doors of stone sound of silence silence of three parts

Sound of Silence : Doors of Stone Prep

Apologies for delaying this reread of Kingkiller since OCTOBER. Still anxious to get it all read in preparation for whenever Doors of Stone comes out in the distant future (don’t want my intentions to get misconstrued again). But I’m mainly anxious to get it reread because rereading books we love is fun.

To explain the delay: two weeks of November was spent with one of my colleagues here in Brooklyn on the second film survey in Alaska for our potential documentary film, go here if you want to hear more or see the update on that. (Also had a deadline for a TOR article, go here for that). But mainly my Dad got cancer as I was leaving the tarmac in Laguardia en route to Minneapolis. Had to turn my phone on airplane mode and got the rest of the news from Grandma Schaubert en route to Anchorage. It was best for me to finish out the week. I flew back to Brooklyn, repacked, then flew to St. Louis and stayed with him for two weeks bringing him barbecue and helping him wash his clothes which he’d been washing in the sink of his hospital room. Meanwhile, my aunt’s (his sister’s) intestine died and she went to ICU. Then my sister checked in for chest pain.

It almost sounds like a joke when bad news really comes in threes, but it did this harvest season.

Anyways, I caught up with paying responsibilities for a few weeks, had four visitors stay in our 400 square foot box in the sky, and here we are with a post sitting in draft mode.

In January.

(Freaking two-faced Janus wanted to make it painfully obvious he was ending and beginning things at the start of this year.)

All of that to say: I’m still doing this, albeit slowly. In response to the emails and the reddit comments, I’m going to try to put my three theories up front as a reminder, cut down on the size of the most tangential quotes, quote obscure titles from dead authors less, trim the posts, and get straight to the point more often. Hopefully this New Year I can really sink my teeth into this thing. If you haven’t read my 13 guiding lights for Kingkiller, unlock that here. If you haven’t read Chesterton’s response to folk like Frazer and Campbell and other collective mythologists with whom Mr. Rothfuss seems to be in dialog, unlock that here.

Today, we’re going to talk about the Sound of Silence.

And perhaps a Wittgenstein quote:

What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.

My work consists of two parts, the one presented here plus all that I have not written. And it is precisely this second part that is the important point. For the ethical gets its limit drawn from the inside, as it were, by my book; … I’ve managed in my book to put everything firmly into place by being silent about it.

Spoilers below, as always, though as I said at Writer UnBoxed, I personally am okay with spoilers because only a culture starved for wonder would care about spoilers. In eras filled with wonder like the Middle Ages, they loved a good spoiler. Opera attendees still love good spoilers. The reason I don’t care about spoilers is precisely because grass still surprises me even after all these years. So does rain. So does the Name of the Wind — especially while we’re reading it in preparation for Doors of Stone to come out… some day… maybe.

Or, again, maybe not — maybe just enjoying the potential and never the actual, which is sufficient for me. I seriously doubt my life would be more improved than Patrick Rothfuss’ life if book three of Kingkiller came out. From my perspective (and Neil Gaiman’s) Rothfuss owes me nothing and has already given me a great gift.

I have three theses I’m playing with here, juggling if you will. They share similarities, but I need to summarize all three:

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 (or silence or winter’s pale). Kvothe has now become the nightmare, the god of death (or silence or sun or winter) who must be sacrificed. He has stored his death (or life or soul) in a lockless box or mistletoe or something similar involving a special type of wood (potentially roah). 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 worse.

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 (or solstice) 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, god of silence and winter’s pale. 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 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 (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.

On to the Prologue:

If the phrase “the Waystone Inn lay in silence” is literal — it lays in silence per se, the essence of silence, then the silence is a sort of buffer from the rest of the world — then the silence is something shield. There are ways that can make sense, which I’ll get at later, but the obvious is easy enough for now: you can’t name a thing if the true — the essence — of silence pervades. You can merely know the name.

The “echoing quiet” becomes the silence before the wind (think: At the Back of the Northwind by MacDonald), the breath before the crowd, the selah (or caesura — break in a verse where one phrase ends and the following phrase begins and singers catch their breath) before music sounds out.

The awkward pause before troubling news becomes another sort of defense: a way to stay away from troubling news.

