Patrick Rothfuss Reread

Rothfuss Reread: Speculative Summary 2: “A girl standing nearby” Speculations on Denna

Welcome to the second of the speculative summation posts I’m going to be doing in between volumes of my excessively detailed re-read of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. Two weeks ago we wound up 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.

This is the second of four speculative summary posts, there will also be posts on Kvothe in the frame and on what king got killed.

I think we’ve talked more about D than about any other single thing, and I don’t think we have any conclusions at all.


Her name

Shimmer points out:

the similarity between Denna and denner. (The addictive resin)

As SaltManZ says, K is literally a Denna-addict.


Per a discussion early in NoTW, “Denna” is a word in Tema. Based on phrasing of the quote given, it could mean glamour. Hmmm.

But of course she’s always changing her name.


She sweet, completely addictive, and ultimately destructive, at least for Kvothe. Because remember, Denna is her name to him. She has other names to other people. We know that names are incredibly important. Why is hers so shrouded in mystery? There is clearly something more to it than what we’ve seen thus far. I’m not sure what exactly it is, but understanding that names are the central element of magic in this world, it’s clearly important.

SKM thinks about parallels:

Someone in an earlier post commented that Denna’s names all sound like Diana (the moon goddess). When I first read NW, I immediately noticed that all her names sounded like Dinah, the Biblical character famous for having been raped. I dismissed it as coincidental, but after the Bechdel scene in WMF — maybe not?

Speculations about D as human

She tells us she died and came back to life as a baby, and we know she has asthma. She says she’s a city girl, in the context of not knowing about country things. She can sing amazingly well, and she’s learning the lyre. She has a blue smokestone ring. She’s beautiful, and she’s learning Yllish knots which she braids into her hair. She can extemporise poetry pretty well. Everything else she makes up along the way.

RobMRobM has thoughts about her origins;

She probably can’t be Yllish. Everyone in this book from another country seems to have at least some type of noticeable accent. Denna doesn’t have one sufficient for Kvothe to remark upon. Hence, she’s probably Aturan.

Also, she’s needs to be from a household that is either noble, very wealthy merchant or Ruh, as she has immensely deep understanding of plays and poems that bespeaks extensive (and potential expensive) study sufficient to surprise Kvothe. She also owns that beautiful red ring that sounds like an heirloom rather than a gentleman’s gift.

So my current thought is she is an Aturan noble, was betrothed to a Yllish noble, and ran away. The parallel to Kvothe’s parents would then be very close (and query whether Nathalie was going to be betrothed to the Maer – that would be delicious irony for plot development. And I’ll further predict that early in the next book the Maer (likely with Ambrose’s help) will have Kvothe investigated, figure out his mother is Nathalie, and cut him off from tuition payments – leading to his expulsion when he can’t make a 30 talent tuition.) And she may well have self-esteem problems after being treated as chattel by her family. (Or, as ClairedeT says above, perhaps she was seduced by someone at home and was sent to an Yllish marriage in shame. Or maybe – extreme speculation – she was knocked up and was sent by her parents to have the baby somewhere remote and wasn’t being married off at all. Any or all of these factors would cause her to be secretive and hardened to most men.)

Perhaps the tragedy is that Denna loves Kvothe but can’t marry a poor student if she ever wants to go home. So she’s trying to accumulate money from patrons and men so that she can be in position to bring him home in style as a wealthy graduate of the Academy. His expulsion would cause serious damage to those plans, forcing her to become ever closer to her patron. Hmnnn.

The problem with the above theories there is no real textual evidence. Unlike the talk of nobles in Vintas and Modeg, I don’t recall much talk about nobles in the Aturan Empire or Yll. Any hints in either direction?

Jonathan Duerig thinks she’s from the Commonwealth:

when Kvothe meets Denna the second time at the Eolian, he is completely flustered and falls into a pattern of courtly manners. He goes to kiss her hand and does an analysis of what culture she might be from in order to do it right. Eventually, he concludes that she doesn’t have a noticable accent so she is likely from the Commonwealth and so kisses her hand in that style. She doesn’t act offended as if he did the wrong thing.

This seems to imply strongly that she is from the Commonwealth. It is possible that one of her parents was Yllish and taught her the knots though. It also occurs to me that perhaps it was her patron that taught her the knots. They don’t seem to appear until after she gets one AFAIK.

