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Literature / The Name of the Wind

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You may have heard of me.

Heroic Fantasy novel by Patrick Rothfuss, chronicling the early adventures of Kvothe (pronounced similar to Quothe, but with a 'v'), a legendary hero, as he begins his career by struggling through The University to learn magic and find the answers behind the existence of The Chandrian, a murderous group of seven immortals who killed Kvothe's family for learning too much about them.

The first of three novels in The Kingkiller Chronicle. Orson Scott Card compares it favorably to the Harry Potter series; obvious similarities include their Wizarding School settings and young protagonists. The Name of the Wind starts out dark and remains that way. While there is humor, most of it comes in the form of Kvothe's Genre Savvy or occasional Deadpan Snarker tendencies rather than the absurdities of the magical world.

The Wise Man's Fear (Book two of the trilogy) was released on March 1, 2011.

Put tropes that apply to the series as a whole in The Kingkiller Chronicle.

The Name of the Wind has examples of:

  • Above the Influence: Kvothe finds it best if he doesn't follow up on Denna's request to join her for a swim in the lake after she's been subject to denner resin.
    There are names for men who take advantage of women when they are vulnerable, but I shall never rightfully be called any of them.
  • Age-Inappropriate Art: A young Kvothe picks up a nursery rhyme about a "Lady Lackless" that, upon second thought, turns out to be full of Double Entendre. His mother calls him on it, and he takes the lesson to heart.
  • A Taste of the Lash: An important part of Kvothe's legend building is when he is flogged: a drug he takes beforehand, to dull the pain, has the side effect of constricting the blood vessels so he doesn't bleed, earning him the nickname "Kvothe the Bloodless."
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Kvothe describes how, using sygaldry, a pair of bricks can be made to stick so tightly to each other that they might as well be the same object. He then goes on to describe how doing so requires so much careful work, so much preparation in the crafting of each brick, and so many possibly interacting sympathetic forces that need to be balanced, that most of the time it is just faster and easier to use a simple mortar.
  • Badass Boast:
    • Kvothe's makes a summary of some of his greatest exploits when he begins to recount his life to the Chronicler.
    • Bast threatens to Chronicler by explaining just what a big deal a person of his species is.
    • Chronicler is very good at what he does.
      Kvothe: How fast can you write?
      Chronicler: Faster than a man can talk.
  • Barefoot Poverty: Kvothe during his life in Tarbean, and later at the Arcanum after that Fishery rescue. (It's hard to wear shoes after acid has caused them to evaporate.)
  • Becoming the Mask: Bast is afraid that this is happening to Kvothe, in a way that humans can't really even grasp.
    Bast: Have you seen The Ghost and the Goosegirl or The Ha'penny King?
    Chronicler: Is that the one where the king sells his crown to an orphan boy?
    Bast: And the boy becomes a better king than the original. The goosegirl dresses like a countess and everyone is stunned by her grace and charm. [Beat] You see, there's a fundamental connection between seeming and being. Every Fae child knows this, but you mortals never seem to see. We understand how dangerous a mask can be. We all become what we pretend to be.
    Chronicler: That's basic psychology. You dress a beggar in fine clothes, people treat him like a noble, and he lives up to their expectations.
    Bast: That's only the smallest piece of it. The truth is deeper than that. It's… [flounders] It's like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.
  • Bedlam House: Treatment in the Rookery is actually quite humane, but the asylum in Tarbean plays this straight.
  • Berserk Button:
    • God help you if you do anything that can be interpreted as possibly harmful to the books in the Archive around the normally-unflappable Lorren.
    • Kvothe, toward insults to his Edema Ruh heritage. (Pretending to be Edema Ruh is more of a murder button.)
    • Bast, toward disrespect to Kvothe.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Kvothe discusses an in-universe story which has such an ending, which foreshadows that his own story will be the same.
    Denna: You left before you could finish your last [story]. I was terribly disappointed that I missed the end. Distraught, in fact.
    Kvothe: Oh it's just the same thing you've heard before a hundred times before. Prince Gallant kills the dragon but loses the treasure and the girl.
