Today we’re going to touch briefly on the connection between Telhu’s Angels and The Chandrian. Before we start, spoilers below, 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 us nothing and has already given us a great gift.
At the bottom, I’ll include the theories we’re working with so that you can refresh yourself. I’m including them in every post so that any random googlers will have some context.
Right now, I’m pushing the idea that Telhu’s angels and the Chandrian are one in the same. I covered this briefly in the whole Sound of Silence post and hinted at it elsewhere, but I never really gave the mythological background behind why I think that’s feasible. For starters, I need to point to the 13 assumptions document (which you can unlock here) in which I point out that this is a sort of post-Christian or post-religious tragedy about the economy of stories and the war between hope and history, myth and martyrdom, Chronicler and Bast. Many of the critiques of religion and the like in the book are the sort of half-baked collective mythology arguments that most serious historians rejected ages ago.
One of them, however, is fascinating.
Some scholars believe that during the Babylonian captivity the Jews got the names of their seven archangels — Jegudiel, Gabriel, Selaphiel, Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Barachiel — from the Babylonian star catalogues. Whether I buy this or not is irrelevant because it seems to serve a narrative purpose in Kingkiller. Remember: stars and deities (or demiurges or demons or angels) have interplay in the ancient cosmological model. The intelligences of angels were sort of incarnate in these luminary heavenly bodies. So you’d have both the moon and Diana, for instance, as one in the same. Diana wouldn’t only manifest in human form as a concession to our tiny minds, she would also manifest as the moon simultaneously because she was confined neither to a temporal concession on Earth or a temporal concession in the heavens: she was bigger than both Diana the moon and Diana the woman. Same with Angels and wings — most of the time they’re too big, too incomprehensible, too momentous for us to get the whole of them. The wings and human figures are the best way they can communicate with us kind of like a parent using baby talk or super primitive hand gestures. So the intelligence that guides the gravity and momentum of a given star or constellation is the intelligence known as an angel (or demigod, etc). In this case seven archangels and their high seven constellations.
Were this a true source of inspiration for Kingkiller, it implies that the archangels and demons are one and the same — faen high intelligences that both guide stars and walk the earth. It’s also relevant alchemically because the seven archangels also bore association with the seven alchemical planets of the model: sun, moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn (and correspondingly: gold, silver, quicksilver, copper, iron, tin, lead). And it’s doubly important for the seasonal aspect of the sound of silence.
Because mid-winter is Capricorn is Saturn is lead (quicksilver as its starting agent via Mercury) is Gabriel.
Gabriel, the archangel of winter’s pale.
Gabriel, the harbinger of death.
Gabriel, the destroyer.
Gabriel, the watcher in the book of Enoch.
Gabriel, the archangel of the moon.
Of course, a problem remains after that connection (that some believe the names of Babylonian gods and stars became the names of Jewish angels). If it plays, the problem is how do you get nine of Telhu’s angels down to seven Chandrian?
Well if you keep the moon as the Diana who needs defending — who’s also ever moving — and either add Seilitos or some other character who dies in the whole priest sacrifice portion (if Encanis, for instance, was one of the original nine), then the nine get easily reduced down to the seven. All of that to say, I’m going to keep reading forward with this assumption and try to disprove it as I read. If it stands up to heavy scrutiny, there may well be merit to it.
To refresh your memory:
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 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.