Welcome to part 14 of my more detailed than anybody could possibly need re-read of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. This week’s post covers chapters 82-87 of The Name of the Wind, but also contains extensive spoilers for the whole book and the whole of The Wise Man’s Fear — these discussions assume you’ve read all of both books. These posts are full of spoilers—please don’t venture beyond the cut without reading both books first. (But we’ll still be here when you come back.)
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 left out our hero killing a draccus with an iron wheel, most heroically and indeed in a godlike manner—this is just how Tehlu killed Encanis after all. It’s a pity that poor Kvothe followed this by falling out of a tree, but it’s also typical of how Rothfuss simultaneously underlines and undercuts the heroic.
Chapter 81 is Ash and Elm. Master Ash? The ashes of the town? “Ash and elm and rowan too” in the charm?
I love the beginning here. “It felt exactly like someone had hit me in the head with a church.” He has been bandaged—and we’re reminded that it has only been three days since Ambrose’s thugs (or somebody’s thugs anyway) tried to kill him. I like how his Medica training comes back to him when assessing his wounds. I generally like the whole Medica thing—it’s not overstressed, and I love the bit with the arrowroot in WMF, and it really feels like something useful that he actually has to work at.
The girl at the inn he recognises as a Nell, a category, and it really is her name. She isn’t significant but the recognition and Naming is.
Again with the landlord we have the excessive threat. “Bring me what I asked for or I will burn the place down around your ears and dance among the ashes and your charred sticky bones.”
It’s as if there are two contradictory impulses in Kvothe. One is this melodramatic posturing “villain” making over the top threats of murder, and the other is the “hero” who thinks it’s his job to prevent deaths—needing to kill the draccus and so relieved nobody was killed in the fires.
In last week’s comments Lurking Canadian suggested:
I wonder if he isn’t already an Amyr. Not in the sense of secretly belonging to some secret society or something, but because he seems to have this compulsion to Do Good. He really isn’t moral in the usual sense (thinks nothing of lying, stealing and cheating) but then sometimes he decides some bad thing is his responsibility and he has to fix it. He’s nearly starving himself, but he feeds Auri. The dragon (not his dragon) is hopped up on goofballs (not his drug op), but he decides his his job to save Trebon (and feels guilty about the destruction it causes). When he saves the two girls in the next book, he makes sure to arrange marriages for them, then gives his horse to the one guy who broke his leg. It’s like he has this deep seated compulsion that always points him at The Right Thing, even though his conscious mind is kind of a scoundrel. In other words, he’s already somebody who will break any law or rule in the service of The Greater Good. He’s an Amyr. He just doesn’t have the T-shirt yet.
I do like this suggestion very much, and I propose that it hereafter be known as the “t-shirt” theory. A bottle of strawberry wine for Lurking Canadian, to be delivered by passing tinker.
And Connor O’Sullivan goes further:
this is probably a bad thing. Which is for example why the Duke of Gibea conversation cropped up in WMF: to Kvothe, chopping up people for the sake of medicine is, while unpleasant, totally justifiable; to others, there’s no excuse for such atrocities. The lines are clear between the do-gooders and everyone else. Leaving us to wonder what Good is going to end up making Kvothe do so much bad.
While Foxed adds:
It’s like he knows the Lethani. Despite how hard it is for him to discover Falling Leaf and listen to his Sleeping Mind, we see him in these examples following Lethani, DOING THE RIGHT THING.
The t-shirt theory would imply that Kvothe’s sleeping mind, and therefore the things he does without thinking about them, are Amyresque, whether the Greater Good is ultimately a good thing or not, whereas his surface personality lets him lie and cheat and make these threats which we really don’t think he’ll carry through. It’s crazy behavour though really—especially here where he’s intimidating and threatening and underlining it with magic. He is actually put up on charges of malfeasance in WMF, and surely that innkeeper, a solid citizen, could denounce him to the Church?
