin sees him acting like a human being and not a feral child. Auri is one of the few people Kvothe cares about who he’s not trying to use. He does use her—he uses her to get into the Archives—but that’s not the significant thing in their friendship. She’s giving him bits of junk—even if they turn out to be magically valuable later, that’s what he thinks—and he’s giving her food he liked and could use himself.
Chapter 54 is A Place to Burn. The title refers to the Eolian, and the burning here is very metaphorical, meaning making music.
Sim and Wil and Kvothe walk to Imre, Wil notices Kvothe’s body language and Sim mentions Puppet. Kvothe asks about him and Sim says he can’t introduce them because Puppet spends his time in the Archives. Then they all spit for luck when crossing the bridge.
At the Eolian he offers to buy Deoch a drink without knowing he is one of the owners. Deoch says there’s something Fae about the edges about Kvothe—which there isn’t at this point unless he just means driven or there’s something we don’t know.
He talks to Stanchion and we are reminded how difficult a song Sir Savien is and that he’ll be singing with an unknown woman. Then Ambrose comes in and he decides to definitely play it out of pride. Then some other musicians play, including Count Threpe. And then he gets up nervous and loses his nervousness on stage.
“Sir Savien Trailard, greatest of the Amyr”?
And a woman joins in as Aloine, and then two verses from the end a string breaks and he goes into himself and the boy who played in the woods with six strings and finishes the song. And then he weeps, for Savien and Aloine.
We don’t know the story of the song, beyond Savien leaving Aloine and a very sad ending, but I very much like the suggestion that the structure parallels the structure of the story Rothfuss is telling.
Chapter 55 is Flame and Thunder. Everything but the broken tree, eh? If the Eolian is the place to burn, this is it. He holds the audience for that moment in silence before they burst into applause—and this is the whole chapter, one of the shortest in the book.
Chapter 56 is Patrons, Maids and Metheglin, and for once the title is reasonably self-explanatory. The broken string was broken by Ambrose by sympathy. Kvothe gets his pipes. The “patrons” are Wil and Sim, without whom Kvothe wouldn’t be there. The metheglin is what he’s given to drink. (I have had metheglin, and I don’t like it half as much as Kvothe does. I don’t like mead either. Nor Turkish Delight. Oh well.) Then Threpe gives him money, and people buy him drinks, and then he goes to look for “my Aloine,” and at last finds her, after thinking he shouldn’t hope for too much, and the chapter ends on the word “beautiful.”
Chapter 57 is Interlude — The Parts That Form Us. Back to the inn to emphasise how important this is, when we haven’t even got to it yet.
So K hesitates on describing her, and we have meta-description of how important she is and how hard to describe. And Bast says he saw her once, and K says he had forgotten.
And then we have more meta description. K says she was unlike anyone, she had a grace and a fire, and Bast points out that while she had wonderful ears (which seems to be his particular kink) she wasn’t a perfect beauty. But to K she was. She quite literally has “glamour,” magical attraction.
K says why bother trying, “If I ruin this as well it will be a small thing as far as the world is concerned.” This must be because he has ruined the world, because the state of the world as we see it in the frame is a direct consequence of his actions, or at least he thinks it is....
Then he describes her specifics in similes, naming her for the first time since the road trip. All he achieves is to make me think he is completely and utterly besotted by her, still and always. And I really do think it’s not a natural thing. It’s like human love, but it’s more and other, more extreme.
He breaks down and says:
“How can I make any sense of her for you when I have never understood the least piece of her myself?”
And that’s fair enough, because he clearly never has. His relationship with Denna is slow circles, finding without looking, looking without finding, missing each other, miscommunication, obsession, addiction and total incomprehension. I think it’s a geas.
And then he grumps at Chronicler for writing that down, and makes him rewrite just the metadescription. He says “to Kvothe at least” as if Kvothe is not him—and this isn’t like the high language pull back of the night before University, or maybe it is. I’m not sure what it is. Identity crisis for K?
Chapter 58 is Names for Beginning. We’re back into first person Kvothe normal narration. And after all this waffling about how incomparably indescribably lovely she was, he tells us she’s Denna from the caravan “so long ago.” It was two terms ago, less than half a year. Maybe that’s “so long ago” when you’re fifteen. He says so. Has she been in Fae in between? Who can tell.
She’s with Sovoy. He wonders if she remembers him, and despite the fact that she lights up when she sees him and is flirting heavily with him, he leaps to the conclusion that she doesn’t.
And he offers to do anything for her—what a terrible idea! Hasn’t he been listening to anything he’s been singing? He says he thinks of her as Felurian, but that might lead to confusion—well, yes! Considering! But this is, I think, the first mention of Felurian? And she refuses to give him her name so he doesn’t have power over her, and she does it in a flirty way but hey, she does it. And we were talking before about her shifting the name she uses, and could this really be why? When she gives her name, she says is is Dianne.
Denna’s names always start with D, I think, and they’re usually of a pattern—Dianne, Dineah—that fits around Denna. No idea why.
He leaves her because she’s with Sovoy and Sovoy is his friend. And although he’s been talking to her in a sophisticated way, he feels that he’s awkward in her presence, despite his triumph downstairs.
Chapter 59 is All This Knowing. He gets drunk and slips into third person again as they walk back. The University and Imre are Understanding and Art, “the strongest of the four corners of civilization.” I thought the four corners was a geographic term, but if it isn’t, what are the other two? The Lethani and Naming?
I’ll stop there as that’s the end of this Eolian episode.
Last week’s comment thread was excellent as usual, with much great stuff about Elodin and copper, but I don’t think there’s anything I especially want to pull out.
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.