The Larkin Ledgers

Like an endless chain of half-built houses


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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part XII.i ASH AND EMBER

“HOLLOW” didn’t have a title drop because it couldn’t. This chapter might not have one because of its powerful resonance with the opening and closing chapters of The Wise Man’s Fear. The phrase “Ash and Ember” is part of a choosing rhyme Bast performs in both. It’s also one of the first physical markers of ring composition in that book, which might be another good reason to slip it into this one.

A and E ChTi

The poem in chapter one, “Apple and Elderberry,” runs thus:

Maple. Maypole.
Catch and carry.
Ash and Ember.
Elderberry.

Woolen. Woman.
Moon at night.
Willow. Window.
Candlelight.

Barrel. Barley.
Stone and stave.
Wind and water—WMF 4

Bast’s using it to choose liquor bottles from the shelf behind the bar in the Waystone Inn. After “Elderberry” he selects a squat green bottle that contains something he finds too sour. He rejects it and selects a curving read bottle instead.  After “Candlelight” he lands on a clear bottle with a pale yellow liquor. Kote interrupts him before he can find a third or finish the third stanza. Apparently he was looking for elderberry.

There are a couple interesting connections here. The first, of course, is yet another bit of connective tissue between Bast and Auri. However, it’s more divergent than convergent. Bast’s “ash and ember” is more about forcing some sort of randomization into the fulfillment of his desire, the tiniest bit of excitement to relieve the boredom of life in Newarre.

Auri, on the other hand, as has been hinted at and as will become more and more overt, attempts to avoid projecting her desires onto the world. In this, we see a clear difference between the two. In “The Lightning Tree,” Bast remarks that Fae creatures are driven by their desire and is frankly confounded by the limitations of the mortals.

In chapter one hundred fifty-two, the rhyme reads:

Maple. Maypole.
Catch and carry.
Ash and Ember.
Elderberry.

Fallow farrow.
Ash and oak.
Bide and borrow.
Chimney smoke.

Barrel. Barley.
Stone and stave.
Wind and water.
Misbehave.WMF 992-3

This time, after “Elderberry,” Bast points two a narrow yellow bottle offered by one of the soldiers he hired to attack Kote. As luck would have it, this one contains the Elderberry liquor he had been looking for in the morning. After “smoke” he takes a burning branch from the fire. And after “Misbehave” the reader worries for the soldiers and Bast presumably exercises his dark will on them.

The focus on bottles in both scenes provides a loose connection to the bottles in Port, Mantle, The Twelve, and Clinks. Bottles have an important place in Auri’s world. There’s been some speculation that Kote’s lingering time with the bottles in the inn reflects his memory of her.

While “HOLLOW” and “THE ANGRY DARK” presented something of an interpretive challenge with regard to the ring composition of The Slow Regard of Silent Things, the chapters that follow illuminate both structural and narrative rings. So, the fifth day begins in much the same way the second day did.

THE SECOND DAY, Auri woke to silence in the perfect dark.

WHEN AURI WOKE on the fifth day, Foxen was quite recovered from his mood.

Laying in the dark, she wondered what the day would bring. Some days were trumpet-proud. They heralded like thunder. Some were courteous, careful as a lettered card upon a silver plate.

There must be some significant difference, though. The second day is obviously a turning day while the fifth is full of mystery. Whether this is conditional, something inherent to the day itself, or because, as noted in the previous chapter, things have changed, is unclear.

Was it a calling day? A sending day? A making day? A mending day?

In a single line we’re treated to more different kinds of days than actually appear in the novella. This is part of how Rothfuss’s worldbuilding works. In the first few chapters we get exhaustive descriptions of finding and turning days. It’s never laid out explicitly in a tiresome list: Auri does x, y, and z, on turning days. But we can infer and interpret how they usually go, what she likely does on such days. We can then use that rudimentary framework to speculate about calling, sending, making, and mending days.

By revealing more days than we actually experience, Auri’s milieu expands beyond the text. This work in particular is a small slice of her life within a portion of The Wise Man’s Fear, but there will be days, even days relatively soon, where her life has nothing to do with Kvothe. Moreover, calling days and mending days tie her, at least morphologically, to the broader Kingkiller Chronicle via calling names and the mysterious Menders.

The majority of the action in this chapter occurs in familiar places, but Taps, for fresh water, and Boundary, behind the door in Mantle, are introduced. From Taps, Auri replaces the water in her basin and performs her rinsing ritual.

There was no soap, of course. That was the very first of things that she would set to rights today. She was not vain enough to work her will against the world. But she could use the things the world had given her. Enough for soap. That was allowed. That was within her rights.

I like how this chapter immediately refers to the previous one and reflects on it. Her vanity, both literally and figuratively, has been put to rest. She’s learned, or relearned, a lesson about imposing her desires on the world and resolved to do things in what she knows are the proper ways. I think I took this differently the first time through. Auri might have appeared simply damaged and cowed. Now, however, it reads as depth. If she always remembered to do things properly and never faltered, she wouldn’t be human.

Rather than wallowing in or simply ignoring the problem of the soap as she did the day before, she takes positive action to resolve it. And she does so primarily with “the things the world had given her” in the paired chapter “A QUITE UNCOMMON PLEASANT PLACE.”

First, she lights her spirit lamp, combining Foxen’s illumination from before the central chapters with the light she used during them. As they mingle, the flame is able to add some warmth while Foxen softens the alarming shadows from before. And it’s able to propogate its fire.

