Aug 4 2011 2:07pm
Rothfuss Reread: Speculative Summary 1: “Inside edges. Holes.” Speculations on Imaginary Geography

Welcome to the first of the speculative summation posts I’m going to be doing in between volumes of my ridiculously detailed re-read of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. Last week’s post finished The Name of the Wind, and after we’ve summed up some of the speculation we’ll be moving on to The Wise Man’s Fear — but these discussions assume you’ve read all of both books. These posts are 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. 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

Useful links: The Sleeping Under the Wagon post, in which there are lots of theories. The re-read index. The map.

We will have three more speculative summary posts after this one, on Denna, the reasons for K’s oddness in the frame, and on what king was killed. Then we’ll get on with WMF.


Kingkiller Chronicles map

The Map Is Not The Territory

The map in the books is problematical to say the least. I first read NW as an ARC and it didn’t have a map, so when I bought the paperback I was delighted to have it until I discovered it was missing an awful lot of stuff I would want to have located. I’m also interested in why it’s called the Four Corners of Civilization, when there are more than four and also when there are references to four civilized virtues with concrete locations. Puzzling!

RoryB says:

Isn’t it curous that in a series that is so very exacting in the words it uses, that the map would be so “useless”? I strongly suspect that we’re missing something there.

CV12T suggests:

I strongly suspect the map’s vagueness is intentional. In the cliched fantasy map, you can look at the map at the beginning of the book and know that all the important places are marked and you’re probably going to visit most of them (I think there was a bit on this in Diana Wynne Jones’ Tough Guide to Fantasyland, but I don’t have a copy, unfortunately). This map is a subversion of that.

The map has all these details, it looks convincing and authoritative - but although it may be accurate, it omits so much that anyone who looks at that map and thinks they understand the world has been fooled. I have to wonder if the map is some sort of metaphor for the story as a whole.

Remember the scene in the Eld, where Marten talks about maps? “
“Maps don’t just have outside edges. They have inside edges. Holes. Folk like to pretend they know everything about the world. Rich folk especially. Maps are great for that.” (p. 560).

And AnotherAndrew says:

Regarding the uselessness of the map: I wonder if it might be a prop, like the map in The Hobbit, rather than a guide, like the maps in LOTR. Perhaps at some point the characters will discover this map, and puzzle over what it has and does not have on it.

Whether or not this is the case, the map is deeply unreliable, doesn’t have on it half the places one would want on it — not just Newarre, which may have plot reasons to omit, but Severen, which really is a major city, and the ruins of Myr Tariniel. Rothfuss must have a reason for giving us a pretty and useless map — but whether it’s subversion of tropes or a prop or just a desire to have us off balance, I can’t say.


The Middle of Newarre

Yes, it does sound like “nowhere.”

GBrell has located Newarre to my satisfaction:

An argument for why Newarre is in western Vintas (and associated corollaries):

The location of Kvothe’s hiding place Newarre is one of the ongoing questions in the series (Thanks a lot, stupid map!). Its location was discussed in some of the earliest threads with most people pointing out the obvious homonymic pun that Newarre is “Nowhere,” but the only real suggestion I saw given for its location was that Newarre is in the western Commonwealth.

I think this is wrong and I will elaborate why, instead, Newarre is most likely in western Vintas, probably on the southern border of the Eld.

The first piece of evidence we have is Kvothe/Kote’s admission that the Scrael come from the east and his surprise that they’ve “made it this far west yet.” He “thought the mountains –“ presumably would have stopped them or slowed them down.

Looking at the map, we see that the only significant mountain ranges that could have held them back are the Stormwal mountains in the far east and possibly the Eastern Cealdish range. Mountains in the Commonwealth are on the western shore (and Newarre is clearly not a port community) and none in Yll appear to run north-south.

C12VT in Thread 1 pointed out this suggests a far western location, but I think that’s a slight overreaction. More likely is the idea that he’s decently west of a mountain range (or that the mountain range is westerly), rather than on the other side of the continent.

This leaves us with three countries that border a sizable mountain range: Ceald, Modeg and Vintas.

We can rule out Ceald because a) no one appears to be speaking Siaru (unless they all are and Kvothe isn’t mentioning it) and b) “grown Cealdish men don’t give away money. . . . They don’t even buy things if they can help it” (NotW, 223). This isn’t behavior we’ve noticed in Newarre. Also, I haven’t noticed any descriptions of the “ruddy complexion and dark hair and eyes” that characterizes a full-blooded Ceald (NotW, 226).

Here are the arguments for why it’s Vintas:

The smith’s prentice states that the “king’s coin” is not “a silver noble” but “a whole gold royal” (WMF, 18). The soldiers who attack Kvothe learns of his apparent wealth by asking to break a gold coin, a “whole royal.” (WMF, 891). This is confirmed to be Vintish coin when Kvothe discusses having “two gold royals, four silver nobles …” after being dismissed by the Maer (WMF, 927). We know that “beer is three shims and a private room costs copper,” but that doesn’t provide us with much as “shim” appears to be used generically to mean a small amount of money (NotW, 44).

Chronicler carries a “whole silver talent … in a jar of ink,” but he travels extensively and, as he noted, it’s more a “luck piece” (NotW, 20-21).

Next, Bast has on his shelf “[r]ings of horn and leather and woven grass” (WMF, 985). Coincidentally, those are the exact three examples used by Bredon to describe how the common folk (presumably of Vintas) use rings. “A young lover might give a ring of new green grass to someone he was courting. A ring of leather promises service … A ring of horn shows enmity … Profound and lasting enmity” (WMF, 444). *Aside: Wonderful speculation as to who owes Bast service and who holds a vendetta against him.

Now why I believe Newarre is on the Southern edge of the Eld.

This is going to be accomplished by a curious triangulation.

First, Kvothe, when he first meets Chronicler at the Inn, asks him, “How is the road to Tinue?” We know this is an idiomatic expression (NotW, 273), but Chronicler reaction is confusion, followed by “I wasn’t heading to Tinue.” This implies that they are currently somewhere close enough to Tinue for that expression to be literally askable.

Second, when Kvothe fakes having a bum knee in the beginning of NotW, he mentions that he got the “wound” “on my way through the Eld three summers ago. … It’s what made me give up the good life on the road” (NotW, 29). Counterpoint: the farmer that gives Kvothe a ride to Tarbean mentions “this side of the Eld” as an idiomatic expression, so the giant forest is well known.

