Sep 22 2011 2:24pm

Rothfuss Reread: The Wise Man’s Fear, Part 4: Well Over The Hill

Welcome to my excessively detailed re-read of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. This week’s post covers chapters 17-21 of The Wise Man’s Fear but also contains extensive spoilers for the whole book and the whole of The Name of the Wind — 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”. D3 = 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.


Chapter 17 is “Interlude: Parts”

As in playing parts. But also as in doing one’s part.

For once we’re not jerked into an interlude — Kvothe sees Cob coming and stops, giving Chronicler and Bast parts to play, of bored scribe and lazy assistant. Bast eagerly wants to be given a part, and Kvothe even gives him a joke to tell. Kvothe’s playing director, he even says “Enter Old Cob. Stage left.” This isn’t the almost shocking jerk of transformation back to innkeeper we’ve seen before. This is very smooth and it’s Kvothe playing. Cob comes in and says he’s meeting Graham, Kvothe offers him cider, then Graham, Jake, Carter and Aaron come in. They’ve come to have a drink to send of Shep, because Carter and Aaron are going to miss the funeral. They exchange memories of Shep. Cob says:

These ent good days to be a brave man. But he was brave all the same. I wish I’d been brave and dead instead and him home right now kissing his young wife.

Then K gives them all whisky, and they ask what the toast should be. Aaron suggests “To the king” which Kvothe vetoes. And his toast is:

To old friends who deserved better than they got.

And I wonder if he did kill Sim, you know? It’s a good toast, it covers Shep and it could cover a lot else. How many old friends might K be thinking of?

After they leave, Bast says he liked Shep and Cob knows what he’s doing, and K says it was Bast who stopped the thing, and Bast says K would have done it if he hadn’t.

“You would have stopped it. That’s what you do.”

And K shrugs and Bast looks angry. And Chronicler says Shep was brave, and K repeats what Cob said, that he too wishes he’d been braver and Shep was home kissing his young wife. As if Shep is another dead person on K’s account — which he might be. If K could have stopped it, as Bast thinks? Or if it was looking for him? So this is K feeling as if he didn’t do his part.


Chapter 18 is “Wine and Blood”

The wine “D” brings, and the blood they supposedly play cards for? The wine K boils and why you don’t want a Sympathist to have a drop of your blood?

And we’re straight back into the story with no messing about picking up pens or anything. We didn’t get jerked out of it for once, we got jerked back in.

Wil and Sim drag Kvothe out of the library and to the Eolian, where he manages to enjoy himself despite knowing “D” is with Ambrose. And Wil and Sim bicker about whether the high king of Modeg is a king or a figurehead, which is really cool. For one thing, it implies a constitutional monarchy — well, we have a Commonwealth too, so not that surprising. But also, we’ve heard very little about Modeg before, and so it’s nifty to hear it being mentioned in a squabble. And third and best of all, if he’s even arguably a figurehead then I think that means we can cross him off our potential list of “Kings to be Killed and Break the World.” Yay, it wasn’t the high king of Modeg, not that we ever thought it was.

And “D” shows up with a Cealdish man and gets them to pretend they were waiting for her and she was late. Sim says only wines from Vintas have a vintage, which is a gorgeous piece of wordplay. “D” plays Corners, pretending she hasn’t played before. Kvothe says they play for blood, but actually they’re playing for money. She fleeces them. Then she says she’s been looking for them and asks them how magic works. She offers them the secrets of what women want in exchange, and then when they’re reluctant adds an offer of alcohol.

Incidentally, it must be a really slow night in the Eolian, because he doesn’t mention anybody playing.

They explain Sympathy as moving power around — the drab lifting the other drab and so on. “Energy moneychangers.” They explain alar as strength of will. Kvothe explains links by making his wine boil. Wil says that’s why you don’t want them to have your blood, and Sim swears “Black hands!” They say they don’t do it. “Not for a hundred years.” Yeah, right. Then they duel over some floating coins and Kvothe wins. “D” seems disappointed that it’s just energy moneylending. Nobody asks her why she wants to know enough to buy them good wine. I mean this isn’t just idle curiosity. Kvothe says that Sim does alchemy, and she asks if there’s a kind of magic that’s just writing things down. Kvothe mentions sygaldry.

“D” asks about:

“a kind of magic where you sort of... wrote things down. And whatever you wrote became true.” She looked down nervously while her fingers traced patterns on the tabletop. “Then if someone saw the writing, even if they coukldn’t read it, it would be true for them. They’d think a certain thing or act a certain way, depending on what the writing said.”

Now this is absolutely unlike anything they know about, or any of the ways we have heard about magic in this world. It’s clearly not related to Sympathy, and it’s clearly not Naming. Is it Shaping? Could be. And there’s later evidence it relates to Yllish knots. And beyond that, what “patterns” is she tracing on the table? “Love me and don’t ask me questions?” Because after they say it doesn’t seem real, Kvothe does ask her and she says “It was just something I heard.” Right.

The woman’s secret she gives is that there are two women at another table interested in Wil and Sim. They say they’re with a Mondegan, she says he’s interested in Kvothe, and offers to send Deoch to distract him. Deoch’s special relationship with Stanchion is discussed. Wil says he’s a “basha” and asks what the word is in Aturan, for someone who has sex with men and women. “D” makes fun of their earlier explanation by saying it’s all just energy. And she leaves with Kvothe.


Chapter 19 is “Gentlemen and Thieves”

Kvothe asks “D” if she went looking for him at the Fishery — but of course she isn’t. This is just keeping our niggle at that in our minds. It’s a technique, where you open a question and have to keep reminding the reader it’s open.

