Almost nothing is actually known about Master Ash, which Denna claims is how he prefers to conduct his affairs. However, Denna does reveal he is an accomplished dancer and has the appearance of a wealthy gentleman. He is described as being extremely secretive, to the point of outright paranoia and likely carries a cane.
In The Chronicle Edit
Denna meets Master Ash in the Eolian while awaiting Kvothe for lunch, a date he misses due to a fire in the University's Fishery. Deoch physically describes the character that Denna eventually leaves this rendezvous with as a white haired gentleman. Whether this character is actually Denna's future patron is unconfirmed, however the next time she and Kvothe meet it is implied so.
Kvothe is at first happy for Denna, but grows increasingly suspicious of her patron throughout the chronicle. This begins to occur when Kvothe meets Denna in Trebon, where she is the sole survivor of a massacre possibly executed by the Chandrian. Afterward, Denna is unable to find her patron, leading Kvothe to assist her in searching for him near the crime scene. During this encounter, Denna is subjected to a taste of Denner resin, causing her to drop her guard and admit that her patron had struck her unconscious and that when she awoke he was no where to be found. This greatly dismays Kvothe, though he keeps much of his feelings to himself in fear of startling Denna away from him.
In The Wise Man's Fear, it is revealed Denna has lost contact with her patron for approximately a month after the occurrences in Trebon. Eventually however, Denna disappears, possibly to Yll from which she writes Kvothe letters. Whether she travels in the company of her patron or not is of some speculation. However, when Kvothe meets up with Denna again in Severen, she reveals she has been given an official writ of patronage and that she is currently working with Master Ash. It is suggested that Denna is still suffering physical abuse at the hands of her patron as she hastily makes up excuses as to why she has bruising across her face. Kvothe and Denna eventually have a falling out while in Severen over a song she writes about Lanre. This song apparently contradicts the account of Skarpi, which Kvothe takes much displeasure in. Denna claims to have written the song based on something she read while searching through genealogies for her patron, but many fans believe the information and subsequent song were actually solicited by Master Ash.
When Kvothe meets the Cthaeh while in Fae, it confirms the readers suspicions that Denna is being victimized by her patron. In this scene, the Cthaeh claims Master Ash beats Denna with the recent addition of a cane.
Much speculation has been generated in regards to the true identity of Master Ash. Due to a suggestion made by Denna in Severen, Kvothe may or may not have already met the man under a different alias. Fans of the series theorize the below people most prominently as legitimate possibilities.
Many events in the Chronicle point to the theory that Master Ash is Cinder.
- After the Fishery fire, Kvothe arrives at the Eolian to find that Denna has left with a white-haired man. This matches Cinder's description, although no mention is made of his other distinguishing features.
- Cinder often turns out to be in the same geographical areas as Denna: Trebon, Vintas, and arguably the areas around Tarbean.
- Denna writes a version of the story of Myr Tariniel's betrayal, however, in this rendition Lanre is a misunderstood hero. It has been suggested Cinder may have motivation to conceal and remake history or even expose a falsification of historical events.
- Cinder is considered extraordinarily cruel. Many fans compare this to the Cthaeh's description of Denna's harsh treatment at the hands of her patron.
- Kvothe's knack at guessing true names is another clue. His first attempts at giving the man a nickname include Feran, Forue, and Fordale. Which are arguably similar to Cinder's true name Ferula or Ferule. He eventually decides on Master Ash and although he intends the name to refer to the tree, the alternate meaning relates to Cinder.
- In English, Ferule is 'a ruler-shaped instrument, generally used to slap naughty children on the hand', from the word Ferula, from Latin, which would mean 'cane'. The Cthaeh states that Denna's patron beats her and that he started beating her with his 'walking stick'.
- Master Ash sets up the performance from Denna at the Mauthen Farm where it is later discovered a Chandrian relic was found.
- When speaking of her patron, Denna remarks that he is light on his feet. Cinder is also described as having very fluid movements.
Nearly as many events in the Chronicle point to the theory that Master Ash is Bredon.
- Description of bearing and physical attributes seem to match.
- Bredon's colour's are mentioned as being 'ash grey and dark charcoal'.
- When Kvothe first meets Bredon he claims to enjoy traveling and to have recently taken up dancing.
- While the Maer's guest, Kvothe isn't able to find Denna for a few days which corresponds with Bredon's disappearance to "visit relatives." Denna admits she was with her patron when she returns.
- Bredon enjoys playing games, which could correspond with the psychological torture that Denna puts up with.
- Master Ash's random disappearances could be due to Bredon needing to return home.
- Master Ash's insistence on privacy and secrecy could be due to Bredon being a recognizable figure.
- Just as Master Ash, Bredon also is surrounded in mystery to Kvothe, not saying who he is and concealing his identity.
- Gossip letters from another noble states that Bredon does pagan rituals on the woods, which could somehow be connected to the incident on Trebon.
- When Kvothe first meets Bredon, he remarks on him bearing himself in a manner which shows his wealth. In the same way, Denna comments on Master Ash having all the signs of being a wealthy patron.
- Denna comments that Kvothe might have already met her patron while staying in the palace.
- Bredon is known to always carry a walking stick, something the Cthaeh specifically mentions Denna's patron having, saying her patron beat her with one.
Another theory could point to the Master Ash being Erlus
- There are various clues which could point to Erlus being Cinder (more on Erlus page).
- In The Wise Man's Fear, Puppet has a doll of a Tehlin priest menace the doll of a young peasant girl. The scene could easily be interpreted as Denna and Master Ash, and if that were the case, then Erlus is the only character who could easily fit into this role.
Many fans actually believe Master Ash has many aliases and is actually multiple characters.
- Given that there is much evidence that Bredon is Master Ash and that Cinder is Master Ash, it could be that all 3 are one and the same.
- Bredon has white hair, and his eyes are described as dark and owlish; similarly, Cinder has white hair and black eyes. While Cinder does not resemble Bredon in other aspects, it is possible that since Cinder is likely of Fae, he uses glamourie to change his appearance.
- Bredon meets Kvothe in Severen, at around the same time that Denna is in the area. Shortly before Kvothe leaves to hunt bandits in the Eld, Bredon is mentioned to be away from his estate. The bandits Kvothe fights are later revealed to have been led by Cinder.
- Very little of Bredon's background is known, leaving ample room for him to be either Ash or Cinder in secret.
Altough there are evidence to back up this idea, there is also lots of evidence against it, as the Cthaeh implies that Kvothe met Cinder two times, and if Bredon was Cinder he would have met Cinder many more times. Also, Kvothe notices something different when he sees Cinder for the second time, recognizing him somehow, but doesn't ever recognize anything similar on Bredon.
The Amyr have already been evidenced to be willing to do terrible things for the greater good.
- Master Ash may be using Denna's writing and singing of the Lanre song as a sort of bait to draw the Chandrian to the Amyr.
- The Cthaeh is revealed to always tell the truth, but that it will do so in a way so as to cause the worst possible outcomes. Because of this, it is speculated that when the Cthaeh tells Kvothe that Master Ash beats Denna, the Cthaeh is actually referring to Master Ash training Denna to fight.