The last silence is said to literally reside in the floor, in the bar, in the hearth, in the fire, in the cloth, in the hands of Kvothe. The Waystone and the third silence are both considered his. As I’ve said before, there’s a ton of dark imagery in this piece hinting at the nigreddo work in alchemy which essentially cues up Kvothe’s purging as he changes from one form to another — as the principles of Kvothe-ness are unbound and then reforged into something else entirely. I’ll leave the alchemical discussion up to John Granger, assuming he gets to read through it soon, having bought a copy. He dwarfs me in his study of this stuff, so I’m glad a mind like his finally jumped into reading Kingkiller.

For now, I find it interesting that there’s all this reference to breath, musical pause, and the like particularly because The Ruach (which means breath in Hebrew) were considered both pure of heart and immortal and they split into three groups: Tehlu’s crew, the Amyr, and the third group that doesn’t get involved. It’s curious that the Amyr are formed because they can’t forget the betrayal of the Chandrian, which doesn’t seem to be on Aleph’s radar since he’s more concerned about the qualifications of his angels. So Selitos creates the Amyr in reaction to the formation of Aleph’s angels giving me my first indication that Tehlu may be Lanre and therefore Haliax. And also that this third group of Ruach essentially abstained from interjecting: they remained silent, so to speak. Some think the Edema Ruh or Adem or both came from this third group.

Certainly there were demons in the world.
They were like Telhu’s angels.

It’s also curious because Haliax asks his team who keeps you safe from the Amyr? The singers? The Sithe? All of these things are connected if we assume what I’ve articulated elsewhere: that Kvothe has taken over the “job” of protecting Diana (the ever-moving moon fae, likely Denna who was the only survivor of an entire wedding attacked by the Chandrian) — or Diana’s life in the world tree — by killing the priest responsible for that. Likely a god. Highly likely therefore one of the Fae and therefore one of the Chandrian — Cinder seems likely enough, though Haliax is possible as well. This god would be a priest-king that dies and rises as his title is passed down over the generations. Based on the whole Master Ash character trinity idea (or character multiplicity — Bredon / Master Ash / Cinder / Erlus ) it’s much more likely that Cinder is her current attendant.

The God of Silence, secrets, and confidentiality in Greco-Roman thought was named Harpocrates which was a transliteration of Horus the child. Egyptians used Horus as their sun god — a child in the morning, full-grown in the light of day, and dead by the end of the day. Horus’ uncle Set (the god of the desert, storms, disorder, violence, foreigners, therefore essentially Chaos) — who had murdered his father — went to some very violent war with him (including homosexual rape, poison, and combinations thereof). Set was lord of the red land (desert) while Horus was lord of the black land (soil). Eventually, Horus beat Set, became the ruler of Egypt, and every ruler after him was considered to be a reincarnation of him. Again, the whole priest-king thing playing out to Frazer’s benefit with some of his details, though not his overall Golden Bough thesis. Horus The Child Horus usually held his finger under his mouth, which made the hieroglyph for “child” appear in 3D, in the sculpture. But in Rome that gesture meant “be quiet,” so he came to mean silence. After the collapse, syncretism made the boy associated with Cupid. So in one fell swoop you can get a god who means errotic love, silence (or secrets), and sun.

If you’ll remember the bits of alchemical imagery which worry about moving the character from passive to active, from child to adult, and the wedding of red king and white queen — sun and moon — you’ll see how that parallels Frazer who talks often about the priest of Diana protecting that tree as if he’s the sun and she’s the moon. So assuming that Kvothe’s protecting Diana’s wood, Diana’s tree, that he’s actually at the Waystone having taken over this role by killing the God of Silence, here are some quotes I find fascinating regarding silence, which seems to imply in the Wittgensteinian sense things that are not there:

…silence of three parts. The most obvious part was the hollow echoing of things that were not. If there had been a wind… if there had been a crowd… if there had been music. …avoiding serious discussions of troubling news.

There’s a lot of subjunctive shoulda, coulda, woulda in that long series of had-beens. And again it’s spoken of as silence-made-manifest in the wood, hearth, barrels, cloth, man: Kvothe and his place. The Waystone Inn was his as was the last silence. It was:

The greatest silence of the three, wrapping the others inside itself.

When Kvothe corrects the men about the Tinker’s song, it’s said:

They’d been coming to the Waystone Inn for months and Kote had never interjected anything of his own.