She talks about breaking up graciously with Kellin and keeping his gifts, and about hoping to hear from her patron. This would imply that it wasn’t from her patron that she heard about the writing things down magic? Kvothe offers to get Threpe to look for a patron for her, and she says she doesn’t deserve better, and makes “an odd fidgeting gesture with her hands.” More Yllish magic? Kvothe instantly changes the subject. Or trying to draw attention to her missing ring?

Kellin objected to Geoffrey. Kvothe asks how he is. She says he fell for the “weeping widow” trick, and explains it. Rushthatspeaks, in comments to an earlier post, points out that in this chapter “D” explains how this works and then does it to Kvothe with her ring, which he spends a lot of effort getting back. She shows him what the marks on a pawnbrokers mean. Geoffrey got completely taken in. She says it’s like a morality play.

She’s cold and he puts his (Fela’s) cloak on her and then reaches into the pocket for wire, startling her. The wire is to fix his lutecase, which is falling apart. She does the gesture again and he realises her ring is missing. She says Ambrose was going to fix it, she says she only went out with him a couple of times, she says the ring was important, and Kvothe says he’ll get it back. She doesn’t even have to say she’s a widow or that it was her grandmother’s. She does seems surprised he remembers it.


Chapter 20 is “The Fickle Wind”

Wind again.

The next day, Kvothe goes to the Golden Pony where Ambrose lives with the intention of breaking in and stealing D’s ring, even though he’d be expelled if caught. He’d got Ambrose away with a flirty note (written by Wil) and Wil and Sim are lookouts. He breaks in, with some difficulty and the help of a gust of wind at the right moment that stops him falling out of the window. And then the wind slams it shut. He searches the room for a while, not finding the ring but playing childish jokes like weakening the seams of Ambrose’s pants so they’d split when he sat down. Then Wil warns him that Ambrose is back, and he realises he’s trapped by sygaldry on the window. He manages to break it before Ambrose comes in, but the wind blows at the wrong moment and he falls out.

He goes home to Ankers via the roof. Wil and Sim come round. Sim patches up his arm under Kvothe’s direction — he can’t go to Medica. They make up an alibi.

Wil says let sleeping dogs lie. Sim says Ambrose is a rabid dog. Wil says he’s like a bear Kvothe keeps poking. He says that Kvothe is “well over the hill” about “D.”


Chapter 21 is “Piecework”

Now this is just like Rothfuss and very unlike standard fantasy — there’s an event, which has been set up, and the consquences are much more complex and interesting than you’d expect. So Kvothe broke into Ambrose’s room and didn’t get the ring, no big deal, he got away, but then it starts complicating.

At the Fishery he sees Basil, an E’lir he likes, who is working handing out supplies because he added water to acid instead of the other way around. There’s a note for Kvothe to see Kilvin. Basil has seen the girl with the charm.

The light looks different in the Fishery because it’s early, and Kvothe thinks there’s a new lamp. This amuses me. Kilvin is blowing glass, and makes Kvothe help. When it breaks he swears in Cealdish “Kist, crayle, en kote. Kraemet brevetan Aerin.” Kvothe thinks the last bit means “shit in God’s beard.” We know “kote” means disaster.

Kilvin tells him to make something original and quit the piecework. Kvothe agrees, but then faints from the heat. He wakes up in Medica with Mola looking after him. She diagnoses “an acute case of jumping out of a window.” She doesn’t like Ambrose either — has he been horrible to all the women? Seems likely. Sim and Wil come in. She says they’re “thick as thieves” in all implications — meaning also stupid. She doesn’t put the window in her report. And Wil talks about the way Kvothe’s eyes change colour and how it’s not worth arguing with him when they’re dark green.

And we’ll stop there and start from 22 and the real consequences next week.


In last week’s comments

Interesting facts: It is revealed that spotted hyenas really give birth through a vestigial penis. Ewww! Jnai further reveals that the neurocognitive fact mentioned by Fela is real. Goodben explains that ferrous and Cupric are both the same oxidation state, and could this be relevant? It turns out that the fact about infinities is wrong — and this isn’t Rothfuss’s first math mistake.

Artful Magpie reveals that he was taught Zen by Elodin! Many people continue to think artificing should be more widespread. And best of all, Stargazer considers the poetry of real life power generation:

Somewhere, right now, a turbine is spinning in superheated steam above a great flame, gnawing ceaselessly day and night as a vast swarm of servants scurry about the globe to feed its insatiable appetite so that you may read these words from afar or speak to distant loved ones. Nations pour out gold and blood onto desert sands and throw away lives down deepest caves, burn down whole forests and flood river valleys that once were home to millions, all in the name of feeding those flames. Adepts labor cleverly to reduce inefficiencies as much as possible through ever more intricate patterns scrawled in copper and silicon, inventions from the University doubling your gas mileage and letting your cell phone hold its charge a little bit longer. And the most foresighted of those adepts dream of harnessing the greatest fire of all, ever circling overhead, by stealing right from the sky its power, or harnessing it through its stepchild, the ever-restless softly blowing Wind.

Terrific comments everyone!

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.

