Welcome to part 12 of my deliriously detailed re-read of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. This week’s post covers chapters 71-76 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. These posts are full of spoilers and the general assumption that you’ve read all of both books — don’t venture beyond the cut unless this is the case.
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
This week we’re starting with Chapter 71, Strange Attraction. And the strange attraction is the magnet, the “Loden stone” but of course it’s also D.
The last chapter ended with Kvothe negotiating and making a demand to Devi, and this one starts “Three minutes later I was in a livery stable.” It’s really quite insane that he goes rushing off after the Chandrian this way. He was shaken up, yes, and he wants to know about them, but he’s risking literally everything borrowing this money and abandoning the University mid-term. This whole episode is very odd. He’s literally prepared to ride the horse to death — and then he could never repay the money he’d borrowed.
Anyway, a livery stable. Kvothe acts like a jerk. The dealer wants to spend time selling, Kvothe wants a horse quickly, Kvothe demands fast service. He acts, as he says, like a lunatic or the son of a noble. He threatens to kill and eat the dealer. Does this strike anyone else as excessive? It obviously doesn’t strike the dealer as excessive as he tries to cheat him anyway, but I’m very uncomfortable with this.
The horse is brought, and Kvothe stops acting like a lunatic and Names him — he’s fumbling around with names that the horse might like and tries to say “twilight” in Siaru and actually says “One sock” without knowing it. Keth-Selhan. And he says it when he’s looking at his hooves! And later we find that the horse does have one white sock, and the dealer wants the price for a completely black horse, but comes down because he thinks Kvothe has seen through it.
This has to be magic Naming, but he never thinks of that. I suppose it might just be a weird coincidence, but — the hoof! — I think it’s evidence, as with Auri, that Kvothe does have Naming talent. “I kept speaking without giving any mind to what I said...” Spinning leaf? And “giving any mind” is an odd expression — maybe more natural to an American, but it seems slightly archaic to me, drawing attention to the sleeping mind rather than saying “attention.”
Then there’s the journey — a lovely piece of writing. I don’t know enough about horses and long journeys to know if it’s accurate, but it feels authoritative about warming the horse up and so on. They cross a stream and go through a little town and then another smelly stream with solvents and so on from a mine or a tannery, and then they find a tinker.
This is only the second tinker we’ve seen, though we’ve heard them mentioned often enough. This tinker has a lot of stuff and two donkeys, and he needs help. He tells Kvothe he’s only half a mile from Trebon. “Never on my most desperate day would I lie to a tinker,” Kvothe says, when they’re dickering over the horse.
Everything the tinker offers is something Kvothe needs and doesn’t know he needs, for the adventure he’s about to have. The magnet, obviously, and also the blanket, the rope, and the fruit wine. Kvothe bargains for a shirt instead, but it’s the rope he needs and the tinker knows it.
Trebon is setting up for a harvest festival and they have straw shamble-men which Kvothe recognises as a sign they are a backwater. I’m seeing these as like scarecrows that are burned like guys. The Tehlin church is stone with a huge real iron wheel on the side — mining community, civic pride more than piety. This is all setting up for later, very well done, nobody would guess it wasn’t just scenery — he seems as if he’s telling you something about Trebon, which you want to know, but he’s really setting you up so that he can do the draccus/wheel scene. Beautiful.
I want to say something about the Tehlin Church here, and Tehlu. I am very pleased that Tehlu is real. There’s a standard thing in fantasy where you have a church that’s analogous to medieval Christianity, because the world is similar to medieval Europe, and it turns out to be false, with older gods being real, and the church corrupt and so on and not magic. This church is corrupt and unpleasant but Tehlu is just as real as the other stuff we’re hearing about. I appreciate that.
Kvothe goes into the inn and asks about the wedding, saying he’s worried about his cousin, and he’s told there’s one survivor upstairs, and he goes up and it’s D. The coincidence is staggering — what was she doing there? She was last seen weeks ago in Imre, leaving him the note he didn’t get. But she was at the wedding, and she’s ready to get out of the inn.
Kvothe lies and says he’s come to rescue her, and when she calls him on it and he admits it, she says “Anyone can make a trip after they get the news, it takes a special sort of man to show up when he doesn’t know there’s trouble.”
Chapter 72 is Borroril, which doesn’t need unpacking by the department of Imaginary Linguistics as Rothfuss is kind enough to do it for us — Barrow Hill, not any kind of “rill” or stream. But there is a stream towards the end of the chapter.
They get out of the inn, Kvothe pays for D. She’s scathing about having been asked questions, so of course he doesn’t ask her any even though he’s dying to know! They she says one of her most characteristic things “I leave where I’m not welcome. Everything else I can make up along the way.” That’s how she lives, and again it’s a very typical masculine fantasy of femininity.
They head out to the farm — she wants her things, and of course he’s been going there all day. They get a ride on a cart and Kvothe moons over D as usual. “Lovely as the moon. Not flawless, perhaps, but perfect.”