So he’s silent then too. And when he feels awkward about that first interjection, he says something to “fill the silence.” There’s the moment of silence after the men learn that Carter’s horse died. When they seem at a loss for words, Kote moved carefully through the silence. They unwrap the scrael and they’re so quiet after the initial jumpsucare that a softly spoken comment that would never have normally been heard was heard. He breaks the silence again when they start talking about demons. Silence predicates his mentioning of the demon to Bast. The silence fills up with unsaid assumptions about how defenseless the town is against them and the image of them getting massacred by scrael is implied as coming to mind in that silence. Kote makes him speechless by joking about turning the dead scrael into a tourist attraction. And on it goes.

Almost every time the silence is mentioned around Kote, it feels like it’s a way of him controlling the flow of thought, what’s said and what’s unsaid.

And the Inn is eerily empty and ever “quiet, too quiet.” Which is a sort of absence of evidence proof. Note: it’s quietest at morning and evening for Kote.

There are two instances where he seems invoke a sort of supernatural silence, invoke the abyss itself:

Chronicler took an eager step forward, sensing victory. “Some people say there was a woman—“

“What do they know?” Kote’s voice cut like a saw through bone. “What do they know about what happened?” He spoke so softly that Chronicler had to hold his breath to hear.

“They say she—“ Chronicler’s words stuck in his suddenly dry throat as the room grew unnaturally quiet. Kote stood with his back to the room, a stillness in his body and a terrible silence clenched between his teeth. His right hand, tangled in a clean white cloth, made a slow fist.

Eight inches away a bottle shattered. The smell of strawberries filled the air alongside the sound of splintering glass. A small noise inside so great a stillness, but it was enough. Enough to break the silence into small, sharp slivers. Chronicler felt himself go cold as he suddenly realized what a dangerous game he was playing. So this is the difference between telling a story and being in one.

For the record, it was enough to break the stillness because of the strawberry wine Kvothe and Denna shared at Imre. She’s disappointed later because Kvothe didn’t get the strawberry wine the Tinker recommended. And he, remembering, tries to get it from Nell later. Then again before the Evesdown docks.

Sorry, I can’t resist:


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Jeez that music video did NOT age well. AAAAAnnyways, the point is that the silence is a supernatural and dangerous thing that Kvothe controls and the scent of Denna alone can break it.

The other comes from the time one of the well-dressed travelers recognizes him:

“You’re Kvothe.”

“Kote, sir,” Kote replied in an indulgent tone that mothers use on children and inkeepers use on drunks.

“Kvothe the Bloodless.” The man pressed ahead with the dogged persistence of the inebriated. “You looked familiar, but I couldn’t finger it.” He smiled proudly and tapped a finger to his nose. “Then I heard you sing and I knew it was you. I heard you in Imre once. Cried my eyes out afterward. I never heard anything like that before or since. Broke my heart.”

The young man’s sentences grew jumbled as he continued, but his face remained earnest. “I knew it couldn’t be you. But I thought it was. Even though. But who else has your hair?” He shook his head, trying unsuccessfully to clear it. “I saw the place in Imre where you killed him. By the fountain. The cobblestones all shathered.” He frowned and concentrated on the word. “Shattered. They say no one can mend them.”

The sandy-haired man paused again. Squinting for focus, he seemed surprised by the innkeeper’s reaction.

Perhaps he’s really that drunk. But there’s actually a sense in which this man is having difficulty not only articulating his thought, but even thinking it. There’s a silence in his mind.  Later on, Kote gives a moment of silence like a tribute to the dead. To what again?

Either the word Folly or the wood he’s rubbing.

Wood that “don’t burn.”

Since we know of no wood that doesn’t burn to the degree that we see in the series, we can assume it’s likely a wood invented for Temerant. Roah would work. Which smells of lemons and citrus. Both the Loecless box and the Ctheah smell the same, you see. Some think even that the Loecless box was made from a branch of the Ctheah. Let’s say that it was. And let’s say that the most purposefully talkative creature in Temerant — the one you should never heed or listen to for the weight of its words — is the Ctheah. What if the spirit of the priest-king of Diana truly existed inside the tree? And what if when Kvothe killed the king, he needed to take over the role of the Ctheah? And he went and cut down the tree?

Well it would be quite the thing to make an inn out of: the wooden body of some tree demon. And to cap it off with a mount for the sword that stayed him.