    Denna: Ah, a tragedy. Not the ending I'd hoped for, but no more than I expected, I suppose.
    Kvothe: It would be something of a tragedy if it stopped there. But it depends on how you look at it, really. I prefer to think of it as a story that's waiting for an appropriately uplifting sequel.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: The Chandrian who murders Kvothe's parents, Cinder has completely black eyes with no sclera.
  • Bookends: The silence of three parts is described at the start and the end of the book.
  • 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.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Chronicler originally tries to bully/blackmail Kvothe to get his story. Around the point where Kvothe gets frustrated and a bottle eight inches from his hand explodes, it occurs to Chronicler that maybe this was a bad idea.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Not with real animals, but with fantastic ones: zombies are called 'shamblemen', for example. Other fantastic creatures actually are from our myths, but are called by obscure variants of their more common names — for example, trolls are referred to as 'trow', which is what they're called in the Orkney and Shetland islands.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: The Chandrian find Kvothe's parents after gaining their attention.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Played perfectly straight. Kvothe is afraid of throwing himself at Denna because of the number of boyfriends she's had. He thus does not confess his true feelings to her. He is unable to even when she is high on denner resin (a drug similar to opium) and thus unlikely to note or remember anything he says.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Exposition and important future plot points get mentioned in stories the characters tell.
    • Kilvin draws off the heat of a disastrous fire with sympathy then quickly (albeit painfully) stores it in a "heat eater", AKA heat-sink. Kvothe later uses a crude heat sink to draw off the heat of a fire while fighting a dragon and helping to save a town.
    • Lodenstones, or lode-stones (another name for magnets) are mentioned early on in a discussion of waystones. One later becomes key to Kvothe's defeat of a dragon.
  • Chekhov's Skill: After his parents die, Kvothe spends the summer in the forest playing his lute, and keeps playing as the strings break one by one. That skill comes in handy when, during an important performance several years later, Ambrose tries to sabotage him by breaking one of his lute strings mid-song.
  • Circus Brat: Kvothe grew up in a traveling theater troupe.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Lord Haliax rebukes Cinder and the other Chandians for pointless prolonging the slaughter of Kvothe's troupe with torture, saying they're all "indulging in whimsy" rather than get things done quicker.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Fela and Kvothe playfully have an exchange like this after he saves her from a horrible fiery death.
  • Cool Old Guy: Abenthy (mentioned to be pushing sixty) speaks the titular name of the wind on his very first appearance, and he's the one who first teaches Kvothe about sympathy.
  • Damsel in Distress: Discussed when Fela talks about how much she hates this trope and how disgusted she is to find herself in need of rescuing.
  • Dead Man Writing: Subverted: Kvothe writes one. It's found sooner than he expected by Bast, who then gets to be angry when Kvothe comes back alive.
    Bast: It wasn't even a good note. "If you are reading this I am probably dead." What sort of a note is that?
  • Deadpan Snarker: Plenty, but Denna probably has the best line in the whole book. When discussing with Kvothe how they could possibly kill a crazed dragon that's putting an entire town in danger, when they're both alone and unarmed, she suggests tricking it into jumping off a cliff, and then pushing heavy rocks down on top of it if it survives.
    Kvothe: [looking disappointed] That's not very heroic. I was expecting something with a little more flair.
    Denna: Well, I left my armor and warhorse at home!
  • Doomed Hometown: The Chandrian slaughtered Kvothe's traveling troupe when he was a child, kicking off his journey.
  • Doublethink: One needs to be able to do this in order to use sympathy.
  • Dramatic Pause: Used after the introduction of the dracchus, in which Kvothe dares both Bast and Chronicler to exclaim, "But Kvothe, you just said that there are no dragons!" They don't fall for it.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: Kvothe and Devi, to each other. Kvothe, the badass university legend, is a fifteen-year-old kid, and Devi, the ruthless loan shark, is a cute blond girl.
  • Eye Scream: As told by Skarpi, after Lanre's betrayal and the resulting devastation, Selitos stabs out his own eye so that it can never deceive him again.