C12VT isn’t so sure:

I think it’s possible she could be from Yll. It sounds like Yll has been heavily influenced by Aturan culture – Kvothe says that Yll “had been nearly ground to dust under the iron boots of the Aturan Empire”, and we know that the use of Yllish story knots has nearly disappeared and the university doesn’t offer any (official) classes in Yllish. Perhaps most Yllish people these days are bilingual, or even more comfortable with Aturan than with Yllish – this sort of thing happens all the time in the real world. So Denna could be from Yll, but still be a native speaker of Aturan and not have much of an accent.

On the other hand, in the letter she writes to Kvothe in WMF she talks about going to Yll and it doesn’t sound like she’s been there before. But she doesn’t say so explicitly.

Denna’s background is quite a mystery. She does seem to be too educated to be from a poor family, as RobMRobM said. On the other hand, I feel like she acts like someone who grew up with hardship and limitations, not privilege. And how did she learn the Yllish story knots? It seems to be a very rare skill, and difficult to acquire.

I think she’s a chameleon, behaving with the customs of the people and place where she finds herself. The Bechdel scene strongly implies she has had to make bad choices, and we know from Deoch that she has no family.

Jhirrad thinks she isn’t a noble:

I’m not so sure that Denna is “obviously a noble’s daughter”. She seems more like someone that has spent time around nobility, though not a part of it. Possibly an illegitimate child of a noble through a member of the staff that was kept in the household? Maybe a merchant’s child? Clearly she has exposure to the upper echelons of society, but I don’t believe that she was really part of it herself. She’s a little too rough around the edges even while being refined.

And I’m not so sure that her age is what we assume it to be. Based on the commentary, we believe her to be around 16, but is it just me or does this seem off to anyone else? A few things come to mind. First, based on the other characters we interact with, 16 in this world seems to roughly correspond with 16 in our modern world, not medieval. A 16 year old on their own is commented on, as Kvothe is often enough. A beautiful 16 year old girl…I feel like that would draw even more comment and more risk also. I’m also disconcerted with her timeline and how it ages her. Deoch (the innkeep at the Eolian) mentions during Kvothe’s first year of studying at the University that she has been coming and going for quite some time (sorry, I don’t have my books handy to cite the exact words). She also seems very good at working men in her way (and no, I’m not saying anything against her here, just making a point). She is very…practiced at it. Much more so than someone 16 years old who could have, at the most, been out on her own for what, less than 2 years?

JMD considers her as not knowing who she is:

I think one of the things about Denna is that she does not know who she is yet. We know that she has escaped from some not so happy circumstances in the past (as when she was talking to the runaway girl) and she has learned to protect herself (carries a knife). So she always names herself similarly to keep track of herself. But there is also this idea of how changing your name changes who you are – exemplified by the Kote/Kvothe issue. So she may not be solid yet and these “use names” all dance around the same issue. Kvothe askes Elodin about that at one point and he gets alarmed at thinking she is changing names versus just changing what she is called.

DEL, very interestingly, on the parallels between D and K:

I have a suspicion that D and K’s early life experiences were founded from similar tragedies. Where Kvothe saw the Chandrians as the architects of his suffering, Denna’s tradgedy was caused by the Amyr. They each are searching for answers, getting tangled up in the differeing sides of a long running schism. If the Amyr are the villians in D’s world, wouldn’t that give credence to her version of the Lanre story?

Artful Magpie:

The more I think about it, the more I really do think that the reason D comes off as somewhat hollow is that she is the ultimate con-woman. Her whole life is just one con after another. She is very deliberately making herself into the ideal of the men around her, taking what she can, and leaving when the situation gets tight. Maybe she shows more of her true character to Kvothe, since he is different in a lot of ways from the other men in her life. Maybe she doesn’t, and she’s just presenting him with one more character, one more face.

Speculations about D as other-than-human

Jhirrad suggests that she could be a Chandrian:

What if Denna is one of the Seven? Again, this is just a wild, crazy, speculative load of jargon, but, let’s look at some clues.

1) She hides her name assiduously;
2) She seems to almost magically appear and disappear;
3) She has a seemingly magical hold on Kvothe.

