The Larkin Ledgers

Like an endless chain of half-built houses

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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part XI.iii – THE ANGRY DARK

Then she saw her blanket. Her perfect blanket she had made herself in only the most proper way. It had twisted and the corner lay all naked on the floor.

Getting out of bed on a tapering day, a burning day, was literally a mistake. This is bad. We know it’s bad because she’s been careful with the blanket throughout the story. Presumably everyone reading this is familiar with the concept known as Checkov’s gun.

If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.

Rather than a quirk of personality, it becomes a part of the story. Sure, it was more than a couple chapters, or acts, or whatever, but we’re dealing with a structure Checkov would’ve found ponderous at worst and inefficient at best. Rings are sort of exactly not the three or five act story we’re used to. Nonetheless, the blanket was the second object she interacted with.

Moving carefully, Auri pushed back her blanket so it wouldn’t touch the floor.

So of course it eventually touched the floor.  Luckily, Foxen’s safe in its box. There’s no telling what would’ve happened had she insisted on its light. Especially since she nearly lost it in The Twelve on the first day.

Auri’s all about the “proper way” of doing things. The phrase shows up ten times in this relatively short novella. It’s a theme. Meant to contrast with what she sees as improper, wicked, or presumptuous.

But it’s parceled out sparingly in Rothfuss’s broader catalog. In fact, it appears only once in each of the books in The Kingkiller Chronicle and once in “The Lightning Tree.”

Through dangerous trial and error I discovered the proper way to slit a purse and pick a pocket.NW 184

This one, like a lot of the phrasing in The Name of The Wind, almost seems like an accident. Or more properly a coincidence.  There’s a small chance that this will spin as an example of Kvothe’s slightly out of sync notions of right, good, and proper. It’s difficult to imagine him having any qualms about bringing the weight of his desire sown on the world.

“So this is for you. I’ve brought what grammarie I have to bear on it. So it will stay green and living longer than you’d think. I gathered the holly in the proper way and shaped it with my own hands. Sought, wrought, and moved to purpose.”WMF 16

I’ve mentioned before how it seems as though some effort was put into partially aligning Auri and Bast. And this is no different. Pat’s said that Faen magic is fundamentally different from mortal magic, but there are eerie similarities.

Bast touched the trunk with his fingertips and made a slow circuit of the tree. He went deasil, the same direction as the turning sun. The proper way for making. Then he turned and switched hands, making three slow circles widdershins. That turning was against the world. It was the way of breaking. Back and forth he went, as if the tree were a bobbin and he was winding and unwinding.Rogues

This is interesting for a few reasons. It’s a second instance associated with Bast making him the second most significant character related to the proper way of doing things. It reflects a concern on his part about making and unmaking, with and against the turning of the world. And it uses a sewing or weaving metaphor which is somewhat arbitrary in its own context but oddly resonant with Auri making a blanket.

That’s probably enough about three sentences. Auri finds she doesn’t have any tears despite being weary and disappointed. She takes the blanket to Billows to let it blow in the steady wind that ultimately circulates through the Archives. It doesn’t help. She takes it to Old Ironways to bathe in the moonlight. It doesn’t help.

She takes it through Winnoway and Draughting. Etymologically these would both be places with steady air currents as well. Draughting has “a maze of wires” which is almost as interesting as the machinery in Throughbottom. She returns to Mantle and tries wrapping it around the “horrid, galling, stubborn brazen gear.” At this point everything is colored by her disappointment. Her compassion is turning to cruelty. She decides to try Wains.

In the sitting room she tries the couch. In desperation, she tries the floor.

But no. It didn’t fix things at all. She knew it then. She’d known all along, really. Nothing was going to make the blanket right again.

Angry, she thinks maybe she can at least swap it, or something else, for one of the sheets resting in the wardrobe in Tumbrel. Once there, she notes the vanity has “a sinister bent.” It’s a clever pun on her attitude. She sees it because she’s herself untrue. Her own vanity is leading to poor choices.

But tanglehaired and sticky, all unwashed and hollow as she was, she was hardly in the proper state for mending. She was in no mood to tend to the ungrateful thing.

While she tries to exchange the blanket for a sheet, her hair catches fire, ’cause th world finds her similarly ungrateful. She catches her foot on the stairs, not falling, but almost. And when she recovers her blanket’s lying on the bare stone. There’s no fixing that. She heads back to port and stuffs it in the wine rack.


