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Literature / The Kingkiller Chronicle

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"Vorfelan Rhinata Morie"

"I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep."

"You may have heard of me."

The Kingkiller Chronicle is set to be a trilogy of Heroic Fantasies by Patrick Rothfuss.

Kvothe, the eponymous kingkiller, is a living legend after having given up his former life and gone into hiding as the innkeep Kote. He is being sought out by Chronicler, a famous scribe, who wishes to write down Kvothe's life story. Kvothe declares that telling this story will take three days, thus providing a Framing Device for the trilogy, the vast majority of which is told in first-person narration. While this oral discourse is the main focus of the novel, frequent interruptions make it clear that his journey is not yet at an end.

  • The Name of the Wind (2007) is the first day. It describes Kvothe's youth with his parents in a band of traveling entertainers, who are killed when Kvothe's father begins to do research into a band of semi-mythical destroyers called the Chandrian. He travels to The University to not only further his education, but to attempt to learn all he can about them.
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  • The Wise Man's Fear (2011) details Kvothe's travels abroad during a sabbatical: in Vintas, where he gains the patronage of a rich if somewhat egotistical nobleman; with the Adem, a Proud Warrior Race; and with Felurian, a fae seductress who leaves her lovers either dead or mad.
  • The third book has a working title of The Doors of Stone and no set release date, but it will presumably wrap up Kvothe's recitation.

A shorter novel, originating as a NaNoWriMo, set in Modeg and featuring a new protagonist will appear sometime before book 3.

Two short stories were published in anthologies: "How Old Holly Came To Be" (2013) and "The Lightning Tree" (2014).

The novella The Slow Regard of Silent Things (2014), published separately, centers around the character of Auri.


In 2020, a podcast mini-series set in the world started being published. It is produced in partnership with One Shot Podcast and is an early playtest of an in-development Kingkiller Chronicle role-playing game.

The series as a whole provides examples of:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Owing to the novels' lengths, the framing device for the stories doesn't actually work. Each is supposed to be Kvothe reciting the story to Chronicler over the course of a single day, after they wake up and including breaks from interruptions and finally going to bed after. Unless Kvothe speaks very, very quickly, this is impossible. In particular, the audiobook for Wise Man's Fear is a whopping 43 hours long, yet is told in perhaps 18 hours in-story.
  • The Ace: Young Kvothe excels at just about everything he tries to do, from music to magic to fighting to performing arts. A great portion of the story so far is Kvothe learning various useful skills far more quickly than most anyone in the world. He has difficulty only with things that bore him, like higher math, and extraordinarily difficult things, like Naming. The trope is made palatable by the foregone conclusion that, for all his knowledge and talent, Kvothe has lost much of what made him great.
  • Aerith and Bob: Most of the characters have unusual names such as Kvothe, Abenthy, Arliden, Fela, Meluan, Skarpi and so forth. However, there are a handful of minor character names like Basil, Benjamin, Carter, Graham, Ellie, Jake, Jason, Pete and Seth, who have standard real-world names.
  • All Myths Are True: Partially averted. Most of the myths mentioned in the book have some shade of truth to them such as the weaknesses of the Fae and Mael. However, others such as the number of Chandrian and their origin vary from place to place and by necessity some of them must be wrong.
  • Alpha Bitch: Ambrose fits this trope to a T, except he's a dude.
  • Alternative Calendar: Weeks are eleven days long in this world and called a span. Months are 44 days long, but still called months. Days have names like Felling, Cendling, and Mourning, etc.
  • Animesque: Literary example. The series shares a number of common tropes with Japanese Light Novels. Kvothe was in many ways a Stock Light-Novel Hero in the past due to his overpowered abilities and plethora of Love Interests, given that a a teenaged yet substantially powerful protagonist attracting a literal Harem of women who want to bed him isn't something seen often in western fantasy but it's a ridiculously common in light novels. Even present day Kvothe has a number of similarities with this kind of character, most specifically Willem Kmetsch from WorldEnd: What Do You Do at the End of the World? Are You Busy? Will You Save Us?, as both were once legendary heroes who are introduced living in miserable isolation following some great failure that led to their respective worlds going to hell. The fact that Willem works as an innkeeper at one point in his story makes the comparison even more striking.
  • Arc Number:
    • Three has particular relevance in stories and traditions as well as expressions. Bast states that he owns Chronicler three ways. Simmon shows he's serious when he says to Kvothe, "I'm telling you three times..." There is a much-quoted expression "Third time pays for all." The three things all wise men fear. Giving three gifts is considered proper, especially in stories. Most notably is the "silence of three parts" passages.
    • Seven is an explicitly supernatural and lucky number within the world. Trip has a knack for rolling sevens. There are seven Chandrian. "Seven things stand before the entrance to the Lackless door." Threpe gives Kvothe seven talents as a lucky number. Kvothe notes that the 21 balls of denner resin is a good number, being three groups of seven. Elodin states that there are seven words to make a woman fall in love with you. Denna also jokes that Kvothe is always saying things to her in sentences made up of seven words, presumably because he is trying to find those seven words to use on Denna even if he does not realize it.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Most aristocrats are stuffy, elitist and selfish. Ambrose is a particular example, but Kvothe meets quite a number more like him. The Maer, though by no means a cruel person, is selfish and used to getting his way. There are some aversions, such as Bredon, Threpe and Simmon.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    "I was one of those. I meddled with dark powers. I summoned demons. I ate the entire little cheese, including the rind."
  • Artistic License – Martial Arts: The monstrously effective martial art practiced by the Adem runs on artistic license. It's powerful enough for a little girl half of Kvothe's size to defeat him with little effort. It is also founded on the principles that moral clarity makes a person a better fighter, that size and strength matter little in a fight, and that women are more moral than men and therefore better fighters. All of this is, of course, just artistic invention.
  • As You Know: Somewhat inevitable, since in-universe the story is being told by a legendary figure about his own life, so many events are things that his audience would be somewhat familiar with. That said, he explains Sympathy in detail twice (when Abenthy teaches it to him in The Name of the Wind, and when it's demonstrated for Denna in The Wise Man's Fear). To further this, his immediate audience consists of a full-fledged Arcanist and Kvothe's own student, both of whom are well versed in Sympathy.
  • Badass Boast
    • Kvothe begins his story with one
    • Bast's threat to Chronicler, made even more badass because it's implied that this is Not Hyperbole.
  • The Bard: The Edema Ruh are a society of traveling entertainers including many bards.
  • Barefoot Loon:
    • Auri; she is a classical example of The Ophelia who never wears shoes.
    • Kvothe also spent three years barefoot in Tarbean, a time where a good portion of his psyche was scabbed over and hidden from him because of trauma, a kind of madness.
  • Barefoot Poverty: Kvothe bitterly remembers this from his time in Tarbean.
  • Barefoot Sage: Elodin, a wise and talented magician with a prominent aversion to shoes; this is one of his many eccentricities.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: In-universe; things said by other philosophers are often attributed to Teccam.
  • Berserk Button: Don't mess with Kvothe's lute. The only person who ever gets away with it is Denna, and he still has a minor Heroic BSoD over it.
  • Big Bad: Lord Haliax and the Chandrian. However, in the second book it's implied that the Cthaeh may be The Chessmaster behind everything.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • Bast calls Kvothe "Reshi". "Rishi" is Hindi/Sanskrit for the composer of Vedic poems/hymns or a seer - a Rishi is understood to be a very wise person.
    • Aleph, the briefly mentioned creator-god who Named all things, is probably named after the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
    • The demi-gods are called the Ruach, Hebrew for spirit/wind/breath.
    • In both Gaelic and in-universe, "Deoch" means "drink."
    • In the second book, Kvothe tells a story about a man named Sceop who knows stories even the Edema Ruh have never heard. "Sceop" is an Old English word that can be loosely translated as "bard."
    • In Latin, the word manet means "he/she/it remains."
    • Kvothe says the name "Auri" means sunny, but can't think in what language. "auri-" is the prefix form of the word for gold in Latin and the given name "Ari" means "sun-like" in the Dravidian language Badaga.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: A male example with Simmon, Wilem and Kvothe.
  • Book-Ends
    • Both books in the trilogy so far have both opened and closed with a prologue/epilogue about "A Silence of Three Parts." Each chapter varies slightly in mood, but they all conclude with "the patient, cut-flower sound of a man waiting to die."
    • Bast reciting the "Elderberry" counting rhyme in The Wise Man's Fear. At the beginning, it's to choose what bottles to pick for a mixed drink. At the end, it's to decide which of the soldiers to kill first, with which random implement about the camp.
  • Brick Joke:
    • In the first book, Elodin asks Kvothe, "Do you know the seven words that will make a woman love you?" Several examples pop up: "I was just wondering why you're here," "I need you to breathe for me," "You know, I could have carried you," "For all that, she lacked your fire". The lesson is that the right words depend entirely on context. As does most of Naming magic.
    • Whenever Kvothe encounters a tinker on the road, you can be sure that whatever he decides against buying is the exact item he'll be in dire need of a few chapters later.
  • Broken Ace: Kvothe is brilliant and excels at everything he tries, but tears himself apart so badly in the process that by the time Chronicler finds him, he's a shadow of his former self.
  • Broken Bird: Denna hides her brokenness behind a shell of witty banter, but it becomes clear that she's been hurt many times in the past.
  • Butterfly of Doom: Implied to be somewhat literal by the fact that the Cthaeh spends its time killing butterflies, if it's not pure sadism. This is also what the Cthaeh, metaphorically, spends all it's time setting up.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Master-Namer Elodin, who appears at first to be quite insane, is actually very good at what he teaches, which is the mysterious and difficult skill of knowing the true names of things. Still possibly insane.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": A wide, wide variety of things (and people, countries, currencies, holidays, etc.) all seem suspiciously familiar, but under a different name.
    • "Ophalum"/"denner resin", which grows in a tree, but has effects resembling a mishmash of several real drugs, notably opium.
    • Even graduate students and post-docs have their own names at the University.
    • As seen when Kvothe writes the mocking song "Jackass Jackass," the tune "Turkey in the Straw" is called "Squirrel in the Thatch," presumably because turkeys don't live in this part of the world.
    • Zombies are shamblemen, though the description also has similarities with revenants and traditional vampires.
    • Birds resembling hummingbirds are called sipquicks or flits in Vintas.
  • Cast from Hit Points: Using the heat of your blood to power sympathy. Drawing too much heat can lead to shivers, hypothermia and death. Using body heat in general does this too, and is far safer, but blood provides more heat faster.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Kvothe and Denna.
