Welcome to the last of the speculative summaries of my no moon left unturned reread of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. This post is about the things we think we know, and it contains extensive spoilers for all of The Wise Man’s Fear and The Name of the Wind—these discussions assume you’ve read all of both books. This 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, CTH—that thing I can’t spell!
Useful links: The Sleeping Under the Wagon post, in which there are lots of ted in WMF, none of them really came up explicitly in NW. The first is the Amtheories. The re-read index. The map. The timeline. Imaginary Linguistics.
So, while we’re waiting for Pat to answer our questions, not to mention finish writing D3, let’s consider the things we feel sure about. We’ve had a lot of speculations and a lot of crazy ideas in the course of this very close reading, but there are some things on which we pretty much have a consensus. (I could do a much longer post on things where we do not have a consensus and which we’d love to know!)
1) Meluan is Kvothe’s aunt. I first suggested this, on the grounds that we know his mother was a runaway noble and we know Meluan’s sister ran off with an Edema Ruh. Then Alekhia found absolute proof of it in the song:
It’s worth my life
To make my wife
Not tally a lot less…
“Not tally a lot less” = “Netalia Lackless”. I don’t think there’s any serious disagreement left on this one.
2) Newarre is in Vintas. GBrell really nailed this one down with absolutely masses of evidence:
Newarre is most likely in western Vintas, probably on the southern border of the Eld.
The first piece of evidence we have is Kvothe/Kote’s admission that the Scrael come from the east and his surprise that they’ve “made it this far west yet.” He “thought the mountains ” presumably would have stopped them or slowed them down.
Looking at the map, we see that the only significant mountain ranges that could have held them back are the Stormwal mountains in the far east and possibly the Eastern Cealdish range. Mountains in the Commonwealth are on the western shore (and Newarre is clearly not a port community) and none in Yll appear to run north-south.
C12VT in Thread 1 pointed out this suggests a far western location, but I think that’s a slight overreaction. More likely is the idea that he’s decently west of a mountain range (or that the mountain range is westerly), rather than on the other side of the continent.
This leaves us with three countries that border a sizable mountain range: Ceald, Modeg and Vintas.
We can rule out Ceald because a) no one appears to be speaking Siaru (unless they all are and Kvothe isn’t mentioning it) and b) “grown Cealdish men don’t give away money. . . . They don’t even buy things if they can help it” (NotW, 223). This isn’t behavior we’ve noticed in Newarre. Also, I haven’t noticed any descriptions of the “ruddy complexion and dark hair and eyes” that characterizes a full-blooded Ceald (NotW, 226).
Here are the arguments for why it’s Vintas:
The smith’s prentice states that the “king’s coin” is not “a silver noble” but “a whole gold royal” (WMF, 18). The soldiers who attack Kvothe learns of his apparent wealth by asking to break a gold coin, a “whole royal.” (WMF, 891). This is confirmed to be Vintish coin when Kvothe discusses having “two gold royals, four silver nobles ” after being dismissed by the Maer (WMF, 927). We know that “beer is three shims and a private room costs copper,” but that doesn’t provide us with much as “shim” appears to be used generically to mean a small amount of money (NotW, 44).
Chronicler carries a “whole silver talent in a jar of ink,” but he travels extensively and, as he noted, it’s more a “luck piece” (NotW, 20-21).
Next, Bast has on his shelf “[r]ings of horn and leather and woven grass” (WMF, 985). Coincidentally, those are the exact three examples used by Bredon to describe how the common folk (presumably of Vintas) use rings. (WMF, 444). […]
Now why I believe Newarre is on the Southern edge of the Eld.
This is going to be accomplished by a curious triangulation.
First, Kvothe, when he first meets Chronicler at the Inn, asks him, “How is the road to Tinue?” We know this is an idiomatic expression (NotW, 273), but Chronicler reaction is confusion, followed by “I wasn’t heading to Tinue.” This implies that they are currently somewhere close enough to Tinue for that expression to be literally askable.
Second, when Kvothe fakes having a bum knee in the beginning of NotW, he mentions that he got the “wound” “on my way through the Eld three summers ago. It’s what made me give up the good life on the road” (NotW, 29). Counterpoint: the farmer that gives Kvothe a ride to Tarbean mentions “this side of the Eld” as an idiomatic expression, so the giant forest is well known.
Third, when Abenthy is talking to Arliden and Netalia, he asks them what the village-folk are afraid of. In Vintas, they reply “Fae” and “Draugar,” neither of which we’ve seen mentioned by the villagers in Newarre. They are scared of demons, however, much like the people of Trebon. According to Arliden, people in Atur are scared in demons.
So we’re looking for somewhere that’s in Vintas, near Atur, Tinue and the Eld, which gives us a small jutting of land south of the Eld, bordering the Small Kingdoms, but quite close to the Aturan Empire. It also is fairly west of the Stormwal Mountains.
