I am wondering why Kvothe the Innkeeper is so weak.

Is this because he is using the name Kote? At the end of The Wise Man's Fear, he has a conversation with Elodin about Denna, which suggests changing names is a bad idea. Or is it because either he or somebody else has somehow sealed or taken away his abilities?

I assume everything will be explained in the 3rd book, but that appears to be scheduled for release too far in the future, so I am looking for answers here.


4 Answers 4


While the third book will hopefully shed even more light on this, we get an explanation from Bast at the end of The Name of the Wind. Essentially, Kvothe is so weak because he's been playing the role of an Innkeeper for so long, he's forgotten that it was a role, and therefore it is becoming reality.

“It’s like ... have you ever heard the story of Martin Maskmaker?” Chronicler shook his head and Bast gave a frustrated sigh. “How about plays? Have you seen The Ghost and the Goosegirl or The Ha’penny King?

Chronicler frowned. “Is that the one where the king sells his crown to an orphan boy?”

Bast nodded. “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.” He hesitated, struggling to find the words he wanted. “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 relaxed a bit, sensing familiar ground. “That’s basic psychology. You dress a beggar in fine clothes, people treat him like a noble, and he lives up to their expectations.”

“That’s only the smallest piece of it,” Bast said. “The truth is deeper than that. It’s ...” Bast floundered for a moment. “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.”

Frowning, Chronicler opened his mouth, but Bast held up a hand to stop him. “No, listen. I’ve got it now. You meet a girl: shy, unassuming. If you tell her she’s beautiful, she’ll think you’re sweet, but she won’t believe you. She knows that beauty lies in your beholding.” Bast gave a grudging shrug. “And sometimes that’s enough.”

His eyes brightened. “But there’s a better way. You show her she is beautiful. You make mirrors of your eyes, prayers of your hands against her body. It is hard, very hard, but when she truly believes you ...” Bast gestured excitedly. “Suddenly the story she tells herself in her own head changes. She transforms. She isn’t seen as beautiful. She is beautiful, seen.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Chronicler snapped. “You’re just spouting nonsense now.”

“I’m spouting too much sense for you to understand,” Bast said testily. “But you’re close enough to see my point. Think of what he said today. People saw him as a hero, and he played the part. He wore it like a mask but eventually he believed it. It became the truth. But now ...” he trailed off.

“Now people see him as an innkeeper,” Chronicler said.

“No,” Bast said softly. “People saw him as an innkeeper a year ago. He took off the mask when they walked out the door. Now he sees himself as an innkeeper, and a failed innkeeper at that. You saw what he was like when Cob and the rest came in tonight. You saw that thin shadow of a man behind the bar tonight. It used to be an act....”

This last part is speculation on my part, but I believe that Bast's explanation may relate to the concept of Alar, as used to create sympathetic bindings.

When using sympathy, an arcanist splits off a part of his mind to contain the utter belief in the binding. The stronger the belief that the binding works, the stronger the binding. It is repeatedly mentioned how unusually strong Kvothe's ability with his Alar is, and how effortless he makes complex applications of Alar seem.

If Bast's explanation that Kvothe's change in self-perception is responsible for Kote being "a thin shadow of a man" is correct, it seems reasonable that Kvothe's particular talents for using his belief to manipulate reality may be working against him, making this more of a dramatic and fundamental change than it might be for a lesser man.

  • I don't think that this is sufficient. Not on your part, but on the author's. Kothe is waiting to die. That is a poignant point that keeps getting iterated. We do not know why. But therein lies his fall from power.
    – K Dog
    Nov 30, 2018 at 16:00

I tend to think it is due to the fact that Kvothe has truly changed his name.

I haven't the text on hand (I will update this when I get a chance), but it's mentioned many times that names hold much power.

In the first chapter (again text not on hand) we are told Kote had chosen his new name carefully, as names are important, suggesting that Kvothe has 'become' Kote, rather than just disguising himself in a role, like an actor would, that Kvothe no longer exists, and so his powers are no more.

Just saw your 'spoiler' text, so I think we are coming to the same conclusion. I don't think anything I said requires a spoiler tag, as the only definitive statements I make are from the beginning of the first book.

  • I think this is what is implied by Elodin in the second book as well. It seems especially relevant when he is worried about Fela changing her name, knowing that she is a competent namer; but doesn't seem concerned in the slightest that Denna likes to use different names for herself.
    – JMac
    Oct 9, 2018 at 13:57

It is also possible that Kvothe is weak because he made an oath to Denna never to try and find out the identity of Master Ash. "I swear I won't attempt to uncover your patron, I swear it on my name and my power. I swear it on my good left hand, this I swear by the ever moving moon."

  • Forgive my ignorance but why would this make him weak?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Aug 4, 2020 at 5:17

I think it’s both he changed his short name to Kote to hide, but in time he came to change his true name and truly becoming Kote the innkeeper.

I have a feeling him speaking the name he received from the Adem is what will awaken Kvothe again; just a guess.

  • 1
    I'm not sure I understand what your first sentence mean (for instance you seem to be lacking the second reason implied by the "both"). Could you please edit to clarify? Also, the second paragraph does not seem to be answering the question; if it does, please clarify how as well, otherwise it should probably be removed.
    – Jenayah
    Feb 26, 2020 at 7:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.