  • Face Palm: The Chancellor does this right after Kvothe gets admitted to the Arcanum.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Lanre turns from his city's greatest hero to Person of Mass Destruction bent on destroying reality.
  • Fatal Flaw: Kvothe's is recklessness. It derives from his impatience, overconfidence and impulsiveness, which always seem to be landing him in trouble. Elodin outright states that Kvothe is too reckless to become his student.
  • Fearless Fool: Referenced. Kvothe says that only priests and fools are fearless.
  • Fiery Redhead: Our hero, who has distinctive "true red" hair and a very forceful personality.
  • Fight Off the Kryptonite: After Chronicler implies that he can defend himself from Bast, Bast grabs him by his cold iron charm necklace and holds it without flinching.
  • Foregone Conclusion: From the framing story, we know how Kvothe comes out of everything: infamous worldwide, deeply emotionally scarred, and believed dead.
  • Foreshadowing: Lots of it, as it's the first of a trilogy, but a minor (and tragic) example: the early discussion about knacks (unexplainable passive magical talents, essentially), and how those who had them used to be burned in the old days. It is then revealed that Trip, one of Kvothe's fellow troupe members, has the knack of always rolling sevens. Seems like just a bit of world-building, until all seven Chandrian (it is hinted they usually only appear in small groups) attack the troupe, killing everyone. Trip's tent had been dragged into the campfire.
  • Funetik Aksent: Kvothe and Denna meet a pig farmer with a thick rural accent. They affect the same accent to ingratiate themselves with him.
    Pig farmer: Hulloo! Dain't be afeerd. Tae wain't baet.
    Kvothe's narration: [H]is accent so thick and oily you could almost taste it. My mother referred to it as a deep valley accent since you only found them in towns that didn't have much contact with the outside world. Even in small rural towns like Trebon, folk didn't have much of an accent these days. Living in Tarbean and Ime for so long, I hadn't heard a dialect this thick in years. The fellow must have grown up in a truly remote location, probably tucked far back into the mountains.
  • Genre Savvy:
    • Kvothe, of course, is ridiculously Genre Savvy, thanks to a childhood spent with master performers and storytellers.
    • After Kvothe rescues her from the fire in the the Artificery, Fela is upset because she sees herself as a Damsel in Distress after she froze with fear.
  • Gilligan Cut: After lying to Denna, Kvothe notes how good the lie is. He then breaks his narration and starts talking about how he's always been a fantastic liar. When he resumes his narration, Denna tells him that he's full of horseshit.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Kvothe has one that essentially lasts three years, for understandable reasons.
    • He gets another (short-lived) one after Ambrose smashes his lute, impelling Kvothe to call the name of the wind. In fact, it takes Elodin's help to restore Kvothe to sanity.
  • Heroic Safe Mode: Kvothe goes into great detail describing the ultra-safe mode that gripped him after his parents and the rest of their acting troupe had been slaughtered by the Chandrian. This event was so traumatic, it reduced a bright young boy of many talents to a shaggy street rat only concerned with immediate survival for three years, before some of his higher brain functions began to awaken again. Two-thirds of the narrative in, it is strongly implied that Kvothe has still not regained his full mental faculties, as his brain is still trying to cope with the trauma he sustained.
  • I Know Your True Name: As referenced in the title.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Kvothe tries to describe Denna lyrically on a number of occasions, insisting that she's beautiful. Bast suggests that Kvothe's descriptions are biased by his love for her.
  • Lending a Backhand: In an early meeting, Ambrose lends Kvothe a candle to light his way in the University Archives. Unknown to Kvothe, fire is strictly prohibited there, and he's permanently banned when he's spotted. He realizes Ambrose set him up in retribution for an earlier slight, and their feud escalates from there.
  • Living Lie Detector: Denna can see through Kvothe's falsehoods even though Kvothe is a good liar.