Its grey-white metal shone against the dark roah beneath it.

Moment of silence. Like a tribute for the dead. No wonder Bast shivers — he’s not worried about the sword. He’s worried about the body of the oldest, evilest tree spirit in the Fae. He’s worried about having Old Man Holly’s corpse lying around. That’s why he’d put it under his bed. And why he’s pretty carefree with the sword he’s slinging around.

What of the sword hanging there?

Then, slowly, she laid her hand on another sword with a blade of burnished grey. She lifted it off the wall, gripped it, and seemed to age ten years.

Vashet avoided looking at Shehyn, and handed me the sword. The guard of this one extended out slightly, curving to give a hint of protection to the hand. It was nothing like a full hand guard. Anything that bulky would render half the Ketan useless. But it looked as if it would give my fingers an extra bit of shelter, and that was appealing to me.

The warm grip settled into my palm as smoothly as the neck of my lute.

Before she could ask, I made Maiden Combs Her Hair. It felt like stretching after a long stiff sleep. I eased into Twelve Stones, and for the smallest of moments I felt graceful as Penthe looked when she fought. I made Heron Falling and it was sweet and simple as a kiss.

Vashet held out her hand to take it back from me. I didn’t want to give it up, but I did. I knew this was the worst possible time and place for me to make a scene.

Holding the sword, Vashet turned to Shehyn. “This is the one for him,” she said. And for the first time since I’d known my teacher, it was as if all the laughing had been pressed out of her. Her voice was thin and dry.

Shehyn nodded. “I agree.You have done well to find it.”

Vashet’s relief was palpable, though her face still looked somewhat stricken. “It will perhaps offset his name,” she said. She held the sword out to Shehyn.

Shehyn gestured: Refusal. “No. Your student. Your choice. Your responsibility.”

Vashet took the scabbard from the wall and sheathed the sword. Then she turned and held it out to me. “This is named Saicere.”

“Caesura?” I asked, startled by the name. Wasn’t that what Sim had called the break in the line of Eld Vintic verse? Was I being given a poet’s sword?

“Saicere,” she said softly, as if it were the name of God. She stepped back, and I felt the weight of it settle back into my hands.

Sensing something was expected of me, I drew it from its sheath. The faint ring of leather and metal seemed a whisper of its name: Saicere. It felt light in my hand. The blade was flawless. I slid it back into its sheath and the sound was different. It sounded like the breaking of a line. It said: Caesura.

Shehyn opened the inner door, and we left as we came. Silently and with respect.

All the laughing was taken out of Vashet — there’s a dark tale to this sword. Saicere’s one of its names. Caesura’s the other — the break in the verse. It could be construed as a poet’s sword, a musician’s sword. But a caesura is something more like selah in Hebrew: it’s a musical rest, the part in the music where it’s quiet, the place where you catch your breath, the break between verses in a poem. Silence. And Saicere she says softly, hoping not to use the name in vain, the kind of name taboo you’d assign to a god. Kvothe draws it and the ring of leather and metal whispered Saicere. And in sliding it back in, metal and leather, it breaks the sound with a Caesura. They leave silently. And the name is later said to mean break, catch, fly. Townspeople call it the poet killer. It is the thing that silences singers. And maybe even namers. It’s made for silencing, breaking, and slipping the surly bonds of earth. Silence is a thing that breaks rhythm and things that put out sound. Silence is a thing that catches those who make noise. And silence is what you hear when you’re flying on the back of the north wind. Or the sort of thing that freezes like ice, which breaks. Like ice, which catches things inside. And like snow, which flies. All of which give off the sort of silence you hear in the arctic: as dead as the stuff in your freezer.

As silent as the grave.

The description of it: a blade of burnished grey that causes her to age, that cannot — by Kilvin’s estimation — have been forged by any method he knows as the mastercraftsman of practically the whole planet. Implying Chael was a magician, likely a shaper, before the creation war and therefore one of the immortal gods of the world that had a chance to be one of Tehlu’s angels.

What about Cinder’s sword?

His sword was pale and elegant. When it moved, it cut the air with a brittle sound. It reminded me of the quiet that settles on the coldest days in winter when it hurts to breath and everything is still… The one called Cinder sheathed his sword with the sound of a tree cracking under the weight of winter ice.

