Patrick Rothfuss Reread

Rothfuss Reread: The Wise Man’s Fear, Part 3: Or Something Like That

Welcome to my excessively detailed re-read of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. This week’s post covers chapters 11-16 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 11 is “Haven

Haven, eh? The official name for the Rookery where they send you when you go a’ravin. It’s that. But it’s also the haven Auri offers Kvothe in the Underthing.

Kvothe goes to an inaccessible courtyard in Mains, via the roof. He plays lute for an hour before Auri appears—I don’t think there’s anything supernatural in how they find each other as some people suggested last week. Either they have an arrangement to meet, or he plays and she shows up when she hears him. He says “she wasn’t expecting me.” This seems perfectly reasonable to me. She says she has been as patient as three stones and wants him to play. He says it depends on what she’s brought him, and she recognises this as a joke. He says he has brought three things, and she says that he’s being very traditional. He gives her the Bredon ale, and Bredon is definitely a place not a brand—he answers “Who made this?” with “Bees and brewers in Bredon.” So there’s honey in it? He also gives her bread and a whole smoked salmon which he says has a harp instead of a heart. This reminds me of a fairytale written by Joan Aiken called “A Harp of Fishbones.”

She gives him a lavender scented candle for happy dreams, a kiss on the forehead and the promise of safety with her in the Underthing if he needs it. The last two are what he focuses on, but look, a candle to go with the key and coin. Auri knows he’s a Lackless.

It’s interesting that he doesn’t say outright that he was crying. He says she wipes his cheeks, and he says he replies as soon as he was able and then that he collected himself. But we are to deduce the emotion.

When he says she is special to him too, she says that she is as lovely as the moon. Moon again.

And they are talking about shoes when Elodin shows up. Kvothe greets him casually because he doesn’t want to scare Auri, and he responds in the same way, even though they’re all on the roof at midnight.

Auri discomforts Elodin, which Kvothe appreciates because Elodin discomforts everyone else.

When Elodin tilts his head there is enough moonlight to see his expression—so there is part of a moon at least, and Auri out in it.

And Kvothe tells Elodin how to deal with Auri and tells him and then asks him not to tell anyone about her. And for the first time Elodin sees Kvothe caring about something other than himself. And when mentioning Haven backfires, Kvothe is “back in Tarbean” and begs.

Then Auri comes back and they sit and feast. When she asks Elodin what’s in the cinnas fruit he brought her he answers “as if he’d expected the question.” He says the fruit contains early morning sunshine. And Kvothe realises that Elodin knows Auri and relaxes. They share the food. And Kvothe calls Auri by name, and Elodin hears and asks, and she says it is her name. “Kvothe gave it to me. Isn’t it marvellous?” Elodin says it’s a lovely name and it suits her, and she says “It is like having a flower in my heart.” Then she gives Elodin a serious look. “If your name is getting too heavy you should have Kvothe give you a new one.” And Elodin looks sanely at Kvothe.

Then Kvothe sings, and he and Elodin leave together. Elodin says he’s known him for years. (And how old is she supposed to be?) “We barely speak a dozen words on a good day.” And then Kvothe needs Elodin to promise him. Elodin asks “Or else?” and Kvothe gets a flash of plum and thinks about murdering him with the knife or the edge of the building. But he says “Or else I’ll do something stupid beyond mortal ken and both of us will end up the worse for it,” which is pretty good self awareness for Kvothe! Maybe he’s growing up. Elodin says it’s a remarkably honest threat.

Then Elodin swears “On my mother’s milk, on my name and my power, by the ever-moving moon.” Interesting set of things, and the moon again.

Kvothe tries to get Elodin to give Auri shoes and clothes. And he asks “Why Auri?” and Kvothe misunderstands and answers “Why are you choosing to look out for Auri?” when in fact he is being asked “Why did you choose that name?” He says it means “sunny” but he can’t recall in what language. And Elodin invites him to join his class on Naming—I think because of all these things, because of Naming Auri—she and Elodin know what it means even if Kvothe doesn’t—and because of caring about her and because of his honest threat.

And Elodin tells him to read Teccam’s Underlying Principles, which is a book with a fascinating title. Kvothe explains he’s still banned from thje Archives. Elodin marches him across the roof to Lorren’s bedroom window and demands his reinstatement and gets it. Lorren was going to ban him for a year and a day—and Elodin says this is very traditional, making two traditional fairytale things in this chapter. Elodin says that he Lorren catches Kvothe “larking around” again he can cut off his thumbs. Considering how Kvothe values his hands—and he’s wringing them two seconds later. He’s horrified, but Elodin says it will be fine if he doesn’t break the rules. So there we are then.