Third, when Abenthy is talking to Arliden and Netalia, he asks them what the village-folk are afraid of. In Vintas, they reply “Fae” and “Draugar,” neither of which we’ve seen mentioned by the villagers in Newarre. They are scared of demons, however, much like the people of Trebon. According to Arliden, people in Atur are scared in demons.

So we’re looking for somewhere that’s in Vintas, near Atur, Tinue and the Eld, which gives us a small jutting of land south of the Eld, bordering the Small Kingdoms, but quite close to the Aturan Empire. It also is fairly west of the Stormwal Mountains.

A counterpoint: When talking about the bleeders, Chronicler mentions that his father hates them as much as the common folk, which would imply that he’s Vintish. This is never really suggested, but never disproven. Also, note that while there is rampant speculation that Lochees is related to “Lack-keys” and “Loeclos,” they aren’t mentioned in Caduceus’ list of family splits.

A fun corollary that could be support: It’s fairly common to assume that Kvothe kills Ambrose, who has ascended to the throne of Vintas. If this is the cause of the current civil war with the Penitent King fighting rebels (NotW, 16), as Kvothe somewhat implies (“I’m responsible for everyone who dies in this stupid war” (WMF, 23)). This also explains why the common people would refer to him as Kingkiller (and why his ransom would “a thousand royals and a duchy [so Vintas has Dukes…]” (WMF, 20).

Taken together, I feel fairly certain that Newarre is in Vintas and has attempted to place its location. 

I’m convinced.

Kurt Monmtandon has another piece of possible supporting evidence:

Kote and Bast are in Vintas, and that the Maer is now King. The soldiers that attack him in WMF are wearing blue and white, and refer to theirselves as “the king’s own.” Sapphire and ivory are the Alveron family’s colors.


Distances and Severen

GBRell asks about distances:

We don’t have a great handle on distances in this world. We have lots of anecdotal evidence, but no clear metric (nor the guarantee that the map is “to scale”). We can use a couple of these to try and guess at a distance. Riding constantly (Kvothe suggests using a post letter which would allow the rider to exchange tired horses for fresh ones), Kvothe says it would take three span to travel from the University to Severen overland. Severen is presumably on the Western coast of Vintas, since it’s a harbor city. This also makes sense considering it was supposed to take about a dozen days to reach it by sea (ultimately took sixteen, which Kvothe discusses as less than two span). *All from WMF, 365-67.

CV12T has a couple of specifics:

Kvothe tells Devi it is “A thousand miles with some to spare” from Imre to Severen (WMF, p. 360).


Another distance: Imre to Tarbean is 40 miles (WMF, p. 960). So from that we can derive an approximate scale for the map, assuming it is drawn to scale.

Thistlepong notices that Severen is on a river, not the sea:

We have the days/months/year:
single day/11 day span/4 span month/8 month year

1000+/-100 miles in 28-33 days is more than reasonable, considering the time he made from Imre to Trebon.

Is Severen a harbor city? Kvothe speaks of traveling up the Arand River to Severen after passing Junpui. Presumably its dock is on that river? But the only river marked on the map leading from the Centhe Sea into Vintas runs right through the middle of the Small Kingdoms.

CV12T asks if the river is the border:

Maybe the Arand River forms the border between Vintas and the Small Kingdoms. We wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell there was a river there on the map with the border obscuring it.

GBrell agrees about the river:

I was confused because we know there are docks: “I spent the next several hours on the docks and found a ship leaving the next day for Junpui.” (WMF, 928)

But his description of the city does not include a harbor, I think I assumed it.

Note that Ambrose’s father rules the Pirate Isles (WMF, 938), which are “some miles to the south” of Severen (WMF, 368). But curiously not on the map (and nothing that could qualify as Isles either).

My best guess is that the Pirate Isles are off the map to the south and that Severen lies on the river that the Tinker leading the Pack Mule is pointing at with his foot. No idea why it’s so much darker than the other rivers. (Or it could be the other river just south of that).


Something something ’ell

We’ve talked a lot about Myr Tariniel, Selitos’s city and original home of the Amyr. Of course, we don’t know if the ruins exist in the real world or if they’re across the border in Fae.


It’s suggested that the Great Stone Road is very, very old - older than the Aturan Empire. On the map, the Road starts in Imre and ends in the Stormwal Mountains. I think Myr Tariniel is (or rather, was) at the end of that road.

The other end of the road is at Imre and the University, and Imre is also called (once, by Cob) Amary, and TyranAmiros proposed way back in the first spoiler thread that it might be Amyr-land by analogy with Adem-re. There are also the ruins of the Underthing to suggest that the University is even older than it looks, and it looks pretty old as it is. We’ve talked about it possibly being the one city that wasn’t destroyed, but I think that’s a lot more likely to be Tinue, see below.

AnotherAndrew wonders if they might be the twin cities:

Among the cities are the twin cities of Murilla and Murella. The University and Imre are twin cities. Are they built on the site of those two? We are told at one point that the University was founded among the ruins of an older university.

But Thistlepong discovers that the University is, or was, Belen:

I took MT to be at the Stormwal end of The Great Stone Road and Belen at the University end. The letter Denna sends is addressed to Belenay-Barren.

Tyran Amiros finds more evidence:

Both Kvothe’s letter to Ambrose at the end of WMF and his story about the Beggar and the Edema Ruh mention Belenay as well.

C12VT suggests:

Also, the poem Arliden recites about the greystones - he doesn’t remember the end, saying “Greystone leads to something-something-ell”. This may be far-fetched, but it occurred to me that “Myr Tariniel” would scan here.

There’s still lots of room for speculation.


The Road to Tinue

TyranAmiros suggested:

I wonder if Tinue was the city that survived (Tinusa—>Tinue). This would explain the idiom “How is the road to Tinue?” rather nicely: it would have been how the survivors of Lanre’s devistation of the seven cities asked if there was danger lying ahead as they fled to the one remaining city.

Tinue’s called the “Free City of Tinue” on the map, which could be more evidence. I’m going to believe this unless it’s contradicted later.

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.

