A BIG theory: Wolf vs. Hawk
This is the post I first had in mind when I started this blog. However, it took some leading up to. It requires explaining why I think the Death card from the Commonwealth Pairs deck is Cinder’s “sign.” (See the series of posts about Chandrian signs.) And it requires one other theory posted about previously on this blog (more on that below).
The greatest Kingkiller mystery that has vexed me for so long is the connection between Master Ash, Bredon, Cinder, and Lord Greyfallow. Three of the four have names that describe something ashy, and the evidence for Bredon being master Ash is so strong that I won’t even repeat most of it here. (Just run a quick google search and you will turn up many people pointing out the same things that led me to this conclusion.) I probably spent more time turning this question over in my mind than any other, because there were theories that I could almost make fit, but not quite. A great many people also believe that Master Ash is Cinder. And there certainly is one very strong piece of evidence in NOTW Chapter 72 where Kvothe (with his established talent for finding the names of things) rattles off a series of F-names that sound very much like he is dancing around “Ferule.” But I am convinced that Bredon is Ash; the evidence is just too strong.
Some people reconcile this by saying that all 3 (or 4 if you include Greyfallow) are the same person. Kvothe finds Cinder naggingly familiar in the mercenary camp even helmeted from a distance. I don’t think there’s any way he would have spent so much time up close with Bredon and not recognize him. Now, to be a good theory-crafter sometimes you have to kill your darlings, or let go of ideas you might have wanted to believe but have no hard evidence. I might have let this belief go if it was the only thing that kept everything from clicking, but there is one other problem: the Cthaeh tells us Kvothe meeting Cinder again is a “twice in a lifetime” opportunity. Cinder can’t be Bredon. Kvothe’s string of names in Chapter 72 is like a maddening misshaped piece that stops the puzzle from fitting properly.
Then Pat gave us a huge clue this summer in the metal capstone pieces for Tak. The Tinker’s pack website titles them “Wolf and Hawk.” I picked these up at Gen Con in 2017, and when I did one of the World Builders team told me that Pat had specified their design.
I was sure this had to mean something. Obviously the idea of Tak in general brings up Bredon, and the fact he carries a cane topped with a silver snarling wolf head is stated several times in WMF. Kvothe also compares him to a wolf at least once. (There are also a large number of references to owls with Bredon as well, and more than one artwork with an owl sitting on waystones. I’d like to do a post about owl imagery sometime. But not today.) Clearly this wolf is Bredon. But who is the hawk? Who is Bredon playing his beautiful game against?
I spent a long time scouring the book and every source of Kingkiller lore I could think of for wolf and hawk or eagle imagery. The result… well not to sound like clickbait… but it blew my mind.
Other than the quotes and the tak pieces, this picture is made up of a wolf-headed cane (like Bredon carries), the Pairs card which the creative team has called both the Wild Hunt and Grey Riders, the Pairs “Death” calamity card, and a poker chip from the original NOTW card Kickstarter. That poker chip references Greyfallow and is in his house colors. So, if the Death card is Cinder’s: Bredon (and possibly his faction) oppose Cinder (plus maybe other allied Chandrian), and Greyfallow is either an alias for Cinder, or his ally/pawn.
[Credit where it’s due: Shannon Rose in the KKC facebook group first pointed out the grey wolves in the card match Bredon’s cane. I also owe credit somewhere on the web to the idea “eight follows seven.”]
So I began to contemplate NOTW Chapter 72 harder, which finally led me to the surprisingly well-supported idea: What if Ferule is not Cinder’s name? In fact, the phrase “ash and cinder” appears twice in NOTW and once in WMF. Pat is a specific wordsmith and an obsessive revisionist. He is definitely not redundant. If he says “ash and cinder,” whether on purpose or subconsciously via a glimpse into the workings of his mind, he is telling us that an ash and a cinder can be two related but different things. (Most likely he’s using ash to mean soot and cinder to mean an ember; the phrase “ash and dully glowing coals” also appears in NOTW. But I’ll refrain from going yet further down a dictionary rabbit trail.)
If (as my linked post about Cinder’s name theorizes) Ferule is a thing that vexes Cinder, now it makes perfect sense that Kvothe might dance around the phrase when trying to name Bredon/Master Ash. Click. It fits like a key in a copper-plated lock.
If one accepts this Breydon/Ash (8) vs Cinder/Greyfallow (7) idea, there are some other interesting ideas that follow. However, I’ll save that for the next post, as this one is already getting quite long. But as a parting plea, if anyone can figure out what animal the hawk has killed on the tombstone in the Death card, PLEASE let me know! I can’t make heads or tails of it-literally. Here’s an enlarged scan: