"He wouldn't tell me his real name for more than a span. Even now I don't know if the name he's given me is real."
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.
Place in the StoryEdit
Denna apparently meets Master Ash in the Eolian while awaiting Kvothe for lunch. However, Kvothe does not arrive for their date 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 earlier. 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, wealthy" man. This matches Cinder's description, although no mention is made of his other distinguishing features. The next time Kvothe and Denna meet, he hears of her new patron.
- 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; given that the story of Lanre is almost certainly the origin story of Haliax, he would be especially likely to recast Lanre in a heroic light.
- Cinder is considered extraordinarily cruel, specifically by Haliax. 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. At one point, he is making up names for Denna's patron, and his guesses include Feran, Forue, and Fordale. There is much evidence to support that Cinder's true name may be Ferula or Ferule. He then decides on Master Ash, and although he intends the name to refer to the tree, the name's alternate meaning relates to Cinder.
- 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.
Arguments against Cinder being Master Ash include:
- When Denna first tells Kvothe about meeting her patron she refers to him as "an older gentleman."
- The Cthaeh states that Master Ash beat Denna with his walking stick. The only characters mentioned as having a walking stick are Bredon and Alveron. Some fans counter that Cinder's injury in the Eld may have led to the need of a walking stick. It has also been noted walking sticks are often common accessories for the upper class.
- Many fans argue the signs of the Chandrian would prevent Cinder from walking into the Eolian without being noticed.
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, Bredon claims to enjoy traveling and to have recently taken up dancing. Traveling would correspond with Denna's recent travels to Yll, as well as explaining how he could be closer to Imre to visit Denna.
- 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 (travel time = 1 span or 11 days minimum for a one way trip)
- Master Ash's insistence on privacy and secrecy could be due to Bredon being a recognizable figure.
- 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.
Arguments against Bredon being Master Ash include:
- Patrick Rothfuss, the author, has said in a blog post that Bredon didn't exist in earlier drafts of Wise Man's Fear.
Additionally, it is widely speculated that Lord Haliax is Master Ash.
Some of the evidence pointing towards Cinder could equally point towards Lord Haliax, such as:
- The frequent geographical proximity of the Chandrian and Denna
- The altered tale of Lanre/Haliax that Denna is taught
Evidence that prefers Lord Haliax to Cinder includes
- His shadowy face
- The discussions between Cinder and Haliax seem to indicate that Haliax plans while Cinder follows orders
- That Haliax more than anyone would have reason to disguise the true nature of the Lanre story.
- That his name is forbidden
Arguments against Haliax being Master Ash include:
- Haliax's supposed inability to hide his identity.
There is also some evidence suggesting Master Ash may be The Maer's former arcanist:
- Denna describes her patron to Kvothe as a "historian". Kvothe had used Caudicus' historical research on noble families before and the arcanist boasts about his knowledge in this field.
- When Denna and Kvothe are able to spend days together in Severen, Denna attributes this fortune to the fact that Master Ash is away- he had left suddenly. This may have been around the same time that Caudicus fled after poisoning the Maer.
Many fans actually believe Master Ash has many aliases and is actually multiple characters comprised into one. Some these more popular theories are included here.
Arguments that Bredon, Master Ash, and Cinder are all one person
- 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 some form of magic is used by Cinder to alter 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.
None of this strikes against speculation that Bredon, Haliax and Ash could all be one person as well, which might make a neater fit than the varying descriptions of Bredon and Cinder.