He apologises for not getting her note, and not making lunch, and she says she met a patron while she was waiting. He is at first relieved — relieved it was a patron not a lover.
We heard him mentioned by Deoch, and now this. He’s older. He’s obsessed with privacy — he wouldn’t give her his real name for more than a span and even now she doesn’t know if the name he’s given her is real. She knows he’s a gentleman by his clothes and bearing. (I suddenly remember a pair of penniless adventurers in Dickens who marry each other for their pretended fortunes!) Then she trips and he steadies her and she keeps her hand on his arm and he overthinks whether it means anything. Yes, he’s fifteen. He doesn’t want to be one of the men who annoys her. I roll my eyes in his general direction.
So, Denna’s patron — he got a woman to offer her money for information, it was a test. Another time men threatened her and she guesses that was another test. I already don’t like him. There’s no indication that he’s anything but the kind of patron Kvothe wants, except his weirdness. They make up a name for him, Master Ash, from a leaf (leaves again!) that blows into Kvothe’s mouth. But there’s ash in the air of the other kind too. And it was Master Ash who got D to attend the wedding. Why? Again, why? And thirdly, why?
So, she went, as a musician. He wasn’t there. He has a secret way of signalling her — this is just so creepy! He signalled her, she went off, he left her for a little while and at that point the wedding was utterly destroyed.
I assumed the first time I read this that he was one of the Chandrian, probably Cinder — who has white hair and also, cinders/ashes. If he isn’t, if he’s Bredon or someone else, then not only why, but how did he know?
- Why did Master Ash want Denna at the wedding?
- How did he know to get her away for the attack?
I think he must have known the attack was coming, which means he must have known about the pot. He must have had some reason to want her there, which remains utterly incomprehensible to me, but not to have her hurt, hence the luring away. He asked her about the people there. He wasn’t with her when the attack began.
She asks Kvothe why he’s there, and he lies about the University sending him, quite plausibly, but she sees through him. Then he says he doesn’t want to lie but he worries about what she’d think of the truth, and she doesn’t ask more. This is a major missed opportunity for an honest conversation on both sides, I think. Because if he’d just explained, then she might have been able to. “I know what it’s like to have secrets.” This is my least favourite bit of the book. I loathe this as a trope. He says seven words “Looks like I’m destined to be loveless” and she says they’re seven words, and he still doesn’t get it. Gah.
Moving swiftly on, blue fire, and she lies about nobody attacking her, and her injuries aren’t congruent with her having run into a tree.
They look at the wrecked farm. 26 people dead with knife and sword. Rotted wood, as with the troupe, rusted pump. She’s surprised when he makes magical fire with sympathy. Then he quotes the Chandrian song and she adds lines, though he doesn’t comment which suggests he knew them already. She grew paler, he says “as she realised what I was implying” but it could be for any reason. Then she says she does believe it, and then they wander about for a while and go down to the river. At the river, Kvothe goes meta and says he knows the shape of story of two young lovers meeting at the river and this isn’t that.
Chapter 73 is Pegs, which are actually pigs with an accent.
The accent is the pig-keeper’s accent, and actually it’s odd when you think about it. It’s a “deep valley” accent, anywhere civilized you don’t hear it, only away from the roads. There are different languages, but within Aturan, accents are vanishing? Odd, you’d expect them to be developing, the way they do in reality. They may have travel but they don’t have TV. Anyway, the accent is written out phonetically and it’s horrible to read. They chat, Kvothe fakes the accent, they buy and eat a pig. The herder tells them that the Mauthen farm was built on a barrow hill, and that when they built it they found bones and stones and a mysterious heirloom. Also, he saw blue fire two nights ago to the north. They go back to the farm, Kvothe decides it was a hillfort and there was something there. It wasn’t a barrow, barrows are Vintish.
Chapter 74 is Waystone.
On top of the highest hill where they plan to spend the night are three waystones arranged as a henge, and two fallen flat on the ground.
And here we have a domestic scene with D — they make a fire and dinner. Stew... and actually it would be reasonable to complain about it here. Not good travel food. D likes the food and regrets the strawberry wine he didn’t buy from the tinker. She says he should have known better than to ignore a tinker’s advice. Then they see flashes of blue light. Kvothe checks it isn’t Master Ash’s way of signalling, and she says that would be too sinister even for him.
D sleeps first, and then wakes with her breathing stopping and her eyes darting around. This isn’t a normal way to wake up even from a nightmare. Then Kvothe sleeps, and she wakes him because something is coming. They climb up onto the top of the greystone, and the something is a dragon.
Chapter 75 is Interlude — Obedience.