  • Character Witness: Auri serves as one, in two different ways, for Kvothe to Elodin. First, the fact that Kvothe gave her a perfectly cromulent name convinces Elodin that he has a knack for naming. Second, the fact that Kvothe, though clearly terrified of losing his place at the school, is willing to threaten Elodin with actions that would be terrible for both of them if the latter turned Auri over to the University's not so tender ministrations, convinces him Kvothe's more than just a reckless youngster.
  • Chekhov's Classroom: Most of the Chekhov's Guns are presented as legend, folklore or instruction from Kvothe's studies. For example, the book The Mating Habits of the Common Draccus is mentioned so many times that if that information failed to come in handy eventually, Chekhov would be very angry. Kvothe is recounting the story with the benefit of both hindsight and potent storytelling expertise, so he might be purposefully mentioning lessons that became relevant later.
  • Chekhovs Legend: The stories about that weird kid who somehow captured the moon? That happened.
  • Chemically-Induced Insanity: Ambrose doses Kvothe with an alchemical concoction that leaves him The Sociopath for a few days, intending him to embarrass himself at an important moment. Although Kvothe runs his mouth in front of a younger student and has to be restrained from nonchalantly murdering Ambrose when Kvothe learns what's been done, his friends manage to get him to privacy before he does any real damage.
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • Auri, Kvothe's friend from the tunnels under the University.
    • Elodin is a classic case.
  • Compelling Voice:
    • Learning the name of something allows people to use this on the objects or people that they know the name of.
    • Felurian has a way of speaking that provokes instinctive obedience. Kvothe notes that it's as if she cannot conceive of you not obeying her.
  • Contemptible Cover: A few iterations of this the book exist, and some of the covers are rather embarrassingly bad.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Denna and Kvothe run into each other by chance a whole lot, which they both comment on.
  • Cool Sword: Kvothe has a sword named "Folly" hanging on the wall of his inn. Also, Kvothe's sword that he got in Ademre, "Saicere"/"Caesura".
  • Court Physician: The Maer Alvaren retains Caudicus, a University arcanist and alchemist who doubles as Court Mage. He prepares a daily dose of medicine for the Maer, and Kvothe cements his position at court by discovering that it's actually a slow poison.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Tehlu, and the whole religion based on him. The biggest piece of background on Tehlu is basically the Passion as if it were an Old Testament story, where the Satan figure is broken on the wheel and Tehlu dies to keep him there as he burns.
  • Deconstruction: Kvothe deconstructs the Mary Sue protagonists that the fantasy genre is just lousy with; he was The Ace as a kid. Yet this sets him up for several flaws, being too arrogant, full of hatred and impatience because he's The Ace and knows it. And we already know that he broke under the weight of his actions and the standards he set for himself.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Actually many. Kvothe and Denna have walked around barefoot voluntarily in at least two separate times (in Kvothe's case, it's probably due to the memory of his lack of shoes during his life in Tarbean), and characters like Auri, Elodin and Puppet have it as a habit (albeit Puppet still wears socks).
  • Doublethink: While learning sympathy, a sympathist must be able to split his/her mind to believe contradicting beliefs at the same time. The most skilled sympathists such as Kvothe and Devi can split their minds 6 or 7 ways to reinforce the strength of their will.
  • Double Standard: Male and female students are treated differently, for better or worse.
    • Only boys may be punished by whipping. Girls only pay the fine.
    • Female students at the University also struggle with the relentless chauvinism of some of the professors. At one point, Hemme punishes tardy male students with writing essays (which is a standard, if nasty, punishment for being a few minutes late), but escorts a tardy female student in only to tell her, in front of the entire class, to cross her legs in order to "shut the door to hell."
  • Dub Name Change: Foreign translations of the books often change names of characters and concepts for no apparent reason. For example, the Blac of Drossen Tor is changed to "Nagra of Vessten Tor" in the Spanish translation. For the first word, it can be guessed that the translator identified "blac" as a corruption of the English word "black", and thus he changed it to a similar corruption of "negro" in Spanish, but this is not the meaning of the word in the book or anything semantically related (Skarpi says in the same sentence that it means "battle"); and for the second word, impossible to know.
  • Elopement: Kvothe's parents in the Back Story.
  • Everyone Can See It: Kvothe and Denna.
  • Failure Hero: Kvothe believes this about himself which is why he is hiding out as an innkeeper.
  • The Fair Folk:
    • Bastas, son of Remmen, Prince of Twilight and the Telwyth Mael
    • Felurian
    • Also implied to be the root cause of what most people call demons.
    • Technically the Mael also, though they're expressly stated as being completely different from the Fae.
  • Fallen Hero:
    • Lanre/Haliax.
    • Possibly our eponymous Kingkiller as well.
  • Fantastic Fighting Style: The Ketan, a martial art practiced by the Adem. Kvothe only mentions its techniques by name and rarely explains them, but the style overall appears to be a fantastic counterpart to a mixture of Karate and Aikido: on one hand, it has kicks, punches, chops and a kata-like system of solo training, while on the other hand, it also has armlocks, throws, swordfighting, and a deep philosophical base.
  • Fantastic Light Source: "Sympathy lamps" convert ambient heat into bright, steady light and can last almost forever. Their expense makes them uncommon outside the University, but they're a Mundane Fantastic appliance to people who can afford them, and Kvothe makes easy money on the side by manufacturing them.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • The Edema Ruh are clearly based on the Roma, or maybe, considering their light hair and complexions, Irish Travelers, with their performing, their nomadic lifestyles living in caravans, and their unfair reputation as thieves.
