Patrick Rothfuss teases “sleeping barrow king” storyline from The Doors of Stone

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Honoree Patrick Rothfuss poses at Heifer Internationals 4th Annual Beyond Hunger Gala at the Montage on September 18, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. Heifer International works to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. . (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images for Heifer International)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Honoree Patrick Rothfuss poses at Heifer Internationals 4th Annual Beyond Hunger Gala at the Montage on September 18, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. Heifer International works to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. . (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images for Heifer International) /

Early in the Kingkiller Chronicle, we’re told that Kvothe has “stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings.” What does that mean? Author Patrick Rothfuss fills us in.

It’s been a pretty exciting couple of weeks for Kingkiller Chronicle fans. No, the highly anticipated third volume of the series, The Doors of Stone, isn’t out yet, but author Patrick Rothfuss has been talking about the book with encouraging frequency, mostly on his Twitch channel, where he does everything from livestream video games to promote his Worldbuilders charity.

Rothfuss dropped a particularly interesting tidbit in December. This one relates to the oft-quoted back cover of The Name of the Wind, the one listing off Kvothe’s many exploits, real and invented:

"My name is Kvothe.I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.You may have heard of me."

Specifically, we’re talking about that first line, “I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings.” We’ve seen Kvothe spend the night with Felurian and kinda-sorta burn down the town of Trebon, but we’ve never seen him do anything like that.

But we will soon enough. In fact, Rothfuss even revealed the name of the sleeping barrow king in question: Feija, the first king of Vintas who united a bunch of warring factions into the nation we know from the books. (I’m probably spelling that wrong, but I’m just going going on how Rothfuss says it in the video below. What do you make of it?)

The Barrow King

As Rothfuss explains in the video, Feija was a pretty imposing figure in the history of the Four Corners. He brought together a bunch of “petty, squabbling sea kings” and formed the nation of Vintas, one of the major players on the continent of Temerant. Kvothe’s University rival Ambrose is currently 12th in line to the Vintish throne, and the city of Severin, where Kvothe spent a large chunk of time in The Wise Man’s Fear, is one of its major urban centers.

In the video Rothfuss shows off a newly minted Vintish coin that bears Feija’s likeness. The image is split down the middle: on one half we see Feija standing tall with his sword and a bunch of those lesser kings behind him. On the other, we see a skeletal-looking figure in front of some standing stones. “On one side, there he is Feija King Maker,” Rothfuss explains. “[A]nd here he is otherwise: Feija, king in life and king in death.”

This is where things start to get really interesting. Someone on the stream asked if Feija was still alive thanks to Necromancy, the oft-used fantasy magic that deals with raising the dead. Rothfuss had some strong feelings about it:

"Necromancy is for f@#$ing wankers who play D&D. Feija is a dead king, buried in the proper way–a man with the will to make a nation. And a man such as that does not merely die if he does not wish to, he comes back as a draug. And not this bullshit Skyrim draug, like you’re a zombie with a different name. You come back as Wizard King Feija, first king, always king, in his barrow watching the lands. Necromancy my ass. Through his will alone does Feija continue to watch over Vintas."

All very intriguing! “You’ll learn a little bit more about Feija in book three,” Rothfuss added.

But just because Feija sounds like an undead king in a barrow doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the same “sleeping barrow king” from the back of The Name of the Wind, right? Except that Rothfuss took things a step further and all but confirmed that this was the case. “You didn’t get a spoiler,” Rothfuss said about his little rant. “I mean, Feija’s already come up in the books. I mean, Kvothe literally says–have you not read ’em?–‘I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings,’ right?”

So there you have it. Feija is the first king of Vintas and the “barrow king” from the back of the book. That’s about as close to an outright confirmation as we’re likely to get, complete with a vague explanation for how he can still be “alive” so many years later.

Of course, we still don’t know who the princess he captures is, and what circumstances will lead Kvothe into Feija’s barrow. But still, this might be one of the biggest info drops about The Doors of Stone that we’ve had in quite some time.

Expanding on the initial draft for The Doors of Stone

Feija isn’t the only intriguing tidbit Rothfuss has dropped lately. In another Twitch excerpt posted to the YouTube fan channel The Eolian, the author delved into how some of the characters and plot points had changed as he updated the drafts for the second and third books in his series. The first big point of interest he discussed was Kvothe’s trip to Ademre in The Wise Man’s Fear, which apparently changed a lot by the time it was finally ready for us to read:

"When I went back to revise The Wise Man’s Fear, the entire trip to Ademre was three chapters long. It was effectively a montage, because when I was writing the draft, I was like ‘f@#!, I know I need to write this, but also I need to get [Kvothe] back here to where the story goes.’ And so I’m like, ‘and then he learned fighting…and then he learned fighting…then he went home.’ And [laughs] Betsy [Wollheim, Rothfuss’ editor] looked at it and she’s like ‘yeah, people are gonna feel really let down. There’s not a lot here.’ And so I worked to expand Tempi as a character, I worked to expand and really show off the culture, and take time to explore there."

It’s hard to imagine what that section would have been like if it were as short as Rothfuss initially planned. Kvothe’s time in Ademre spans 19 chapters in The Wise Man’s Fear, and is pretty memorable. Also, am I the only one who’s been pronouncing “Ademre” wrong for the last decade?

But even more memorable than Kvothe’s time with the Adem mercenaries are the interactions he has with his apprentice/assistant at the Waystone Inn, the Fae creature Bast.

“Y’know, we do learn how Bast and Kvothe meet,” Rothfuss said. “And actually that has been something that I’ve really had to expand. Ages ago when I wrote the initial draft of [The Kingkiller Chronicle]…Bast was not such a developed character. And Kvothe and Bast’s relationship had not developed to the degree that it currently is. There’s sort of, what I think of in my head as the ‘buddy-cop thing,’ where they meet and that’s fine…but what you don’t see is like, how did they go from these people who met…to where they are now.”

"I skipped over…some of how they got to where like, it makes sense them being who they are to each other now, in the frame story. And that was very abrupt. It wasn’t abrupt initially, because again in the first draft…that relationship was not as developed. But over the course of three, four hundred revisions, Bast and Kvothe and how they interacted in the frame story became like…really good. So now I have to make sure that the beginning really blends well into the end, otherwise…I mean, who saw The Witcher, right?"

Rothfuss has been pretty outspoken about his dislike for certain aspects of The Witcher show, if you’re wondering where that came from.

I can’t help but wonder if part of the reason Rothfuss is talking about the book so much more than he did a few years ago is because progress on it is going well. That’s speculation, of course…but still…

Could 2021 be the year we finally go into the barrow of that draug king and see how Bast and Kvothe met?

dark. Next. Kingkiller author Patrick Rothfuss decries “the George R.R. Martin effect” on fantasy

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