Steven Halter
1. stevenhalter
Good summation of our geography to date. I might add that we have a little (a very little) Fae geography also (WMF ch 101):

I also learned that there aren’t directions of the usual sort in the Fae. Your trifoil compass is useless as a tin codpiece there. North does not exist. And when the sky is endless twilight, you cannot watch the sun rise in the east.
But if you look closely at the sky, one piece of the horizon will be a shade brighter, in the opposite direction a shade darker. If you walk toward the brighter horizon, eventually it will become daytime. The other way leads to darker night. If you keep walking in one direction long enough, you will eventually see a whole “day” pass and end up in the same place you began. That’s the theory, at any rate.
Felurian described those two points of the Fae compass as Day and Night. The other two points she referred to at different times as Dark and Light, Summer and Winter, or Forward and Backward. Once she even referred to them as Grimward and Grinning, but something about the way she said it made me suspect it was a joke.

And, (NotW ch 88):

Bast’s normally affable expression sharpened into a glare. “It was not ‘my kind,’” he said indignantly. “The Mael doesn’t even share a border with us. It’s as far away as anywhere can be in the Fae.”

From these we get that Fae is quite different than the frame world and that there are regions or territories.
Interestingly, Kvothe describes how if you walk in one direction long enough you will end up back where you started. This doesn't seem unusual in that that's what would happen here on Earth (if you could walk across oceans) or on any place that is a sphere.
I wonder if the "4 corners" are on a spherical world or are they pretty much all of the world. There isn't any talk of places outside the 4 corners.
Going along with this, what exactly is a "trifoil compass"? A trefoil or trifoil is basically a symbol with three (rounded usually) defined areas. A compass that points in three directions is fairly different than what we think of as a compass.
North, South, East and West are all used as descriptive terms in the books.
Justin Levitt
2. TyranAmiros
First, thanks for all the citations! I think PR really hides a lot in plain sight.

Second, I'd always just assumed Newarre was in the Commonwealth, but the reasoning for Vintas makes a lot of sense. It also explains why the University and Imre seem more legendary than they might if Newarre was in the Commonwealth.

The "Four Corners" of civilization must be Ceald, Vintas, Modeg, and the Commonwealth, with Atur not being a corner but the center of all. It's a term that probably stems from the height of the Aturan Empire when all of these lands were under Atur to some degree. Places like Ademre and Yll are even sometimes referred as being "off the map". I think the real world analogy would be the Enlightenment view of the world, with their "civilized/uncivilized" distinction between Europe and other parts of the world they knew existed.

Part of what we don't know about the world is how things like trade happen. Chocolate seems to indicate trade with tropical regions, but the climate seems to be temperate everywhere we've been. Are the Four Corners in the northern or southern hemisphere?

Lastly, I was thinking the other day about Ademre, and I had a thought. Lorren tells Kvothe that the Amyr started from a tradition of traveling judges. If we believe Skarpi and Felurian, on the other hand, the Amyr have a more supernatural origin. But what if he's not (completely) wrong? The original Amyr (Selitos, Ordan, Andal, and the like) may not have even been human, but what about those who were? What if the Adem are descendents of the Amyr who went into a voluntary exile outside of civilization rather than face death at the hands of the Church?

There are ties between the two groups, particularly the association with "blood-red". Cloaks replace tattoos, but the hands remain important in adding depth to the language. 2000 year old swords make more sense if they were first wrought by Aleph or Selitos. One thing that had always bothered me--"for the greater good" implies some sort of purpose, a moral philosophy, if you will, that we haven't seen much of in the series. The ketan could be a reflection of this. Fundamentally, the belief that killing and fighting are not simply wrong is more than consistent with "for the greater good", but are demanded by it.

Yes, they appear together in Kvothe's story of the beggar in WMF, but taking that story as archetypal rather than literal, I think it would be an interesting twist--we've talked about Kvothe-in-Ademre as being metaphorically Amyr training. What if it was actual Amyr training?
3. herewiss13
@1) In re: Trefoil compasses: weren't the different needles orienting (or named/associated with) different metals? I don't have the text in front of me, unfortunately. In any case, 1 needle means you get a bearing. 3 needles means you get an exact location. Arcane GPS. Pretty cool.

@2) Given that the oral history of the Adem appears to be both extremely extensive (the name of every single sword bearer, etc.) and extremely accurate (they're the only ones holding onto the names of the Chandrian), I think we'd get more clues if they were secret Amyr. The story of the Lethani's origin seems fairly straightforward (inasmuch as anything is in Rothfuss' world). If anything, I'd say the Adem are a split from the Edema Ruh...those who decided to stop wandering and give up music. Adem/Edem Re/Ruh seems like more of a cognate than a lot of the etymology we've discussed.
Daniel Hoagland
4. danielrixy
Also worth noting geographically is the land beyond the mountains where the healers are from. A few posts back, somebody speculated that this "mythical" healing could play a role in DT.

On a purely speculative note, it seems odd that we would have only one pre-Creation War structure--the road--still standing and no others. It is possible that if the University is built atop the remnants of a CW-era city then parts of it may date from the same time (the Archives, primarily) and that the nature of the University itself is responsible for the relative upkeep of those ruins.

But given the nature of stories and legends in this world, 5-6 destroyed cities, full of who knows what residiual nastiness and spawning refugees who spread to the edges of the map, would probably generate a rumor or two, right?
Katy Maziarz
5. ArtfulMagpie
So, I'm looking at the map, and I'm realizing that there are only 8 cities marked, one of which is Tarbean. If we assume for the moment that Tarbean is only marked because of its significance to Kvothe personally, that leaves 7 cities: Cershaen, the Free City of Tinue, Renere, Atur, Ralien, Hallowfell, and University/Imre. (Incidentally, none of the marked cities are in Yll, Ademre, or the Small Kingdoms. Curious.)

7 cities. Now, why does THAT sound familiar? ;-) Could all of the 7 cities marked on the map be built on or near the sites of the 7 cities betrayed and fallen in the Creation Wars? (With Tinue the only one that didn't actually fall, of course!)
Katy Maziarz
6. ArtfulMagpie
"On a purely speculative note, it seems odd that we would have only one pre-Creation War structure--the road--still standing and no others."