1. herewiss13
Speaking of clever narrative tricks, the mini-class on Sympathy was an excellently crafted refresher course (all the more important given what Kvothe becomes inflicted with later on).
Sim Tambem
2. Daedos
Not much to comment on today. Good post, though. I think the most interesting thing we have here is Denna's obsession with magic (or, rather, manipulation through the power of words/knots). We assume this is what she's using later, when Kvothe notices the word "lovely" in her hair. I think we also see her braiding something like 'Go away' or 'Leave me alone'. Still, we really don't know if it works. If it does, she may use it against Kvothe in Book 3, and he could see it as a form of betrayal.
Rob Munnelly
3. RobMRobM
I'm more than curious whether D is pursuing info on sympathy at the behest of her patron, and if so what the end goal wuold be. Fascinating and troubling piece of the D/patron mystery - is she being primed as a tool to use against K in a beautiful game?
4. Dominiquex
Forgive me if I'm a little slow, but I'm trying to piece together the benefit Denna would gain from her (implied) Window's Ring con on Kvothe. First of all, let me say that her pulling the con and then being surprised when Kvothe actually remembered her ring is completely in line with my growing conviction that she is there to spy on Kvothe. All of her inconsistencies make perfect sense if she really does like/luv him, but is constantly torn by her "job to watch him" (paraphrasing a comment she made under the influence of denner resin in NotW) - here she is, all slick and helpless in the face of the Big Bad Man (Ambrose), playing up her missing ring, and Kvothe has to go and do something all thoughtful and atypical (for the guys she's used to). What's a poor girl to do? I'm curious, does she disappear for a while after this? (Ooh, the guilt!)

Anyways, so yeah, what does she gain? What we know: She had a ring. It does seem to be important to her (all the way back to the caravan from Tarbean - possibly the only time we see her as she really is/was). She was seen publicly in Ambrose's company by Kvothe. Now the ring's gone. She says Ambrose took it. The slip for it's repair does end up being in Ambrose's wallet. And the ring does end up being in a jewelry shop (the same one where she pawned her emerald necklace from Kellin).

But obviously this con wouldn't be about money, because a) that's what the other men in her life are for, b) repairing a loose fitting on a ring is no where near the expense of buying one, and c) she came into a lot of money soon after this by pawning her emerald set - enough to buy what was apparently the world's most expensive lute case of all time. Now it's possible that there was no con and the hurdle really was that Ambrose made the order at the shop and the jeweler doesn't know Denna in connection to the ring and therefore only Ambrose/someone with his work slip for the job could retrieve it. On the other hand, I feel like Kvothe's mutual enmity for Ambrose is well known, or at least not hard to find out. I mean, Ambrose was pretty blatant about getting Kvothe banned from every inn in Imre, and Kvothe didn't keep his Jackass song private. So if Denna did want (or was ordered) to con Kvothe, making herself the victim of the Kvothe's 2nd Most Hated Person (after Haliax) would be a way to ensure results.

But still, what did she (or anyone) gain? Aftermath of Kvothe falling for her con: He does some breaking and entering, further escalating his war with Ambrose. He becomes the victim of malfeasance, presumably from Ambrose, but also leading to his fallout with Devi. He teaches himself to make a gram. He breaks and enters again (successfully). Soon after, his previous malfeasance charges are brought up again in Imre courts (implied string-pulling by Amrbose). He has to leave the University for a bit. Enter the Maer/bandit hunting/Felurian/the Adem. After all of which, he returns her ring to her. She is not overcome with joy.

The main thing I see from this is that Denna is clearly an agent of one P. Rothfuss. Without her and this con, there would be no WMF plot.

But aside from that, what is to be gained? She doesn't seem to really get anything from it (substantiated by her reaction on it's return). The Kvothe-filter is so danged thick here I can't make much else out. Does someone want Kvothe to feud with Ambrose? Count on his temper to cut off his supporters/friends? Want him to leave the U? Or does someone want to just keep tempering him like a blade (of Ramson steel)?

The only thing I'm convinced of at this point is that Denna is an agent of someone. I give up. Rothfuss is too good - he shows you enough to let you know you're being tricked, but not enough to figure it out and spoil the surprise. A beautiful game indeed.
Can I say again how much I love these books? I can't wait, can't wait, can't wait, til the next one is laid to print. What a dream Mr. Rothfuss has. It's so rare to have such a strong variation of storytelling. Its not sword and sorcery or knight and damsel or even wizard and poor understated hero. This is like the Silmarillian told by a person who was there during every moment of it and telling you the story while he's still there. While your there too but none of the "present" characters quite get that (except Bast... maybe) although it starting to dawn on them.

Honestly, in all its glory, this man tells his story saving his own woes for their proper time, as if he had been imagining this telling the whole time; his whole life. He's his own Speaker of the Dead, yet he's not dead. But he tells his story as if he was. And then randomnly we tumble out of the dream into reality, which in fact is another dream.

Two stories are being told here: the story of a man, now, living and being whomever he is with his friends in his home, operating his business, with a very obvious thorn in his side. The other is this same man's past from the relevent beginning, walking us through the moments of his past that will eventually bring him to the place of the telling of his life.

Very rare to be able to get this right the way Rothfuss has. I've seen this attempted before and they always seem to fail at it somehow. This is so farrrr beyond those.... very rare.
Steven Halter
6. stevenhalter
Denna's quest for magical writing info is obviously important and certainly related to her Yllish braiding. I'm not sure what else to make of it at this point.
In chapter 19 D makes the comment:

“Apparently I was supposed to sit quiet and alone in my little box until he came to call on me.”

The phrasing there was very interesting. In addition to the obvious box-room-trap metaphor, as we will eventually find out, Iax (supposedly) places at least part of the name of the moon in a little box all alone. So there seems a parallel there as well.
7. Jeff R.
The only goal I can see is the escalation of the feud with Ambrose, in particular shifting Ambrose's aims from humiliation to murder (first of the unknown thief and later directly to K when he realizes that's what's up.)