Consider simultaneously the following:

In our discussions, we’ve noted the more humanizing aspects to the Chandrian that Rothfuss has put forth. They aren’t simply the demonic boogiemen that we initially saw. As the story has progessed, so too has their depth. We recognize that maybe they aren’t evil in the conventional sense of the word. Or, maybe they are in fact keeping tabs on Kvothe and doing so through Denna. Also, we know that they aren’t a concensus group. Haliax leads them, but they go off on their own when they want to. Maybe Denna is doing that here. And we all presume that Kvothe went through some horrible trauma regarding Denna. What if he discovered she was one of the Chandrian and killed her? She is THE love of his life. Wouldn’t that break him quite severely? Possibly even causing the birth of Kote from Kvothe?

Susan Loyal has another piece of evidence:

See a woman pale as snow?
Silent come and silent go.
What’s their plan? What’s their plan?
Chandrian. Chandrian.

It seems very odd that she would call attention to herself that way, if she is the woman “pale as snow.” But you certainly can’t say she doesn’t come and go silently.

I’m not quite convinced that she’s one of the seven, but there’s certainly some link.

But then she notices:

In that same scene, Kvothe tells her that there’s something fae about her. And the moon keeps getting mentioned when he remembers being with her.

Shalter wonders if she’s an angel:

In Skarpi’s story, ch28 when Tehlu steps forward to recruit the angels, one of the angels is “fair Geisa” the first woman to know the unwanted touch of man. Could there be some relation to Denna in that story?

And DThurston:

I agree there’s something fae and related to the moon about Denna, but I think it’s a real stretch to make her one of the Chandrian. Are the Chandrian even fae at all?

We’re fairly sure they’re not. Before there were fae and human, everyone was Ruach, and then there was the split in the worlds and the theft of the moon and the Creation War and after that there were fae and human and a handful of angels and Chandrian and Amyr.

DThurston again:

Perhaps Denna in these chapters is different (in some sense) from the D that appears later? They look the same, obviously, but Kvothe is said to “know” (not “think”) he will never see her again; she doesn’t seem to remember Kvothe at first, she later says something like “it’s been a long time since I’ve been Denna”; and so forth.

Stargazer suggests that she has spent time in Fae without aging:

We have no idea if humans age while in Fae; it seems plausible that they may not from the agelessness of Felurian and Bast along with the general time slippage. My guess is that both K (in the frame story) and Denna (in the narrative) are both subjectively many years older than they are physically. The question then is, are there Fae cities where one can learn the fine art of the con artist, and how to manipulate men? Imagine a young Denna falling through a moon gate into a sprawling and alien fae city, and having to learn how to survive there by hook or by crook. Could be worse than Tarbean, leaving her traumatized once she somehow escapes yet drawn to search for a way back?

and finds more evidence for it:

“I remember your name, Denna.” It sounded good to say it to her. “Why did you take a new one? Or was Denna just the name that you were wearing on the road to Anilin?”

“Denna,” she said softly. “I’d almost forgotten her. She was a silly girl.”

“She was like a flower unfolding.”

“I stopped being Denna a long time ago, it seems.” She rubbed her bare arms and looked around as if she was suddenly uneasy that someone might find us here.

That is a profoundly odd conversation for a meeting that happened less than a year ago by Kvothe’s chronology. And see too their first encounter in the Eolian, at the start of Ch. 58, “Names for Beginning”:

It was Denna, the young woman I had met in Roent’s caravan so long ago.
Come to think of it, it had only been half a year. Not so long when you’re listening to a story, but half a year is a great long while to live through, especially if you are young. And we were both of us very young.


The months had changed her. Where before she had been pretty, now she was lovely as well. Perhaps that difference was only that she wasn’t wearing the road clothes I had met her in, but a long dress instead. But it was Denna without a doubt. I even recognized the ring on her finger, silver set with a pale blue stone.

Since we parted ways, I had kept foolish, fond thoughts of Denna hidden in a secret corner of my heart. I had thought of making the trip to Anilin and tracking her down, of meeting her by chance on the road again, of her coming to find me at the University. But deep down I knew these thoughts for nothing more than childish daydreams. I knew the truth: I would never see her again.

But here she was, and I was entirely unprepared. Would she even remember me, the awkward boy she had known for a few days so long ago?

