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.

arch

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.

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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?

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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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.

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.


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

THE SECOND DAY, Auri woke to silence in the perfect dark.
That meant a turning day. A doing day.

So, waking to, “a whisper of dim light,” marks a white/deep/finding day and those are rare. Silence and darkness mark a turning/doing day.  The second day lasts for three chapters, reinforcing the notion that the has a lot to do.  Is it a turning day because she tends to the proper turning of the world?  She actually turns the brass gear, the mirror, and the valve on the leaking pipe, but she does plenty.

Auri surveys Mantle and her possessions and we get the phrase, “Everything was just as it should be.”  This full phrase only occurs twice, both times in this chapter.  Ironically, in this chapter we begin to see things go wrong.

Her regard of the egresses from Mantle is quicker, more abrupt.  We get a slightly more informative description of the door to Boundary before she moves into Port.  While she’s slept, a few of the objects have somehow changed.  They’re no longer content where they are and she spends some time adjusting them.

The old black buckle was crowding the resin a bit, but that was quickly mended.

I’m still intrigued by the used of “mended.”  I wish there were just a little bit more to put it all together.  The brass gear is still giving her problems.  It’s changed everything, and it’s part of whatever’s gone wrong.

Auri picked up the heavy gear with both hands and brought it into Mantle. It was unheard of, really, but by this point she was at something of a loss.

She leaves it on the stone ledge opposite her bed.  She washes her face and hands and feet.  As near as I can tell, she does this every time she leaves Mantle with the intention of going further than Port.  It’s more about decorum than cleanliness even if both play a part.

She fills a gathersack and all her pockets, apparently a prerequisite for a doing day.

In Van she was startled to find the mirror was unsettled.

Once she’s taken the extraordinary measure of introducing the gear into Mantle, things turn out to be rough all over.  The mirror needs covering and the obvious solution to the reader might be the sheets in Tumbrel.  That is, in fact, where Auri goes.  However, her complex exchange system won’t allow it.  She has nothing that belongs in the wardrobe more than one of those sheets.  She tries the buckle she found the day before.

It didn’t belong here. Oh it seemed sensible. Oh yes. Certainly. But she knew what seeming was worth in the end, didn’t she?

I’m guessing this is here almost solely to drive folks who take Kvothe’s “little moon fae” diminutive to heart into a frenzy.  Bast is almost alone in his concern wit seeming versus being. Felurian and Kvothe echo some of it, but his reiteration of the difference in “The Lightning Tree” effectively separated any talk of the two into a specifically faen category.

I actually appreciate how Pat writes multiple possible interpretations into his stories like a school of herring.  In this case, it might be safe to assume that if Auri knows about the Ciridae and secrets Mandrag doesn’t, then she knows about the fae as well.  Particularly when the book description definitively calls her a former student of the University.

But no. There is a difference between the truth and what we wish were true.

Normally, when a text shifts tense or perspective it indicates, well, something.  This is even true in The Kingkiller Chronicle in several instances.  But Rothfuss tends to just do it sometimes because it sounds neat.  Some folks get pulled out of the text by “nekkid.”  Apparently I get pulled out by authorial intrusion with no obvious storyteller.

Whatever’s wrong gets worse.

The trip down the unnamed stair cheered her somewhat. Her path staggered drunkenly back and forth as she moved from one safe section to another.

There are a few things that could be going on here.  The day before she was close to hypothermic shock.  She might have an infection from the rust scratch on her back.

She returns to Mantle and takes her blanket from her bed to Van.  She drapes it over the mirror and moves it to a better position.  She gets back to her routine, brushing her hair.

But just as she was finishing, when she lifted up her arms to push her cloud of hair behind her, Auri staggered just a bit, all sudden dizzy. After it passed, she walked slowly to Cricklet and took a long, deep drink. She felt the cool water run all along her insides with nothing to stop it. She felt hollow inside. Her stomach was an empty fist.

So the hunger could be the cause of all the unsettling.  I know that feeling.  Auri’s so far gone that it takes extreme physical reaction to encourage her to eat.

Cricklet is one of the more popular place in the parent text.  There’s a description in The Name of the Wind.

Cricklet had a tiny trickle of fresh water running down one wall. The moisture attracted crickets, who filled the long low room with their tiny songs.699

So her long drink isn’t from some underground stream or piped water, but a dank room full of insects.  The latter makes it ideal for what happens while Kvothe’s away in Vintas, Faen, and Ademre during The Wise Man’s Fear.  When he visits Auri upon return she tells him:

“There is a whole family of hedgehogs living in Cricklet!” she said excitedly. Auri took two more steps and grabbed my hand with both of hers. “There are babies tiny as acorns!”935

To the hedgehogs, those crickets were probably as tasty as acorns.