To break. To catch. To fly.

Unsure how it all connects, but interesting potential here, especially when you consider that Cinder’s described as having a face narrow and sharp, with the perfect beauty of porcelain. His hair was shoulder length, framing his face in loose curls the color of frost. He was a creature of winter’s pale. Everything about him was cold and sharp and white. Except his eyes. They were like a black goat’s but with no iris.

That is, no way to see the light. No “rainbow detector,” literally speaking. Mythologically speaking, no messenger. Visually silent. Like a glacier or a blizzard whiteout. Or a dead frozen goat. Or a black hole that consumes and does not give back — something like entropy or chaos or the abyss:

…His eyes were like his sword and neither one reflected the light of the fire or the setting sun…. I stood there frozen as a startled fawn.

…It was in the weight of the black stone hearth that held the heat of a long dead fire.

I find the winter’s pale bit particularly fascinating because it essentially gives the attributes of Jack Frost and some of the negative attributes of the North Wind to Cinder. When you consider that the ring of ice had a flaw within, if Kvothe literally kills winter’s pale per se, then there are either two possibilities:

1. He’s now in Cinder’s role and therefore winter — the person — is coming. And silence marks his passing.

2. Winter is dead. Ice is dead. Jack frost is dead. Therefore the world is going to start to heat up and burn: there’s an eerie silence where winter should be cooling things.

Concerning the sword, it’s curious too that they also give it a reverent moment of silence as it hangs there under the word folly.

Of course, if it’s just like an architectural piece that’s meant to spark conversation and Kvothe’s just bullshitting the whole time, that works too as a folly. Then again, it may well be a supreme act of wickedness and idiocy that brought about that particular board and that particular sword.

Oh, by the way, did you know that the word folly comes from the French for “mad” — fol — which came from the Latin follis? A follis is a bellows, the sort of thing that stokes a fire, or the thing that looks like it — a belly. Like how people can puff up with anger. There’s a Hindi cognate that means “sacrificial straw,” which may or may not be interesting for our purposes since it’s the sort of bed of clean straw you lay down before you make a sacrifice (also, curiously enough, as a seat for both god and sacrificer). But the most curious one is the sort of thing that puffs up with money: a Latin purse, sack, money bag and therefore also the name of the sort of small value coin you’d put inside it.

A copper.

The sort of thing that’ll fill you to bursting if you take too much of it. The sort of thing that can tame a namer. Curiously, copper is also the metal of Venus, alchemically speaking. She shows up as a whore as well as a sort of enlightened substance. It’s the metal that holds the gold — the spirit of life and the sunlight inside (a la Jean de la Fontaine). Other than gold, copper was the most perfectable of all the base metals because there’s a HUGE amount of mercury in its makeup (see Summa Perfectionis).

You know, quicksilver.

[Cinder’s] motion reminded me of quicksilver rolling from a jar onto a tabletop; effortless and supple.

The only other time quicksilver shows up in book one is when Kvothe literally buys it. Alchemically speaking, copper wants purity, fixation, and weight. Copper’s unclean compared to gold:

Reader, I’ve done, nor longer will withhold
Thy greedy eyes; looking on this pure gold,
Thou’lt know adulterate copper; which, like this,
Will only serve to be a foil to his.

— John Dryden

Foils show up often in metafiction and story within story motifs, you see. It’s an old jeweler’s trick: backing gems with foil to make them shine more brightly. In this case, copper as foil to gold. Foils either differ dramatically or look really similar, but with a key difference. Essentially there’s (1) foils that heighten contrast, (2) foils that work through exclusions this isn’t Kvothe because…, (3) foils that blame shift.

(A foil also happens to be a thing you use to practice fencing.)

Again, these all point to Cinder as the main foil for Kvothe. The alternative is his Venus — Denna — which implies that he may well have killed her himself.

Anyways, at the start of the opus alchemicum Venus shows up as the whore who seduces the impure matter of the Stone (philosopher’s stone, for those catching up) in its initial chaotic, corrupt state. Venus — the god of love — is a sort of manifestation of the impure stone, the raw matter, from which philosophical mercury is extracted. It’s a sort of philosophical prostitution (Dictionaries Hermetique). Other places make Venus (and copper) the cold, moist, receptive substance — argent vive. Living silver. Quicksilver.

