In the Kingkiller Chronicle, sygaldry is described as being like permanent sympathy. But sympathy requires alar, that is, the belief of the person performing it that the thing is true, and it requires energy. The flow of energy is a major concern: sympathists frequently encounter "binder's chills" when they use their own body heat as an energy source, but they can also be cooked from the inside if they don't manage the waste heat from the binding properly.

That said, with sygaldry there doesn't seem to be the same requirement for energy. For example, a barkeeper has a fridge which uses sygaldry to move heat from the inside to the outside. This is a total violation of thermodynamics. There doesn't seem to be any mechanism for this sustained reaction. Is there any explanation for where sygaldry gets its energy?

3 Answers 3


As in sympathy, Alar is required to shape the conduit that changes or moves energy as part of sympathy or sygaldry. However, that conduit itself does not require energy, beyond the effort of the maker to create it.

Your example of Anker's fridge is flawed. The only law that sympathy and sygaldry respects is that the energy has to come from somewhere, that it cannot be created or destroyed. Making energy move in unnatural ways is the entire point. In the fridge's case, moving energy away from where you want it to be cold. The metal strips that are runed take the heat (even though there's very little) from the inside and move it to the outside. Energy is preserved, because it will get hotter outside the fridge. The heat exchange itself is created by the Alar, bound into permanence using the runes, and worked simply until damaged.

When sympathists are concerned about their own body heat, it's not the binding itself that draws or adds heat. It's using their own heat to accomplish something on the other end of the binding that causes chills. In the famous case of the classroom duel, they have to light a candle, without heat from anywhere else, thus the chills to their body. In the case of cooking themselves, it's slippage when there is another heat source (say, lighting a candle using a bonfire, or deliberately taking a building on fire and moving the heat away to put it out like Kilvin and Kvothe did), and their Alar or conduit isn't perfect enough. Energy can't be created or destroyed, so when it doesn't all go where the sympathist wants, it ends up dumping at least partly into the sympathist.

Remember Kvothe's example of the coins early on. He created the link between two coins, but that did nothing to the coin and nothing to him. Only when he moved one, and thus moved both, did the link take energy, and it took it from the momentum of the coin he moved, which was appropriately twice as heavy.

  • My point about the chills, slippage, etc, and your point about the extra weight of the coin is that sympathy seems to try to respect thermodynamics more than sygildry. The coins are bound, so you can move them together using externally applied energy. But the plates in the fridge violate entropy: they move the energy themselves. They don't just conduct heat, they conduct heat only in one direction. Feb 12, 2016 at 20:38
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    @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇 OK, I see. The one-way flow I simply considered a different form of conduit, and that besides being reliant on runes to cement the conduit, sygaldry worked the same as sympathy. I am pretty sure neither respects entropy, and that Kvothe could sit there with the binding in his head to keep the fridge cold if he had all day to waste.
    – Radhil
    Feb 12, 2016 at 20:49
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    @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇 Let me put it another way. If sympathy respected entropy, in my example of lighting candles using body heat, wouldn't the contestants have to be on fire? I'll see if I can rewrite the answer to acknowledge your point on entropy a bit later.
    – Radhil
    Feb 12, 2016 at 20:54
  • @Radhill - No, I think your example works if you would compare it to something. It's like ICE engine - it's inefficient, because more than half of energy generated in it is basically waste heat (thus the need for radiator), then power is passed onto wheels using transmission (bearings, high quality materials, lubrication - again waste heat), then wheels - again waste heat on the axles, then rubber - again waste heat... Same with sympathy link. Sygaldry is sympathy made solid, hence yet more inefficient. But it's a link that's up 100% of the time... Ship is slow, but doesn't stop, either
    – AcePL
    Feb 2, 2018 at 9:42

Sygaldry, simply put, is a set of tools for channeling forces. Like sympathy made solid.

I think this bit explains it quite nicely. The end of chapter 51 of The Name of the Wind, where this quote comes from, explains the working of the runes quite well. It's not, obviously, straight but if you put it in context it is understandable concept.

Wise Man's Fear expands on it a bit:

It was about as simple a piece of artificing as could be made. No moving parts at all, just two flat bands of tin covered in sygaldry that moved heat from one end of the metal band to the other. It was really nothing more than a slow, inefficient heat siphon.

I crouched down and rested my fingers on the tin bands. The right-hand one was warm, meaning the half on the inside would be correspondingly cool. But the one on the left was room temperature. I craned my neck to get a look at the sygaldry and spotted a deep scratch in the tin, scoring through two of the runes.

That explained it. A piece of sygaldry is like a sentence in a lot of ways. If you remove a couple words, it simply doesn’t make any sense. I should say it usually doesn’t make sense.

So, in essence, sygaldry is like permanent sympathetic link. Hardcoded, so to speak, to fulfill specific purpose, onto the material appropriate for the purpose.


I think the problem with the fridge is that the entropy goes lower, which cannot be, but when energy is used for converting to entropy it works. So the fridge needs energy to work, and what for energy is in a house: heat and light. So I think that the fridge uses these sources of energy to disable the problem with the entropy. The room is a little bit colder because of the fridge, and if the fridge is isolated it needs that much energy.

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    Hmm. Interesting idea, but how does this answer the original question asked?
    – Mithical
    Feb 1, 2018 at 11:27
  • @Mithrandir The original question asks about how sygaldry works, specifically how a fridge can operate using sygaldry, with reference to energy flow and the laws of thermodynamics. This answer gives a possible explanation.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Feb 1, 2018 at 12:04
  • @Mithrandir Its that was Rand al´Thor say, i hoped i can answer th question of the physical impossibilities not the real question
    – Eisdämon
    Feb 1, 2018 at 13:04

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