Denna is the primary female figure in The Name of the Wind; she is arguably the main romantic interest of Kvothe, who holds an irresistible fascination with her.
Due to her chosen lifestyle, she is homeless and prone to wandering but manages to make a decent living using her voice and charm. Men have a fatal attraction to her, an attraction she can never seem to return. When a man gets too familiar with her, she will often leave town quickly and silently.
Due to this, she goes by various different names and aliases, including Dianne, Dinnah, Dyanae, Dinael, Dinay, Dianah, Donna, Dyane and Alora.
Denna was first seen when Kvothe traveled with her in Roent's caravan in chapter 33: A Sea of Stars. During the few days they shared traveling together, a budding romantic interest developed between the two of them. However, this did not progress well and was hindered by three things: young Kvothe's inadequate experience with women, the short amount of time they had together, and the appearance of Josn, a young, wealthy minstrel who competed for Denna's attention. The young pair parted quickly, with Kvothe making his way to the University, while Denna went to Anilin.
Denna and Kvothe did not meet until months later when Kvothe played for his talent pipes at the Eolian in Chapter 54: A Place To Burn. Kvothe played and sang The Lay of Sir Savien Traliard, singing the part of Savien, and leaving the part of Aloine open for anyone to sing.
It was Denna who sang the duet with him, though he didn't find this out until later that evening and after much searching. This is the first time Denna displays musical talent. She had only heard the song a couple of times and her perfect rendition showed her to have a similar mind for memorization to Kvothe's own.
At the time she was being courted by Kvothe's friend Sovoy, but their relationship wasn't to last long. For several months Kvothe went to Imre, searching for her, but never succeeded. However, she did find him several times.
When Kvothe rode to Trebon, chasing rumors of blue fire, which is a tell-tale sign of The Chandrian, they finally met for more than a couple of hours. Denna was found by Kvothe in an inn where she was being treated for injuries.
After some questioning, it was revealed that Denna was the only survivor of an entire wedding that had been attacked by the Chandrian. She was attending at the request of a possible patron, the informally dubbed Master Ash, who led her into the woods and questioned her as to the circumstances of the wedding. When the Chandrian attacked, Denna allowed Master Ash to knock her unconscious, so as to alleviate the suspicions of the townspeople of Trebon.
The Ring and Relationship with Ambrose
Denna engaged in a brief relationship with Ambrose Jakis, which resulted in Denna losing her precious ring, as Ambrose held the claim slip for the repair shop where he had gone to have the ring fixed up. Denna also sold a particularly beautiful piece of emerald jewelry in order to buy Kvothe an expensive new lute case.
Later on, Denna met with Kvothe in Severen. Kvothe and Denna spent a great deal of time together. They went riding, to plays, had coffee and explored Severen. In a rare disparity between the characters, Kvothe compares his own musical education to Denna's informal more instinctive knowledge of music.
Eventually, Denna succeeded in acquiring formal patronage from Master Ash, though he remains extremely cautious and protective of his identity. (Master Ash is not a formal patron, denying Denna much of the support a patron offers as well as the protection of their name.) The Cthaeh tells Master Ash often beats her in ways that won't leave scars, sometimes in temper but mostly it just to see how far he can go before she cries or how far he can push her before she tries to leave and he has to lure her back. The Cthaeh made a point of stating that she is tightly bound to him and wouldn't leave him even if Kvothe asked.
She was later seen saving a girl from an attacker. Denna seems to be intentionally looking for this girl, however later doesn't seem to know her. After rescuing her Denna goes on to advise the girl on how to fend for herself and developing a plan for the girl's options. It is confirmed that Denna has been misused in the past and shows the rather limited options for unskilled women of little means.
When she composed "The Song of Seven Sorrows" which praised Lanre as a hero, Denna and Kvothe had a bitter falling-out. A few months later after Kvothe returned from Severen, Kvothe would see Denna at a pub in Tarbean. They reconcile but do not discuss their argument.
Denna's quick wit and easy charm draw men to her like bees to honey. She is beautiful and knows how to use her beauty, but sometimes, when she is with Kvothe, the mask slips and her fragility, the vulnerability she feels due to her situation, is revealed. In some ways, she is bitter, jaded, miserable and fierce.
Denna is an independent and ambitious person. Lacking family or, initially, a patron's support Denna often has to resort to running away when faced with situations that are getting out of hand.