She contemplates going to Applecourt, the enclose courtyard with the apple tree where Kvothe enters and exits the Underthing.  Applecourt is one of seven new places we hear about in this chapter.  The other six are Tree, Mandril, Downings, Tennance, Pickering, and Scaperling.  Tree is more or less Auri’s kitchen.

Tree

 

Here we find the second instance of “Everything was just as it should be.”  There’s hardly any food.  Auri eats a leathery apple and three figs and her hands stop shaking.  Hooray!

There’s a clever running water chill-well, pictured, holding a lump of butter “full of knives” and unfit for consumption.  My guess is that the butter is used and, like second hand clothes, Auri wants no part of it.  She’s probably keeping it around because it’s a fat, which she has plenty of other uses for.

Now that she’s rested and refreshed, she’s ready to get down to business.  we’ll check that out next time.


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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part V – AUTHOR’S FOREWORD

The AUTHOR’S FOREWORD and the AUTHOR’S ENDNOTE are effectively the frame story for The Slow Regard of Silent Things.  They tell the reader that the book they’re holding almost stayed hidden in the dark, unknown.  Remind you of anyone?

Rothfuss stories are round.  Not all of them are rings, but there’s a strong tendency toward tying the ending directly to the beginning.  “The Lightning Tree” begins with a message from Rike Williams and ends on an anecdote about Nettie Williams.  “How Old Holly Came to Be” begins and ends with Old Holly.  The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear are twice framed.  The Prologues and Epilogues bracket the frame story which in turn encompasses the narrative.

So, while neither the foreword or endnote are necessary, they are functional.  They also give Pat the opportunity to let his readers know that he’s aware of the story’s idiosyncrasies.  It’s not the first time he’s included an apology.  Check out his introduction to “How Old Holly Came to Be” (OH) in Unfettered.

The story itself is a little odd. It’s from an odd perspective, and it covers a vast scope of time. The main character is odd. The language is odd. (OH)

Compare that to this statement from The Slow Regard of Silent Things.

Second, even if you have read my other books, I think it’s only fair to warn you that this is a bit of a strange story. I don’t go in for spoilers, but suffice to say that this one is . . . different. It doesn’t do a lot of the things a classic story is supposed to do. (TSRoST)

Despite the colorful anecdote his editor obviously didn’t throw a fit.  She let him format the foreword differently than the chapters, something they also did with the Prologues.  And with the book spending its first week at #2 on the Hardcover Fiction Bestsellers List, she had no reason to.

In some ways, this is as much an enticement to fans as it is a warning to potential new readers.

If you love words and mysteries and secrets. If you’re curious about the Underthing and alchemy. If you want to know more about the hidden turnings of my world. . . .

Yah, we’re in.  We’ve been talking and in some cases asking you directly about that for years, now.

I can’t decide if the illustration that follows is properly part of the AUTHOR’S FOREWORD or the first chapter, so I’m going to include it here.  This is the first canonical image of Auri, though it’s quite similar to Nate’s previous depictions.  She’s looking up through a drainage grate in what might be Old Ironways or Umbrel or nowhere at all,

Auri

 

We’ll start the story proper with the next post and cover “The Far Below Bottom of Things.”


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Reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things: Part III – The Table of Contents

I’m gonna go ahead and skip the TITLE PAGE and COPYRIGHT.  I’d planned to skip the Contents as well, but the title of chapter seven, “ASH AND EMBER,” jumps out immediately.  It’s part of the rhyme Bast recites in the frame narrative of The Wise Man’s Fear.

Maple. Maypole.
Catch and carry.
Ash and Ember.
Elderberry.
(WMF 4, 991)

He recites it twice.  First in chapter one, “Apple and Elderberry;” and in chapter one hundred fifty-two, “Elderberry.”  In fact, it’s one of the phrases that pairs those chapters in what anthropologist Mary Douglas called ring composition.

The minimum criterion for a ring composition is for the ending to join up with the beginning… A ring is a framing device. The linking up of starting point and end creates an envelope that contains everything between the opening phrases and the conclusion… There has to be a well-marked point at which the ring turns, preparatory to working back to the beginning, and the whole series of stanzas from the beginning to the middle should be in parallel with the other series going from the middle back to the start. Each section on the second side of the ring corresponds to a matching section on the first side… It comes in many sizes, from a few lines to a whole book enclosed in its macro-envelope, arranged throughout in intricately corresponding parallelisms. (Thinking in Circles)

The Wise Man’s Fear is constructed this way.  The Prologue and Epilogue are nearly identical, providing a solid frame.  Within that frame, chapters one through seventy-six, and seventy-seven through one hundred fifty-two mirror one another in a variety of ways.  One of the primary ways is the restriction of particular words or phrases only to the chapters in parallel, like “Ash and Ember” in the first and last chapters.  I explained a little bit about how chapters two, “Holly,” and one hundred fifty-one, “Locks,” were related during the Tor Reread.

