The Larkin Ledgers

Like an endless chain of half-built houses

Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part X – Hollow

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What do we make of this? It’s the shortest chapter in Rothfuss, isn’t it? It’s six words long. Or is it seven if we count the chapter title?

Hollow

Setting aside potential references to John 11:35, we have to find a way to interpret this. It could simply be a bad day. The worst day. Auri struggles through portions of the surrounding days, but they’re never characterized by a single action or emotion.

The consensus seems to be that “HOLLOW” corresponds to chapter seven of The Wise Man’s Fear, “Admissions.” Kvothe gets dosed with the plum bob and ends up bawling in Auri’s arms.

“You can say it,” Auri said softly. “It’s okay if you say it.”
“I’m never going to see her again,” I choked out. Then I began to cry in earnest.
“It’s okay,” Auri said softly. “I’m here. You’re safe.”WMF 77

The parent text never mentions her crying, but it’s told from Kvothe’s extremely self conscious point of view, especially at that moment. If “HOLLOW” is a corresponding reference to that day, to that scene, then there might be ample reason for Auri to cry during or after it.  Her pity for Kvothe could be overwhelming.

Physically, it’s at the halfway point of the book. Structurally, chapters and six form the central pair. In several ring narratives, there’s an isolated central chapter that serves as a pivot point, a fulcrum, but Pat’s don’t work that way. His chapters come in even numbers. The Wise Man’s Fear has seventy seven pairs including the Prologue/Epilogue. The Slow Regard of Silent Things has five with a latch.

Nonetheless, for the ring to exist, there has to be an obvious indicator that the narrative has turned.  Formally, then, this six word chapter is that obvious indicator.

If the end is going to join the beginning the composition will at some point need to make a turn toward the start. The convention draws an imaginary line between the middle and the beginning, which divides the work into two halves, the first, outgoing, the second, returning. In a long text it is important to accentuate the turn lest the hasty reader miss it, in which case the rest of the carefully balanced correspondences will also be missed.Thinking in Circles

It does so by by being an isolated page, an incredibly short chapter, and having quite a bit of emotional impact. We’ve been with Auri for awhile now and come to care for her well being. “HOLLOW” puts us at a distance and inspires our concern.

However, it does so at the expense of an easy set of parallels between the two chapters in the pair. It’s hard to see anything of “THE ANGRY DARK” in “HOLLOW.” Indeed, it’s impossible. The latter actually does all the work in that regard, which we’ll discuss over the next couple posts. One example, though, is that it contains two title drops that also include the title of this chapter.

It also has an interesting functional role that only becomes clear after finishing the book and reflecting on it or rereading it.  This six word chapter mirrors the length of the book.  The imaginary line between these six words and the next chapter marks not only the structural turning point, but the narrative midway mark as well.

While we assume the first time through that Auri’s knowledge at the beginning that she has seven days is correct, we know once we finish that she was wrong.  She had six days. So it’s quite clever to place six words, or is it seven, at the real center of the story.

The tension between six and seven is something that comes up again and again in The Kingkiller Chronicle. Whether it’s six betrayed cities and one spared in “Lanre Turned” or Kvothe’s inability to split his mind a seventh time, the two appear together only to highlight their difference.  Once of the best examples occurs after Kvothe plays ‘The Lay of Sir Savien Traliard.’

“You must play at my house some day,” Threpe said, then quickly held up a hand. “We won’t talk of that now, and I won’t take up any more of your evening.” He smiled. “But before I go, I need to ask you one last question. How many years did Savien spend with the Amyr?”
I didn’t have to think about it. “Six. Three years proving himself, three years training.”
“Does six strike you as a good number?”
I didn’t know what he was getting at. “Six isn’t exactly a lucky number,” I hedged. “If I were looking for a good number I’d have to go up to seven.”NW 410

It even has some peculiar similarities to “HOLLOW” and to the novella as a whole. In addition to the tension between six and seven, they share weeping, music, and some minor information about the Amyr.

That’s a lot of words to justify and contextualize a chapter that, in all honesty, feels right. It batters the reader and encourages hir to move on to the next page, to find out if Auri’s okay.

But I think it’s important to show that Pat’s not just messing around. This story wasn’t banged out in a short period of time like “How Old Holly Came to Be” or “The Lightning Tree.”  Both of those are compelling for their own particular qualities, but The Slow Regard of Silent Things was crafted carefully. It was handled gently and polished to a bright shine.  And it’s set deeply into the world, the narrative, and even the structure of the greater story.

We’ve covered the first three days. Next we’ll begin to close the circle with the next three.