If there’s not a significant time slip in Denna’s chronology between the caravan and the Eolian, I will eat my hat. “Perhaps” the difference is just a dress? Ha! I wouldn’t bet a jot. (Regardless of what one’s worth!)

The only thing that gives me the slightest hesitancy about this is the end of the second to last paragraph quoted: “I knew the truth: I would never see her again.” Is K telling us that caravan-Denna and Eolian-Denna are actually different people (i.e. she’s some kind of changeling or is possessed or something odd like that), or can we read that as a statement about the same person but in a fundamentally different state, akin to the Kvote/Kote distinction?

C12VT suggests:

If Denna did go into Fae, her estrangement from her family wouldn’t necessarily have to be from scandal, etc. – time passes differently, and she could have emerged years later (looking no older). Her family could have died or moved in the meantime, or might not believe she is really herself due to the age discrepancy. It would explain her comment about noone speaking Yllish anymore, if she had personally known a time that was different.

Foxed says:

I thought D was a Fae up until the Bechdel scene.

But if she was human and went into Fae and came out, the Bechdel scene could still fit.

Lakesidey proposes a crazy theory:

At some point while I was reading the books I remember wondering whether Auri and D could be the same person. I have no idea what prompted the thought, but I have to point out, no-one’s ever seen them two dames together, nein? And they are moon-connected and all that….ok, ok, so it’s crazy. Forget it.

And LennyB comes up with:

Denna as a time-traveling, Severian-like person, who’s constantly slipping back and forth between different time eras.)


Denna as the Moon

This is Maltheos’s theory:

I cannot believe I missed this Denna’s names all hover around Diana (goddess of the hunt, and of course, the moon). Once again we get back to the moon. It also explains quite abit about how she drifts in and out of his life. (I would be curious to see how long they are ever together consistently — and if it matches the full or the new moon) This may be me seeing something thats not there, but It just fits too well.

Additionally, the moon has already been pictured as a female, and has definitely been trapped in an unpleasant relationship.

Dominiquex expands on that:

I don’t know if she really is The Moon (Ludis) – I don’t get the feel of that plot path from Rothfuss – but the connection makes so much about her fascinating. Her names are generally formed around Diana-variants (excellent catch 3!), she is constantly shifting logistically/namingly/emotionally, constantly trying to rename herself (as one who had her name stolen from her might). She says (paraphrase) ”I disappear sometimes. Without warning. Sometimes it’s all I can do.“ She has extreme emotional reaction to the idea of a man trying to own/control her (as a woman trapped by a man as Ludis was might be). Also, in the break from the narrative at the Eolian where he tries to describe her, he says (again, paraphrasing) ”She was beautiful, without flaw, to her core.“ That is not something that generally seems too human of a description. And her flightiness is more forgiveable if she literally is as changeable as the moon. Finally, after all this time, all the heartbreak she has caused him, and whatever her involvement was in the Kvothe-ruined-the-world event, he still remembers her without the anguish or bitterness we see him recall his time with his parents or negative Tarbean experiences with. His only negative emotions are how he cannot appropriately describe her. He still has selas flowers in his innyard. He does not give us any hint in the frame that he rues her betraying him, mourns her death, hopes that she’s okay, or hopes to see her again – and this from a man who loves to foreshadow. No, he just remembers her fondly and regrets his lack of understanding of her. I definitely get the impression that, whether the moon or not, Denna is somewhere beyond Kvothe’s/Kote’s reach, and probably safe.

And DEL takes it even further:

Kvothe almost always refers to D as Denna. He meets Denna on the road to Imre, but he meets D in the Eolian.

D is Aloine, and Lyra, and the Moon. She is the wildness that should never be tamed or gentled. She is partially trapped by a man who wants mastery and controll over her. He does not have her whole being, her whole name.

D has not settled on a name, or my not be able to access all of her true name. Kvothe sings part of her still free name, and makes a gift of it by leaving lying it open in his performance. He really does meet D for the first time, she didn’t have that part of her name before singing her part. She becomes more herself with this gift.

If D is Lyra, how would Kvothe stop himself from being more like Lanre? By forgetting or locking away that part of his name?

to which I said:

If D literally is the moon, always coming and going, always new again, missing part of her name, sometimes vanishing entirely, always being pulled into Fae and back, and simultaneously a real person who has to eat and really can’t take a steady job and would like to be loved but cannot settle down either — it makes sense of a lot.