In many things, she is similar to Kvothe. She roams from place to place which reflects much of Kvothe's childhood, she is good with words and has a natural penchant for music that is hinted to be near Kvothe's, though unpolished.
Simmon described Denna as cruel to which Kvothe agrees.
Denna's primary source of income is, in fact, the gifts and money she receives from her many suitors – for her, courting is a way of surviving. She doesn't seem to mind about her suitor's personality as long as they have money. Her many men include Sovoy and Ambrose, but the one relationship that remains more or less constant throughout the Chronicle is with Kvothe. Notable as, while there are romantic undertones they never move further than friendship.
Whereas the majority of Denna's relationships are clearly a means of living, her relationship with Kvothe is revealed to be one of sincere affection as he has nothing to offer her financially.
- She often disappears without warning, for long periods of time, with no explanation upon her return about why she left. She explains to Kvothe that she "has to leave sometimes," implying that perhaps these disappearances are beyond her control.
- During her appearances, the moon is nearly always mentioned. And there is only one single time where there is no moon at all, but it is explicitly mentioned, in the sellasflower garden in Alveron's estate. This is a time when it's said that Faen creatures can more easily enter our world or vice versa.
- She doesn't appear to age, as Deoch says that he has known her 1 à 2 years and that she doesn't seem to have aged at all. Furthermore. she has a fantastic ability to memorize songs by only listening to them once or twice. She can also pick up music - play, sing, and even compose - in a spectacularly short period of time.
- Her personality, and the name that she goes by, are often changing, and nothing is known yet about Denna's past. Her enigmatic nature leads many people to conclude that she is something more than she appears.
- She compares herself to a stone that has been thrown once - just like the moon in Jax´s story. Similarly, Kvothe is always looking to find her and wants her for his own, just as Jax wanted the moon.
- The first time they met in the Eolian when they trade names, she called herself Diane, who is the Roman goddess of the moon.
- Deoch says: "she is a traveler, that one", which is exactly what Felurian calls the moon: " a traveler yes, a wanderer no."
- However, at the beginning of the telling of Kvothe's story, it is mentioned that Bast has met her before. This works against the theory, as Bast is of the Fae and would have been able to recognize another of his kind. The fact that he didn't show anything kind of hesitation or mentioning of this during that particular scene seems to indicate that she is not of the Fae.
This could explain her connection to Master Ash, who is also implied to be more than human. Perhaps he has some form of control over her, will reveal her secret to the world if she doesn't cooperate, or has information regarding her identity that she is trying to learn from him.
The Song of Seven Sorrows is suspiciously named as there are seven Chandrian. Denna did not seem to have discovered the connection between Lanre and Haliax, which may be because of different geographical areas between Denna and Arliden or the longer time Arliden spent gathering threads of the story.
There are additional theories that Denna is, in-fact, Netalia Lackless, and heir to the Lackless line. Rumors have been spread that Netalia had been disowned by her family after she ran away from home to join a troupe of performers. In addition, upon meeting Maluan Lackless, Kvothe describes how she appears familiar, describing her with traits similar to that of Denna, such as her lips being red "without the benefit of any paint". However, Netalia is Meluan's older sister while Denna appears younger than Meluan. Most agree that Netalia Lackless is Laurian, Kvothe's mother.
Quotes about Denna
The name of the wind, page 470 (Kvothe and Deoch):
K: So you've known Denna for quite a while
D: Off and on. More off, honestly.
K: What was she like back then?
D: The same. I suppose she was younger, but I can't say she seems any older now. She always struck me as being older than her years. Not old really, more...
D: No, I don't know a good word for it. It's like if you look at a great oak tree. You don't appreciate it because it's older than the other trees, or because it's taller. It just has something that other younger trees don't. Complexity, solidity, significance. Damn if that isn't the worst comparison I've ever made.
K: It's nice to see I'm not the only one who has trouble pinning her down with words.
D: She's not much for being pinned down.
D: She was just as restless then, and wild. Just as pretty, prone to startle the eye and stutter the heart.
Shortly after the above (Deoch to Kvothe):
D: No, I do not envy her life. Nor do I judge her. For all that, I would help her, if she would let me. But she’s not the sort to be beholden to anyone.
- The Name of the Wind, Chapter 57, "Interlude — The Parts that Form Us"