IIRC, the big stone bridge Kvothe mentions several times is reportedly ancient and storied...though we're never told any of those stories. The bridge is likely from the same era as the Great Stone Road. As are, it must be said, the greystones/waystones/laystones. :-)
Daniel Hoagland
7. danielrixy
@6 I always took the Bridge to be part of the Road, at or near its endpoint. Not sure if this was ever corroborated in-text, but it made sense in my head.
Steven Halter
8. stevenhalter
@3:From the text we have:

Brandeur looked down at the papers before I’d even finished speaking. “Your compass reads gold at two hundred twenty points, platinum at one hundred twelve points, and cobalt at thirty-two points. Where are you?”
I was boggled by the question. Orienting by trifoil required detailed maps and painstaking triangulation. It was usually only practiced by sea captains and cartographers, and they used detailed charts to make their calculations. I’d only ever laid eyes on a trifoil compass twice in my life.

So, the trifoil compass does seem to have gold platinum and cobalt indicators. And to give you reading in terms of "points" for each of these.
However, the reading isn't quite a GPS reading or you wouldn't need the painstaking triangulation part. The compass gives you three numbers. If you could just draw three lines on the map corresponding to those numbers to get your position, it wouldn't really be painstaking.
Also, what do the three numbers relate to? Is it latitude, longitude and altitude? Or, are they distances from something? Very interesting.
9. AhoyMatey
My guess is that the trifoil compass doesn't use points on "earth" for each indicator. What if one of the indicators points to the moon? That would probably take some extensive calculations to figure out position.

It'll be interesting to see if Kvothe can use a compass to find Denna :)
10. Stefan Jones
I figured Newarre was in the Small Kingdoms, because a country with lots of political boundaries and less central authority would be safer to hide in.

But the case for it being in Vintas is well made.

Fun post, keep them coming.
Daniel Hoagland
11. danielrixy
Hmm, I do grudgingly admit that a greystone trilithon like the one that D & K use to hide from the draccus is technically a struture (PR called it a "henge" but that's not quite right). Still, in terms of the kind of engineering it takes to assemble a thousand-mile long road and build bridges that can stand for thousands of years, I think it's safe to say that piled stones don't really measure up, sophistication-wise.

To use real-world examples, I'm assuming that the CW-era had at least a Roman-level understanding of technology and architecture. The oldest Roman bridge in the world is only around 2100 years old. Compare that bridge to one built just 1100 years earlier. Stonehenge, by contrast, is closer to 5000 years old.

For our CW-era roadbuilders to have constructed a bridge like the one at the University that has lasted so long without any real signs of wear & tear means that they were capable of some seriously durable construction. So where is it all?
Steven Halter
12. stevenhalter
I am now picturing a Trifoil compass as having 3 needles. Each of the needles would point to something in the world. The needle could be made to point at its goal through a sympathetic binding. So, the needles would give you the direction to three things, these could then be drawn on a map to determine your location. You only really need two needles, but three would give you more accuracy.
You do need very good maps for this to work--much better than the map we have been given.
Don Barkauskas
13. bad_platypus
shalter @8,12:

Another possibility would be if there are (e.g.) multiple "platinum" locations in the world, and the compass gives information about the nearest one. Then you'd have to try multiple possibilities and there could be several places that are "close but not quite," thus requiring the painstaking labor to distinguish among them.

My guess would be that "points" are like degrees of a circle, so they give direction only, but any of your explanations could work as well.
Daniel Hoagland
14. danielrixy
I wonder if the existence of the trifoil compass means that the standard magnetic compass that we use can't exist in this world. Maybe because the planet generates no electomagnetic field? Which could possibly be because it isn't round/doesn't spin?
Steven Halter
15. stevenhalter
danielrixy@14:That's the general conclusion I'm being drawn towards. It would be pretty cool if it is so. When you cople the existence of the trifoil with Kvothe's interjection about Fae being seemingly spherical, it kind of fits.
Of course, they could be using trifoil compasses in the four corners since it lets you find your position more easily than a single magnetic needle compass.
Daniel Hoagland
16. danielrixy
@15 Slightly off-topic, but it just struck me that Kvothe's description of Fae essentially describes a small sphere with one side constantly light and the other constantly dark. Or, in other words, the moon.

Just, you know, with an evil lorax and snuggies made of shadows.
Jo Walton
17. bluejo
If Fae is spherical and tidally locked, and the Four Corners is flat -- no I don't believe they'd have the term "synodic period" if the world were flat. It could just not wrap around because it's too big and has oceans.

Fae certainly is like a broken house.
Justin Levitt
18. TyranAmiros
@11: I think the most likely case is that most of the roads/bridges/structures were destroyed during the CW. The reason why they're so good probably lies in Naming.

The Creation War was between two very powerful factions of Namers who disagreed on whether Naming should be used to create or merely to understand (hence, Creation War). It's not entirely clear which side was "good" (though this is almost certainly relevant to the goals of the Chandrian and Amyr), but we know both sides had abilities with Names unknown in the present of Kvothe's story.

If one of these super-powerful Shapers or Knowers wanted to build a bridge, all they would need to do is call the name of Stone or Glass or Cement or Galvanized Rubber and create the bridge. The bridge would last, most likely, until another Namer destroyed it. I believe many of Kilvin's "Old Magics" probably have their origins in the Namers of the pre-CW era.
19. drbeagles
I haven't seen anyone else make the connection yet, and it's a pun that only works in English, but is it possible that the significance of the name Newarre isn't that it sounds like "nowhere" but, if you say the first two letters, it sounds like "anywhere?"
Clay Blankenship
20. snoweel
@9: He didn't give any more information like the time or the moon position, so from that I would infer that you can locate your position based on those 3 values. I would guess each of those to be a heading to a particular "magnetic" pole. (Fits with Denna's speculation about different types of lodenstones.) I wonder if every metal can be used this way or just those particular ones.
Steven Halter
22. stevenhalter
You can see the moon in Fae, so I don't think Fae=moon. However, the idea that Fae is somehow tidally locked does fit.

The synodic period is basically the period of time in relation to the sun while the sidereal period is in relation to the stars. So, a flat world could come up with those terms. It does seem a tad unlikely, though.