Some of the illustrations in the hardcover span two pages, creating a frame or a cutout. This is one of them. In the Kindle edition, they’re inserted into the text at relatively appropriate points, but they lack the composition and probably the impact of of the printed text. And in this case it’s difficult to determine what’s being depicted. Is it an egress from Mantle? Is it the archway from Simonetti’s apparent drawing of Old Ironways? Does my confusion mirror Auri’s?

The truth she realizes is that she’s the one making a mess of things. She has a rinse. There’s no soap for washing. And then she gives up and goes to bed, thinking that will solves the problem of the day.

It’s been unclear how Auri’s days work. Here it looks like she goes until she’s tired again and then sleeps. So I don’t think they have a necessary one to one relationship with the days in the parent text. They might, but they don’t have to. This attempt at sleep created the tension between six days and seven I talked about in Part X, reifying the weird ring woven by these central chapters. In a sense, the story gets to have it both ways.

We’ll finish up this long digression next time.


Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part XI.i – THE ANGRY DARK

WHEN AURI WOKE on the fourth day, things had changed.

Things are different. It’s not just a fold in the narrative, a turning toward the end, but it is definitely that.  It’s interesting because the ring expands here.  Not only is the chapter parallel to “HOLLOW” in some creative ways, it also nods to “WHAT A LOOK ENTAILS.” Look at the beginnings.  These are the days that begin in darkness. They rhyme. The second day is a turning day

So today was a tapering day. A burning day.

It’s a tapering day not because she makes candles, but because the narrative is narrowing back to its beginning from this point forward. She intended to use a candle, or course.  However, it’s telling that she couldn’t light it. Like an incongruous foot in a line of poetry, it points to a deeper meaning. It’s a burning days because Foxen is “full of mountains” and unusable, unavailable. My best guess is that mountains refer to it’s figurative inaccessibility. She’ll have to rely on flame for light, which will cause a little bit of trouble.

spirit lamp

This chapter begins addressing in earnest something only hinted at so far. Want, desire, is attached to wickedness. It’s somehow fundamentally wrong.

But for half a minute she wished it was a different sort of day, even though she knew that nothing good could come from wanting at the world. Even though she knew it was a wicked thing to do.

She’s nonetheless compelled to behave as though it’s a different sort of day,  Despite being a bad day for doing, she has much to do.  And so she acts as though it’s a doing day.

The world seems to resist. Her matches fail, leaving her to navigate in the dark.  She’s left without soap, which is devastating to her normal routine. And we’ll come to several other minor setbacks and annoyances.

She’s an imperfect creature. She’s come to some unusual understanding of the world, but not herself. This isn’t a complaint. The text, both The Slow Regard of Silent Things and The Kingkiller Chronicle, are explicit about her name being new. This chapter vaguely refers to the time before she had it.

She had been sitting like this, empty as eggshell. Hollow and chest-heavy in the angry dark when she’d first heard him playing. Back before he’d given her her sweet new perfect name.

Not having a name, nor knowing it intimately, Auri’s wants and desires can be mitigated and yet misunderstood at the same time.That’s also the first of two doubled title drops in “THE ANGRY DARK.” It has to carry the burden of “HOLLOW” as well, since the latter was given over to metatextual function.

Auri makes her way in the dark. She passes through both Scaperling and Dunnings, reinforcing the parallels with “WHAT A LOOK ENTAILS,” the only other chapter featuring those areas. New areas of the Underthing in this chapter include The Black Twelve, The Silver Twelve, Emberling, Bakery, Old Ironways, Winnoway, and Draughting.

Damp Early Treeand moldy from Scaperling and sticky with webs from Dunnings, she finally arrives at Tree. In the Worldbulders 2014 Hangout with Nate Taylor, Pat revealed that part of the name for Tree came from a simple riddle.  What kind of tree has food in it?

They also revealed one of the earlier designs for Tree where it looks more like a kitchen with shelves over a a sink-like chill well, hanging pans, and a full body image of Auri.

She finds and lights her spirit lamp. She rinses her hands and face and feet in the chill well. She eats the turnip and the remaining fig.

From there she makes her way to Bakery to replenish her soap. Her stores are missing, eaten by some intrepid rodent. We see her angry for the first time. She denies the rodent’s being, calling it a thing. It’s fairly significant since she tends to allow most objects a rudimentary self.