    • Ademre has a lot of parallels with China. The Ketan is based on martial arts and Tai Chi, and the concept of the Adem mercenary and and the schools that teach them parallel the operation of many historical martial arts schools in China. Similarly, the Lethani is highly reminiscent of Daoism. The descriptions of how the Adem language works (it's tonality, and its emphasis on deciphering meaning over precision) also strongly resembles Chinese. The hand-gestures/facial-expressions may be a tip of the hat to Asian inscrutability, the famed inability of Westerners to read Asian facial expressions. To top it all off, the Adem are all known for having the same hair color (sandy instead of black). However, other traits of the Adem (the sexually liberated culture, the matriarchal society) don't match China at all.
    • The ancient Aturan empire, with its centralized city, massive scope and spread of the series' counterpart to Christianity resembles the ancient Roman Empire, while the modern day Aturans seem to resemble the Holy Roman Empire of early modern times.
    • The Yllish are a rather unique and fairly under-described culture, but the fact that they come from an island and are known for having red hair makes them similar to the Irish, which is intensified by the fact that Deoch has a Yllish background and a name that means "to drink" in both Yllish and Gaelic. Other aspects of their culture, such as the use of knots as a written language, don't match up, though this may be related to Celtic knots.
  • Fantasy Gun Control combined with a form of Medieval Stasis: There are hints that there was a higher level of technology in the past, among them rusted and unrecognizable hulks in the tunnels and the remains of an extensive sewer system. Something seems to have knocked them back. Sections at the University suggest that science and technology is currently around early 19th century levels, possibly a little better in some areas and worse in others. For example:
    • Kvothe knows that steel is an alloy of iron and carbon, rather than something you get from processing iron in a particular way with coke.
    • Medicine in general is well developed in the Arcanum; Arwyl and Kvothe know that bleeding a person is almost never beneficial, and Kvothe repeatedly resorts to charcoal to counteract ingested poisons. He can also compute dosages by body weight. Kvothe knows enough about nutrition to know that sea salt contains chromium, bassal, malium, iodine, and other trace minerals. Simmon identifies the plum-bob drug as "lipid soluble" and knows that this means it will hang around in the body for a while, causing flashbacks. Kvothe adds that it removes "behavioural filters", very much a late 20th century expression. And people know what proprioception is, despite it being obscure enough in our world that most people have never even heard the word.note 
    • The people also seem to have the laws of motion and thermodynamics worked out (except, possibly, entropy, as that may be negated by the magic in the books); at one point students attempt to solve a problem a Master sets to determine where a stone thrown with a particular force and at a particular angle will land using math, implying familiarity with some form of Newton's laws of motion, conservation of momentum, and the laws of gravity.
    • Fire is described by Kvothe to a Master as "an exothermic chemical reaction". There are many other examples which could be cited. Yet despite all this no one seems to have discovered gun powder or built a steam engine. The teachers are, however, strongly against using combinations of magic with martial technology.
    • Magnets are mysterious and rare objects in Kvothe's world, and Master Kilvin's lifelong quest for an "everburning torch" in a glass globe makes it clear that current arcanists have never heard of electricity.
    • During Kvothe's traveling around Trebon with Denna at the end of the first book, he makes it clear that magnetism and naturally-occurring electricity (of the electric eel variety) are both aspects of the mysterious "galvanic force", which is odd: they have no idea how electricity and magnetism work, but they know about electromagnetism?
  • Fatal Flaw: Impatience seems to be Kvothe's fatal flaw. A hell of a lot of the trouble he gets himself into could have been avoided oh so easily if he only bided his time. Most of the rest of the trouble he lands himself in can be put down to his pride and refusal to back down in his feud with Ambrose.
  • Fearless Fool: Referenced. Kvothe says that only priests and fools are fearless.
  • Food as Characterization: Kvothe's Orphan's Ordeal and subsequent money troubles left him fond of Mundane Luxuries like snacking on fresh apples (rather than scrounging for discarded cores) and treating his friends to dinner at a nice (but not fancy) restaurant.
  • Foregone Conclusion: From the framing story, we know that Kvothe comes out of everything infamous worldwide, deeply emotionally scarred, and believed dead.
  • Functional Magic: Sympathy and Naming. Sympathy is almost like a science, while naming requires a very particular view of the world that few can achieve, and can even drive you crazy.
  • Framing Device: Chronicler hearing the story from Kvothe.
  • Generic Cuteness: Every woman in The Name of the Wind is described as beautiful, good-looking, etc. Lampshaded by Bast ("All the women in your story are beautiful"), which indicates this trope might simply be Kvothe finding every woman he sees attractive, because at the time he was a fifteen-year-old boy who didn't meet many girls. The Wise Man's Fear eases up, introducing such characters as the old, practical Shehyn and the boyish Hespe.
  • Gold–Silver–Copper Standard: Due to his perpetual money troubles, Kvothe frequently discusses coin currency from a variety of lands. While each nation has its own currency, it all follows the "gold, silver, copper" standard, with Caeldish currency also featuring two denominations of iron coins that are worth less than copper coins.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Kvothe is covered with attractive, smooth and pale 'good guy' scars that are hidden under his clothes. "All the scars were smooth and silver except one."
  • Heroic Fantasy
  • The Hero's Journey: The overall point of the story.