Where is the moon when we see her? There’s no moon on the night by the pool, we talked about that, starlight in reality, moonlight in Kvothe’s memory. But that doesn’t mean the moon is in Fae, it could be late-rising. (I would like a tide-table for Tarbean!) Kvothe says to Auri that there’s not much moon, but that’s weeks before he meets D in the Eolian — we only know those things are both in the second term, which is 88 days long, and the moon has a synodic period of 72 days. When the boys walk back in such a symbolic manner, the stars are like diamonds and there’s no moon mentioned. Maybe she is there when the moon isn’t, maybe she is the dark of the moon?

Artful Magpie also brings Auri into the equation:

Okay…uh…this might be totally crazy….but what if Auri and Denna are BOTH the moon? Split in two? Wise, old beyond their years, but always missing some part of themselves?

A Fox, more sensibly, thinks it’s a metaphorical linkage:

Denna’s voice is described as “burning silver” she also burns, and is moonlike. “nightingale”…the later K mentions “…had to cut my part from The Swineherd & The Nightingale becuase i wasnt in any shape to act” the silver comment is repeated 5 times in fact! + “like moonlight on riverstones” Now I dont buy nto Denna being the moon, bu I believe she is as the moon is to Iax: the thing that will make him happy, the object of greatest desire, a consuming obsession.

But this is me again:

I have always had a problem with Denna, especially in NW, in that she just isn’t like a person, she doesn’t behave like a human being, her motivation makes no sense. And this kind of thing is a problem male writers often have when writing about love interests, they make them tantalising and mysterious and impossible to imagine why any sensible person would act that way. But if she is literally the moon, the personification of the moon—imagine being literally the moon and also a person who needs to eat and sleep out of the rain. Imagine spending part of each month in Fae and what this does to your employment prospects. Imagine being forced to travel. Imagine not having all of your name, and not aging normally and reimagining yourself. This suddenly makes her make perfect sense, and this has shaken her up in my head, the same as the Tarbean section.

And a further thought—if D is the moon, and if Kvothe gave her part of her name and part of her possibility she didn’t have before, is that why she’s seeking a patron and agency now and not before?

But Artful Magpie has some evidence the other way:

Two things. Firstly, I do like the idea that Denna is the personification of the moon, but I am troubled by the fact that there is no rhyme or reason to the moon-phases in which Kvothe sees her. I actually paid attention to this, hoping for a pattern, and while it does seem that moon-imagery hovers around Denna whenever she is mentioned, it does not seem that she only appears at certain points in the moon’s cycle between the worlds.

and Lambson agrees:

I think PR intentionally imbues Denna with moon-esque qualities/attributes, but I doubt she is the moon. In WMF she meets Kvothe on a moonless night. Above Jo mentions them meeting with a full moon out. I agree that there is more to her than we have right now, but I think her relationship with Kvothe is just a parallel between Jax and the moon.

I have also noticed how often the moon comes up when Kvothe is describing things – “lovely as the moon” is used on more than one occasion and for more than one person. I think it is Kvothe that is somehow tied to the moon, and not Denna. He just cares about her a great deal, so comparisons abound. Maybe he is attracted to her because she is like the moon. He is, after all, a Lackless.

And shalter isn’t convinced:

I’m not yet convinced by the “Denna is litterally the moon” argument.

I’m not utterly opposed to it—just not convinced.

It does seem that there is a relationship there (between Denna & the moon). I’m not sure if it is literal, metaphoric, influence driven, reflective, …


The Denna problem

The reason we have all these theories, and the reason I like the moon one so much, is that she doesn’t really work as a naturalistic person. We know Rothfuss doesn’t have any problem writing realistic female characters because there’s Fela, Devi, Mola even Auri. But there’s also D with all this stuff around her.

ClairedeT is very much speaking for me when she says:

I hope that there is something special about Denna – whether she is the moon, an Amyr, a Chandrian, a Fae or what – as I find her very difficult to relate to as a character at the moment. She is supposed to be young but is extremely knowledgeable about many subjects, and has been coming and going for a while. She is also working (presumably working I should say) as a courtesan to support herself but has the amazing ability to pick up and discard protectors without any real ramification to herself. Is this part of her talent? To leave people happy so they make difficulties when she resurfaces?