Of course, we haven't had any mentions of "falling of the edge" or any other flat world terms. It could be that:
1) The ocean is big enough that they haven't circumnavigated (although the Greeks knew the world was round without such a need to do it). This is probably most likely.
2) They are living in a hyperbolic world, so you never actually reach the edges. This would be way cool.
3) The world is flat and we just haven't heard about edge cases. This would be fun.
23. Ellynne
Random thoughts inspired by all this -

I was just reading someone's explanation of how ancient cultures often thought of north, south, east, and west in a fundamentally different way than we do. For many of them, if you put them on a line facing north, west would be everything on the left (two halves of the circle), east would be everything on the right, and north and south would be the narrow string dividing them. Also, we tend to think of "north" as "up" and "down" as "south" because of the way we use maps and compasses, but cultures without them might define "up" as in "up the mountain" and "down" as in "down to the valley," or in terms of other references that aren't immediately obvious to us.

danielrixy, I was wondering that about the moon, too. Our moon actually has a one month long day, but no reason Kvothe's should - or should after its been stolen.

Oddities about dates - The moon's synodic period is 72 1/3 days. For some reason, I was remembering it as 78 till I double checked, so this is useless data, but, although Kvothe's world has an 11 day "week," the language discussion showed hints of a 7 day week (those names having what seem to be number roots) while the other names have different ones.

7 is a number associated with the moon, being the approximate time between phases (half, full, half, new). But 7 remains a magically "strong" number what with things like the Chandrian (big item there) and smaller things like the man in Kvothe's troop who always rolled 7's.

So, it occurred to me that the changed week also broke up the "natural" pattern of 7's.

On the other hand, it would be temporarily back in sync every 77 days, which would have been significant with the moon having a 78 day cycle of some sort - the magic wanes/needs to be reinforced every 78 days? The temporary alignment allows something to be undone for a brief period?

Only it's not a 78 day cycle.


This has probably been discussed elsewhere, but about Kvothe as an unreliable narrator -

If he is "hiding" part of his mind in a far more elaborate variation of the techniques he described in the beginning of his training in sympathy, then some of the gaps may be deeper than we realize. What if the "real" Kvothe isn't blind to his power as a namer? But the one telling the story has not just "forgotten" this, he has forgotten the thoughts and memories that go with this?

Then, if he made a choice based on this knowledge, he would either provide a different motive later or leave it out of the story.

So, does the real Kvothe know how he knew answers to questions about the Lethani?

Was the real Kvothe blind to why his mother didn't like the song about Lady Lackless? Did he really never figure out he was talking to his mother's sister?

Which would explain the framing device for the story. It would be hard, otherwise, to tell the story without letting on that the narrator is telling an altered history.
Justin Levitt
24. TyranAmiros
@21: I don't think it's handwaving over continuity errors, but rather more like the Lost Technology trope, akin to the Portal Stones and *angreal of the Wheel of Time universe.
Andrew Mason
25. AnotherAndrew
danielrixy@16: But the moon does not have one side always light and the other always dark (despite the things in popular culture which seem to imply it does, like the phrase 'the dark side of the moon'). It keeps one side always turned towards the earth, but rotates relative to the sun.
Ashley Fox
26. A Fox
Trefoil; well i have some thoughts on this, im not a mathmatician so i hope i explain them clearly. :S

Our world has more than two (north and south) poles. What if the 4c's also has this. Different poles exerting diff influences over fields. (by which i mean something similar to electromagnetic, gravitatioal etc. though not obviously, literaly, those!) Each of the substances gives a reading to where you are in regards to the pole of that field field.

If you imagigine them image of a trifoil, you envisage three circles meeting. The meeting point is where you are. The readings give the mesurement to the nearest pole of its particuar field. This would be the radius of one of the circles. If you only went by one reading you could essentially be anywhere on the perimetre of that reading. By taking three different readings, of differnent poles, you would have an almost exact reading. (Makes you wonder what would be at the centre of a tifoil that had equaly sized circles...doors of stone or somesuch ;) )

Thats how i envisged it, and you would certainly need to do a little math to use those readings.

@bluejo I was of the understanding that the four corners is the broken house (that Iax leaves to the tinker) and the unfolding house was faen (an act of shaping faen, its windows showing different times of day and night), a house which Iax unfolded incorrectly and is , in essence, another faulty (brokenish) house. Exactly that which he wanted to get away from. Silly bugger. (Ahem, Iax not you!)

I had also thought that Newere was in the small kingdoms, I posted my reason why just after the qouted post for Vintas. And have long maintained that the Maer is now king. But before I start rambling I will remind myself there is an article yet to come on that....the general!!
Peter Reen
27. pnr060
Just a comment on the trefoil compass: if each of the foils works the same way a compass in the real world works (except they point to different places, of course) you would still need three to triangulate your exact position in some cases. The issue is that if you're anywhere on the exact line defined by two of the foils' targets, you would only be able to determine that (a) you are between them somewhere, or (b) both of them are in the same direction. You could figure out where you were exactly by moving a bit off the line, but you may have to move a long way depending on where you and the foils' targets are located. Much easier just to create a third target that lets you figure out where you are on the line (assuming the compass system was created and operates via sygaldry instead of using some gold/cobalt/platinum magnetic system made up for this fantasy world).
Daniel Hoagland
29. danielrixy
@25 you're spot on, the moon does rotate.

I didn't mean to imply that Fae was literally the moon, only that the description reminded me of how the moon is sometimes described.

Still, astronomically speaking, if Fae doesn't rotate at all, wouldn't the dark side be a barren wasteland instead of a twilight pleasure garden?
Ashley Fox
30. A Fox
It seems that all such advanced tech comes from the university, so no doubt some sympathy/sygaldry are in use. (Note that for a sympathetic binding there as to be some similarity arlready in place) However, I wouldnt be surprised if said substances had propeties in K's world that they dont in ours.

Ahem, copper...iron...

On Faen. I think we have to stop viewing it as a planet. Its not. Not in myth and not in these books. Its a created magical realm. Perhaps laying paralell to our own. Perhaps an overlap of two realities. Maybe on a different plane of existance. Whichever variation it is one world split into two, inhabiting the same space. Like a mirror reflection, if the mirror were a greystone, and one reflection full of magic and creation, the other more mundane, left with the aftermath of the creation war.