Also, my own take on the discussion of written-words magic was that it was something that someone (mostly likely her patron) was doing to her. We don't have anything more than her own word that she knotted her own hair, right? (Although she may have had knots before she met him, I can't quite recall. At any rate, it could be both her hair-knots and some kind of mind-warping contract or binding he has her under under the same general magical principle.)
8. boomies
"The wind blows at the wrong moment"? Actually, it was the right moment. Without it, Ambrose would have seen Kvothe. And it's not the only time that a stray gust of wind saves Kvothe in WMF.
9. Lurking Canadian
I am sitting here kicking myself repeatedly in the backside for not noticing that Denna sends Kvothe on the quest for her ring literally during the same conversation when she tells him about the ring con, and it never occurred to me to wonder if she was conning him.

Verily, I am as dumb as Kvothe at times.

In my defense, here's how I figured it. Let us assume the ring really is important to her, and Ambrose really stole it. (As others have pointed out, this con is different. The ring in the con, as Denna describes it, presumably doesn't actually belong to the conwaif, and Denna's not doing it for money.) But if she's not conning Kvothe, why tell us the story? One reason might be so we know she's been around the block, crime-world-wise, so we'll be a little less surprised when we later find out she's the goddamned Batman.
I remember reading about patterns that can be made to influence the way the emotions of the mind or go so far as to have influence on the way the mind thinks absolutely. I know they were created in India and have read that some of them are perported to be extremely dangerous. These dangerous patterns once looked at causes what I believe they explained to be a kind of mind trap. Once the mind was trapped, there is usually no undoing it and ultimately it caused the trapped mind to perish; leaving the body empty and in a vegetative state. Some believe the mind is still there, but its been reprogrammed to not be able to find its way out of the trap.

I think this is what Denna is sorta doing with the knots and such with the writing patterns on the table. I don't think she knows the dangerous ones yet but she's thinking about them. I forget the word...... Compulsion. Thats it. Patterns that compel you to do that which what you otherwise would not have.

I don't know for sure. But it sounds like that this is were its going as far as the knots and patterns are concerned.
11. TheFrog
Lurking Canadian is my hero!
Sim Tambem
12. Daedos
@4 - I don't think the ring thing was a con. Was it ironic? Yes. Did it move the plot forward? Yes. Did Denna get anything out of it (other than proof that Kvothe cares for her)? No. This is supported by the fact that she is described as being surprised to find out that he remembered her ring at all. It's just an interesting parallel.

Second, When Denna says it's her "job to watch him", I think it's a red herring. It's a metaphor, not literal.

@5 - Nice Ender ref.

@6 - Also a kind of foreshadowing for how Kvothe feels when he is the Maer's "guest".

@7 - She braids her own hair. All the time. Kvothe even sees her braiding words into her hair. I don't think her patron has much to do with it. The two might be connected, but (if Denna is to be believed) her patron doesn't even know about Kvothe. He is her secret.

@9 I disagree. She's not Batman. She's Robin (or Nightwing, if you'd like). Bredon is Batman.
Phillip Morton
13. TrixX
The mention of the wind helping him is quite clever. Kvothe is unconciously calling the wind a lot in WMF and it certainly starts to be mentioned that way more and more. With the best part to come later with actual concious calling. Very cleverly built up too.

The braids in D's hair is also very interesting. I am of the opinion that the magic D mentioned was indeed referring to Shaping rather than Knowing. However how she uses the braids in her hair is also intriguing and in some cases downright arrogant ('lovely' in your own hair?). The way she reacts later when receiving the ring could be partly underwhelming due the the rift opened by Kvothe's reaction to her first composition, but could be due to him being one of the guy's who actually brought it back too. Her role in this is still bugging me as she's clearly torn between Kvothe and her Patron, suggesting the guiding force behind her 'work' watching Kvothe is her Patron. We also know she holds strong feelings for him and she get's terribly hurt by Kvothe later (uncommon for D and men...).

Bah I'm starting to ramble!
14. jmd
Quick note - the gust of wind both times - possible sleeping mind calling wind when he needs it and then not being able to control it ? An equal and opposite reaction - wind coming and going?
Hello There
15. praxisproces
So what if Denna is being manipulated by her patron (obviously Bredon, by the way, come on people) via some kind of written magic, and she's trying to figure out how to get out of it? And so she knows there's a magic like this and that's why she's pursuing it so aggressively. Although as always yes, the discussion serves as a great reminder for all of us on how sympathy works.

But let's spend some more time on the interlude. We know there are seven nations or nation-ish things in the world: Ceald, the Commonwealth, Yll, the Aturan Empire, Modeg, the Small Kingdoms, and Vintas. Of those, as far as we know, only the Commonwealth isn't some kind of monarchy; admittedly we don't have data for Yll or Ceald.

Sovoy is high Modegan nobility, but now we can be pretty sure the high king of Modeg isn't the dead king. Sim is Aturan nobility, but we know nothing about Atur in the modern day, and certainly nothing about its royal family. Ambrose is Vintas nobility; we know he's close to the throne, and we know a great deal (though less than I'd like) about its politics and nobility. I just can't imagine Sim is the dead king here; it seems all out of proportion to how the story has been developing.