  • I Know Your True Name: Probably the most difficult branch of magic, with most arcanists knowing no names, and a very few knowing one or two. Searching for names has the potential to drive you insane.
  • Immortality Promiscuity: The two Fae characters, for whom Immortality Begins at Twenty, are depicted in this manner:
    • Bast is faunlike, at least 150 years old, and dedicated to living according to his own desires, which, while he and Kvothe are holed up in Newarre, largely means trying his luck with almost every adult woman in town.
    • The Time Abyss World's Most Beautiful Woman Felurian passes the centuries by taking mortal lovers, who invariably either go Out with a Bang or literally go insane with desire for her after she tires of them.
  • Imposed Handicap Training: Students learning Sympathy at the University often practice using less than ideal links, such as trying to set a hair on fire by burning a straw.
  • Infallible Narrator: Being The Ace as well as a trained storyteller, Kvothe recollects every detail of his story (he says). Before he's even willing to begin, he demands proof that Chronicler will be able to transcribe every detail perfectly.
  • Insistent Terminology: While many are okay with the common folk referring to the art of sympathy as magic, arcanists among themselves take great pains to point out the large difference between the fairy tale magic of Fae and the more rigorously studied sympathy.
  • Insult Backfire: Given that women dominate the top ranks in most Adem combat schools, the mercenary Tempi is quite pleased to be told that he fights like a girl. Similarly, he thinks someone calling his mother a whore is also a compliment, since "a woman that people pay for sex" would be prestigious in Adem culture where casual hookups are extremely common.
  • The Kingslayer: Kvothe alludes in the telling of his story to this happening (but as a trilogy in progress, we won't find out how until the third book comes out.) Some regard him as a hero, some as a miscreant, but whatever public opinion, he had a role in starting a war and is living under a false identity.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Throughout the story, Kvothe and various characters give nods to some common fantasy tropes from time to time. Kvothe is quite Genre Savvy due to growing up as part of a performing troupe.
  • Left-Justified Fantasy Map: The map is similar to Europe; the places that Kvothe initially inhabits such as the University and Tarbean are to the west. Kvothe later travels eastward, first to Vintas, and then onward to Ademre.
  • Living Legend: Kvothe and the yet-to-be-seen Oren Velciter.
  • Loyal Phlebotinum: The University creates Anti-Magic "Grams" and issues "Guilder" Membership Tokens to its fully accredited arcanists, both of which are tokens bound to their owner with Sympathetic Magic. If anyone else touches one, it numbs their hand, making it impossible to fake being an Arcanist.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Knacks, Sympathy, and Naming all work by concrete rules, which are explained at length. Alchemy is pointed out as being distinctly different from chemistry, but Sympathy and Sygaldry bear more in common with physics and calculus than traditional magic.
  • Magical Barefooter: An aversion to shoes may be the general trait of those who have the knowledge of things' true names. Auri and Elodin both have a penchant for going barefoot, and another character from The Wise Man's Fear (a wise old Listener) also Does Not Like Shoes. Kvothe also spent three years barefoot in Tarbean.
  • Magic by Any Other Name: Sympathy, not to be confused with "Naming". If you know the true name of something you can command it, but if you don't then you can find something to represent it and use your willpower to force what happens to this to happen to that. Sympathy is seen as magic by many people in-universe, but people who actually use it insist that it isn't.
  • Magical Underpinnings of Reality: The moon disappearing from the sky isn't caused by the moon being between the sun and the Earth, it's because when it's not in the sky, the moon is actually elsewhere, serving as the moon of Fae. This phenomenon may have been caused when a boy named Jax (Actually Iax, a long-dead Namer, and purportedly the greatest of them all at the time.) learned the moon's name and partially trapped it in a box, hence the "Just So" Story of why the moon waxes and wanes.
  • Magitek: Sympathy lamps and clocks, a sygaldry fridge. Most common in the Commonwealth because its only source, the University, is located there. Kvothe designs and builds one of his own at the University, a hanging ball that uses sympathy and a powerful internal spring to "catch" any fast projectiles that move near it, making them stop. In his absence it becomes extremely popular and profitable.
  • The Magnificent: Kvothe the Bloodless/the Arcane/Kingkiller.
  • Matriarchy: The Ademre are a Proud Warrior Race ruled by women. All members practice their Fantastic Fighting Style, the Ketan, which makes even a mediocre Adem fighter the match for several normal soldiers. The Adem believe that morality is more important for skill in the Ketan than any physical advantage. They also believe that women are more naturally moral than men. Therefore, women are both better fighters and better people than men. All of their leaders are women for this reason.
  • Meaningful Name: Many of them, some in-story (see also Bilingual Bonus):
    • The barkeep Deoch is named for the Irish word "deoch" — a drink.
    • Kvothe calls himself "Kote" when playing the role of an innkeeper. A conversation with one of his teachers towards the end of The Name of the Wind reveals that kote is an in-universe Siaru word meaning disaster. He's also currently hiding in the village of Newarre, in the middle of nowhere.
    • Denna. Kvothe compares her to a wild thing: skittish, and drifting about like the wind. At one point in the book, Kvothe mentions "the ever-changing name of the wind." Denna changes her name constantly. Her name is also very similar to denner, and Kvothe is arguably addicted to her.