We’re back in the Waystone Inn, and the frame story, but just for a moment. K wants Chronicler to say there are no such things as dragons, and he won’t, because that would be interrupting. He says there are few things as nauseating as pure obedience. Of course, he wants him to say it because he wrote The Mating Habits of the Common Draccus. And of course he wants us all to know it was a draccus, and that this isn’t the kind of story with dragons but the much more interesting kind of story with drug-addicted giant lizards. And he wants to remind us we’re listening to a story, and the kind of story where people interrupt. I wonder how much of an influence The Princess Bride was on this? And even more than the book, the movie. “You’re very clever, now shut up.” “She does not get eaten by eels at this time.”
Chapter 76 is The Mating Habits of the Common Draccus. Of course it is.
Denna says it’s a dragon, and Kvothe explains what it really is. D’s swearing is interesting “Tehlu hold and over-roll us.” Haven’t heard that before. Might be evidence about where she comes from — in reality people’s swearing in moments of stress tends to revert to early cultural conditioning. Religious and Tehlin, anyway. So he explains it’s a herbivore, they giggle, it goes to sleep in their fire and they go to sleep on top of the stone.
And Kvothe gives her his cloak and watches her with no idea of the tragedies the following day will bring, so let’s leave him brooding on them and start from the next day next week.
Last week’s comments were excellent as usual.
Lots of great linguistics stuff, speculation about Auri, and about whether Ambrose really hired the ruffians. (Kvothe doesn’t seem to question that in the frame time, but I don’t think there’s enough evidence either way.)
Shalter and Jhirrad and others are thinking of putting together a Department of Imaginary Linguistics wiki. If they do, I shall link to it in future posts.
Adem man-mothers and parthenogenesis
I’m also waiting to find out that K isn’t really a Ruh. He mentions way too many times that he’s Ruh down to the marrow of his bones, and I think he’s up for a rude awakening. His mother is the Lockless heir, but his father is actually a fae. Don’t know if that means Bast is his father or if Bast is the demon he tricked to get his heart’s desire?
In WMF the Adema have a different view on procreation. Kvothe’s explaination to man-mothers is the child looks like the parents well in his case he doesn’t look like his parents. So this may be evidence supporting the Adem’s theory.
With regards to the man-mothers, I really can’t believe that PR would include parthenogenesis in the story. Not only would it be experimentally testable (not every culture is as sexually free as the Adem and the entire population of noble’s daughters - who presumably should be maidens prior to marriage - would provide an obvious grounds for experimentation), but it means that bloodlines are purely matrilineal, which means that Kvothe wouldn’t actually be a Lackless since Vintas has patrilineal descent of names (unless they pulled a Targaryen and had incestuous marriages for five thousand years). Since red hair is recessive, this doesn’t need to be so complicated.
If it’s occasional though, people would just have a scandal with their virgin daughters.
And this is me:
I was talking to my geneticist husband about parthenogenesis, and we came up with some ideas. Parthenogenesis as it exists is always a female producing another female. And there can be both — plants that really do this — that reproduce sexually sometimes and parthenogenetically other times. If women could conceive alone when the moon is in certain positions, and sexually when it is in other positions (half each), and if sexual births were 50/50 male/female and parthenogenetic births were all female, you’d end up with a population which was 65% female. And I think this is what we see with the Adem! Think how many of them were female, all the significant ones!
And then Kvothe, if he’s not the son of a god, and if he’s all miraculous Lackless parthenogenic male, destined to open the box and let out all that bad stuff?
Oh, another thought — maybe it’s Pandora’s box, and maybe what’s still locked in the triple locked box is hope, which will be the eucatostrophic ending of DT.
I’d love that.
Thoughts on the Adem parthenogenesis theory...
1. Adem women are fighters (probably all of them are, at least when they are young).
2. Adem women seem to all be in excellent physical condition for fighting - let’s say at 10% body-fat (or less).
3. Women need 17% body-fat to ovulate (which is somewhat necessary for having children).
This would explain why none of them have children while they are away (as is claimed), since they only leave as mercenaries (and while they are ripped like professional gymnasts). Adem women probably would not achieve the necessary body weight to have children until they settle down (or, as the women might believe, “decide to have a baby”). With their social practices, this would almost immediatly produce offspring.
Also, the fact that they believe mothers decide when to have children makes their views of social interaction make much more sense (from their perspective, at least).
That is my theory, at least.
I’m not at all convinced — they menstruate, and that’s the issue. They’re not anorexic, they’re just in great condition. Female athletes have no trouble having kids.
Herewiss13 disagrees with the idea:
I’m sorry to burst the bubble, but we primarily see women Adem because most of the men are away as mercenaries (as are some women, but proportionately, more men are just away). IMO, Moon-phase parthogenesis would just be a little too skiffy, even for the sort of rational-fantasy Rothfuss is writing. I think it’s more a matter of illustrating cultural blindness. The Adem are sooo cool and wise and rational and deadly and civilized, not like barbarians...but they don’t do music and they aren’t clued into human reproduction, so they aren’t supermen.
I think there’s no evidence at all that proportionately more men are away as mercenaries. I’ll be looking out for gender now I’ve thought of this. I think it’s quite reasonable that they’re 65% female.
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.