Welcome to my incredibly detailed reread of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. This week’s post covers chapters 81-85 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, 4C = Four Corners.
Chapter 81 is The Jealous Moon
“Even the jealous moon who steals the colour from all things” in Dedan’s story.
So, Kvothe is in the Eld bandit hunting, and we established last chapter a pattern of storytelling around the campfire with Marten’s story. Now they have a good dinner—in a quiet Tolkien allusion it is herbs and stewed rabbit—and Hespe tells a romantic love story of “a queen who loved a serving boy”. Dedan doesn’t get into a romantic mood, he tells a story of Felurian. This is both setting us up for Felurian later, and right now giving us more of the Dedan/Hespe interaction. Now we already know a little about Felurian—not just from Kvothe’s boastful intro, but she has been mentioned from time to time. But this is the first time we have heard about her in detail.
Dedan’s story begins exactly the way people tell ghost stories—it happened near here, people may call them superstitious but they know better. What he actually says about Fae is:
Cloven hooved pucks that dance when the moon is full.
is it just me or does that sound like Bast?
Dark things with long fingers that sreal babes from cribs. Many’s the woman, old wife or new, who leaves out bread and milk at night. And many’s the man who builds his house with all the his doors in a row.
Now, baby-stealing and leaving out bread and milk are part of European superstitions about fairies. Building your house with all the doors in a row is completely new to me. Any thoughts on the significance?
Lady of Twilight. Lady of the First Quiet. Felurian who is death to men.
Twilight, we know is a physical location in Fae. But it also connects to Bast, who is son of the Prince of Twilight. And “first quiet” in the context of twilight, connects to the one-sock horse.
Tempi then interrupts to find out how she is death to men, and when he finds out she kills them with sex is horrified. Hespe mimes a man’s heart stopping in sex, and Dedan says sometimes they don’t die but go crazy. Tempi seems relieved by this. What was he thinking? (In the context of fairy mythology and death through sex, I was thinking about the vagina dentata Julian May gives the Firbolg. Ick.)
So, two men hunting hear singing in the light of the full moon. Dedan sings the song, and Kvothe doesn’t recognise the language of the words and finds the tune utterly unfamiliar. Felurian’s “naked as the moon”. Kvothe notices that Hespe isn’t happy, but Dedan goes on with his description without noticing, until Hespe stalks off. Dedan stops and starts to go to bed angrily, but Kvothe begs for the end of the story. He hates not knowing the end of a story. He guesses it ends with one of the men never being seen again and the other prevented in leaving, and Dedan confirms “put his foot in a rabbit hole”.
Marten uses the metaphor of getting burned if he tried to intervene between Hespe and Dedan, and then says:
“Attractive as some things are, you have to weigh your risks. How badly do you want it, how badly are you willing to be burned?”
Of course this makes Kvothe think of D.
Chapter 82 is Barbarians
They move camp, and Kvothe does more Adem language with Tempi, despite being weirded out by the way mentioning singing upset him. Tempi’s Aturan improves as well. Then Tempi does his “slow dance”, the Ketan, and goes to bathe, and Kvothe makes simulacra out of the candles.
Tempi comes back naked and asks what a tick is, they don’t have them in Ademre. Kvothe is impressed with his scars—from the tree of course, but he doesn’t know that. He is also disconcerted by Tempi’s lack of body-modesty, but hides it. And when Tempi says he hates ticks and makes a gesture, Kvothe figures out that it is a gesture of disgust, and the intuituve leap that all Tempi’s “fidgeting” is how he does expressions. (This is so incredibly cool.)
Then we have the revelation that everyone is left handed:
Most lutenists chord with the left hand and strum with the right. The left hand is more nimble, as a rule.
Kvothe learns the language of gesture. He’s delighted because it’s something to learn, and it’s “a secret thing, of sorts”. Then he asks why, and Tempi says it’s more civilized. And he says everyone outside Ademre is a barbarian, with “No women to teach them civilization. Barbarians cannot learn.” This makes Kvothe more determined than ever to learn the gestural language. Tempi does the Ketan, and Kvothe copies him, but it’s very hard and exhausts him. They make dinner, Tempi cutting potatoes with his sword. Then Kvothe copies him through the Ketan again, and Tempi ignores him, which of course gives him a challenge.
Chapter 83 is Lack of Sight
Kvothe, missing Elodin’s method.
We’re immediately in another story, Marten telling one about Taborlin, in which we learn that he always keeps his word. It’s twelve days later, Kvothe is slowly learning Adem language and gestures. The Taborlin story is full of Taborlin using naming.
They talk about the cloak “of no particular color” and how they see it. Hespe sees it grey, Dedan like shimmery like oil on water, Tempi white, Marten blue (!) and Kvothe as patchwork, or too dark to be any one colour. Kvothe loves that cloak, of course, and it’s why he has been wearing cloaks his whole life.
And the story goes on, until it gets to a copper sword. Dedan queries that, and Marten abandons the story. Kvothe tells the story of the boy with the gold screw in his bellybutton. There’s a mention of “the witchwomen of the Tahl” across the Stormwal as one of the groups the kid visits, and also tinkers, with wise men and hermits.
To test this story, I told it to a mixed group of people who haven’t read the book. They all reacted with “Huh?” and none of them laughed. I urge you to do the same and report back. I laughed when I first read it.
The other thing worth noting about this story is that it is an oral story, with barely any concessions to the fact that it is written down.
And of course, he explains to Marten that his father told him it as a child to get some peace, and Marten thinks that was cruel. From this I deduce that Marten has no children. Kvothe explains that having unanswerable questions to think about is the best education, and then going to bed figures out that this is Elodin’s method and he’s been missing it. About time too.
Chapter 84 is The Edge of the Map
The inside edge, places nobody really goes. Brilliant concept.
They continue searching and backbiting. Kvothe is becoming friends with Tempi, and Dedan keeps pushing. Kvothe keeps on mimicing the Ketan and Tempi keeps ignoring it. Then the day after the loose screw story, Tempi corrects a movement where Kvothe kept stumbling. And Marten finds a plant “An’s blade” that dies if it comes near people. He talks about how wild the forest is, as different from most forests as a wolf from a dog. And Kvothe thinks of being sent there like a move on a Tak board.
Chapter 85 is Interlude: Fences
Another interlude, and again K senses the disturbance before the others and in time for them to break off safely. I think there might be something in this theory that the Waystone itself is affecting things.
The Bentley family come in, K gives them cider, refuses payment, they get Chronicler to write a will. Bast asks why they would do that when he knows Mary can write because she has written him letters—with the implication of love letters. K says to keep things formal, and private from the priest. Then Mary takes the little girl to the bathroom, leaving the baby with Bast, who has no idea what to do, and K entertains him with a rhyme. The last line is “Baby, give your daddy a hug” and K waits to see if the baby will hug Bast, who is offended and says that the baby is blonde. Is this magic?
After the family leaves, it becomes clear in conversation that K and Bast have been helping them out, giving them manufactured jobs to do. Then they talk about the extra tax levies, the “bleeders” taking the money of poor families. Chronicler said the nobles hate them too, and get just as squeezed by them, citing his father. Talking about the Bentleys not asking for help, K says he knows how they feel “I could never have asked a friend for money. I’d have starved first.” Then:
The innkeeper looked down at his hands on the table and seemed surprised that one was curled into a fist.
Which one, I wonder? His good left hand? Out of his control?
K says he understands the bandits better now he has the inn, because before now he never paid tax.
And we’ll stop there because the next chapter starts the story of the moon, and we don’t want to break that one up in the middle but discuss all of it next week.
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.