  • Made of Iron: The dracchus, both literally (its scales and bones have a high iron content) and trope-wise: Kvothe makes an educated guess as to what would constitute a lethal dose of a certain poison for a creature that large... then feeds it four times as much, just to be on the safe side. It not only survives, but goes on a rampage as well.
  • Malicious Slander: Kvothe spreads cruel jokes and slander against his enemies.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Denna shows signs of this. Not that she's there to show Kvothe how to live, but she is freespirited, beautiful and no one can find the words to describe her.
  • Mentor Archetype: Ben. Though in defiance of the usual mentor fate, he actually leaves Kvothe's life by getting married and living happily ever after.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Fela uses one (and not very effectively) when Kvothe calls upon her in her dorm room late one night. Considering she's one, the implication is that she Sleeps in the Nude. Kvothe struggles with the urge to gawk openly.
  • My Girl Is a Slut: While it's suggested that Denna usually abandons relationships whenever the men try to coerce her into having sex with them, she does kiss and flirt with one after another practically as a way of making a living, even while simultaneously romancing Kvothe. Kvothe, who has not even done that much with her, consoles himself with the knowledge that none of those men have the emotional connection with her that he does.
  • Necro Mantic: How Lanre the war hero became Haliax, the leader of The Chandrian.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Draccus might never have burned down half of Trebon if Kvothe hadn't fed it the denner resin and caused it to go insane. However, the Draccus was already manically looking for more denner resin anyway.
  • 90% of Your Brain: There are shades of this in Elodin's explanation that people have both a waking mind and a sleeping mind, with the sleeping mind more powerful and able to access Names.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The Common Draccus, a flightless, herbivorous lizard which collects rocks in its gizzard to help it digest. It's essentially an elephant-sized cow that breathes fire. The climax reveals that they're not immune to overdosing on an opium-like drug and going on a rampage. Chasing the dragon indeed.
  • Overly Long Name:
    Schiem: Moi name es Skoivan Schiemmelptenneg.
    Kvothe: Yeh've got name enough far a keng. Would yeh be turible offenced if'n Oi pared et down tae Schiem?
    Schiem: All moi friends dae. Schiem'll do foin fur loovlie young folk loik yusselfs.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Hemme singles out Kvothe for public embarrassment. Kvothe retaliates by assaulting Hemme with magic.
  • 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.
  • Promotion, Not Punishment: Twice Kvothe breaks the University rules (fighting Ambrose) sufficiently to cause him to be flogged, but in the course of this he demonstrated the skills necessary to graduate to the next level. In a variation on the trope, this means he gets both the punishment and the promotion.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: The book uses the Framing Device of the unusually named protagonist Kvothe recounting his story to Chronicler, so his description of the correct pronunciation is one of several interjections to make sure Chronicler is recording his words satisfactorily.
  • Secret Test of Character: Used to hilarious effect by Elodin, who tells Kvothe that, if Kvothe wants to become his student and study the secret of Naming (particularly the Name of the Wind), Kvothe will have to jump off this roof. Kvothe assumes that Elodin will catch him with magic. He doesn't. And then he claims Kvothe failed the test by proving himself too reckless to study the subject.
    Elodin: Congratulations. That was the stupidest thing I've ever seen. Ever.
  • Shadow Walker: Haliax uses the shadows that cling to him as part of his Chandrian power to transport the others away from Kvothe's destroyed caravan when something notices them – just in time to stop Kvothe from being killed too.
  • 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, where the word is used for measuring magic.
    • 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.
    • Denna is afraid that the dragon she and Kvothe encounter near the end of the book will eat them. Kvothe reassures her that "it's an herbivore, it doesn't eat meat. It's like a giant cow."
    • One of the myths about the Chandrian is that their shadows go the wrong way
  • Shrouded in Myth:
    • 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.
    • Also, Kvothe himself. In the Framing Device, the Chronicler has traveled for days to find him, and Kvothe has a Badass Boast about his own history. During his life story, we find out that a lot of the myths surrounding him have surprising origins, including some that were fabricated by himself.
  • Snipe Hunt: While Kvothe is petitioning to be Elodin's apprentice, Elodin tries to get rid of him by sending him after some pinecones.