Auri opened up the flue and set a careful fire with her newfound tanglewood. So fine and dry. All ash and elm and spry hawthorn.

The first of the things given her in the mirror chapter are put to use. The ash collected from the embers of these hardwoods will be used to filter water and make lye. Next time we’ll explore the longest meditation on saponification in modern fantasy.

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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part VIII.i BEAUTIFUL AND BROKEN

AFTER TAKING A MOMENT for her leisure, Auri got a drink of water from the pool in Mote , then headed back down to gather up the brazen gear.

There are more sources of potable water in the Underthing than one might expect. First Cricklet, then Tree, and now Mote, mentioned only in passing. It’s probably small, I guess. Audiobook listeners probably imagined something else, a body of water in a channel.

The names she gave them, nonsensical at first, fit like a glove when I finally saw what they described. NW 699

In some cases, like Tenance and Mantle, Auri’s names for the areas of the Underthing are relatively easy to parse. Others, like Rubric and Van, require a bit more rumination. Some are explained outright and others, like Mote, not at all. Mostly it’s no big deal.  The story rhythmically beats on. But sometimes a sense of place might be nice. So would a magical horse that fits in my pocket.

I’m developing a weird affection for the brevity of The Slow Regard of Silent Things. I know a lot of readers were disappointed by the size of the book and the limited scope of the story. But it makes some of the structural analysis significantly easier.

Unlike the other work outside the main trilogy, Pat spent some time on this one.  “How Old Holly Came to Be” was written in a single day and “The Lightning Tree” in a little over a month. This novella developed over a period of close to two years. The extra time tends to show itself in the scaffolding of the story.  Neither of the other two stories is a ring and neither has a refined alchemical sensibility.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things has both. Like the previous two chapters, or pairs of chapters, I just want to touch on the ring to demonstrate that it’s there. How it makes meaning in the story will have to wait for some other project.

Briefly, both chapter three, BEAUTIFUL AND BROKEN, and chapter eight, ALL TO HER DESIRE, begin with the brazen gear.  In fact, it’s on a narrow ledge in both as well; in The Gray Twelve and in Mantle, respectively.  This chapter ends with Auri entirely exposed, outside the Underthing anticipating and perhaps disappointed.  It’s paired partner ends at the heart of Auri’s world with her at rest and reassured. And these are the only chapters in the novella where the word Temerant appears.

Temerant

Pat scooped himself in July at the conclusion of the Geeks Doing Good fundraiser. The name of the world The Kingkiller Chronicle takes place in, or on depending on your regional dialect, was the $100,000 stretch goal. “This is something I’ve known for a while, but I’ve been keeping it under my hat. Making sure I really liked it. Making certain I was sure of it. Names are important things, or so I hear.”

It set off a storm of renewed speculation around a title mentioned three times in The Wise Man’s Fear.

Elodin made a disgusted noise. “I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t read them.” He wrote En Temerant Voistra on the board and circled it. “I don’t even know if this one is in the Archives at all.” He put a question mark next to it and continued to write. “I will tell you this. None of them are in Tomes. I made sure of that. You’ll have to hunt for them in the Stacks. You’ll have to earn them.”WMF 120

None of the students in “Introduction to Not Being a Stupid Jackass” are able to find it, which only added to its mysterious allure. Commenters on the Patrick Rothfuss Reread had noted years before that “temerant” was the third person plural form of the Latin verb temero, but speculations about the title took many forms with many reasons. If Temerant literally means something like “we dishonor” or “we violate,” it tracks well with Lanre’s lament in The Name of the Wind.

It also makes some sense in the context of Auri’s desire to mend the broken world.

Anyway, I should probably get back to the chapter at hand.  Where was I?  That’s right, the second sentence. The brazen B story.

It was patient as three stones, but still, it deserved to find its proper place as much as anyone.

This is actually another clever way of placing the novella within the parent text. When Auri meets up with Kvothe On Top of Things in chapter eleven of The Wise Man’s Fear, “Haven,” she says:

“Play for me! I have been as patient as two stones together,” she said. “You are just in time. I could not be as patient as three stones.”WMF 103

One stone is six days.  Two stones is seven to twelve days.  Three stones would be thirteen to eighteen days.  But by using the same metaphor that’s used to frame the time period in the novel, Pat sets the story structurally as well as temporally. It’s a nice touch.

Auri carries the gear to Wains.  She tries setting it on the couch in the sitting room she recently opened.  But it doesn’t work.

To be all answerful with all that knowing trapped inside. To be beautiful and broken.

Beautiful and Broken

Oddly enough, “all that knowing” is nearly the title of chapter thirty six of The Wise Man’s Fear. And that title is dropped within the chapter as well.

Stonebridge rose ahead of us: two hundred feet from end to end, with a high arch that peaked five stories above the river. It was part of the Great Stone Road, straight as a nail, flat as a table, and older than God. I knew it weighed more than a mountain. I knew it had a three-foot parapet running along both its edges.

Despite all this knowing, I felt deeply uneasy at the thought of trying to cross it.WMF 272

That in itself isn’t particularly revealing.  Pat tends to use phrases from his chapters as their titles.  It’s more significant when he doesn’t.  But this one is interesting because neither the gear nor Kvothe is content with all this knowing.  And because Stonebridge is as much a mystery as the Underthing.