Patrick Rothfuss – The Name of the Wind


The Name of the Wind is the first installment of the Kingkiller Chronicle, a trilogy concerning the main character Kvothe, his quest for revenge and his struggles along the way. The novel is written as a story-within-a-story in which Kvothe narrates his autobiography to Chronicler, a legendary scribe. The reader does not only follow Kvothe’s adventures but also sees them through Chroniclers present day perspective.  

Complete summary (with spoilers)

Kvothe starts his tale with a recount of his childhood in a troupe of traveling performers known as the Edemah Ruh. Kvothe’s parents were both members of the troupe and they instilled in him a deep love of music and storytelling. Kvothe’s father, Arliden, was particularly influential in shaping his son’s worldview. He was a gifted musician and a dedicated researcher, and he encouraged Kvothe to think critically and to never accept anything at face value.  

During their time on the road the troupe is joined by Abenthy, and elderly arcanist and university graduate. Kvothe’s curious nature draws him to Abenthy and he agrees to teach Kvothe whilst he travels with the troupe. He introduces Kvothe to the concepts of sympathy, alchemy, and naming, which are central to the novel’s magic system. After some time Abenthy leaves the troupe to stay with a woman he met on the road, but before he does, he encourages Kvothe to further his education at the university.  

One night while camping in the woods, the Chandrian appear and attack Kvothe’s troupe, killing everyone while Kvothe is off in the bushes collecting firewood. Upon his return the Chandrian taunt Kvothe, telling him that his father was ‘singing entirely the wrong songs’. Then the Chandrian receive some kind of warning and leave before also killing Kvothe.  

A traumatized Kvothe travels alone for some time, eventually making his way to a city called Tarbean. Here he survives on the streets by begging and stealing. After listening to a story about Lanre, Kvothe decides the only way to avenge his parents is by killing the Chandrian. As they are a very powerful and elusive group, it is difficult to gather information about them. Kvothe is aware of only one place where vast quantities of information are kept, and that place is the university.  

After admittance into the University, Kvothe faces numerous challenges such as a lack of funds and a violent rivalry with fellow student Ambrose. He also has to impress the university masters continually to secure a low university tuition. Kvothe studies various subjects, including sympathy (a form of magic that allows objects to be connected and manipulated at a distance), sygaldry, alchemy, and naming (the ability to command and control the true names of objects).During this time he lives in a tiny room at Anchors, an inn where he plays music in exchange for room and board. He also regularly performs at the Eolian, a tavern famous for its high-quality musicians. Here he wins his talent pipes, a token signifying his outstanding musical ability. They are highly prized by musicians and are a sign of great achievement and respect within the musical community. Usually this is enough to gain the performer a patron, but for Kvothe this is not the case as his efforts are sabotaged by Ambrose. It does, however, add to his reputation and enables him to establish valuable relationships, including one with count Threpe.  

During an evening drinking at the Eolian, Kvothe reconnects with Denna, a girl he met on the road from Tarbean and whom he adores. Despite their strong connection, Denna and Kvothe’s relationship is often characterized by misunderstandings and miscommunications. Denna is elusive and frequently disappears for long periods of time, leading Kvothe to worry about her safety and well-being. Their relationship is further complicated by the fact that Denna is involved with a dangerous potential patron called Master Ash.  

Near the end of the first novel, Kvothe hears about a mysterious massacre at a farm wedding in a remote village named Trebon. Signs that signify involvement of the Chandrian are whispered and Kvothe decides to investigate as he hasn’t found much information at the university. Once in Trebon, Kvothe discovers Denna is the sole survivor of the massacre. She explains that her patron asked her to perform at the wedding party whilst also gathering information about its attendants. During an outside conversation with her patron, Denna notices blue flames emanating from the farm. Master Ash then knocks her out to prevent her from entering the farm. Eventually, the townsfolk find her unconscious in the woods and bring her to safety. Together Kvothe and Denna search the remnants of the farm looking for signs of the Chandrian. To Kvothe’s relief they actually find these, rusted metal, rotten wood and other decaying objects. This proves he truly encountered the Chandrian and their confrontation wasn’t some kind of grief-dream his mind created to cope with the trauma of losing his family. This also strengthens Kvothe’s desire for revenge, making him even more determined to track down the Chandrian.  