Perhaps Fean is like a photo of its moment of creation, the world would have been dark on one side light on the other. But if Faen was outside of time this would not change. The time that exists in Faen is one purely of perception, and Fae magic plays with perception. This would also explain some of the time discrepancies for those traveling between the two places.

Also it seems that the moons pull isnt simply gravitional, from Felurians description, it also makes the two realitys tidal. Depending on the phrase of the moon, the closness of the realitys change. Perhaps as water surges towards the full of the moon, so does the two realities, surging into the same space, so there is simply more of both realities in the same place, and increased likelyhood of merging.

Another thing I find quite curious in relation to structures from creation war era. The building in the uderthing, is well, under. As if landlevel has risen since it was built. Even if the watermill had been in an underground chamber, with an underground river, the landlevel stil seems to have risen around the uni. As the Road is still abouve ground, this obviously has not happened everywhere. But it could have happened in other lowland areas.
M Linden
31. mlinden
@30.A fox,

As to your point about the different land levels, did the land level rise, or did the city that is now the Underthing sink? Would knowing this give us any clues as to the city/underthing's original identity? Dunno. Maybe?
Ashley Fox
32. A Fox
Good point, but juding by the still relatively sound strusture of the underthing I would say rise. K mentions some parts of it having been filled in, the part he has to clambor over to gain acces to the Archives.

Belen was one of the first cities to fall. Perhaps it was quite literaly buried. Felurian states it was the Shapers who created these wonderous cities, they could just as easily destroyed them. The mill and crack in the centre of the cathedral like room suggest that the river once ran through it, or at least had a canal diverted through it. If the city was then buried the river would have to change its course. The #Bridge seems to be the begiing of the Road, bu what if once, it wasnt? The Road could laso be buried. The subsequent University bult on top on the new land, by those who knew what was there before, using the top layers of the old city. Its safe to assume that the Archives was the first building, judging by its use of air vents which dip into the top of the underthing.

What if Auri was a fae (or shaper, or knower etc) from the time of Belen? what if it is her home, which she has never left? We assume that she came across it at some point and learned its nooks and cranies. But then we have observed the discrepencies with her apparent age and others her age not knowing of her. (Mola, Fela at al). Her light is suspected to be an ever burning lamp, even those who are considered experts, Kilvin, have never actually seen one. What if since the fall of Belen, she has been there, avoiding capture and imprisonment in Faen, and then just staying safe, and maintaining, the place she knows, her home?

Auri; knows the underthing better than anyone, her old name was too heavy for her, she has an ever burning lamp, she Knows, she Names, she is afraid of the moon, her courtly manners/the cinnas fruit, she knows sygaldry (or something similar), her age is indefinable,.
Steven Halter
33. stevenhalter
Some speculations on universal geography:
In the story of Jax (very metaphorical and possibly incomplete and maybe misleading), Jax begins in a broken house at the end of a broken road. A tinker visits him and Jax wins the tinkers possessions and tells the tinker he can fix the broken house if he likes as he leaves.
Jax now wanders in a world and follows a long road that passes through Tinue and into the mountains. He wanders for years, so the road seems to be much longer than the Great Stone Road or his following it is metaphorical.
In the mountains he meets an old hermit who tells him about names and opens the third pack for Jax.
In the third pack is an empty box for holding, a flute for calling and a "folding house".
Jax leaves the hermit and improperly unfolds the folding house. He catches a piece of the name of the moon that forces her to return to the unfolded house.
From this tale we get a few more pieces of geography.
The Broken House that Jax begins in is not the frame world. Jax leaves the first broken house and ventures into what at least seems to be the frame world. I say seems to be as the length of the journey does not seem to match the frame story. So, it is possible that Jax is actually wandering elsewhere as he proceeds.
The unfolded house seems to match Fae. Note that in this story, the folded house, while rare, does not seem to be unique and so there are possibly other unfolded houses--perhaps more properly done. Maybe the roads/entrances to these "houses" are sealed behind doors of stone.
In the Felurian version of the story, she clearly mentions existing towards the beginning of the creation war. As Fae is being finished, the "first and greatest" of the shapers pulls the moon into Fae and this is the act which causes the final rift between the knowers and the shapers. This being is placed behind doors of stone. Felurian also clearly states that there are two worlds. This may contradict the Jax story or Felurian may not know of others or she may be simplifying--hard to tell at this point.
Jo Walton
34. bluejo
A Fox: towns rise. This is a real historical phenomenon -- people live somewhere and dust and rubbish pule up and the street level rises. So you don't necessarily need any explanation beyond people being there and building up and losing their basements.
Ashley Fox
35. A Fox
But that much? The catherdral like room in itself must be 100ftis tall, and that at toward the bottom of the system. And K mentions some ares being flooded which is inkeeping witht the river being diverted.
Lenny Bailes
36. lennyb
This just in from a lit discussion forum where Pat is fielding questions:

Q. When you built your world (The Corners of Civilization), did you first sketch a map and then derive all the different locations where the story will take place or was it the other way around, e.g. you first wrote
the story and then proceeded to putting them on a map?

Pat: I actually started with the map. Partly because I'm a bit of a map geek. And I'm a gamer from way back. I felt like I needed to know the world before I started putting people into it. If I was going to have Kvoth living in a city, I needed to know where that city was, how it worked, and what surrounding landscape was like....

I didn't develop the whole world, of course. It grew as I told the
story. But I made a bunch of it up front. It gave me a place to

- -

I was tempted to post a question asking about whether there's an intentional plan in the way the innkeeper is referred to as Kote, Kvothe or "the Innkeeper" in the frame story, or whether it's just auctorial whim. But bearing in mind Jo's earlier observation about cheating, I decided to refrain. I guess we can thrash that out some more in two weeks.
37. mr_meaney
Don't know if anyone else caught the Q&A Patrick Rothfuss did on, but he answered a couple specific geography-related questions.

Q: Will you tell us where Severen is located on your map?
A: It's north of Renere. South of Tinue.

Q: So the Four Corners of civilization aren't just the one landmass we see in the maps, right? Are there other continents, and will we see them referred to?
A: Nope. The four corners are: Tarbean, Renere, Ralien, and Cershaen.
Ian B
38. Greyfalconway
Thanks @38 and @39 for pointing me towards that westeros Q&A, it was a fun read :)

I was thinking, regarding K's oddness in the frame, to be discussed in another of these sum-up posts. I was rereading the part where the posessed guy attacks at the end of NotW, specifically the part where K flings the alcohol at the guy and tries to light it with sympathy

Reaching out one hand, Kvothe dipped a finger into the liquor that spattered the bar. He muttered something under his breath, his forehead furrowed in concentration. He stared intently at the bloody man standing on the other side of the bar.