Then Kvothe signs up for courses—observation, physiognomy and physic in the Medica, Ferrous and Cupric metallurgy in the Fishery, Adept Sympathy and Elodin’s course called “Introduction to not being a stupid jackass.” I guess Ambrose won’t be welcome then…

The most interesting course title there is Ferrous and Cupric—iron and copper, eh?


Chapter 12 is “The Sleeping Mind”

Kvothe wakes up excited about the Naming class—real Taborlin the Great magic! But he goes to work at the Fishery and is intercepted by Kilvin, who wants to find out about a girl who has shown up able to describe but not name Kvothe and with a charm. I didn’t immediately think of Nina either, so it’s not surprising that Kvothe didn’t. He assures Kilvin that he’s not risking doing anything so stupid as selling fraudulent charms and assums it’s Ambrose trying to get him into trouble.

Elodin’s class—there are seven of them, three female, which is really high percentage of women for the University. “Our names shape us and we shape our names in turn” and then how complex names are, and the concept of the sleeping mind. He demonstrates by trying to get them to calculate where a stone will fall when tossed, which they can’t, and then brings in an eight year old boy who catches it without any problem. I’m not sure this is an example of doing something subconsciously so much as bodies being faster at some problems than minds, but never mind.

Then he makes a list of books and tells them to read one of them.


Chapter 13 is “The Hunt”

Fairly clear title for once. Kvothe does exactly what Elodin wants and spends a lot of time in the Archives looking for books and reading some of them.

He waited two dayd for the ledgers to be updated this time and he’s nervous. This is why he notices:

The words “Vorfelen Rhinata Morie” chiselled into the stone above the massive stone doors.

He asks Willem what they mean, and Willem says:

“The desire for knowledge shapes a man,” he said, “Or something like that.”

We discussed this before, and the wonderful Shalter suggested that the “something like that” might be “With knowledge, a man can Shape.” I very much lean towards this interpretation, because of “or something like that.” It could also mean “For people desiring knowledge of Shaping.”

In the ledger, somebody has written “Ruh bastard” next to Kvothe’s name. Kvothe smiles and says that’s correct… owning the label, but it’s still a horrible thing. Seems petty for Ambrose, but then Ambrose is petty, and it’s known that he has access to the ledger.

He goes in and acts amazed, but he also is amazed. “It smelled of secrets.” Wil gives him essentially the same explanation that Fela gave him about how hard it is to find things. And he learns a lot about the Archives. But when he shows up for the next class, Elodin doesn’t and there’s nothing but the word “Discuss” written on the blackboard.

Elodin has told them he’s training their sleeping minds, but Kvothe really doesn’t get it.


Chapter 14 is “The Hidden City”

Kvothe says the Archives are like a city. He acknowledges that the hunt has taught him how it works.

There’s a description of Archives. It makes me jealous. I mean, my library is cool, but not actually literally magical. There is a Scriptorium with scrivs toiling over making copies, so we do not in fact have printing yet. I suppose it makes sense for this to be inside the Archives, but you’d think it would benefit from natural light.

There’s a map in the acquisitions office.

one entire wall of the office was nothing but a huge map with cities and roads marked in such detail that it looked like a snarled loom. The map was covered in a layer of clear alchemical laquer and there were notes written at various points in red grease pencil, detailing rumours of desirable books and the last known positions of the various acquisitions teams.

Why didn’t we get this map in WMF? This isn’t a map with a drawing of a little tinker and major cities left out, this is a map with masses of detail. On the other hand, maybe we don’t want the position of every second hand bookshop in the Four Corners. (I’m imagining a world map in which Hay-on-Wye is portrayed as a huge metropolis and New York is shown smaller than Portland, Oregon.)

The “city” of the Archives has “bad neighbourhoods” where the system has broken down, and there Kvothe searches for the Chandrian and doesn’t find much—fairy tales and “thin threads of fact” that he knows already.

He states as fact that they killed his troupe because of the song and the Trebon wedding party because of the vase, as reasons why he doesn’t tell anyone what he’s doing or ask for help.

He dismisses a lot of what he does find as whimsy, but whimsy is never whimsy!

Where did the Chandrian live? In clouds. In dreams. In a castle made of candy. What were their signs? Thunder. The darkening of the moon. One story even mentioned rainbows.

There’s thunder when he sees Cinder later. And the darkening of the moon seems really really significant now. As for rainbows, well, maybe it’s a red herring but I for one will be prepared to be suspicious. The only thing that seems obviously dumb is the candy castle

And there’s a book called the Book of Secrets written like a bestiary about fairytale creatures:

The Chandrian move from place to place
But they never leave a trace
They hold their secrets very tight
But they never scratch and they never bite.
They never fight and they never cuss
In fact they are quite nice to us
They come and go in the blink of an eye
Like a bright bolt of lightning out of the sky.

