We’re half way through our ridiculously detailed re-read of Patrick Rothfuss’s The Wise Man’s Fear, and we’re going to pause here for another speculative summary. After we’ve summed up some of the speculation we’ll be moving on. These posts assume you’ve read all of both books The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, and they are absolutely full of off-the-wall speculative spoilers for all of both books. Please don’t go beyond the cut unless you want that!
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
We will have two more speculative summary posts after this one, on the Ctheah, and Master Ash. Then we’ll get on with WMF from the meeting with Felurian.
I like the implication of the cut-flower. Kvothe is a cut flower. His name is cut, and he is Kote.
Maybe that’s fatal.
We have several theories. We had a Kvothe summary post before, so only new thoughts here. But Artful Magpie sums up the different theories very well:
Did Kvothe change his name and take away his own power? Is he using his Alar to wall himself away from his abilities? Is he just being a trouper to his bones and acting the greatest part of his life? People have made convincing arguments on all sides.
The Change of Name
Greyhood wonders what that shapechanger was really asking:
There’s been some discussion about how someone changes their Name. I know I always thought about how a person would change it themselves. Then it occurred to me that it would take a Namer to do that. But no, of course it must be a Shaper...
Alar like a bar of Ramston Steel
the references to Ramston steel could mean that in order to get his name back, K might have to break his own alar.
Interesting, and wouldn’t that be cool to see, if awful for him to experience!
Greyhood has a very good point.
On Ramston steel Alar. When Devi wins the duel, his alar suddenly breaks. She moves a little, and then all of sudden is pulling out the heat thing. I’m not sure that the snapping Ramston business means he permanently snaps his Alar.
Jonathan White suggests:
I understand the Ramson steel reference, but breaking Alar seems to me like breaking a mind, and Kvothe doesn’t seem insane to me. If his Alar was broken, I’d expect him to act more like Elodin, for example.
So my theory is that it is hidden from him, and only emerges when he is feeling some strong emotion. The arrival of the skindancer wouldn’t have been enough - it would have to be some reference to his past life. Most everyone agrees that if it is not broken, he has hidden it from himself - but this is not necessarily true. What if someone saw what he was doing to the world and decided to forcibly conceal his Alar from him to stop it? And the only two people I can think of who would be able to do this are Elxa Dal and Devi - of them, Devi is probably more likely. I think she has a much bigger role to play, and holding back Kvothe could be part of it.
Sleeping (like in Tarbean)
We already saw Kvothe mentally break down when his family was killed, so how much worse would it be if he felt (or actually was) responsible for the deaths of his new family? Since K is no longer a child he can’t react the same way, so instead of putting most of his mind to sleep he puts the dangerous parts-the parts that got his friends killed-to sleep instead. His retreat into Kote would therefore be not just out of guilt or grief but also out of a desire to protect those around him.
The quick version of this theory is that it isn’t changing his name that has changed Kvothe into Kote, but some magic he has done centered on the Waystone Inn itself. The silences, perhaps:
Is it possible that K built his inn like Elodin’s cell in the Rookery was built in NW? With the basic idea that whatever caused the almost tangible heaviness in the air in Elodin’s cell and prevented him from using naming is causing the almost palpable silence in the frame? K potentially would do this to keep himself hidden: whatever presumably kept Elodin’s magic within the walls of his cell would also prevent others on the outside from sensing it. This could be why it drives Bast so crazy, if these types of prisons don’t exist in the Fae, Bast has never experienced anything like it before. As a Fae creature he might experience the sensation more as silence rather than a ’heaviness’ that K did as a human experiencing it. Also why Bast is the only one presumably feeling it. This also could explain why K was able to deal with the scrael in the forest but not deal with the bandits in the inn.
This does answer the interesting problem summed up by Maltheos:
K has a weird level of competence flux in the frame. He is powerful and capable in combat vs the scrael, and not so capable vs the brigands — either he is restraining, or he is manipulating his name, or he is trying to trick/play Bast or Chronicler.
He defeated the scrael physically outside, when he couldn’t physically fight the bandits or the skindancer inside.
Part of the point of the theory is that the “palpable silence” is built into the inn itself. (Or, possibly, invested in it, since I was under the impression that Kote had come along and bought an existing place. No idea why, though.) In either case, it would mean that anything occurring outside the inn is unaffected - hence, Kote would be unaffected by it during the scrael-fight, which takes place outside (at some distance, IIRC), but still be unable to fight the soldiers within its confines. Any person who is sensitive to such things would “feel” the silence; both Chronicler and Bast are definitely in that group. And obviously, the heavy silence doesn’t preclude sound, or they wouldn’t be able to have conversations. It just never quite goes away, somehow - which is why I think greggors’s theory has distinct merit. No matter how much noise or conversation takes place, including roaring fights, the feel of the heavy silence is still... there. Part of the inn itself, like Elodin’s cell.
and expanding on that, still Wetlander NW:
I was thinking in terms of K more or less having put himself where he is, rather than someone else having imposed… well, anything on him. My thought was that, in the process of whatever he did to himself, there were several steps. One of the first was to find (or build) his inn, investing in it the Name of Silence – or whatever the right verb might be, to get an effect similar to Elodin’s cell. Once that was done, he did… whatever it was… to put the other limitations on himself, “locking v and h in the chest” – whether it’s part of his name, or his Alar, or whatever he’s got stuffed in there, including his mastery of the Name of Silence. (Also, probably, all his various rings.)