He gets the stuff and goes back to where he abandoned D to find her gone—of course. He “knows” she’s long gone, thinking he abandoned her. But he also “knew” he’d never see her again after she left for Anilin. He leaves her a note—his notes to her are always a complete waste of time, I don’t think she ever gets one.
Back in the town he deals with the mayor and the constable and finds out they are sure the draccus was a demon and have dealt with its body as with demons. “Dig a pit that’s ten by two, ash and elm and rowan, too.” The same thing we heard for the scraeling, which K said then was the right thing for the wrong reasons. They have sensibly and logically concluded that the draccus caused the destruction of the farm.
Kvothe tells them he can ensure their safety if he knows what Mauthen dug up, which is complete nonsense—nothing can make them safe from the Chandrian and he is endangering them by asking. Verainia comes and tells him she saw it, a vase with the Chandrian on and their signs.
There was a woman holding a broken sword and a man next to a dead tree and another man with a dog biting his leg….
If Netalia is correct that they have one sign each, maybe the dead tree—the rotting wood and metal etc—is the sign one of them leaves, and similarly the others?
“Was there one with white hair and black eyes?”
She looked at me wide eyed, nodded. “Gave me the all overs.”
Cinder. Then Haliax:
One with no face, just a hood with nothing inside. There was a mirror by his feet and there was a bunch of moons over him. “You know, full moon, half moon, silver moon.”
Now this vase is in colours a country girl has never seen before and it has real silver and gold, so the moons and the mirror are presumably silvered. What do they represent? I mean there’s the whole moon thing, but with Haliax? And the mirror? I feel as if this is really significant and I’m missing something—anyone?
Next is a naked woman, and then writing she can’t read or remember. Who made this vase? Why did they make it? Why didn’t the Chandrian get them the minute it was taken out of the kiln? Or do you think it was made and buried in secret by someone? The Amyr? The Fae? The stones are grey. The Singers?
He gives her a placebo charm, and tells her he got it in Veloran, “far away over the Stormwal mountains” which is not on the map! I think we have more places not on the map than on the map at this point!
And she kisses him and he “realises she’s beautiful”—they’re all beautiful to Kvothe. And he says that this is another beginning, this is why he became the man he became, because he liked her hero worship when he gave her the placebo charm. His vanity?
If we put all those starts together, he says he became what he became because he’s a trouper, because of D, because of not helping that poor kid in Tarbean, and because of Nina’s smile. An interesting set of ingredients.
It’s also interesting to see him reaching for another beginning here, 653 pages into the book. But he’s still very young.
Chapter 83 is Return, and it’s very short.
Kvothe returns to the University and is in trouble with everyone for being away. He sorts out his big debt to Devi with the loden stone and one talent, he apologises to everyone else, and he tells Wil and Sim most of the truth. He can’t find D but he knows she’s okay because she got the boat the day before.
The notable thing about this chapter is that it’s a rushed summation, after the up close narration we’ve been having thus far. It’s all tell, no show, because we don’t need to know these details of the conversations, only that they happened.
Chapter 84 is A Sudden Storm. The storm is the Bad Thing with the Lute—or rather the storm inside Kvothe’s head after he has spoken the Name of the Wind.
He bumps into D in Imre and she is with a guy called Lentaren (not Master Ash) so they have an oblique conversation instead of a direct one. She seems delighted to see him. He sums up the Trebon episode as killing the dragon but losing the treasure and the girl. They’re pretending to be talking about a story, and she says “Not the ending I’d hoped for, but no more than I expected I suppose.” This connects back to what she said happened in Anilin—she doesn’t hope or expect for much. But then when he talks about a sequel she says
“I don’t generally go in for serial stories,” her expression momentarily serious and unreadable.
I am certain this connects directly to the fundamental mystery of D, her moon compulsion or whatever it is.
And then he meets Wil and Sim and the Bad Thing with the Lute happens. First, Sim explains to Kvothe in words of one syllable that D likes him, and Kvothe refuses to believe it. (Go ahead and tell me you were that dumb when you were fifteen, and I will say probably the Adem must be right about where babies come from, because really!)