But Kvothe's reaction to the toast and his proposed alternative tell us a lot! He's reluctant to toast the Penitent King, and thinking of the king makes him think of an old friend who got a bad deal. So he knows and dislikes the king, but his predecessor was an old friend? I think that the Kingkilled King and the Pentient King are roles that the Maer and Ambrose will fill in one combination or another.

Of those two, which is more likely to call himself "penitent"? The Maer would never think of it; he is too confident in his superiority. Ambrose, though, is manipulative, a liar, and eager to assume popular poses. I can easily see him as king assuming a public mien of penance after whatever this cataclysm was.

I can also see Kvothe killing the Maer, who is after all something of a friend despite his horrible wife. It's also easier to imagine how the Maer's death could be tied up with whatever disaster Kvothe provoked, which so far we at least think had something to do with Fae, the Lackless door, and the moon; Meluan has that box, after all.

Perhaps, as someone suggested a few weeks back, Kvothe didn't kill anyone on purpose at all. Perhaps it was all about opening the box and the Maer, now king of Vint, was killed in doing so, and Denna was as well, and Ambrose, now king of Vint, went to war with the Commonwealth or the University for revenge, and the "demons" flooded out across the land, and Kvothe was so grief-stricken at these private and public catastrophes he fled into Vint where no one could find him and started waiting to die.

Holy hypothetical, Batman!
Ashley Fox
16. A Fox
Bredan is the King of Artur, he is also Master Ash.

Yeah I said it. OK I also made that sound more certain than I am, just becuase. But I did have this suspicion upon first reading. I need to reread it to pull together all the little threads that lead to ths; but essentially it boils down to his attitude/lack of fear.

Everyone in the Maer's court plays the ring game, the courts hierarchy is described in detail, how the lesser court members gossip etc etc. Only the Maer does not play these games as he is above this;to a certain extent. Even the Maer sends rings, and plays subtle power plays, desires to keep up appearances in front of his court. The only person who completely disregards these games/rules is Bredon, impling that his station is above even the Maers.

Feel free to shoot this down! But it does have some interesting conotations with betrayel, and king killer.

Also D's handmovements; they are described in a very similar manner to Adem handtalk, before K learned it. I cant quite remember if any were mentioned in their interactions after Ademre.

Another also; In Ademre (oh bugger I cant remember her name!) the keeper of the swords is the only person we see wrting things down, she also writes down the new Name she gives K. Perhaps this is tied in with D's written magic.

Oh and going by the evidence, Im convinced the Penitant King is the Maer(oddly the machinations of the Jakis clan help put him closer to the throne). Who leads the rebels is still up for grabs. Ambrose and Ariel?
Julia Mason
17. DrFood
I am also thinking that something terrible happens to Sim. The regret in Kvothe's narrative voice is palpable. I don't think he's going to be a king, but he may be some sort of collateral damage or mistaken identity or something.

I can see Ambrose as the Penitent King most easily. He is a prick and a faker, so I can see him taking advantage of whatever mess Kvothe makes and becoming king. This most easily explains Kvothe/Kote's distaste for the king in the frame story.

Bredon is Denna's patron, and he sends her to Yll. (Bredon beer is drunk by pregnant Yllish women, according to Wil.) She is learning Yllish knots, and there is a magic in them. I find it quite plausible that she is meant to watch Kvothe, but I don't think she knows that's her purpose in Bredon's beautiful game. She tells Kvothe that he is her secret, and I believe her when she says that. (I could be wrong. I am a sap, and unlike many, I like Denna.)
Bruce Wilson
18. Aesculapius
I'm not sure I have a vast amount to contribute to this week's discussions but, for what it's worth, these are my few thoughts on these chapters:

My initial feeling about D and the "magic that you write down" was that she was actually talking about something that was being done to her, perhaps by her patron. That said, I have no real evidence to support this, it was just the vibe I got when I first read it. The patterns that she is apparently absently tracing on the table at the time are intriguing - is this (and, later, the Yllish knots in her hair) how she keeps K ensnared...? The other interesting part of this little scene is that the informal duel between K on the one side and Wil and Sim on the other when they try to disrupt K's multiple bindings with the coins and the chalk is that it also serves as an introduction for D as to just how powerful K might actually be. Her clear ability as a card sharp is also an introduction to us as to her other devious talents - but does it hint at deeper deception?

As an aside, D's ripostes to Wil and Sim at the end of Ch. 18, referencing earlier parts of their conversation, as they discuss Deoch and his ambidextrous nature are beautifully written, hilarious and made me laugh out loud when I first read them. For what it's worth, I rather like Denna and her acerbic wit - although this may simply be because she really reminds me of someone I'm rather fond of!

In a series where a cigar is (apparently) never just a cigar, I'm wary of DE-emphasising anything but I'm not convinced that there's any great subterfuge or hidden significance to D's "odd fidgeting gesture" with her hands; anyone who has ever worn a ring regularly will recognise these two sensations: initially, when first wearing the ring, you're very conscious that it's there and people have a tendency to play and fiddle with new rings (newly-weds with new wedding rings are a classic example). Later, however, the exact opposite occurs and once you have become accustomed to the ring being on your finger all the time you tend to notice when it's NOT there and absently fidget with empty finger where the ring should be. The impression I got was that this was very much PR artfully describing just such a subconscious action on D's part.

If there is a significance to D's gestures with her hands then they serve to (a) attract K's attention (and therefore ours) to her hands, allowing him (and us) to become aware that the ring is absent; (b) they also clearly indicate that this is a ring that D is very used to wearing and that she is very much aware of its absence. It is interesting that the description of the ring (silver with a blue stone) and D fidgeting with it, twisting it on her finger, is introduced right back at K and D's first time together when they both travel with Roent's caravan in NW. At the time, it just felt like a nice little detail that suggested D was as nervous as K - but we all know that Rothfuss doesn't really do plain, simple "nice little details"...