    • Kvothe at one point says that the Adem called him "Maedre", which means either "The Flame, The Thunder or The Burning Tree, depending on how you pronounce it." That sounds relatively innocuous until you find out that the trilogy itself was originally named "The Song of Flame and Thunder," until being given its current title to avoid confusion with A Song of Ice and Fire. Kvothe's own name was formerly a Title Drop.
    • The Master Artificer is Kilvin, and among the things he deals with are lamps and fire, heat and chemistry. The real life Lord Kelvin was a physicist/chemist, who dealt extensively with thermodynamics, the movement of heat, and other things. Kilvin is introduced as being unable to solve the problem of an ever-burning lamp. The real Lord Kelvin was, somewhat famously and retroactively, completely stymied by the problem of the sun, as nuclear physics was as yet undiscovered and there's no purely chemical way for the sun to burn for billions of years.
    • Elodin, the Master of Names. The god Odin is possessed of more than 200 names.
    • The music hall where Kvothe performs is called the Eolian. "Eolian" means "relating to, caused by, or carried by the wind" in English. This is the origin of the name of the wind-played Aeolian/Eolian harp.
    • Master of Alchemy Mandrag probably gets his name from Mandragora, the Latin word for the mandrake species of plants, which carries much superstition and ritual significance due to their oddly-shaped roots and many botanical properties.
  • Membership Token: The Academy famously issues lead "Guilders" to its fully accredited arcanists. They have the advantage of being Loyal Phlebotinum bound to their owners through Sympathetic Magic, so anyone else who touches one has their hand go numb.
  • Memetic Badass: Kvothe himself, In-Universe. People are telling tales about him, and getting it wrong due to hearsay distortion, in his own inn, to his face.
  • Men Don't Cry: Defied by the Adem people. They usually consider it childish and uncivilized to emote openly, so they present themselves as The Stoic and use Sign Language to communicate most emotions; however, they laugh and cry freely, believing those emotional reactions to be too basic and primal to suppress.
  • Mood Ring Eyes:
    • Bast's blue eyes change, brightening and the pupil shrinking based on mood; this is explained by the fact that he's not human and the glamour is slipping.
    • Kvothe's green eyes are observed and commented on multiple times through the book as changing shade depending on his mood. This is interpreted by many readers that his mother, a highborn runaway, was a fae.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Bast, as lampshaded in a comic summary of the novel posted on Rothfuss' blog.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
  • Mundane Luxury: Kvothe greatly appreciates simple comforts after spending three years as a miserable, traumatized Street Urchin. He lives happily in a small room over an inn and savors snacking on whole apples because he used to have to scrounge for the cores. When he comes into a respectable amount of money, things like treating his friends to dinner and buying extra sets of clothes feel like an utter luxury to him.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: The narrative is light on profanity in general, and rarely anything harder than a "damn" or "hell." Kvothe will sometimes state that someone cursed. When Simmon and Fela act out Ambrose's argument with Fela, Simmon calls Fela a "bint" and admits later that Ambrose used another word that shouldn't be repeated even in fun.
  • Nested Story: Kvothe's dictation of his autobiography contains a number of stories. Storytelling is a major motif in the series.
  • No Conservation of Energy: Averted. One of the main premises of Sympathy is that you need energy, and the weaker the link, the more energy is lost in the process. As already mentioned, when in a pinch, some characters (mostly Kvothe) have used the heat from their own blood for an energy source — though only in a pinch, because over-doing it induces hypothermia.
  • No Fathers Allowed: The Adem nation doesn't recognize "fatherhood" as a concept at all. To them, men and sex play no role in reproduction, and women instead just naturally "ripen" at times and bear children (part of it has to do with the Adem in general being very liberal about sex). Their language doesn't even have a word for "father", instead translating it as "manmother" when they have to communicate with other cultures.
  • No Poverty: Kvothe visits the homeland of the Adem, a society funded by their world-class mercenaries. He notes that everyone lives simply, but in great comfort.
  • Oblivious to Love: Just about the only thing Kvothe isn't naturally good at is handling female emotional attention. Even after he learns bed skills and starts sleeping his way around, he's still completely unaware of being the target of two long-standing crushes (from Denna and Fela). His reluctance to fully court Denna, however, comes from her history of rejecting suitors that pursue her directly.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Barkeeping: Modern-day Kote keeps his inn studiously clean, and never fails to wipe down the counter and polish the bottles.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome:
    • Kvothe's trial, during which he allegedly learned enough Tema in a day and defended himself brilliantly. He glosses over it because it was tedious to live through, and the transcripts would be available as a matter of public record.
    • The "unfortunate complications" of the journey to Severen probably could have filled half a book...
      In brief, there was a storm, piracy, treachery, and shipwreck, although not in that order. It also goes without saying that I did a great many things, some heroic, some ill-advised, some clever and audacious.
  • Older Than They Look: A short time after they meet, Chronicler is susprised to realize that "Kote" is not yet 30 years old. With all of his world experience weighing him down, Kvothe seems to carry himself as a much older man.
  • That Old-Time Prescription: The world has relatively well-researched medicine, in particular at the University, some of which, like the metallurgy and other science-y bits, might even be over the head of a general reader. That being said, Kvothe spends a lot of time chewing willow bark, due to getting his butt kicked a lot and never having enough money for more pure medicine.
  • Our Angels Are Different: In the Tehlin Church, angels are heavenly beings rather similar to generic Judeo-Christian angels, although with some pantheon-like elements. According to Skarpi, however, the beings who became the angels were originally survivors of the Creation War who forswore their earthly lives to gain great power to mete out justice.