Reaching out , she took the tuft of fur between her fingers. The gesture was so tight with rage she feared she’d snap and crack the world in two.

It’s unclear here whether she could. Is her fear legitimate.  Or is it the hyperbole of excessive emotion.  While it’s probably the latter, I think the remaining chapters create a context in which Auri sees that kind of unfettered feeling as a catalyst for the incredible misuse of power.

Is there a parallel here to the broken world? Is it this kind of overwhelming desire that engendered so much strife?

She stamped her foot. She hoped the greedy thing shit for a week. She hoped it shit its awful self inside-out and backward, then fell into a crack and lost its name and died alone and hollow-empty in the angry dark.

With the second double drop, Auri wishes her worst moments on the thief. The eater. The thing. While it’s understandable in its way, it’s also somewhat terrifying. So, Auri isn’t all butterflies and flowers. Witnessing her rage prepares us for the reveals in the final chapters.

Her rage turns to disgust and she casts the tuft of fur away. Exasperated, she tries to run her hands through her hair and finds even that difficult. Behaving as though its a doing day when it’s not is contrary.

For a second her hard eyes went all brimful, but she blinked them back.

Because she cried on the third day, she cannot on the fourth. Like the chapter titles, this will come up again. Enraged, she storms back toward Mantle.


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

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?


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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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part IX.i – A QUITE UNCOMMON PLEASANT PLACE

EVENTUALLY A CLOUD hid the moon. Smug thing. And Auri took the chance to scamper back into the Underthing.

Auri’s not afraid of the moon. She’s shown at various times in The Kingkiller Chronicle to be out when the moon’s phasing and when it’s absent from the sky. She waits for clouds to cross before the moon because the environment darkens. There’s nothing supernatural about her aversion to moonlight. However, she doesn’t want to be seen.

She’s disappointed that Kvothe wasn’t there.  That he wasn’t playing for her.  JohnPoint suggested after the last post that this second day corresponded to chapter six, “Love,” of The Wise Man’s Fear.  So perhaps Kvothe was playing.  Perhaps Auri somehow sensed it.

But she found a large tangle of dry wood in Umbrel, washed down the grates in some forgotten storm. Ash and elm and hawthorn. So much wood it took six trips to carry all of it to Mantle.

This is as good a spot as any to note the telltales of ring composition between A QUITE UNCOMMON PLEASANT PLACE and its paired chapter, ASH AND EMBER.  Heck, it might be the best place. Elm and hawthorn appear only in those two chapters along with acorns and suet. But the craft extends in a different direction that some of the other pairs.

Almost everything Auri picks up in this chapter makes an appearance in the one across the ring.  Much of it goes into or is at least involved in the soap making process.  The rest is eaten or stored. She actually returns to Umbrel with two of the items she finds together later to perform some alchemical factoring. She laughs, for different reasons, at the end of each.

The particular woods are noteworthy as well. Ash and elm feature prominently in The Name of the Wind in two distinct contexts. The first is the nursery ryhme about disposing demons. It appears in the frame…

“Let me tell you what to do.
Dig a pit that’s ten by two.
Ash and elm and rowan too—”
NW 39

… and the narrative:

The mayor nodded eagerly and singsonged, “Dig a pit that’s ten by two. Ash and elm and rowan too.” He cleared his throat.NW 646

There are all kinds of hints littered throughout The Slow Regard of Silent Things that Auri is only a former student despite Kvothe’s “moon fae” diminutive.  Auri interacts unremarkably with iron.  Her abilities are eschewed rather than limited.  And she has no trouble with ash and elm, even though both are mentioned right along with iron and fire by Felurian.

They’re also involved in a minor naming controversy.

“Fine,” I said, as I fished the leaf out of my mouth. It was yellow, shaped like a spearhead. “The wind has decided for us. Master Ash.”
“Are you sure it isn’t Master Elm?” she asked, eyeing the leaf. “It’s a common mistake.”
“Tastes like an ash,” I said. “Besides, elm is feminine.”
She nodded seriously, though her eyes were dancing. “Ash it is then.”
NW 558

I don’t think I’d noticed until now that ash and elm simultaneously recall something and point directly away from it. At any rate, both are hardwoods ideal for making lye, or “caustic lies,” which dovetails in the paired chapter and might suggest something about Denna’s patron.  The ash/elm mistake comes up gain when Kvothe reconnects with her in chapter sixty-four of The Wise Man’s Fear.