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5 thoughts on “Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part X – Hollow

  1. Thanks for this reread! 🙂

  2. I’ve got something on the last chapter, Uncommon pleasant place.. Around the end of the chapter when Auri is leaving she passes a cat but ignores it. This struck me as really weird because cats superstition has to do with the night yet she is comfortable in the night. However, upon reading what sounded at first like an idiotic theory for what the fae are came to sound a little correct. The theory was created by a user in the rothfuss WMF reread thread by the username robocarp and is as follows: “The Ruach, and all creatures shaped from Ruach (i.e., Faeries), are dogs.

    The Ruach, the Fae, the (old) Amyr, the Sithe, Tehlu’s Angels, Feluruian, Bast, Selitos, Aleph, Lyra, Lanre, Iax. Literal dogs. They wear a glamour to appear human, but they’re dogs.

    So where does this come from. If you notice, there is a picture of an white-colored animal (it looks like the body of a dog and tail of a cat) standing on a roof in Tarbean. Now, this seems like a superfluous detail: it’s not needed to fill in empty space, it’s colored so as to stand out, and, as far as I could remember, there was not a single specific dog or cat that appeared in the narrative. Since superfluous details tend to be clues, I wondered what this animal represented. My first thought was that it was one of Kvothe’s girl friends tracking him in the form of a cat. So I did keyword searches for ‘cat’ and ‘dog’ on my Kindle to see how those animals appear in the two novels.

    As I guessed, cats and dogs are only talked about, they never appear. Also, they are mostly talked about in general; specific cats or dogs are rarely mentioned. Of note, I saw that Kvothe once compared Devi’s motion to that of a cat. “Ah ha!”, I thought, “That white cat is Devi!” But of course that’s not it: what would Devi be doing in Tarbean tracking Kvothe’s movements in the form of a cat years before she ever met him?

    The search for ‘dog’ revealed that two specific dogs were talked about. One was the “Comptess DeFerre’s nastly little dog”; Stapes wondered why Kvothe didn’t use that dog to test Caudicus’s potions. Amusing but unhelpful. The other mention is signficant: Nina tells Kvothe that she saw a person (one of the Chandrian) on the wedding party vase whose leg was being bitten by a dog.

    Hmm. Who is Chandrian afraid of? According to Haliax: the Amyr, the Singers, and the Sithe. Who are the Amyr? Ruach. (We’ll presume Haliax refers to the Ruach who follow Selitos, not the human Amyr in later years.) Who are the Sithe? A group of Faeries, which are probably Ruach living in Faen realm. Who are the singers? Not known, but evidence suggests that it could refer to Tehlu’s Angels, so Ruach. Point is, the Chandrian admit they’re afraid of certain Ruach, and, according to the vase, they’re afraid of dogs. As anyone who’s ever taken the LSAT or GRE knows, this is not a formal proof that Ruach are dogs, but it does raise the question.

    For some evidence, we turn to young children. It’s a pretty big cliche that young children, being innocent, can perceive truths that us jaded adults, teenagers, and pre-teens can’t. So what does Little Ben, the baby son of Hap and Mary (who come to seek Chronicler’s services as a scribe) say after Bast tries to pick him up? “Dog.” The baby perceives that Bast is a dog.

    There are some points of evidence against this (Bast’s feet are descibed as hooves), but there are many points this would explain. What do people do to appease Faeries? They leave out milk. As if they were feeding a dog. Faerie eyes are big and single-colored, like dog eyes. Faeries can be said to act like dogs: their strange morality can be like dogs. Bast’s devotion to Kvothe resembles a dog’s devotion to its master a lot. Felurian can be said to be a wild dog that Kvothe tamed; even after the taming she was still suspicious like a newly-tamed wild dog would be.

    Also, remember how the Cthaeh said Kvothe would laugh when the Maer led him to the Amyr? What if the Maer actually led Kvothe to the Comptess LeFerre’s little nasty dog? That would make me laugh. (This paragraph has been revised.)

    Anyway, the dog on the roof of Tarbean is probably an Amyr whose job is to track Kvothe. It may be Skarpi himself.”

    The dog on the roof he talks about is actually what looks to be a cat on the roof of the playing cards box for the new pairs game for name of the wind. Now he suggests they are dogs however i feel as though they are actually cats or maybe both. Either way it filled my suspicion on why Auri would ignore the cat at the barn.

    • Re Dogs and cats: my take is a little different. I expect that Faen who travel in the Mortal often glamour themselves as cats (and or dogs). We know that they can disguise themselves as a variety of organisms (including pack mules and humans), so cats seem like a logical possibility. Particularly given the iconography on the various card decks.

  3. Yeah I like that better for Bast as his card has hooves.

  4. Another 6/7 of note occurs while Kvothe is playing for his talent pipes. One string breaks and he is nicknamed “sixstring” when he continues to play.

    I hadn’t noticed just how many times those numbers came up until reading this. I knew 7 was important, but hadn’t realized the significance of 6 in relation to it. Thank you.

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