I think this is absolutely conclusive, and nobody has argued with it since it was first proposed.
3) Susan Loyal noticed, when reading the section immediately after Kvothe’s troupe are killed:
In Chapter 19, Fingers and Strings, Kvothe says: “Make no mistake. I was not myself. At least I was not the same person I had been a span of days before.” I just read over this as metaphorical, because it’s such common usage to describe trauma and grief. It may be literal. Kvothe lists the gates in the mind that protect the mind from extreme pain: the gate of sleep, the gate of forgetting, the gate of madness, the gate of death. (In Skarpi’s story […] Haliax says these gates are closed to him.) Kvothe says repeatedly, from the beginning of his time in the woods to the point in Tarbean where Skarpi is arrested, that his mind is sleeping. He also refers (it seems somewhat inconsistently) to things that are locked behind the gate of forgetting. His parents’ death and the Chandrian seem to be behind the gate of forgetting most of the time. Sometimes the memories rise, however. And then you have his recounting his troupe’s role in the Midwinter celebrations as if his memory was completely unaffected. This seems to me like some of the inconsistencies in the Kote/Kvothe split. His geographical location is one of the things behind the gate of forgetting, or so he says when he decides to find lute strings.
While we still have a lot of different theories about the whole Kote issue, I think we are pretty much in agreement that Susan’s right, it’s literal and not metaphorical, Kvothe went behind those doors in his mind, and that until Skarpi spoke his name and woke his waking mind, it was his sleeping mind that was in charge in the woods and in Tarbean.
4) Hands. Since Dr Food suggested that there’s something weird about Kote’s hands, it’s been really obvious, though I didn’t notice it before. I don’t think we’re agreed as to what or why, though we’ve spilled a lot of pixels on it, but I think it’s inarguable that something is up:
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”?
and Trollfot adds an Amyr connection:
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?
5) Which brings me nicely to 5, Lurking Canadian’s t-shirt theory:
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.
and Connor Sullivan:
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.
And of course, Auri finding Kvothe with bloody hands calls him her Ciridae and beyond reproach. We keep getting references to the Amyr being like knights of the Round Table, things kids want to be but adults know better, and then there’s the Duke of Gibea, and there’s Felurian saying there never were any human Amyr. There’s a lot we don’t know, but I think we agree that Kvothe is instinctively and automatically on the side of what he sees as The Greater Good.
6) I am absolutely sure from every single mention of opening things and lack of sense that between the events of the story and the events of the frame, Kvothe has opened something that would have been better left shut. We can argue about what, but I think it’s beyond doubt that this is the case.
7) Vorfelan Rhinata Morie — this is written on the Archives. Wil translates this as “the desire for knowledge shapes a man, or something like that”. We’re sure that “fel” means “desire”, see Felurian. We’re sure that “rhinata” means man, see rhinta. And we know Temic is a language like Latin where word order isn’t relevant but word endings are, and Wil isn’t all that good at it. Shalter:
When Wil says that Vorfelan Rhinata Morie means something like “The desire for knowledge shapes a man” and if we tag Vorfelan with “desire for knowledge” and Rhinata with man, then Morie would correspond to shapes. I couldn’t find a word anywhere that is used to signify a Shaper, but I wonder if we won’t find that whatever that word for Shaper is, corresponds fairly closely to Morie.
Then the inscription might be more like “With knowledge a man can Shape”.
Or “if you want to learn shaping, you’re at the right place”. This was Shalter, Thistlepong, Haleyal and Susan Loyal. Whatever it means, we’re sure it’s more than the obvious, and unlike Valeritas where we have no idea, we have ideas and we’re pretty sure they’re even going in the right direction.
8) Belanay is the district where the University and Imre are, it’s on the letter D sends and on the letter Kvothe sends Ambrose. It’s at one end of the Great Stone Road, and we know that Myr Tariniel was at the other end, in the mountains. It could however be Belen, the Underthing could be the ruins of Belen, a city from before the Creation War.
Further, TyranAmiros suggests that the one city that wasn’t destroyed was Tinusa, and is now Tinue, which is why people are always asking how the road there is. I think this is, if not proven, at least really solidly likely.
9) This isn’t exactly a thing, but it’s what has made this whole re-read possible. Ever since not getting the stories of the trial and the shipwreck, and even more since Felurian’s story about stealing the moon, I have felt sure that Rothfuss knows what he is doing and that it will all be clear later. Ryanreich said:
there are two books in one (well, six in three, anyway) and the apples and songs are windows into the second, hidden one.
I think all of us will endorse that. But that’s not a lot of actual conclusions is it, from a year’s worth of posts adn this amount of speculation! What have I overlooked?
Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and nine novels, most recently the Hugo and Nebula nominated Among Others. 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.