After gathering the wood, Auri washes.AQUPP Haven  She changes back into the dress with more pockets and shoulders her gather sack.  She heads out of the Underthing.

She took the final piece of Mandril more by memory than sight, stepping carefully until she stood behind the upright runoff grate that looked out onto nothing much except the bottom of a gully. Auri moved to stand next to the heavy bars . From there she saw the bulk of Haven up upon the hill, a shadow looming large against the starry sky.

The accompanying image here didn’t make it into the final version of the book.  It’s Nate’s initial drawing of the exit from Mandril which was deemed too busy and maybe too revealing.  It’s not exactly canon, but it gives a decent sense of what Haven might look like.

Auri waits again for the clouds to obscure the moon and dim its light so she can move without being seen.  If Kvothe’s right about her, and Elodin seems to agree, avoiding Haven is probably a top priority.

The image that appears in the book is more spare, leaving much more to the imagination but retaining the mood of the rejected drawing.AQUPP 1Auri disappears into the woods.  She finds a small forgotten graveyard while gathering pinecones.  And we get a textual clarification about why she avoids the moon.

The moon was out again, but she was lower now, and bashful. Auri smiled at her, glad for the company now that she was no longer On Top of Things and Haven was far gone behind.

It’s only a threat because it reveals her to prying eyes. Once she’s alone and isolated, when nobody can see her on top of a University roof or skulking about the Rookery starved and half naked, it’s no big deal.  The light’s actually kind of handy.

Here on the edge of the clearing the moon showed acorns scattered on the ground. Auri spent a few minutes picking up the ones with perfect hats and tucking them into her gathersack.

In the paired chapter, she makes a meal of these. Perfect hats rang a bell and I tracked it down in Rogues. In another faen parallel, Bast demands similar acorns from Pem and Wilk.

“I also need twenty-one perfect acorns,” he said. “No holes, with all their little hats intact…”“The Lightning Tree”

Grave TreeShe finds an lonely laurus nobilis, odd in this forgotten place. Inhaling the aroma of bay leaves, she sees a gap between the roots, perfect for disposing of human remains.

Nodding, Auri reached into her gathersack and brought out the bone that she had found the day before . She bent down and tucked it deep inside the dark and hollow space beneath the tree.

Satisfied, she gathers a couple handfuls of laurel berries.  They’ll themselves be the source of some consternation in the later chapter. And we’ll finish this one on Friday.

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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.


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.

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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part VII.ii – WHAT A LOOK ENTAILS

One of the things it’s difficult to do in a reread is focus on, and only on, the text so far.  Knowing the end, it’s far too easy to read foreshadowing and mystery into the beginning.  Looking back at some of my conclusions about the first chapter, I think I’m guilty of that.  Sure, it’s easy to see that Auri’s relationship to the objects in Port is interesting, but if the narrative had continued without some of WHAT A LOOK ENTAILS reveals, there’d be absolutely no hint of deeper mysteries. Whispers of hints maybe. But mostly a cracked young woman.

THE FAR BELOW BOTTOM OF THINGS is fully twenty two percent of the novella, by far the longest chapter. And while see a fair bit of the Underthing, in a strict sense we learn almost nothing.  The stage is set in shadows, obscured in metaphor and poesy.  It’s a deliberate obfuscation that encourages a surface level reading of what is really a surprisingly deep text.

What this chapter does is begin to pull back the curtain.  I wanted this to be a sort of easy read that cataloged some of the interesting facts about the text.  I hadn’t even fully addressed the place of The Slow Regard of Silent Things within the parent text. luckily, some clever commenters took care of that.  I suspected it was constructed like The Wise Man’s Fear. I’d seen some of the parallel phrasing in the first and last chapters and made a mental note of how HOLLOW stood out as a turning point in the text.  And, y’know, it was obviously full of alchemy. But that could wait.

It couldn’t wait too long, though.  And so I’m gonna include some of it.

Anyway, we left off on Auri eating just enough to stop shaking.  I mentioned before that both Pat and Nate portrayed extreme hunger well, one with the sudden onset of physical symptoms and the other with think limbs and shadows. Whatever Auri’s mental state, it’s compounded by debilitating malnutrition.  She goes whole days without a morsel.

After eating , Auri knew it was past time she found the brazen gear its proper place.