Character Analysis 

This is an analysis of Kvothe’s personality based on his behaviors and traits as described in the novel. However, since the book is a memoir told from Kvothe’s perspective, it’s important to keep in mind that the information presented may not be entirely trustworthy due to the unreliable nature of the narrator. 

Young Kvothe is portrayed as a highly disinhibited person. He is often unable to suppress inappropriate or unwanted behaviors, acts impulsively and easily disregards rules. For example, in an effort to publicly shame Kvothe, master Hemme asks Kvothe to demonstrate the workings of sympathy in front of his entire class, expecting him to fail. Kvothe however uses this opportunity to physically hurt master Hemme using a sympathetic link, thus committing malfeasance and almost getting himself expelled. Additionally, Kvothe often engages in risky and dangerous behaviors such as searching out the Chandrian, jumping of a roof and continuously challenging Ambrose. He cares much for his reputation, has a strong sense of self-importance and a desire for recognition and admiration. This becomes evident when he ingests nahlrout to prevent bleeding when whipped, or when he spreads rumors to boost his image. He is prone to mood swings and can be easily angered or frustrated, particularly when faced with injustice or perceived mistreatment. Overall, Kvothe’s actions may be viewed as misguided or even foolish at times, but they also demonstrate his strong sense of determination, passion, and desire to do what he believes is right, even if it means taking risks or facing consequences. He is an intelligent, resourceful and determined individual with a strong sense of curiosity and a deep desire to understand the world around him. He is resilient and self-reliant, frequently depending on his own skills and abilities to solve problems and overcome challenges.  

Societal reflections 

A central theme in the novel is storytelling and the building of a reputation. There are a lot of instances in the book where Kvothe is actively trying to shape how others perceive him. A reputation is like armor or a weapon according to Kvothe, it can be used to influence others, to open doors, or to protect oneself. When you are known as a most dangerous arcanist, people are hesitant to provoke you. In modern society, a lot of social media platforms are used to create carefully crafted reputations by so called influencers. In creating a compelling narrative and projecting a positive image, individuals can become more popular and influential in today’s society.  

In the grander scheme of the book, storytelling plays a central role as the entire story is narrated by Kvothe. All that happens is told from Kvothe’s perspective, based on Kvothe’s memories and dictated by his interpretation of events. Therefore, it is plausible that his personality and biases may color the narrative. This might also explain why Kvothe can be seen as a ‘Mary Sue’ character. He excels in many areas, including music and sympathy. He is portrayed as incredibly intelligent, charming and charismatic. However, it is worth considering that Kvothe’s perspective is that of an adolescent boy and is narrated as such. In real life we often encounter that matters can differ greatly based on the perspective of the narrator. For example, the way news events are reported in the media might shape our perception of these events. Certain details might be emphasized while others are scurried over, influencing the way we think about a particular issue. This indicates how important it is to consume news (or stories) from a variety of sources to get a well-rounded understanding of what actually happened.  

Lastly, perception can be influenced by belief. A central concept in the book is the improvement of one’s Alar; the mental ability to hold a belief firmly enough that it effects reality. The strength of the Alar depends on the individual’s mental state, which includes their beliefs and attitudes. For instance, Kvothe realizes that his beliefs about his own abilities affect the strength of his Alar. If he doubts himself, his Alar becomes weaker, but if he is confident and beliefs in his abilities, his Alar becomes stronger. This is similar to how belief dictates perception. Our beliefs and attitudes shape how we perceive reality. If we believe in something, we are more likely to see evidence of it in our surroundings, and if we don’t believe in something, we are less likely to notice it. In this way, our beliefs can influence our perception of reality. In the case of the Alar, the strength of the mental force depends on the individual’s belief in their ability to shape reality. This suggests that our beliefs not only affect our perception of reality but also our ability to shape it. Therefore, the Alar can be seen as a metaphor for the power of belief and the influence it has on our perception and ability to shape our reality. 

1 thought on “Patrick Rothfuss – The Name of the Wind”

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