Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Kingkiller Chronicles Speculation: Copper

SPOILERS AHEAD!  Please don't read if you haven't read both Name of the Wind and Wise Man's Fear.

I am going to continue posting my own speculation about the Kingkiller Chronicles.  In a spasm of fanboy insanity, I had written up some twenty or so pages detailing everything I think I had deduced from the text.  Recently, in his own blog, Patrick Rothfuss brought up a totally awesome copper knife a fan had made him, noting that it would be good in a fight against a Namer.  Rothfuss said this showed the fans had been paying attention.  I was glad to see that apparently I had been paying attention too, and that others (in the comments) had noted things similar to me on the use and possible function of copper in the books.

Through the stories, though mostly in the first book, there is a strange emphasis placed on copper.  Iron gets a similar sort of treatment, but iron has an explanation; namely, its power over Fae.  What about copper?  One of Kvothe's locks is iron (I guess to stop Fae) but the other is copper (to stop what?).  The eponymous plates of the Four Plate Door are made of copper.  Copper is an important part of the Rookery, for some reason.  In particular, Elodin's former rooms were reenforced with a net of copper pipes after he broke out the first time.  This change seems to confuse him at first, but when he figures it out and breaks the wall anyway, the pipes are still standing (but rusted) with the stone crumbled to sand around them.  The Lackless box is made of wood that seems to have absorbed an excess of organic copper.  While there may be other copper things I missed, Taborlin the Great has a sword made of copper, which isn't a very good metal for swords (though Rothfuss seems to disagree on the quality of his new knife).

Copper itself is a very soft and malleable metal (like gold) and not particularly suited to the uses it serves in the book. There seems to clearly be an important property of copper, one we do not know of, that suits it especially to these uses.

It should be said that normally copper is a very good conductor of electricity, and electricity is not unknown in the Four Corners (they call it "galvanic" force, which I'm sorry to say isn't as cool as Pullman's "anbaric force").  However, the copper doesn't seem to be employed in any typical way that exploits its electrical properties, and even if it was, gold and silver are much superior to copper in this regard.  So I do not think electrical conduction is it.  Copper is also a very good conductor of heat (for similar reasons), but again it doesn't seem to be employed by  anyone in this way (unless there's a copper kettle or pot somewhere that I missed).

My wild speculation is that copper has no true name, or its name cannot be known, or cannot be used to control it.  Kvothe has a lock of copper so that a powerful namer can't just learn the names of the materials in the locks themselves and break them.  The plates in the door are copper to stop reckless namers from breaking them (though I don't know why they aren't solid copper in that case).  Elodin can't get the walls to break like he did last time because there is copper inside of them, so after some thought he commands the stone to crumble to dust around the copper, but the copper doesn't fall or crumble because it can't be commanded by its name.  The copper in the walls did rust, however, as noted by its later green color.  The Lackless box is made of highly coppery wood, again, so namers don't "cheat" and break through it.  Taborlin the Great has a copper sword so rival namers can't speak the name of his sword and use it against him.  If there are any other uses of copper by "non-muggles", then I am sure it is in a situation where a magical material would be of critical import and the use of copper was clearly meant to be significant.  I don't know why copper should act this way exactly, but it at least accounts for the use of copper by knowledgeable namers in critical places.

So that's my wild theory.  There is no "name" of copper, or copper doesn't respond to its name, or its name is too complicated to be known.


  1. This is especially interesting considering Kvothe's ring composed of a nameless element.

  2. Here's a bit of a hint from what we know of medieval thoughts on metals.

    Iron is associated with Mars, being the metal which weapons of war are made out of.

    Copper is associated with Venus.

    If you consider the planetary symbols associated with Mars and Venus you may gain an additional insight if you make your saving throw.

    1. Hmmm, I did not know that about Venus and copper. What do you think is the connection?

    2. idk if anyone's still updating this blog, but for the sake of any curious readers like myself who might experience that maddening moment where Mr D'Mental didn't explain what the hell he meant, I thought I'd share the fruits of my frantic googling.

      I want to apologise in advance for my poor attempts at translating things that are clear in my head into words.

      Wikipedia is sometimes an iffy source, but it's the easiest and most concise of my sources here.
      The fact that Venus' (and thus copper's) symbol means "Divine spirit (circle) over matter (cross)" while Mars' (and thus iron's) means "Drive (arrow) over divine spirit (circle)" could imply that copper can't be manipulated by Naming (except perhaps in exceptional circumastances, idk) because in order to do that, the Namer would have to override the divine spirit before manipulating the matter. I guess iron is only really relevant here because it was mentioned, since it doesn't behave in an unusual way from a naming point of view, but drive (the will to Name I guess) trumps the divine spirit in that case.

      Like I said I'm terrible at explaining things and it's 1:35am for me right now but if anyone was wondering, that might help. I wouldn't put it past Rothfuss to use something like that as a basis for his Naming lore, to be honest.

    3. Thanks for explaining! I had almost forgotten about this, to be honest. That is an interesting point. Is there anything else this would tell us about copper?

      It is both humbling and baffling, but my blog posts on the KKC are pretty widely read from people all over the world. So, for other curious or maddened readers who have additional speculations or theories, the comments here (well, really on the other two posts) are a great place to put them if you just want to get an idea out there. In addition, of course, to Rothfuss' blog, or the blog of Jo Walton . Someone in Germany or Brazil or Brunei will likely end up reading it (seriously). So, kibitz, on behalf of the KKC theorists out there, thank you for adding that additional information :)

  3. Copper does not rust. In fact it is impossible for copper to rust. It can tarnish (green,turquoise). This would be a big benefit if one found themselves fighting one of The Seven who has the ability to make iron rust and crumble. I wonder what kind of metal can withstand 2000 years of heavy use and still hold an edge? I bet it has some copper in it. I also wonder how Bast reacts when he touches Cesura or the folly sword on the wall. As a side note bacteria cannot grow on copper for whatever that's worth in this context.

  4. Has anyone ever noticed that there are lots of things made out of brass in the Waystone inn. The lock from the front door as well at it's key are made out of brass. At the start of WMF, Kote recieves barrels bound with brass. Brass is a is an alloy made of copper and zinc. Just a tought.