I don’t have any answers here but it seems to me that the artificiality of his characterization of Denna is just as big a question as who the Yllish are or whether he was under a spell in Tarbean. 

Artful Magpie thinks she works:

D DOES have a real self, a self behind all the falseness and pretense. But she very deliberately hides it. Kvothe thinks that he is a good actor, but D far outstrips him! Her entire life is built around becoming the right character for the moment. Everything she does is one big con-game. She finds men, becomes what they think they want, gets what she can, and then leaves. Of course her personality rings false….we almost never see anything but facade. Even the Denna she is for Kvothe is a character she plays. We do see some more of the real D in Tarbean after she’s been drugged. She tells Kvothe about her lung weakness, for example. Her surprised reaction later on when Kvothe knows about that indicates that it isn’t something she normally tells anyone.

She’s a strange girl, and she’s the part of the story with which I am least satisfied at this point. Something for DT!


Master Ash

Herelle sums up the Bredon theory:

I’m pretty convinced now that Bredon is Denna’s patron. After Kvothe rescues Fela from the fire in the fishery in NotW he is late to his date with Denna. Deoch tells him that she waited an hour in the Eolian but eventually left with someone. This is how he describes him: “She´s been looking for a patron, and this fellow had that sort of look about him. White-haired, wealthy, you know the type.”

When Bredon makes his entrance in WMF (p. 386) he is “an older man, a gentleman down to his bones,” “His colors weren’t colors at all, merely ash grey and a dark charcoal. His hair and beard were pure white…” Having Kvothes ability in mind to inadvertantly choose the right names (Auri, Nina), I guess he came close with Master Ash. I don’t know what to think about the fact that it seems the wind had his part in this too. The wind swept the leaf in his mouth when he was counting off names, so he named him after the ash leaf. Denna reacted somewhat nonplussed and tried to divert Kvothe by suggesting the leaf was elm. And then Bredon is always gone when Denna is away from Severen too.

Robert Sparling goes on from that to speculate about Bredon’s motivations with regard to Kvothe as well:

If that’s the case, he’s actively training Kvothe for a specific purpose. Teaching him tak for the elloquence of gameplay; keeping Denna in Trebon so Kvothe could find her would be another test, of sorts. She’s composing a song about Lanre that directly opposes Kvothe’s understanding of events, for her patron. Another test, of his resolve, or maybe an attempt to cause a rift between them that would allow Kvothe to so easily leave on his hunting adventure, where he happens to come across a Chandrian…

It begs the question of why, and also how. There are rumors about Bredon being some kind of pagan. I think it more likely he’s an Amyr. He seems to keep pointing Kvothe at the Chandrian, perhaps baiting them, hoping to catch them while they hunt for Kvothe.

Herelle again:

When I think about Bredon being Denna’s patron I even feel more convinced that he is not the bad guy the Chteah described. Bredon was described as a very helpful and clever person. There is something behind this “Why would I want to win anything than a beautiful game?”, though.

Brazilian Vitor sums up the opposing Cinder theory very neatly:

I’m quite sure Denna’s patron is actually Cinder. A lot of elements point to that:

1 – The Cthaeh passage depicts Master Ash as a sadistic person, which is a key component of Cinder’s personality

2 – The sympathetic version of Lanre’s story presented by Denna’s was inspired by his patron, which could suggest a Chandrian’s effort of rewriting that narrative

3 – Denna’s is inexplicably drawn to every place the Chandrian appear. This happens in Trebon and also in Vintas, where Cinder is playing the role of a highroad man

4 – Last but not least, the Vulgar Latin word for Ash is cinisîa, which originated, for instance, the word cinza (ash in Portuguese) and ceniza (ash in Spanish), and is rather akin to the word Cinder. I figure this should be one more of those instances where Kvothe unadvertedly gives a correct name to something, just like in the painted horse episode.

Herelle argues for Bredon:

I can’t make myself believe that Denna would stay with someone as evil and sinister as Cinder. When Kvothe asks her if their secret sign at the Trebon site was blue flame she said that was too sinister even for Mr. Ash. I think the Chteah is intentionally misleading Kvothe. Denna is maybe not the victim of physical abuse but training some kind of fighting. How else did she overcome the guy who molested the girl in Severen?

