The Tree of Knowledge
I swear it on my tongue and teeth. I swear it on the doors of stone . I’m telling you three thousand times. There is nothing in my world or yours more dangerous than the Cthaeh.
So… The Cthaeh… Interesting name, and it’s not a small name. It tells to us about itself.
‘Do not try to pin me with small names. I am Cthaeh. I am. I see. I know… At times I speak.’
Whilst we should all agree on that emphatic statement, we do need to ask ourselves the question ‘What exactly does it do?’ Well, it is a seer. It sees the future… all futures apparently, and it can see them all perfectly. Now, Perfectly would imply it is therefore a creature of the shapers, because all things the shapers made were created to be perfect too. The whole of Fae was created to be perfect and every tree, every butterfly, every blade of grass, and every grain of sand was made especially to be there, for ever,doing it’s desired job perfectly. The Cthaeh is a part of the furniture of the fae. It is a power to be feared and it is to be found in the exact centre of the realm.
It spends its existence in the one lone tree to be found in all of the vast forest of fae. The faen play folk have a tradition of portraying this lone tree in the background of all of their tragedies. It is worse than the devil.
But there is a tiny misconception as to it’s having perfect power since knowing isn’t telling and so being confined to it’s tree, it can only speak at the rare times it has the opportunity to do so. It can talk the talk but it cannot walk the walk. It can tell a visitor ‘knowledge best left alone’, but it can only do so when there is one actually standing in front of it. Thanks to it’s reputation, it’s location, and it’s deadly Sithe guards, it doesn’t get that many visitors, but if you did happen to chance upon it yourself and were asking it a question, well then and only then would it be able to function as it desires. It is a prisoner to it’s tree, and only a visitor can help it to carry out it’s evil plan…
Now, the future as a whole contains both the good and the bad all mixed up together, and both will exist equally in all future possibilities. So in always following the darker path of life, Cthaeh is subsequently always rejecting the opposite path in that same decision. Everything comes down to simple choices in the end, but short term desires are not always thought through to their utter conclusion. The Cthaeh says that it ‘can see ten feet through you and you are only three feet deep’ and whilst that may be true it also has a compulsion placed upon it to always tell the truth. It cannot tell a lie but to counter that, it is also a master strategist and it plays a bigger game than you can a possibly imagine. It plays the long game and is so perfect in what it does that it can read all your long name’s possible twistings and turnings so well that it knows what drives you, it knows your hearts desire, and it knows two paths to help you reach it. Then it is a simple matter of maliciously luring you down it’s preferred breadcrumb trail path to doom to help you achieve your goal. This path may start off looking quite promising and by following it you will be guaranteed to gain your hearts desire… That’s what you wanted after all, and so that’s what you got. But you should be careful what you wish for.
On the Cthaeh’s path, everything will always go wrong in the end. It will suggest a path that will lead far past your own short sightedness and futher on down the road to infinity. It will use your actions as a tool to further it’s own desire in the long run… and that is probably not a good thing for the universe as a whole.
Possibly, it could leave a compulsion inside of your head to help force the issue and in doing so it can control your body and turn you into it’s own little puppet, it has past form in doing that apparently. Fortunately for our story Felurian looked into Kvothe’s eyes and read that this was not the case with our hero.
‘the things the Cthaeh says can leave men broken in their heads. but I would see if it were so. you are still my kvothe, still my sweet poet.’
This is very important if you believe that the Cthaeh has any further part to play in Pat’s books. It doesn’t. Kote is completely dismissive of it as being ‘just another part of his story’ and whilst he might recognise with hindsight that his experience could be seen as a near miss, it meant nothing more to him. He has even gained some new knowledge from his encounter. It was a bit like dealing with an ‘end-level tinkerboss3’ in a computer game and he had gotten past the danger successfully without taking too bad a hit.
Why did the Cthaeh leave him untouched? Well I believe it was because his current path in life was already leading him nicely towards his hearts desire… which it knows to be Death to Cinder. And since that path is also apparently a very desirable outcome to the Cthaeh itself, why tinker with it further?
On the larger scale of things, other visitors have not fared so well and thus it has gained a reputation that no matter how appealing your answers may have looked at a first glance, it’s own eternal ends will always be met too, it’s very tricky like that.
Its The two parts of any choice present in all questions are always going to be between Yes and No, and that means that we are back to binary choices again here…it’s what everything comes down to in the end. Whilst it is true that yes and no follow different paths to different outcomes, there will always be further consequences to consider and the path of a mans life is short whilst time, like the Cthaeh is infinitely big. Given an infinite amount of time to work with, then there will always be two ways of achieving things. Directly or Indirectly.
Now the path through a life is a bit like climbing a tree. Imagine a vast tree which represents a life being lived that has two very similar fruits on opposite sides. When you begin to climb the tree, you desire a fruit and so you start climbing towards it. During your quest you will reach decisions where two branches will lead towards different parts of the same tree, either nearer or futher from your chosen fruit. Now, if our two fruits were investigated they would show that whilst looking the same, looking is not seeing. If you could see properly you would see that whilst one fruit is perfectly ripe and lovely and the other is rotten to the core… and the Cthaeh unerringly knows the best way towards his own choice of fruit. And it isn’t always the quickest way.