Then Ambrose grabs his lute, and Kvothe’s mind is in two pieces, one chanting “I hate you, I hate you” and the other “Please don’t hurt the lute, not again.” Then Ambrose sings his little song—his poetry has improved, it actually scans.
(Does it make sense that Ambrose would do this after setting thugs on him? Maybe it doesn’t.)
Kvothe says “Give it back or I will kill you.” Because music means that much to him. Ambrose tosses it to him, and it falls and breaks, and it makes an awful noise like the lute in Tarbean, and Kvothe speaks the Name of the Wind utterly out of his sleeping mind and without control.
I find this whole episode almost too painful to read.
Kvothe then goes numb and weird, and Wil and Sim take him to Kilvin. They tell Kilvin what happened. Elodin comes and gets Kvothe back. Wil says Kvothe’s eyes are like a dog’s eyes, Kvothe clearly isn’t there to himself—like in the woods? Not like in Tarbean or now, when he can talk but part of himself is locked away. Elodin makes him say “Aerlevsedi” which Sim hears as “Wind.” (It sounds like Faen to me, though that v should be an f, maybe it’s been wrongly transliterated?) Saying it doesn’t help and doesn’t call the wind. Elodin then looks deeply into Kvothe and whispers what must be Kvothe’s name to call him back to himself. It makes him violently dizzy the way you are when you stop spinning, and by the time he recovers Elodin is gone.
Chapter 85 is Hands Against Me. Fairly self-evident title here.
Interestingly he sleeps for eighteen hours and he says “spent eighteen hours behind the doors of sleep.” The last time he uses that phrase it’s after his troupe is killed, and he talks about how sleep can heal and the dreams he has. When he wakes up he has time for a bath and a meal before he’s summoned to the horns again.
Ambrose has accused him of malfeasance. He counter accuses Ambrose of theft, destruction of property, and Conduct Unbecoming a member of the Arcanum. He wins on theft and destruction and nearly on Conduct Unbecoming—Elxa Dal, Arwyl, Elodin and Lorren vote against Ambrose. Amazing. Lorren is a very principled man. And then they all vote for Kvothe to take six lashes and be expelled—at a younger age than most people enter the University.
And we can’t stop there of course, Chapter 86 is The Fire Itself.
All of them except Hemme vote for suspending the expulsion. And then Elodin proposes he’s promoted to Re’lar, and again the vote is unanimous but for Hemme. Ambrose is upset. Elodin asks if he’s confused and says he’ll explain.
Elodin says there was a University in the ruins of an older university, and an Arcanum inside the University, and they became E’lir by seeing and Re’lar by speaking. And he talks confusingly about the sleeping mind and about names and says he’ll teach Kvothe and he’ll also be able to learn advanced bindings and dubious runes in sygaldry now. And he says there was no danger of expulsion, most people first speak a Name in strong emotion.
Chapter 87 is Boldness. Auri says “Wisdom precludes boldness” and I suppose we know Kvothe is lacking wisdom!
It starts with a brief chat with Wil and Sim about how mad Elodin is, and noting that Kvothe is still going to be whipped—so again he’s being promoted and whipped! (And he’s getting Ambrose’s money to buy a new lute.)
Then he meets Auri on the roofs, and asks her how she is, and she says she is lovely. No normal person would say they were themselves lovely, and it is of course the word D braids into her hair in Yllish in WMF. He gives her a bottle of honey wine (not the strawberry wine he got in Trebon) and she gives him a ring that keeps secrets. It fits, because they’re his secrets. They talk about an owl in the Underthing. “Owls make poor heroes” but this one “Has a face like a wicked moon.” And he asks to see the Underthing, and she jokes with him.
And she has a soft blue-green light that just might be an ever-burning lamp. And they go into the Underthing and see wonders—ruined machines and underground windows and—the story breaks off, interrupted in the frame. And we’ll start back in the frame next week—and next week’s post will complete our re-read of this volume.
Also, I’m really sorry but I’m going to have uncertain net access and may not see comments to this thread until quite late, and will certainly have to write next week’s post without seeing them.
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.