  • Outdoor Bath Peeping: In Bast's Day in the Limelight short story "The Lightning Tree", this happens twice.
    • Bast Invokes this with a bit of Obfuscating Stupidity by making it easy for some of the local women to follow him — a Pretty Boy newcomer — to a pond, feigning ignorance of their presence, and letting more than enough of him slip above the water to keep their attention.
    • Bast trades a favor to one of the village boys in exchange for being told the location where a particular pretty young woman likes to bathe. It's implied that he allows himself to be seen spying on her and that she's quite pleased to see him.
  • Perpetual Poverty:
    • A continuing theme is that Kvothe is nearly broke and just barely manages to get his tuition paid and his survival needs met. As of the end of Wise Man's Fear, this plot point is resolved via an unlimited scholarship from the Maer and royalties from selling his Bloodless devices.
    • After Kvothe pays off Devi's loan for the final time, he realizes that she carefully picks her lending rates to keep debtors in this state, hoping they will cave and barter in illegal favors instead.
  • Pūnct'uatìon Sh'akër: The University's ranks. At least they confine themselves to just apostrophes, no accents or umlauts lurking about.
  • Reconstruction: The book does a wonderful job of answering questions about the genre before they're even asked. For example, the Framing Device involves Kvothe dictating the story to Chronicler. Well, people can't write as fast as they can talk, but most books just quietly ignore that. Here, however, Chronicler has invented a shorthand cipher specifically for the purpose of allowing him to write faster than people can talk, justifying something so omnipresent we don't even have a trope for it.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Kvothe certainly thinks so. Indeed, he feels so strongly on the subject that even when he's been alchemically rendered unable to feel or even comprehend moral restraint, he instinctively knows that he mustn't rape anyone, in the same way he knows he mustn't try to eat a rock or walk through a solid wall.
  • Red Right Hand: It's implied that all of the Chandrian have one. Cinder has white hair, black eyes and a Slasher Smile. Lord Haliax is described as being totally shrouded in shadow, even in bright light. They also leave signs of their presence in the area, such as fire turning blue, iron rusting, wood rotting, etc.
  • Retired Badass: Kvothe fakes his death, moves to small village, opens an inn, and retires into his "Kote" persona. Notably, he's an almost-mythical legend and retired well before thirty.
  • Rich Bitch: Ambrose is a wealthy bully.
  • Romani: The Edema Ruh are a Fantasy Counterpart Culture.
  • Rule of Seven: Seven is an Arc Number , both in the story and in the world itself.
  • Rule of Three: Three is another Arc Number, coming up a lot in the story and narration.
  • Running Gag: Kvothe can't seem to keep a shirt whole. Also, he needs lots of little pockets in his cloaks.
  • Show Within a Show: A main motif. The trilogy starts off telling the story of the Chronicler and his mishaps with thieves and monsters as well as a growing threat of evil encroaching upon the land. While on the road, he happens to meet the legendary hero Kvothe who agrees to allow the Chronicler to record his story. The rest of the trilogy is Kvothe's story, which also contains many, many smaller stories. They often provide Infodumps on the history of the world.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A character at the Arcanum using "thaums" as a unit of measurement (for heat in this story) might be a reference to Discworld.
    • At one point, a girl begging for a story about "the dry lands over the Stormwal, with sand snakes and dry men who drink blood" sounds like a reference to Dune.
    • On more than one occasion, the word "Edro!" is used as an attempt to open something - the Elven word for "Open" in Tolkien's Middle-Earth (shouted by Gandalf in frustration at the Doors of Moria).
    • Kvothe leaves Trebon via the Evesdown docks.
    • Kvothe mentions that among the Fae story heroes Felurian told him about was one named Mavin the Manshaped, which may be a reference to Mavin Manyshaped of Sheri S. Tepper's The True Game.
    • Caudicus, the Maer's arcanist, has a stuffed crocodile hanging from his ceiling.
  • Shown Their Work: Many have lauded Rothfuss for his descriptions of music in his books. Despite this, he claims that he can't play an instrument to save his life.
  • Shrouded in Myth:
    • Starting soon after his acceptance into the University, Kvothe began starting the rumors about himself that would grow into this. By the time he tells Chronicler his story, patrons of the inn are telling tales about him in front of him without knowing it. Some people even think that he's only a myth and never really existed.
    • The Chandrian, partly because they kill people who learn too much about them. No one seems able to agree on who or what the Chandrian are, and even the ways to identify them vary from story to story.
    • To illustrate a point, Kvothe starts a few myths about Chronicler himself. Immediately, the villagers pick up their cue and start embroidering "Lord of Stories" tales on their own.
  • Signature Instrument: Among his many talents, Kvothe is an acclaimed lutist. His only memento of his murdered family was his father's lute, which he learned to play with incredible skill, even with multiple broken strings. The Adem mercenaries use his lute as his most meaningful personal possession during his Ultimate Final Exam, which annoys him more than the test's very real threat to his life.
  • Sliding Scale of Gender Inequality: Women are not disparaged or overtly forced into roles, but they tend to be in traditional or support positions while men do all the real work. There are no female public figures, traders, crafters, or instructors, but several barmaids and artists. A common criticism of The Name of the Wind, is that all of the women Kvothe encounters are attractive, and so some attempts were made to rectify this in the sequel, The Wise Man's Fear, which makes some clear attempts to create females to directly equal and occasionally exceed male counterparts, and also some that aren't described as physically attractive. Nevertheless, the males are always more powerful and prominent in the end.
