I want to take a moment in the midst of this reread to point out that Tehlu’s wheel is an ancient symbol found on Mohenjo-Daro seals around 3000 B.C.E. It’s a sun symbol — a sun wheel to be precise. The Gauls used the sun wheel as a sort of good amulet. As a Celtic tribe, they lived in what became the French-speaking era of Europe. And the Celts used it to signify Taranis, the god of thunder kind of like Zues’ staff. Curiously enough, Christians adopted and changed the form so it became a Christ monogram, intersecting both the Χ and Ρ of the Greek alphabet:
And again, Mr. Rothfuss seems to be hammering over and over the Frazerian and Campbellian and even Wellsian idea that because parts were adopted or coopted or syncretized by the church, that means that the whole was or that the core was. Whether he means this or not, Frazer’s and Campbell’s and Well’s idea employed a classic composition fallacy: the wheel is made of rubber, therefore the vehicle to which the wheel belongs is made of rubber. Only in many cases, the symbols involved are even more minor than a wheel — something like the thread of a seat than the engine or the tire, however convenient a wheel metaphor would be. In other words what’s true of the Tehlin church (the only real church in Kingkiller) some seem to extrapolate onto our world history — and that’s just bad history, bad mythology, and bad thinking all around. Not everyone who reads the series is doing this, but again — be mindful of the composition fallacy, guys, when extrapolating out into the real world.
For instance, Nazi’s themselves employed the black sun wheel:
…but that doesn’t mean all black suns are Nazi symbols nor that all of Nazi Germany can be summed up in the black sun. Same with the occult, etc.
Having said that, Tibetans make a world symbol out of their eight spoked wheel with twelve parts kind of like the Western zodiac. The inner circle has a light half and a dark half, by the way, kind of like yin and yang:
…which, in an alchemical sense, gives a headnod to the active/passive spectrum and the “ever moving moon.” It also cues up the seasons that show up so much in the series:
…Implying the unity of opposites. But again, not all symbols are the exact same even though Western thinkers seem to imply as much.
Last note no Tehlu’s wheel: alchemists used the six spoked wheel it to signify malachite, this emerald-green mineral that had copper in it. It’s used as a coloring pigment to make things green.
But the biggest piece is that it’s a sun symbol. Like Horus, the rising and setting god and line of Egyptian emperors, it’s one more indication that this leads to a duel between the priests of Diana.
And spoiler alert, but I need to throw some context in the three working theories we have going on. If you haven’t yet, you might check out my 13 assumptions on this Kingkiller reread.
Thesis One (dialog with Frazer):
Kvothe has bound himself by blood-oath to protect the Kingkiller equivalent of the temple of Diana of the Wood (the moon) making him King of the Wood (the sun). In order to do this, he has killed the priest-king responsible for protecting her temple, making the former priest a human sacrifice, and has now taken that priest’s place. The priest-king was a chandrian — a singer-maker and the demon of death. Kvothe has now become the nightmare, the god of death (or silence or sun) who must be sacrificed. He has stored his death (or life or soul) in a lockless box or mistletoe or both or something similar. He is waiting to die because inevitably someone will come to claim him who is stronger or craftier than he is. They will kill him as a human (or inhumane) sacrifice and take his place as priest-king. It’s quite possible that this will be his second — and final — death. Or perhaps more.
In short, people often compare Rothfuss to Harry Potter.
But they’ve got the wrong orphan who went to magic school to learn all the secret magic and become the prophesied chosen one.
It’s not an adult version of Harry’s story.
It’s a story from the perspective of Voldemort.
Or Thesis Two (dialog with Campbell):
Kvothe’s story is bullshit to the same degree that a Draccus is not actually a dragon. He has some swordplay abilities and is helping fight off things, but his entire life is built around lying — compulsively — and trying to deal with the consequences of those lies. Some are good stories. Some are bad. This, in a way, gives him a sort of reverse Hero’s Journey, a Hero’s Journey about Heroes’ Journeys, in which he starts in a zone of the unfamiliar as a bard on the road, enters the familiar as an innkeeper, and will return as a bard on the road again. The whole “waiting to die” bit is either a metaphor for how he feels without someone to bullshit or is what he does for himself: he wants to be able to tell the story about how he died in some spectacular way, any old way, that enthralls the listener.
Or Thesis Three (dialog with the idea of storytelling per se meaning Frazer, Campbell, and others):
Or both of the above are true. He’s both the midsummer sacrifice and a bullshitter. This story is a spell in which he’s recharging his life batteries something like a leech as the God of Silence and therefore still a nightmare but a particular kind. Without an audience, his life force drains. With one, he has the energy he needs to sustain the ever-burning flame at the temple of Diana and keep his death in check or die again and be resown. This assumes that what he does is tell stories and therefore he’s a storyteller per se — story incarnate and the selah in between tales. Per Gerard Manly Hopkins:
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.
And per Oscar Wilde:
For he that lives more lives than one more deaths than one must die.
Funny enough, Wilde was talking about the executioner in that poem — the guy who cries out in mourning because he’s never quite sure what sort of lives the guys he’s killing lived. Kvothe is coming alive not because he’s only telling his story as man, but because he’s starting to think about the lives of the other men there who will invariably either be the means of his death or human sacrifices themselves or perhaps both as the stories he tells connect to their life force and therefore hide away his death, sympathetically.
He’s waiting to die himself by waiting for someone bigger and better to beat him. He’s waiting to die in the sense that without story, he’s stuck in silence hoping to have a story to tell in which he dies another death for the entertainment of others. Or he’s the kind of god that thrives off of silencing dissent and alternate histories. He’s waiting to die because as a man once, he knows what it’s like to live and knowing the life of Chronicler — for instance — actually gives him sorrow over the fact that he has to kill him.
And he’s waiting to die — potentially — because he has lived so many times and must be perpetually sacrificed every year. Meaning that he’s both immortal and going to die.
Ultimately, this could mean that the thing he bound his death to is his biography per se (or his biographer), which means that every time he tells it, he dies and is reborn just like a cut flower: he’s planted and comes back. The last time he did it, he came back as Kote (which we’ll deal with that name soon enough). He thrives in silence, but invariably someone will come and ask him to tell it again and he waits to die again.
Those three theses are the general options by my count, or some variation on those themes. For obvious reasons, I hope the real story is the third one, but at this point anything’s going to be great. Or perhaps emotionally devastating, but that’s Mr. Rothfuss’ job.