There are several hints that point to Bredon: house colors ash grey and charcoal, white hair, age (Cinder is young, isn’t he?), Denna is gone at the same time as Bredon, Denna talks about dancing with her patron, while Bredon tells Kvohte that he is learning to dance. Bredons wolf head walking stick is mentioned several times, somehow I expect it to be some telltale sign at some later time.

Chrispin says that Master Ash doesn’t have to actually be a Chandrian, he could be working with them:

It sounds like Denna’s patron is working with the Chandrian. He put Denna in the wedding to scout out the numbers for them then got out before the attack. D doesn’t need to be killed by the Chandrian since she can still be of use in the future.

and LennyB thinks if Bredon is Master Ash, then Master Ash is a good guy:

The thing about Bredon turning out to be Denna’s Patron is that, if he is, I will have difficulty with the notion that Denna’s Patron is one of the bad guys.

What comes across to me from all that Kvothe tells us of Bredon is that Bredon is a considerate gentleman and a scholar — his ability to play a ruthless game of Tak, notwithstanding. I can’t believe, at this point in the story, that Bredon’s idea of a “beautiful game” would include the notion of sadistically toying with Denna, just for the fun of it.

My subjective impressions about Bredon, so far, tell me that he’s one of the good guys. He may be capable of tough and ruthless behavior, but he wouldn’t choose to act that way in the service of evil. (Amyr are also capable of ruthless behavior.)

If Bredon does turn out to be Mr. Ash, it will be easier for me to believe that Rothfuss is just skillfully presenting Kvothe’s point of view on things to us to lure us into buying into that point of view. We see Mr. Ash as a bastard through Kvothe’s eyes — but maybe he’s really not a bastard. (Denna doesn’t think he is.)

It seems more likely to me that if Bredon is Mr. Ash, then Mr. Ash is an opponent of the Chandrian — and we don’t clearly understand his actions, yet.

Another thing — taking in events from Kvothe’s point of view, we’re led to feel, so far, that the Chandrian are the ultimate evil in his world and that the Amyr are good guys fighting in opposition to the Chandrian. But what if that view of good vs. evil is skewed by Kvothe’s personal experience? Maybe the whole thing of the battle between the Chandrian and the Amyr will eventually be revealed as a big, complicated mess?

Just subjectively and impulsively, I’d have an easier time with broader revelations that blur the distinction between good and evil in the story than I would with the revelation of Bredon as a cruel and twisted sadist. If Bredon is revealed to be a villain with a dark sadistic nature, then I’ve really misread Patrick Rothfuss’s subtext in the story so far.

AO’s really not convinced:

I have met enough “gentlemen” and “scholars” and heroes in their own eyes to know that such people can be anything underneath. Some can be sadistic and hide it well, or they can easily justify their actions, or they can find such actions distasteful but necessary when “needed.” That of course isn’t proof that Bredon is such, but at the same time, I don’t believe that we can rule it out either. He’s clearly intelligent, I think that he could hide the more unsavory parts of his nature quite well if needed.

As for whether or not Ash is a bastard? You could be right, or partially so, but I do take to heart what the Cthaeh said. We know that it doesn’t lie. Perhaps it neglected to provide other evidence that would soften our impressions of Ash (i.e. “it’s okay that he beats women because…”), but my guess is that at best Ash is far from good. Perhaps he is not evil, or the things he does seemingly have some good justifications, but I would be willing to bet that wherever the truth lies, he is far from simply “good.” I could be wrong, or somewhat so, but for now I’m pretty well convinced of my interpretation.

and A Fox is all for sociopathic Bredon as Ash:

Bredon IS powerful in the maer’s court. Very powerful. The less powerful you are in that court the more weight you put onto the rings game, the more weight onto your own name. The fact that he doesnt shows that he is in a very comfortable position. Likely not far below the Maer himself. Sociopaths learn how to put on a social mask, kinda like a beatufiful game right? Though I’m not yet sure of his morality. The bruise of D’s head indicates that he knew he had to knock her out to stop her from following him back to the farm, to stop her seeing the chandrian. To protect her.

I also have another theory, which is Lorren. We’ve talked about him as an Amyr, and he’s the right age. He could have easily been in Imre, and we don’t know that he’s not in Severen. But I’m more inclined towards Bredon at this point, and will be looking for that as we go into WMF, while not neglecting other possibilities.

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.


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