Lightning linking with thunder? And is “they never cuss” possibly linked to “a sharp word, not for swearing”? Kvothe finds this nothing but annoying pap, and it’s certainly horrible poetry—let me say again how much I admire Rothfuss’s ability to write awful poetry, because it really isn’t easy. But there might be information in it, if nothing but how they come and go in a blink of an eye without leaving a trace, which we know is true. As for “quite nice to us,” well, Cinder was being nice to the bandits, maybe? It could be a point of view. We know they do fight, or at least the troupe were dead and so were the wedding guests. We don’t know about biting and scratching.

I wonder again about the “soft blanket of his sleep.” I wonder if they actually want Kvothe alive for something? For the kingkilling devastation he has caused? For something that advances the end of the world and the destruction that can be Haliax’s only peace? This is one of the places I see the possibility of eucatastrophe—if he realises that his actions have been following their plan and therefore has hidden in Kote so he can’t make anything worse. Because there’s a possibility for redemption and victory there, in the frame anyway.

Anyway, Kvothe, never one to give up, learns from this that the rest of the world really doesn’t believe in the Chandrian. He doesn’t think about how D immediately did, though, in Trebon.

He settles into the term, classes, playing at Ankers, going wild in the Archives now he can, reading. And so he doesn’t go to Imre for a while, and when he does, D is gone. Of course she is.


Chapter 15 is “Interesting Fact”

Elodin demands that the students tell him interesting facts. This is clearly part of the same lesson as learning the Archives—read widely and in all directions. Kvothe still isn’t getting it. He wants to win.

We get a number of weird facts, and one of them stands out, that Yllish knots are a written language and it’s older than the other written languages. And when this is dismissed, we get another, that there’s a type of dog in Sceria that gives birth through a vestigial penis. I think this is evidence that mammalian reproduction in this world is not the same as it is in our world and that therefore the Adem man-mother theory might be real.

Fela’s fact, which wins, is that people born blind couldn’t tell an object was round by looking at it. This is clearly the kind of thing Elodin wants, the kind of mind-expanding world re-examining thing. Kvothe’s fact is that the Adem have a secret art called Lethani which makes them fierce warriors, and he doesn’t know what it is because it’s secret. Elodin says this doesn’t count because he doesn’t know what it is. The really cool thing is that if he did know what it was he’d be doing so much better in the class. (Rothfuss is also so sharp he should watch out he doesn’t cut himself.)

Then Elodin chases milkweed fluff around the room until he falls and cuts himself, as a demonstration of learning the name of the wind. Kvothe isn’t learning anything.

So, is Elodin mad? He seems to me to be trying hard to help them open up their sleeping minds to the possibility of naming. But he’s also… a bit odd. But maybe having your sleeping mind up close does that to you. Geography doesn’t drive you mad, doing Sympathy makes you do odd things because of Alar and believing more than one thing at once, and Naming takes your mind sideways where you can’t always get it back.

After class Kvothe  goes to Imre and looks for D, and finds her after he’s given up and is on his way home… and she’s with Ambrose. And this is another Interesting Fact and one that’s so distressing to Kvothe that it overshadows everything.


Chapter 16 is “Unspoken Fear”

Kvothe unsurprisingly falls into a dark mood. He assumes they both know about their separate relationships with him:

Was Ambrose doing this purely out of spite? How had it happened? What was Denna thinking?

And he tries to console himself in the Archives. He has seen Denna with lots of men and it has not upset him, but this really really does.

He finds a mention of the Chandrian in A Quainte Compendium of Folk Belief. The book is specifically compared to Mating Habits of the Common Draccus, calling out to the frame, but in contrast this is just an attempt to list them by region, not to prove or disprove them. And it was written two hundred years ago by an amateur historian in Vintas. Four chapters on demons, three on faeries, one of them all about Felurian, lots about lots of other things, and half a page on the Chandrian, mostly saying that although everyone knows the rhyme, “if you talk of them they come for you.”

They appear and commit diverse violence for no clear reason.

There are signs which herald their Arrival, but there is no clear agreement as to these. Blue flame is the common, but I have also heard of wine going sour, blindness, crops withering, unseasonable storms, miscarriage and the sun going dark in the sky.

Unseasonable storms? (Don’t bring thunder.)

And we’ll start next time from Chapter 17, where we’re back in the frame.


Last week’s comments

Lots of great comments on alchemy and sygaldry, in which Lurking Canadian plays Kilvin to such good effect that henceforward the fate of the Department of Imaginary Sygaldry is in their hands. Welcome E’lir!

Artful Magpie points out that Teccam wrote the Theophany which means “appearance of God.” Isn’t that interesting! And there is much more interesting speculation on many subjects.

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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