I’m convinced that the chest holds part of what he was as Kvothe, in some way; that when he can open the chest, he can return to his full power; that he did it himself, deliberately; and that he will be able to get in, when the time is right. (Okay, that last one is a little less sure, because it’s entirely possible that PR intends him to do what he has to do without his powers.)
Anyway, I don’t see K as being imprisoned by anyone else, so I don’t see it as a curse put on him by anyone but himself. I’m not glued to the theory about the Name of Silence; it just sounded really cool. But if it’s true, that Silence is bound into the inn, the bar, the hands… I think he did it himself, and then locked away his ability to remove it.
What I wanted to bring up was K’s hands. I’m concerned that he’s lost some of the function of his hands. He swears to Denna “by my good left hand” that he won’t attempt to uncover her patron. (He offers the right, she says she prefers the left.) Later, he swears to Meluan “By my hand, I will not speak of what I see to anyone.”
I wonder if Kvothe broke his vow to Denna and lost some function in his hands. Not all, obviously (he can make pie!), but maybe some sensation, proprioception, fine motor control. . . this would have a serious adverse effect on his lute skillz. When he’s trying to make a wreath of holly and stabs his thumb, it really doesn’t seem to hurt at all—it’s almost like he has to see the injury to know he’s injured. His reaction to this apparently minor setback is rather intense. (“All the laughter faded from his expression, and his eyes were hard and dark.”)
When Kvothe is examining the Lockless box, he feels the faint carving that he postulates may be Yllish story knots. Neither Alveron nor Meluan had noticed any carving. He explains “I have exceptionally sensitive hands—they’re necessary for my work” and he later clarifies this is for his music, as well as for his magic.
So, if something has happened to his hands (or to one hand) could that explain why “of course there is no music”?
This theory is, Kvothe broke his word and his hands are now unreliable, he can’t have music, or other skill with them. There’s all kinds of evidence for this in the text — the fist he makes without knowing it, and clumsiness, as well as the thorn. I really believe this is at least part of it, because it’s hidden in plain sight, the way the moon was in NW, and it’s clear that Rothfuss likes doing this kind of thing.
Dr Food again:
K is described as rubbing his left hand with his right a couple of times, and when Bast tells him that the flower of the Rhinna (the tree where he spoke to the Cthaeh) is a panacea, he looks down at his folded hands on the tabletop. I’d guess he was thinking that a panacea would be a very useful thing.
in WMF he mentions his fear of injuring his hands way too much for it to be irrelevant.
Yes. and in NW too, he’s always worrying about hurting his hands.
And there’s the Ciridae connection. Trollfot:
Kvothe bloodies his hand a lot. Auri washes him up in the Underthing and he cuts himself on purpose on that tree in the Ademre. Connection with thre Amyr and their bloody hands?
And in the fight with the bandits he cuts his hands and blood runs down, which may have been what made Cinder vanish, if he caught sight of Kvothe and thought it was a Ciridae.
Dr Food takes the hand thing even further:
Kvothe’s hands—all important to him in the main story, possibly malfunctioning in some subtle way in the frame story. Back in early September I expressed concern about Kote’s hands, saying maybe he now (in the frame story) has a problem with sensation, proprioception or fine motor control
Devi asks “What did you think about the chapter on proprioception?”
Whoa. Proprioception is not a word that pops up in most people’s everyday conversations. I’m reminded of what Jo said earlier, that given all the editing these books have been through, you can assume that nothing is in there as filler. Everything that is there is there for a purpose.
So, what is proprioception? It is the sensation of your own body’s position and movements within space. It’s how you can clap your hands with your eyes shut. It’s the difference between an 8 yr old trying to play a piano piece that uses both hands, stopping and starting and looking first up at the music, then down at her hands, and Billy Joel (or Sarah Maclachlan) belting out a song and looking out at the audience whilst both hands are moving all over the keyboard. If you lose your sense of proprioception, you won’t know what your hands are doing if you can’t see them.
So, it’s interesting that this little bit of apparent time killing prior to his disastrous confrontation includes a brief discussion of proprioception. Kvothe argues that the author doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he talks about people with amputated limbs. Here it seems we have a reference to the “phantom limb” phenomenon, where a person who has lost a limb still “feels it there.” Most commonly what the person feels is phantom pain in the missing limb. One theory about this phenomena is that the brain is primed to receive data back from all parts of the body (that’s proprioception) and if the part of the brain expecting feedback from the, say, left hand is getting nothing, then this lack of data may be interpreted as bad/pain.