Nothing happened.

The mercenary reached across the bar, catching hold of Kvothe's sleeve. The inkeeper simply stood, and in that moment his expression held no fear, anger or surprise. He only seemed weary, numb, and dismayed. (Name of the Wind CH. 88, Interlude - Looking)

After reading the parts in WMF about having to use his alar to protect himself from Ambrose's attacks, it came to me that that could be what is happening now, in the frame. If Kvothe killed a king, and theres a bounty on his head, it would be incredible if he didn't have a bunch of arcanists attacking him round the clock, and that could be why he can't perform sympathy, his alar is stretched too far.

The part that got me was him furrowing his brow in concentration; the Kvothe we know can break his mind into separate parts as easy as breathing, except for when he is really pushing it, like in his small tiff with Devi in WMF.

The thing I haven't worked out for this theory is the fact that he has to go to bed and doesn't have Wil and Sim to protect him through the night, and why he doesn't just make a gram now, which are pretty big holes in this theory, but it still seems worth speculating about.

I can also see the weary, numb and dismayed part fitting with this theory, since he seems resigned into his Kote role, and not having the use of sympathy because of his alar being stretched so far would remind him of the constant attacks he needs to watch out for, and why he's in this situation in the first place.
39. Doug Orleans
Rothfuss says he "started with the map", but that doesn't mean he started with the map that ended up in the book!

Also, what is the significance of the three yellow bullseyes, at Tarbean, south of the Great Stone Road, and the tinker's pack?
Steven Halter
40. stevenhalter
Doug@39:If you click on the yellow circles you get some extra info.
Alice Arneson
41. Wetlandernw
Not sure if anyone is checking back on the summary discussions, but I'll toss this in for what it's worth.

TyranAmiros @2 - Have the Adem really only been around for less than 300 years? I had the impression that they'd been in Ademre a bit longer than that, but if they were Amyr trying to avoid being killed by the church, it would have to be significantly less than that.

A Fox @35 etc. - Easily that much. To give a real-life, extremely short term example: Seattle is little more than 150 years old, but there is already a section of "underground Seattle" which can be accessed by stair but is unused (and unusable) except for a tourist scam. In this case it was somewhat deliberate: they were tired of having everything washed out by flooding and having their plumbing back up at high tide. When a big chunk of the city burned down, they took advantage of the occasion and deliberately rebuilt with the street level one to two stories higher than the originals. This left the sidewalks & the remaining building entrances at the lower level. Eventually, building owners simply abandoned the original street entrances, built sidewalks at the new street level, cut new entrances (or built new buildings on top of the old ones) and left the lower level to molder. That happened in the space of less than 50 years, but they're doing tours of "underground Seattle" 120 years after the rebuild, going down into the lower levels of the brick and stone buildings and along the now-covered-over sidewalks. How much could happen in 3000 years, especially when the original buildings were very solidly built but no longer useful for their original intent?

mr_meaney @37 - Thanks for that info; the map and what it shows makes more sense now. It give us the four corners:
Tarbean, in the Commonwealth
Renere, in Vintas
Ralien, in Ceald
Cershaen, in Modeg

It also shows five (six?) other cities:
Hallowfell, in the Commonwealth
Imre, in the Commonwealth
Anilin, on the border of the Commonwealth and Ceald
Atur, in the Aturan Empire
Tinue, the free city in the middle of Vintas
(Jinpui, if it's the city rather than the island)

Each city has been significant to the story in some way, but it definitely gives the big picture rather than the details of Kvothe's travels.
42. Seiche
A small comment on the map. Pat stated at a signing that the map was left without too much detail on purpose. He wanted it to reflect the idea that people simply wouldn't know enough of the wider geography to create a detailed map of an area so large.

He may have storytelling reasons as well, but the lack of detail was at least in part a choice by Pat to make the map more realistic for the times in which it would have been produced.

I feel strongly that his thinking on this is flawed. The level of tech we see in the world, and the idea that people like Chronicler are around collecting stories, both suggest that mapping geography would be both possible and valuable to those societies. In our human history, maps have served as powerful tools of state to bolster claims of ownership or demonstrate wrongdoing by others. The politics of this world seem advanced enough to benefit from these types of shenanigans. Add to that the value of the paper the map is printed on, and the idea of a mostly blank map strikes me as silly.

The accuracy of any map would be up for debate, but if one were made, there would be a lot more detail put in. Any uncertainties would be guessed at, in a way that benefitted whomever commissioned the map.
43. robocarp
I'm going to throw out a ridiculous theory about the locations of the eight cities from the Creation War; a theory which does, however, explain one claim that I could never reconcile.

Skarpi claimed that more people died in the Battle of Drossen Tor than were alive in the whole world in Kvothe's time. But the world seems to be pretty well populated in Kvothe's time. Skarpi also claimed that outside the eight cities the land was barren and sparse. Even if we concede that a large number of those killed were the enemy, it seems like that's an awful lot of people to fit into eight cities.

There is a possible simple explanation for this: the "cities" are actually planets, and the Creation War was actually an interplanetary war. The "city" that survived the Creation War was the Earth: the planet Kvothe walks on the contains the Four Corners. When I say interplanetary, I don't mean that the war was fought with spaceships; travel between planets could have been done with portals like the Greystones.

We don't have to go to that extreme, of course. Perhaps the "cities" are merely continents, and the surviving "city" is the Four Corners. Or, maybe the "cities" are more like branches of the World Tree like you see in Norse Mythology. Point is, the "cities" might be not literally be cities.

Ridiculous theory, yes, but it doesn't hurt to think outside the box once in awhile.

Nice blog.
Steven Halter
44. stevenhalter
robocarp@43:I think that something along those lines is possible. The cities/planets could be other worlds along the lines of 4C/Fae. The Jax story seems to imply the existence of such.
45. knnn
I realize that few, if any are going to back and read old posts, but here's my two cents:

You'll notice that the great stone road is actually consistent curved. There really isn't a reason to create a curved road, so my assumption is that the road is actually a straight line, and that any apparent curvature of the road is due to map-projection issues.