It shone dull grey-white in the room’s autumn light. It had the appearance of a new sword. It was not notched or rusted… His sword was pale and elegant. When it moved, it cut the air with a brittle sound… blade of burnished grey…

Burnished grey is a highly-polished grey. Check this out:


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For an alchemical world, would it be too far fetched to suggest that the sword itself is forged of quicksilver? The symbol for wisdom?

And further, if we continue in the assumption that names are parallel in Kingkiller to our languages because names share pre-proto-indo-European roots (as is obviously the case with Valaritas), then could we assume that Saicere does the same?

Saice is an alt spelling of sais.

The first-person singular present indicative of the French savoir (from which we derive the word savant as in a kid genius).

Which means “to know,” “to know how,” and “to be able to.”

And comes from the Latin “sapere” (like saicere) meaning “to taste” and “to be wise” and as in the word “sapiential” the word “saber” which in many tongues means “to know.” It also is — at best — a pun in English with the idea of a slender, curved sword called a saber, though there’s even a chance that since a saber shares the root with the word “serpent” (serp-), that the Latin word “sapere” (seh,p-) may have a connection. Certainly the poetry works: the crafty (some cultures say “wise”) serpent which consumes and digests everything it tries and tastes also is shaped like a saber.

All of that to say, if the sword is really made out of quicksilver and is literally named “wisdom,” it’s ironic that he here calls it “folly.” Perhaps there’s something to never speaking, never knowing, never telling the story. Perhaps its folly to even open our mouths in the first place. Perhaps ignorance is bliss. Or perhaps, as Chesterton said:

The general notion that science establishes agnosticism is a sort of mystification produced by talking Latin and Greek instead of plain English. Science is Latin for knowledge. Agnosticism is the Greek for ignorance. It is not evident that ignorance is the goal of knowledge.

Or maybe Wittgenstein is right:

What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.

My work consists of two parts, the one presented here plus all that I have not written. And it is precisely this second part that is the important point. For the ethical gets its limit drawn from the inside, as it were, by my book; … I’ve managed in my book to put everything firmly into place by being silent about it.

In either case, it seems that Rothfuss is invoking the common epigraph — ignorance is bliss — by showing the corollary: wisdom is folly. It’s Kvothe saying, “Oh had I known then what I know now.” The story of a man who had gone looking for his heart’s desire. He had to trick a demon to get it. But once it rested in his hand, he was forced to fight an angel to keep it.

Some quotes for your consideration:

If there is one thing I will not abide
It is the folly of a willful pride.



Defend yourself well at the University. Make me proud.
Remember your Father’s song: beware of folly.

Your friend,



Seilitos was wise. He understood how grief can twist a heart, how passions drive a good man to folly.


Bast had learned a new fear of late. A year ago he had been as fearless as any sane man can hope to be, but now Bast feared silence. Not the ordinary silence that came from a simple absence of things moving about and making noise. Bast feared the deep, weary silence that gathered around his master at times, like an invisible shroud… He fought not to wring his hands as he waited for the deep silence to enter the room. He waited for it to crystalize and show its teeth on the edges of the cool quiet that had pooled in the Waystone. He knew how it came, like the frost that bleeds out of the winter ground, hardening the clear water than an early thaw leaves in wagon ruts. But before Bast could draw another breath, Kvothe straightened in his chair and made a motion for Chronicler to lay down his pen. Bast nearly wept as he sensed the silence scatter like a dark bird scared to flight…

Kvothe said sharply, “What is most important? My magic or my music? My triumphs or my follies?”


I cried for Sir Savien and Aloine,
for love lost and found and lost again
at cruel fate and man’s folly.

The song Kvothe first heard his parents play in the bleak Midwinter Pageantry? Seems to be another indication of a man taking the idea of sacrifice for love too far.

And while they both moved around a great deal, it was obvious they were reluctant to finish whatever task they were close to completing, as if they both dreaded the moment when the work would end and the silence would fill the room again.

There are tons of interesting things with silence and folly throughout the book — as well as silence and cold. For now, let’s say in Temerant that the sound of silence is wisdom and the sound of speech is folly. We’ll stop there for now and hopefully, earnestly, move on to chapter one.

Which is aptly titled A Place for Demons.

P.S. >
In searching for videos of mercury on a white background, I found a guy who literally stands on mercury:


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