This makes me wonder what the underlying significance of this particular ring might be (beyond setting up all the events with Ambrose in WMF) - an heirloom? a gift? does the ring itself have some history or significance? just how old is it? What is a "smokestone"...?

D seems to be fidgeting with the ring early in NW because it's just something that she does when she's nervous (in WMF, K suggests that this is often what she does) but could it also have been that the ring was new to her back then, just as she is now aware of its absence in WMF...? My suspicion is that this is an old and treasured possession for her, whatever its provenance - although she is oddly dismissive about it when she says that it used to be important. Is she so ruthlessly prepared to cut her losses and move on that even her treasured ring must be left behind?

Hardly the sense of deep loss she would be expected to express if she really was setting up a weeping widow con with the ring. I'm not sure that this whole episode overall fits the pattern of the weeping widow scam; it's a nice juxtaposition but, on balance, I don't think this is quite the same thing. Ultimately, the ring actually WAS at the jewellers being fixed, Ambrose didn't just have it in his own possession (but K doesn't know this until he unexpectedly finds the receipt in Ambrose's purse). D also seems genuinely surprised that K remembers her ring - this doesn't sound like someone setting up a scam - at least not unless it's a very clever one with many layers.

I'm starting to feel like PR is playing the weeping widow and we're the gullible young man.

(Given his beard and all, I can't really picture him standing outside a pawnshop in a gown though...)
19. AhoyMatey
It seems that Denna often starts to braid her hair when she gets nervous. I think it's because she's about create Yllish knots to defend herself. Or maybe even attack with magic.
20. Cathy KJ
What if Denna's seeking this writing magic in order to re-write the history of the Chandrian? Or, to write what will now be the definitive history?
21. suzannef
Maybe for D magic could be the ultimate con. I would change reality, not just perceived reality.
22. iamarobot
I didn't see D's surprise that K "noticed" her ring but surprise that he saw it at all. I thought it was similar to people who can't see viewing Bast as a handsome young man instead of a fae creature or K's shaed as a normal cloak when Elodin immediately recognizes it for what it really is.

I think the ring is an important item that will come into play later. The only people who can see it while in D's posession are either allowed to see it by D or are see-ers.
Alf Bishai
24. greyhood
Denna's magic writing. An important detail of her question is that the person doesn't even need to understand what is written to be affected. I think this ties in to what she was writing on the table. I agree with the idea that she saw something a while ago and it really messed her up, but she didn't know what it said, and that's what she was tracing. This is also the section of the story where we find out that she has a low opinion of herself - that she doesn't deserve a better patron. These are all connected.

Also, if this kind of magic exists, knowledge of it has really has been suppressed. So maybe this is what the Amyr/Chandrian conflict is about, at least in part? Those parties are all about suppressing information.

Which leads me to the room of Yllish knot spools in the Archives. Isn't anybody interested in talking about that room! Doesn't that strike anyone as Chekhov's Gun? Especially since Yllish knots are known to have an uncommon power?
Alf Bishai
25. greyhood
Also - perhaps Denna's magic writing is to naming (or shaping) as sygaldry is to sympathy.
Bruce Wilson
26. Aesculapius
I agree entirely - the spools of Yllish knots in the archives seem very likely to have a significant role to play in D3. Given the markings on the Lackless box, there must be something in the Archives' collection that would be relevant! If only they knew where to look and could read them - although given how dismissive D is later on about the fact that few even among the Yllish now truly speak/read Yllish maybe *she* can read what K can't?

I wonder how she knows this - or how long she might have spent in Yll...?

In a similar vein, the Archive's collection of fragments of scrolls and parchments from Caluptena must also be potential sources of hidden information!

Caluptena has been mentioned numerous times in both NW and WMF as an ancient seat of knowledge, wisdom and tolerance. Caudicus suggested that we would have known much more (possibly all...?) of the true history of the Lackless line if Caluptena had not been burned. We also know (from Fela, if memory serves) that there are scrolls and fragments of scrolls from Caluptena as yet uncatalogued and untranslated. Hmmmmm.

PR writes about Caluptena as if it was the Four Corners' equivalent of the Library at Alexandria and the all the ancient universities rolled into one. I've been looking for something definitive that links the town/city/university/whatever of Caluptena to a geographical location; I don't recall that it was ever specifically defined although I certainly wouldn't be surprised to find that it was in Yll and was lost some three hundred years (or whatever it was) before K's time when the Aturan Empire invaded Yll (at the instigation of the Amyr...?).
Alf Bishai
27. greyhood
@26 - great post. No one has ever Caluptena here to my knowledge, and now I'm quite certain those fragments are going to be important.
Bruce Wilson
28. Aesculapius
Oh I agree - there have just been too many references to Caluptena in too many circumstances for it not to hold some degree of significance; interestingly, it is suggested that "the Church" burned Caluptena to the ground - and we know how the Church feels about people telling stories of the past which don't fit with the Church's version of events!

Just how far back did all this happen? Does this tie in with the invasion of Yll, or maybe the Empire's annexation of Vint...?

Way back at the start of his narrative in NW, K asserts that the Ruh have been telling stories since "before Caluptena burned. Before there were books to write in." Now, that may well just be hyperbole on the part of K the storyteller but it raises an interesting possibility: where do the Yllish knots come in that timeline...?