  • Speak of the Devil: Abenthy asks Kvothe's parents not to say the names of the Chandrian aloud for this reason. They think he's just being superstitious.
  • Starving Student: Kvothe's struggle to come up with his tuition money drives a large part of the plot.
  • The Stoic: Lorren almost never shows any emotion in his face or vocal inflection. According to Simmon, Elxa Dal has a standing offer of 10 gold marks (100 silver talents) for anyone who can make Lorren laugh.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Sympathy and Alchemy, both of which do things that are truly impossible despite still doing business with physics and chemistry respectively. They're so well analyzed that calling them magic at the University is like saying the sun is pulled by a chariot.
  • Tempting Fate: Kvothe's parents continue practicing their song about the Chandrian, even after Abenthy warned them.
  • Title Drop: Several times, in both books.
  • Too Clever by Half: Kvothe talks his way into his world's premier university at the age of fifteen, after having spent three years as a beggar, and promptly antagonizes both one of the masters and the wealthiest and most politically connected student in the university. Between that and his perpetual poverty, he spends most of his time doing absurd things (learning an entire language in a day and a half, getting certified as a musician on a lute with a broken string) just to keep his head above water.
  • Tortured Monster: Haliax/Lanre. After his lover died, it is implied that he tried bringing her back using dark methods. However, he fails and ends up unable to die, sleep, forget or go insane. Because of this, he's trying to end the world.
  • To the Pain: Bast's threats to Chronicler are graphic and brutal.
  • Trickster Mentor: Elodin doesn't teach in conventional means, saying that Names can't simply be described. He effectively has to trick his students into learning for themselves.
  • Upper-Class Twit:
    • Ambrose thinks of himself as a gifted poet and musician, but he's really just a mediocre bully with money.
    • Sovoy is from a rich noble family and is self-centered enough to not realize when he's being condescending, but he doesn't mean any harm by it.
  • Unreliable Narrator:
    • Kvothe is called out on this by Bast, in the middle of the story no less.
      Bast: All the women in your story are beautiful. I can't gainsay you as a whole, as I've never seen any of them. But this one [Denna] I did see. Her nose was a little crooked. And if we're being honest here, her face was a little narrow for my taste. She wasn't a perfect beauty by any means, Reshi.
    • Could be applied to the book as a whole. Kvothe is quite open about the fact that he lies and cheats whenever it suits his goals. One of his goals was to become a hero of legend, and aggrandizing his own past in the "official" version would suit that nicely. Many events play out as "I was smarter than everyone else and they were all really impressed."
  • Urban Segregation: Tarbean, divided into Hillside (rich) and Waterside (poor)
  • Woken Up at an Ungodly Hour: Kvothe finds a Secret Underground Passage to get into the Archives (which he got banned from) but he still needs help from a scribe to use it properly, which he has in his friend Fela. He's so excited at the prospect of using the Archives, that he goes to visit Fela in the female dorm (which men are banned from entering) in the middle of the night. Unsurprisingly, Fela is barely awake when she answers the door, and the situation is even more awkward than it would normally be since she Sleeps in the Nude and is too drowsy to properly cover herself with a Modesty Bedsheet, which gets Kvothe so distracted that he momentarily forgets what he came there to talk about. Then she also notices his clothes are dirty and torn up, reminding him that he didn't even bother to change his clothes that got damaged while exploring underground, and that's when he decides to just leave and talk to her properly the next morning.
  • Wretched Hive: Tarbean's Waterside is the slum.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: In early editions, when Kvothe takes his University entrance exam, Brandeur, Master Arithmetician, asks the following:
    Brandeur: You have a triangle. One side is seven feet. Another side, three feet. One angle is sixty degrees. How long is the other side?
    Kvothe: Is the angle between the two sides?
    Brandeur: [nods]
    Kvothe: Six feet six inches. Dead even.
Except that the answer is actually the square root of 37, which is around 6.082. This passage was eventually corrected.
Kvothe: Six feet and an inch. [beat] Well, almost an inch.