To be able to pick the perfect path, it must have a shapers compulsion about it, a negative binding which would make it infallible in all its actions, like the one that compels it to always tell the truth, and it is described by Bast as ‘purely and perfectly malicious’. In fact the best way to deal with it would probably be to always do the absolute opposite of what it suggests. The Cthaeh appears to act like a loden stone, linked to this ‘bad apple’ by forces stronger than nature herself, and since we are not talking about one specific fruit or stone, but rather the whole tree of life itself onto which all of life’s strange fruit will grow in time then it must have a perfect comprehension of the shapes of all things.
If something has the power to comprehend the world to an infinite degree then we can clearly see that they must have the power to understand the shape of the world itself across all of time itself . Therefore the ancient and immortal Cthaeh must be a thing of infinite power and proportions that can understand all things in all ways at all times to the nth degree : past, present and future. We should therefore rightly acknowledge it as being among the most powerful being that you can get, Gold Mark level, and thus we should call it a God.
Half and Half is One
I was tempted to type about Chaos now, but then I thought… No! it is actually very orderly in its approach, it is singularly determined towards Doom, Death and Destruction. That is it’s own heart’s desire. Now, since it takes up the whole negative half of all things, then logically there must be another supreme force out there somewhere with a leaning towards a more positive future. A counterbalance so to speak, an opposite to everything that the Cthaeh desires. We need a good oracle, a master name knower or perhaps just a more helpful tinker. And that is where Aleph steps onto the stage.
Now, Since Cthaeh is such a powerful force in the world that comprehends all of time, it has clearly been present since the dawn of time itself. But it hasn’t always been stuck in a tree in the faen realm…
‘Once, sitting on the walls of Murella, I ate from a silver tree. It shone, and in the dark you could see the mouth and eyes of all who had tasted it!’
‘Was Murella in the Fae?’
‘no. I have said. This was before. There was but one sky. One moon. One world. And in it was Murella. And the fruit. And myself, eating it, with eyes shining in the dark.’
Now, the twin cities of Murella and Murilla are linked somehow, that is what makes them twin cities, a situation that makes them perfect for binary tinfoil theories. There is a bit of tinfoil about the Seven somewhere on here which suggests that they were once the two cities ruled by two women, namely Lady Dalcenti and Lady Alenta. But this fruit in the darkness part might mean another link and suggest that one city was always light whilst the other was always dark. Alternatively it could just suggest that it was night-time, however every night had a full moon in those days which would contaminate that theory a bit. Perhaps you had to leave the tree and go into a darkened room to see the light, but no, we are told Felurian was sitting outside on the city walls. Maybe you just close your eyes to see things? Maybe the darkness is Death… or possibly just ignorance! I don’t know… yet, there is lots of tinfoil still needing a polish around here, but all that just means is that working the answers out to things is difficult… not impossible.
Anyway, the point is that This was in a time before the Fae, and so if the Cthaeh also existed in that time, and it’s fair to assume that it must have, then it was itself once a presence in the Ergen Empire and it was only later on, only after the creation of the Faen realm, that it could first have been put into it’s current tree prison. It is a prisoner and it has guards to keep it safe and/or solitary where it could do no (more) harm. This imprisonment could only have been enforced by a being of even greater power than itself, or rather by it’s other half Aleph, who represents the good side of the fruit. But surely in that struggle, both entities would always be equally balanced in power at 50-50. Always!
There is a line between all things, Terminus Est, and in any contest of power between two equals we must always witness a perfect draw. But somehow, the Cthaeh must have lost, and lose it did because history proves this to be the case. Different versions of this conflict are recorded in our various stories about the shape of the world of Temerant. But we must also remember that before cthaeh lost, it must have first won for the balance of power to have begun swinging in the first place.
As a consequence of it’s actions, it’s punishment was decreed to be one of enforced solitary confinement. We can assume that killing such a power was not an option. But banishment to fae was seen as justice for all the crimes it had committed upon the world of man during it’s reign of terror. The aim of this punishment was to ensure that there would be no repeat performance. That’s the theory anyway…
Throughout the history of Temerant, the names of many things have been changed to protect the innocent or punish the guilty. This was the point in time when the past was to be forgotten, and never to be spoken of again. The dawn of a new age.
‘No. all personal things must be put aside, and you must punish or reward only what you yourself witness from this day forth.’
Every clue that has survived points to one unknown but specific point in history. The time of the change is marked by the end of the demon days when the justice of Tehlu gave everyone a choice to make and a new name to wear. Time started again and to mark it we got a new calendar which saw names given to the last four days of a span. The story of this time is buried in the tale told to us by Trapis, and there are only two possible contenders for the roles of being those involved as the two opponents in this conflict. Encanis and Tehlu. They will themselves be little more than puppets wearing masks, each being controlled by the desires of the most powerful pair of puppeteers in the world. Aleph and Cthaeh.