Also, when K meets Fela (illicitly!) in the Archives in NW she says there are over three quarters of a million volumes there, "not even taking into consideration the clays, scrolls or fragments from Caluptena."

Later in WMF, Wil refers again to the "clays" pointing out that the clay tablets were some of the only things to survive when Caluptena burned - and some have been transcribed but not all.

Any bets on as yet untranslated clays or maybe lost fragments of scrolls from Caluptena popping up in D3...?

I wonder if you can make readable "negative" impressions of Yllish knots by pressing them into clay tablets...?
29. Jonathan.White
Aleph is a symbol, a Hebrew letter, that can be used to represent the size of an infinite set. So it seems that Rothfuss is using it to represent, more figuratively, infinity - in that Aleph was the first being, and so rose out of infinity, or is infinity itself? I'm not sure how important Aleph is story-wise, but this seems a likely derivative of the way the Aleph character is used in mathematics.
Philbert de Zwart
30. philbert
This has been irking me for a bit: why do you keep referring to people from Modeg as 'Mondegan', even in a chapter where (properly spelled) Modeg is discussed?

Maybe you are seeing too many moons in this book...
Philbert de Zwart
31. philbert
"who is working handing out supplies because he added water to acid instead of the other way around."
That's funny because during a practical of my chemistry study, I was reprimanded for doing the same thing: adding water to a strong acid instead of the other way around.
The danger is this: the mixing of water and a strong acid is very exothermic, so what could happen is that the layer of water on top of the heavier acid would start to boil, spraying small very acidic droplets upwards toward your face.
Doing it the other way around results in the heavier acid immediately sinking to the bottom, and the generated heat being absorbed by the larger body of water.
Jo Walton
32. bluejo
Philbert: Sorry. Even though I know it's Modeg and Modegan, my fingers keep adding that N in there. No idea why, except that sometimes made up words don't feel right and I "autocorrect" to what they'd be if they were Welsh, which my sleeping mind is quite sure they are. I'll try not to do this, but I can't promise as I have already been trying!
Aaron Miller
33. altarego
Re: D and her words of 'compulsion'

This struck me more of an allusion to her song of Lanre that she shares with K in the Vint portions of the book.

1. She has a patron who is shady, at the least, and possibly connected with the Chandrian/Amyr conflict.

2. She's now attempting to "rewrite" history, as K sees it, with her song. A history largely connected with his father's song and their death at the hands of the Chandrian.

3. It could be implied that her patron has her on a quest to find a way to write down something that everyone believes, regardless of its truth. Or, that he has this knowledge and he's using her as a tool to bring this to fruition - or even to fight it?

That, plus all of the ambiguity pointed out in the search for Amyr history at the University makes me think that someone is running around and using these words of "compulsion" to change society's view of history. And possibly, that there are forces looking to use K to fight it?
Sim Tambem
35. Daedos
@33 So Denna's patron is basically 'Big Brother'. I didn't even see that coming; the Kingkiller Chronicles is a rewriting of 1984...
Erich Wade
37. erichtwade
These are all things that happened because of the con (or potential con), but intending them all to happen as a result would be the mother of all Xanatos gambits. If indeed it was a con, I think the first question should be what was supposed to happen: What would have happened if Kvothe had approached the situation in a more normal fashion? If we know the indended result, we stand a better chance of figuring out the motivation.

This said, I'm really not sure if it was a con or not.
Mike Scott
38. drplokta
Given that Denna got them to explain Corners to her and then proved to already be an expert player, I'm not sure that she actually needed to have sympathy explained to her. Especially since in chapter 72 of NotW, right after Kvothe names Master Ash, we have: "The part of my arm where her hand had rested suddenly felt very cold" -- Denna using Kvothe as a source for some sympathy?
Roland of Gilead
39. pKp
@23 : used an anagram finder (cheating, I know), and the most convincing I found was "A Vainest Tormenter" (or "A Meanest Introvert"). Not very convincing either way...feel free to root around :
40. Doonamis
I know, I'm reading through these way after you guys had this discussion originally. I've been reading through all of these posts and the full comment threads, and you guys are unbelievable. I see so much more now than I did when I read through these books originally. That said, this week you guys seemed a little dense. Maybe I'll be the one to actually show you guys something big in this section, since I haven't seen anyone else say this.

Denna is asking questions about a magic to write things down, and then they become true. All of the comments focus on how this would apply to Denna and why she's asking this question. Why is it that no one asked the bigger question of who do we know in the story that's a writer? There's one character who makes a living writing... Chronicler.

Assume that this is a real magic that isn't well known, Chronicler has already written a book on the Mating Habits of the Common Dracus... a book that Kvothe read, then went and fought a Common Dracus. He didn't see it as an unslayable dragon like the rest of the town, no he saw it as an overgrown lizard. He tried to poison it, then he crushed it with a big rock (I know it was the wheel from the church, but still). This is not the way people approach dragons...

Chronicler doesn't even write in the same language that everyone else does. He says that his shorthand is a way of capturing sounds that you make with your mouth, so he could apply it to any language. Seems like a mystical language of its own to me, that might have more to do with this than you guys have picked up on.

Now, I think that the really interesting part is actually the scale of this magic. Does it change all reality to conform to the written text or does it only change the perception of those that see/read it? Is this shaping? This would really explain well why there's a saying carved into the Archive that refers to Shaping...