This doesn't give us much, except that:
1) The world is spherical
2) We're in the Northern hemisphere (assuming north is up)

I don't think we can actually figure out the longitude of the road without knowing the circumfrance of the world, but maybe somebody has an extra clue we can use?
Steven Halter
46. stevenhalter
knnn@45:That's a very interesting catch. I've looked at that map lots of times and never thought about why the road looks curved--nice.
Since we don't know what kind of map projection was used (if any other than just draw it) to make the map or what the scale of the map is (Tarbean is about 40 miles from the University but that's kind of crude) I don't think we can get much data from this.
The world isn't neccesarily spherical, the curve just implies it isn't flat.
47. Simurgh
I can't find the link to the thread about this, but Pat does say "Severen is north of Renere, south of Tinue." So ... yeah :)
48. Begna
So I'm just beginning my in depth re-read of WMF and read this in the prologue on page 8 (hardcover):

Graham stopped. "Lord and lady, I souf like my old da."

This got me wondering about cursing throughout the books. Using my iPhone copy of the books I searched for "lord and lady." what do you know there are only a couple of people that use that particular swear-phrase: Kvothe, Elodin, Elxa Dal, the Maer, Bredon and all the men of Newarre.

I haven't had a chance to look up other curses but it seems to me that those brought up in the Commonwealth swear to Tehlu, those in Vintas swear to the "lord and lady" and those from Ceald swear in Siaru. This is pretty convincing, for me, that Newarre is somewhere in Vintas along with all the arguments above. it also suggests that Elodin and Elxa Dal are Vintish and that Denna is not (I need to find some exact examples of her cursing but I think hers are always general like "Goddamn" and sailor's curses).

I'm going to keep an eye out for other clues like this one but regional phrasing seems to be something PR would do on purpose.
Jo Walton
49. bluejo
Actually, does Denna swear at all? There's that "kist" in the letter, but beyond that?
50. Begna
bluejo@49 I seem to recall some scenes where Kvothe mentions that she swears something he'd never heard before but I could be completely wrong about that. However, I know for a fact that she calls the Draccus a "huge Goddamn dragon" twice. And later "moo's" if that counts. I'm paying close attention to the swearing now and anything else that I think might be regional.

I did notice that Bast has his own swear word "Anpauen" but that makes sense, given his Fae origins. And Deoch introduces a new one: "stream, stone and sky." Kvothe, in Modegan I believe from WMF: "Skethe te retaa van" which may or may not mean something along the lines of "lock up your sons and daughters."

You mention Kist in Denna's letter. Interestingly, Kilvin uses that word as well as the word Kote, which we know to mean "disaster" in Siaru. Kilvin: "Kist, crayle, en kote,....Kraemet brevetan Aerin!" which roughly translates to "Something, something, Disaster... Shit in God's beard!" according to the book. (also introduction to a new god figure or just a generic Cealdish word for god? Aerin has only the slightest resemblance to "Andan" from the Amyr story and none to any Chandrian - Amyr version- names.)

Could Denna be Cealdish? Maybe but she also mentions in that letter her "Cussing has been greatly broadened" by her time spent with the sailors. So it may be nothing more than proving a point or for humor, considering she claims drunkenness.

Denna's lack of swearing is probably intentional for the sole purpose of not being able to place her origins.

Something I noticed in my "swear search" that is completely unrelated. In chapter 83 of WMF, Taborlin fights a sorcerer-king named Scyphus. This is the name of one of the Chandrian (Cyphus). And Kvothe mentions that "One painfully allegorical story named the Chandrian after seven well-known emperors from the days of the Aturan Empire." While that obviously isn't the case, we do know from the Ademre story that the Chandrian are the traitor leaders of the seven great cities. So if Taborlin the Great is fighting Cyphus, one of the Chandrian, does that make him an Amyr? Perhaps Tehlu himself or Selitos?

Rambling again, just good to have a place to speculate with feedback.
51. Begna
bluejo@49 well I have found one definite instance of her cursing: WMF hardback page 484 (chapter 72) Denna is helping the young would-be "courtesan"

"The Tenpenny King?" Denna interrupted incredulously. Her tone more venomous that anything I'd ever heard from her before. "Kist and crayle, I hate that Goddamn play. Modegan faerie-story trash. The world doesn't work like that."

If Denna is using Kist and Crayle as curses on a regular basis, there are two explanations. 1) she learned and picked up the habit it from the sailors mentioned in her letter to Kvothe. 2) she is Cealdish. If she is Cealdish, could the strangely passionate threats of the Cealdish merchant who gave K and D a ride to Imre (and D to Anilin) be more important than it originally seemed?
52. JMack
In case this hasn't been mentioned yet, at the beginning of WMF, Aaron pays K for his vittles with a silver bit. Just one more datum for Newarre being in Vintas.

GBrell is definitely right, in Newarre they refer to Cealdish and Vintish coins, and the king specifically pays in Vintish coin.
53. Joberama
Regarding the location of the Pirate Isles (Ambrose's ancestral seat):

There's something else curious about the map - it doesn't show the entirety of the various nations. For instance, there's a small bit of Vintish land just peeking in on the south-west edge, just south of Yll. The Aturan Empire has little isolated bits of territory north of Ceald, and southwest of the Commonwealth, and south of the Centhe Sea. The Small Kingdoms have a sliver of territory visible south of Vintas, as well as between Vintas and Modeg.

This map is playing games with us. Or perhaps it's hiding things from us, or maybe it's an accurate map of a world that's been fundamentally broken, as K has been broken in the framing story.
Gerd K
54. Kah-thurak
Take the time and look at some real maps, historic or contemporary, and you will see that countries holding territory not connected to their "main land" is nothing unusual at all.
Tabby Alleman
55. Tabbyfl55
Hey-ho... I just started this re-read and was holding my comments until I got caught up, but now that I'm on subject-specific threads, I thought I was going to post something absolutely brilliant until somebody ruined it by posting the actual 4 corners according to PR. How very disappointing to hear that they are actual places. But it's his world and the rest of us are just reading about it, so I guess I have to accept it. I liked my theory much better.

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