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.