  • Snicket Warning Label:
    • The Fae have a custom whereby dark, tragic plays begin with the malicious oracle known as the Cthaeth depicted in the scenery as a warning to the faint of heart. The Cthaeth appears in The Wise Man's Fear which just happens to end at a Hope Spot.
    • Kvothe tells the Chronicler in before telling his story that it can be boiled down to, "I lived, I loved, I lost."
  • Speak of the Devil: The Chandrian have some sense of when and where their name is spoken and might even be able to locate their depictions in art. Kvothe's father massacred with his troupe when he tries to compose a song about them, and the Adem only reveal the Chandrian's true names to Kvothe after warning him to "travel 1000 miles and wait 1000 nights" before speaking them again.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Simmon and Threpe are both noblemen, but are extremely humble and friendly.
  • Spontaneous Generation: The Adem culture believes that babies just sort of happen and are completely unable to accept the idea that men have anything to do with their creation, to the point of openly mocking and logically (for a given value of logic) rejecting Kvothe's assertion to the contrary.
  • The Story Teller: All over. The Edema Ruh love telling stories (they're a traveling troupe). Skarpi, who told stories in an inn in Tarbean in exchange for money. Cob tells stories at the inn in Newarre. Kvothe is telling the trilogy as the story of his life.
  • Sympathetic Magic: One of the main forms of magic practiced in the world. The physical properties of sympathy are well defined, following the Laws of Correspondence, Consanguinity, and Conservation. The more similar two materials are, the stronger the link between them; two objects that were once one object have a stronger link; and energy is neither created nor destroyed in the sympathetic process. The result is that even if you had a person's hair, you'd still have to have rigidly-trained focus and a great deal of energy to do anything to them.
  • Take That, Critics!: When Kvothe glosses over an Off Screen Moment Of Awesome, he goes into an angry rant about how this is his story, and so he's going to tell it they way he wants. This is clearly Patrick Rothfuss' own pre-emptive attack on readers who would criticize how the story is unfolding.
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: The magic of Naming requires the Namer to gain an intuitive understanding of the target, grasping everything in its history that shaped it into what it is. This is explicitly impossible for the conscious mind to handle. Namers slip into a passive state of Hyper-Awareness to manage it, but the powerful ones tend to live a bit at odds with what most people consider real, and the University has a sizable asylum for the people who get too close to the subject material.
  • They're Called "Personal Issues" for a Reason:
    • A great deal of the problems that Kvothe has with his close friends and Denna stem from the fact that the Chandrian aren't just terrifyingly powerful and to all appearances immortal, but so determined to staying secret that most people think they're mythological bogeymen. As such, none of his friends know the secret that is driving him.
    • Kvothe also hides his money troubles and his history as a miserable, orphaned street child from his friends for fear of it coloring their relationships; for their part, they know he has some sort of Dark and Troubled Past but choose to respect his privacy.
  • Title Drop:
    • All three book titles have already been dropped, though this does not rule out Rothfuss changing the working title of Book 3 at some later point.
    • The title of every chapter is usually dropped within a few pages. They serve as Chekhov's Guns in that sense.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Kvothe gives a glowing description of the Edema Ruh that is obviously colored by his personal prejudices. He's deliberately lied on at least one occasion and has certainly omitted parts of the narrative. Bast also counters that Denna isn't quite as perfect as Kvothe seems to think she is, but love is blind.
  • Upper-Class Twit:
    • Ambrose is a dangerous version of this, being an entitled scumbag with enough money to never have to suffer repercussions for his bad behavior.
    • Sovoy is a nice guy from a noble family, but he has no sense of perspective and doesn't see the problem with complaining about his lot in life among students who are far worse off than him.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Learning sympathy and Naming puts a lot of strain on a person's mind. This can result in anything from developing minor, temporary personality quirks, to falling into permanent, full-blown, need-to-be-strapped-down-to-avoid-hurting-yourself insanity. People like Elodin, Auri, Puppet, and some of Elodin's gillers fall somewhere in between the extremes.
  • Wizarding School: The University includes the Arcanum, which teaches various magical skills. Some students, however, come to the University just to study less exciting subjects such as math, chemistry, sculpture, and so forth.
  • Words Can Break My Bones: The right names can.
  • Wretched Hive: Tarbean is filled with crime and poverty.
  • Writer on Board: Whenever the mistreatment of women comes up, Kvothe tends to get particularly worked up about it even though it doesn't have any specific link to his past or upbringing. It does, however, coincide with Rothfuss' own feminist leanings, so it's easy to see its point of origin.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Done with Kvothe's money problems and especially with Denna.
  • Your Normal Is Our Taboo: In The Wise Man's Fear, Kvothe learns about the Adem culture, who has no sexual taboo or inhibitions. They screw so frequently that they've never figured out that sex causes pregnancy. On the other hand, they find any public display of emotion or even facial expression to be unseemly, to the point that they use Hand Signals rather than voice or facial cues to add subtext to their words. For related reasons, music is considered something done only with loved ones behind closed doors, which leaves The Bard Kvothe frustrated that they see his profession as akin to prostitution.
  • Younger Than They Look: By the time he tells his tale, Kvothe is no older than 25, but gives the impression of being much older.


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