I can’t imagine Pat going all Empire Strikes Back on us and having Kvothe actually flat-out lose a hand, only to have it replaced by a simulacrum that doesn’t have good proprioception and thus can’t play the lute. So what could he “do” to Kvothe’s hand, within the Four Corners world? Something about unbound principles?
and SillySlovene building on that:
Proprioception and K’s problems could also account for K’s lost fight to the soldiers- if someone’s got you around the neck from behind, seeing your hands could be very hard, and if he’s got some problem with his hands as has been hinted, this could account for him still being able to perform the “perfect step” and beating the Scrael but failing when he can’t fully see his hands for the complex counter movement...
The thought about unbound principles could be an interesting answer- as K in the frame seems much more knowledgable about alchemy (coaching Bast on the use of Cellum Tincture, which IIRC is an alchemy text) than in the story proper. He apparently has put in a lot more study in the area after the point he is at in his story- could that have been his motivation?
and first Lune:
one of the silences in NW has to do with Kvothe’s hands: “The third silence was not an easy thing to notice. [...] And it was in the hands of the man who stood there, polishing a stretch of mahogany that already gleamed in the lamplight.”
and then Artful Magpie find a direct connection between Kvothe’s hands and the silence:
Okay, interesting thing here. I just looked at the first and last sections of both NotW and WMF...the 3 silences parts. The third silence, the great silence, is in every instance described as being held inside two things: 1) objects and things that are part of the inn, such as the floor, the hearth, the clay cider jugs, the plaster walls, the locks and 2) perhaps more interestingly, the hands of the red-haired man.
The silence, the third silence, is in K’s hands. Given all the discussions we’ve had about “good right hand” and upon which hand Namers wear rings, and the ring without a name possibly being a ring of silence, and K’s proprioception, etc etc ad infinitum, the fact that the silence pervading the inn is always described as being in his hands becomes...interesting, non?
Brilliant, I think.
His “good left hand.” When he looks down and seems surprised that his hand has clenched into a fist, I don’t think it’s because he’s lost control. I think it’s because he’s lost his sense of proprioception, that thing that lets you know where your various body parts are (and in what configuration) without looking at them.
Silentia even finds hope in it:
I like the hands theory. If it’s not a ring of silence, it might just be that they are broken. He’s always saying his hands are the most valuable thing he has...everything talent he has is based on his hands. Threpe tells Kvothe in NW, after he sings the Lay of Sir Savien, that he thought he was a brave boy, too brave. He didn’t know he couldn’t save the end of a broken song with a broken instrument....but he did. Kote might be broken, the talent of his hands may have been impeded, but I think he will save the end of his broken song/story and while it may not end “perfect” it will be “complete”, which I think refers to the frame story as much as Kvothe’s narrative.
A New Chandrian
The ever-perceptive GBrell suggests:
I almost wonder whether Pat’s mention of a “new” Chandrian is hiding the ball in plain sight. What if the reason for Kvothe’s weakness in the frame story is that he broke not just his mind, but himself (a la Ged)? We know the Chandrian aren’t human (or pre-human), but what if “he” is literally responsible for the wrongs in the world and Kvothe is punishing himself. This also allows for the Kingkiller duality stuff we’ve talked about (he could’ve literally killed his own self, his poetic side - hence no music, or locked his “self” in the box).
What if what Bast wants is Kvothe whole, both parts recombined? The Road to Levinshir, Flame, Thunder, Broken Tree and Shehyn’s comments all demonstrate that Kvothe has a dark side, something “wrong” in him; what if what we see now is only half of Kvothe (just K) and his actions have unbalanced not just the world, but literally himself.
If so, which half is Kote, light or dark?
“Some might even say that there’s a new Chandrian out there”, “The important people know the difference”. (Appr. quotation from early tNotW.)
Kvothe has done terribly things that render him equal to the Chandrian, almost like an 8th Chandrian. Also, on the vase that Nina sees there are eight persons (which are often described as the Chandrian + Ciridae Amyr) and Nina see them all as the same, or even figures that the Ciridae is the worst. Does Kvothe feel like the Ciridae on the vase? He’s done evil but for a good case. Most people might not understand the difference, but the “important people” know
Which leads to the interesting question of who the “important people” are. I think that’s something that’s certain to be answered in DT.
A Beautiful Game
This theory was first proposed by AO, and it’s summed up here by The Faceless Man:
I’ve been coming back to the idea proposed about K setting a trap by playing a “beautiful game” as Kote. Why after all this time would he just dump his solitude and give his story to one of the most famous writers known? Certainly if the story spread people would be pretty aware of the fact that A. Kvothe is not dead and B. Some previously unknown and personal information would be out there not only about K but everyone involved (some powerful and important figures) C. And this is what makes me think Kote IS his beautiful game; K is putting down a record of everything he knows about the Amyr and Chandrian. We know that he has crossed their (Chandrian) path personally twice already (the killing of his troupe and Cinder with the mercenaries.) Most likely there will be some part in his story where he meets them again and if there is one thing beyond all doubt we know about the Chandrian it’s that they do not like people telling stories about them. Is this his version of his father’s song? Letting some truth about the Chandrian back into the world to draw them to him? It seems that he is drawing Fae creatures and other powers towards him already with the Scrael and Skindancer. Could Kote be the cheese on the mouse trap?
Yes, yes he could.
Again, no conclusions here, just pulling together thoughts and welcoming more.
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.