This is all a long way of saying that I sort of suspected The Slow Regard of Silent Things might be a ring as well.  Based on a chapter title.  I’ll show how that might be the case when I get into the actual text.  The fact that the narrative is framed by an AUTHOR’S FOREWORD and an AUTHOR’S ENDNOTE is also a strong clue.

The rest of the chapter titles weren’t so glaringly obvious in their relationship to the parent text.  At least not to me.  But I figured it might be worth noting whether they evoked anything.

Here’s what the Contents look like in the Kindle edition:

ALSO BY PATRICK ROTHFUSS
TITLE PAGE
COPYRIGHT
Contents (not actually listed in the contents)
DEDICATION
AUTHOR’S FOREWORD
THE FAR BELOW BOTTOM OF THINGS
WHAT A LOOK ENTAILS
BEAUTIFUL AND BROKEN
A QUITE UNCOMMON PLEASANT PLACE
HOLLOW
THE ANGRY DARK
ASH AND EMBER
ALL TO HER DESIRE
THE GRACEFUL WAY TO MOVE
THE HIDDEN HEART OF THINGS
CODA
AUTHOR’S ENDNOTE

Anyway, here goes.

THE FAR BELOW BOTTOM OF THINGS only appears in The Slow Regard of Silent Things.  It refers to the pool in The Twelve, the only place in the Underthing (that we’re exposed to) with a changing name.  There’s a title drop on page 6 followed by this image.

WHAT A LOOK ENTAILS includes a word that hasn’t appeared in Rothfuss before.  It’s worth considering its various nuances.  But think about what’s tied up in looking and seeing in The Kingkiller Chronicle.  Puppet comes to mind.  As does this line from Felurian:

“these old name-knowers moved smoothly through the world. they knew the fox and they knew the hare, and they knew the space between the two.” (WMF 669)

BEAUTIFUL AND BROKEN immediately calls to mind Kvothe’s meditations on and descriptions of Auri. Chapter titles like “The Broken Binding,” “A Beautiful Game,” and “The Broken Road” show a fondness for the words which appear frequently.  And, of course, there’s the bit from Kvothe’s introductory boast:

The Adem call me Maedre. Which, depending on how it’s spoken, can mean “The Flame,” “The Thunder,” or “The Broken Tree.” (NW 57)

A QUITE UNCOMMON PLEASANT PLACE sounds like a decent description of the Underthing, but seems deliberately unspecific.  Nothing really comes to mind.

HOLLOW also leaps out.  It’s the “hollow, echoing quiet” of the first silence in the Prologue of The Name of the Wind and both Epilogues.  It’s also Hollows, home of admissions and the horns.  Hollow is how Kote looks to Graham.

While it might not be relevant, it also reminds me of the Hollow Gods featured in the Modegan Pairs deck designed by Shane Tyree.  They’re the “gods all around us” sworn by Sovoy and Bredon.

THE ANGRY DARK suggests both Kvothe and Lanre as well as Adem mojo, but little else.

ASH AND EMBER I’ve already covered.  Ash is also the elephant in the room: Denna’s patron.  The only chapter to mention is The Name of the Wind chapter eighty-two, “Ash and Elm…”

ALL TO HER DESIRE was something I was sure I’d seen before, but it turns out it’s only a common form without an exact match.  The closest is the secret ritual of the Edema Ruh that Kvothe reveals in his story about Faeriniel and later exploited by Alleg.

The man at his elbow smiled. “Then have water and wine, each to your desire.” And saying so he brought the beggar to their water barrel. (WMF 283)

Bast uses similar phrasing when describing the fae to Kostrel in “The Lightning Tree.”

There are many types of fae, many courts and houses. And all of them are ruled according to their own desires …” (Rogues)

THE GRACEFUL WAY TO MOVE brings to mind Kvothe’s hands, Denna, Felurian, and Cinder.  It also provides a nice lead in to the scene in chapter eleven of The Wise Man’s Fear, “Haven,” that the novella is leading toward.

I turned in time to see Auri scurry across the roof toward us, her arms full. She stopped a short distance away, eyeing us both, before coming the rest of the way, stepping carefully as a dancer until she was back where she originally stood. Then she sat down lightly on the roof, crossing her legs beneath herself. Elodin and I sat as well, though not nearly as gracefully. (WMF 107)

THE HIDDEN HEART OF THINGS repeats the “of things” from the first chapter, another sign that the story’s probably a ring.  It also suggests a secret, perhaps in the Underthing and perhaps within its inhabitant.  We can’t forget our Teccam, either.

Secrets of the heart are different. They are private and painful, and we want nothing more than to hide them from the world. They do not swell and press against the mouth. They live in the heart, and the longer they are kept, the heavier they become. (WMF 487)

CODA provides what Douglas calls a latch, which further ties the beginning and end of the story.  It also ties the story into The Wise Man’s Fear.  In a way, The Slow Regard of Silent Things becomes an inner ring within the larger ring of that book.