I want to take a moment to talk about the brazen gear and brave Foxen.  On the one hand these seem like whimsical attributions of emotional qualities to inanimate objects. However, both have at least a double meaning.  Brazen simply means “made of brass.”  Brave: “fine or splendid in appearance.”  Chances are most of the consistent descriptions fit this mold.  In the foreword Pat suggests the book might be for you if you love words.  The more affection you show them, the more they reveal, I guess.


So she begins adjusting, moving, and ultimately touring the the Underthing with the gear.  It’s interesting to note that at the same time as she’s trying to find the proper place for it, she’s also seeking its secret answers.  She wants it to be “forthcoming.”

If one of the locks this chapter opens is the practical nature of Auri’s descriptors, another is the overall shape of the story.  Seven chapters from now, on the other side of the ring, the gear accompanies her again, finally yielding its answers.  In a ring, the chapters should work in pairs. In this case: 1/10, 2/9, 3/8, 4/7, and 5/6.

According to Robert Lowth (via Mary Douglas) this pairing can be synonymous, antithetic, or constructive.  Pat likes to use all three. Chapters two and nine share synonymous staggering hunger, the traveling gear, and significant scenes in Pickering. Where a sense of wrong pervades chapter two, an antithetic sense of right, or at least truing, governs chapter nine. Auri’s spiral into panic in this chapter is referenced, and avoided, in the latter chapter. As an example of constructive pairing, these are the only two chapters where the word coruscant appears.

Eventually, Auri takes the gear back to The Twelve because maybe it belongs where she found it.  She’s relieved to find that isn’t the case, but her relief is short lived.  A nightjar taps three times on an iron pipe.

She looked after it numbly, the chill in her gut making a slow knot. She couldn’t ask for things to be more clear than that. Her pulse began to hammer at her then, her palms all sudden sweat.

This is probably the strangest thing that happens in the entire book and it’s never quite explained away.  It turns out that a little bird quite literally told her that there was a leak in an iron pipe. How? Why?

It’s probably no coincidence that it’s a nightjar, which only appears in one other place in the narrative, “The Boy Who Loved the Moon.” What the inclusion of a nightjar does here is draw the power of that story into Auri’s narrative and remind us of some of its thematic elements. Notice how the bird’s a bit of a mystery but the pipe is not.

There was no need to guess the type of pipe though. The ting of it let Auri know it was iron , black and twice the thicken of her thumb.

That’s remarkably specific, especially for something high above her head in the dark.  It might not be magic, of course, but it certainly highlights the importance of listening.  And listening is something altogether different in Hespe’s story.  So this is a third window into The Slow Regard of Silent Things.

Auri runs to Tenance, a liminal space between the Underthing and the University.  It’s a storage room where they keep stuff to repair the pipes.  Maintenance.  She’s desperate to find and fix the leak before someone from above comes to do it.


Auri selects a stoppered Jar and a brush from the shelves and runs to Rubric where she eventually finds the leaking pipe.  She shuts off a valve and then waits while the area dries.  We learn she was an Alchemist.

Auri sighed. It was just as Master Mandrag said so many years ago.

We never do find out what Mandrag said.  Maybe it’s sitting right out in the open in one of Sim’s stories in the other books.  I haven’t found it.  The stoppered jar contains tenaculum, an alchemical substance that might be identical to the one Kvothe used to post his “Jackass, Jackass” lyrics.

We used a lovely alchemical adhesive Simmon had cooked up for the occasion. The stuff went on like paint, then dried clear as glass and hard as steel.NW 455

Tenaculum is unfortunately a medical instrument, so figuring out why this alchemical epoxy resin is called that is sort of difficult.  It’s Latin root is for holding and binding, though.  Auri’s able to smell naptha and sulphonium in it and apparently would have used something else to make it.

This tells us a couple things.  First, that alchemical recipes are personal.  You can achieve the same result with different ingredients.  This actually matches up with historical alchemy where, after getting through the obfuscation and allegory, you’ll find different methods for the same processes.  Pat goes a step further and includes a sentiment that appears over and over again over the centuries.

Whoever wrought and factored this was living proof that alchemy was art. It showed pure mastery of craft.

A fourth key to the novella is the way it’s written.  In adding the praise of alchemy itself, Pat’s winking at those who recognize it and suggesting there’s more than initially meets the eye. He’s telling us a lot about alchemy, and Auri, and Temerant.  But it’s all buried under an unstable mind: malnourished, possibly feverish, undeniably different.