What would happen if you were to tell Chronicler your life story, and maybe change the ending? If Chronicler is writing Kvothe's story as he's told it, but Kvothe takes out the mistake he makes at the end would that change the world? Could this be a way for Kote to become Kvothe again?

Also, I think that as other people have said, Denna has been writing some of this in the braids in her hair and with her hands on the table as well. I think this also can help explain part of the confusion on the age of Denna, if she could manage to get it written down in this magic that she was (looked like) a young attractive girl, then she could actually be much older than her physical body appears.

Finally, I think that the Chandrain/Amyr issue with them trying to destroy all records of them has to do at the heart with this as well. If they are trying to change reality, they have to remove all trace that this didn't used to be true. Eliminating old libraries and getting rid of anyone trying to start new songs/stories would link in to all of this.

Really I feel like there's a lot in the story that you can unpack if you approach it thinking about this...
Steven Halter
41. stevenhalter
Doonamis@40:All good points. Keep reading and we eventually touch on these things. There is a decent sized conversation about what if Chronicler really does have some writing magic.
Denna and the braid-magic and its possible connection to Yllish writing.
Caleb Warner
42. Doonamais
@41 Good to hear, I look forward to getting to that discussion. It seemed like a big miss for me, as this question of Denna's really stuck in my mind, and I was looking forward to seeing the discussion on it here.
43. GaVak
I'm doing a re-read of WMF myself and was delighted to find this forum. So many details that I missed from both books; found and elaborated on. I'm just into Chapter 19 were D starts talking about about the 'magic of writing things down'. This gives me two different thoughts - one, if it is indeed the Yllish knots being magic - I remember there is some point in the book where K. realizes that D staying with her patron after being beaten is 'just like him taking lashes to stay in the academy' as 'the only place in the world he could get arcane training'. She is learning magic from Mr. Ash (Cinder?). OR, and I like this one better: In Skarpi's tale, the Chandrian are said to be cursed to be 'bound by their names' - or in that, what is written about them becomes reality (and perhaps the way to beat them in the end/Sing a story where they have no power against you and it is true ((and thus why they would be afraid of 'The Singers'))'. It would explain why D.'s patron wants her to write a 'better' story of Lanre, and also why they are trying to destroy all stories of themselves that exist in the first place. That is their goal, to change the story of their past using the 'curse' to their advantage. It sheds a whole new perspective on why they want to anhiliate anything to do with their history from writing/human minds. Why else would Cinder have D. do the things she does in the first place? Track down the old history to 'summon' him to destroy, and to at the same time write a new one to pass around. I suspect she is the 'spy in the mortal world' that had the wedding party slaughtered by being an informant. ~d
Kate Hunter
44. KateH
GaVak, I was liking your theory about the Chandrian being bound by their names until I went back to Skarpi's stories, which don't mention the Chandrian. Skarpi's first story is about Lanre/Haliax, and I don't find mention of Selitos cursing him to be "bound by his name." It says that his "own name will be turned against (him), that (he) shall have no peace." Then Selitos adds, "This is my doom upon you and all who follow after you." That last bit could obviously apply to the Chandrian, because they follow Haliax. But I'm not seeing exactly that they are "bound by their names" in a sense that could mean people's knowledge of the Chandrian's names constitutes part of the curse. Further, it seems to be specifically the Chandrian's names that are so dangerous. Haliax's name gets bandied about quite a bit by Skarpi, and catastrophe fails to result. I think there's some ambiguity too as to whether Haliax is one of the Chandrian, or if the Chandrian are those who follow Haliax. Is it Haliax + 6 = 7 Chandrian? Or is it Haliax + 7 Chandrian? Maybe this question has been thoroughly picked apart somewhere on these threads, but if so, I haven't come across it yet.
45. Sean75
Doing my own reread of NOTW and WMF and found and enjoying the insights on this forum (two years after the event). I expected more on ch18 though - I thought the biggest things here were D's reaction to Kvothe explaining why a drop of blood should never be given away, and she is horrified - either she has given a drop of her own to Master Ash, or she has somehow collected a drop of Kvothe's (or hair?) and passed that on - possible that this is where the blood that is used to make Ambrose's mommett when the attacks on Kvothe begin in ch#23 comes from. I thought D's response to the significance of blood was glossed over too much, I saw this as a much larger issue.

The second point was the question on the writing system of magic which was discussed in some detail. I didn't see this as a potential for Shaping, just that D may have been lured in or promised something by Master Ash which involved him writing down a golden future for her on the assurance it would then come true.
Joanna Andrews
46. highwaycrossingfrog
A little further extrapolation of the possible identity of the titular king: if we assume that this is the King of Vintas, probably the most popular theory, we know that in NoW Ambrose is sixteenth in line to the throne, and that the line of succession begins with "the royal family, the prince regents, Maer Alveron, Duchess Samista, Aculeus and Meluan Lackless" (chapter 43). The Maer is pretty high in this list, although we don't know exactly how high because we don't know how many people constitute the royal family and the prince regents (odd to have more than one, but hey). By WMF, Ambrose has jumped to thirteenth courtesy of the entire Surthen family having been lost at sea (chapter 6). If the Surthen family comprise either the royal family or the prince regents, then The Maer has correspondingly been promoted three spaces up the succession and is far more likely to be in a position to ascend the throne in the third book. However, I would think that the Surthen family would probably have been referred to by their title(s) if that were the case, so maybe three people between The Maer and Ambrose were lost at sea.

Does anyone else notice how often Kvothe ruins his shirts? This has got to be the fourth at least! Highly unlikely to be significant, but damn, that kid should be more careful!

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