- "The story itself is a little odd. It’s from an odd perspective, and it covers a vast scope of time. The main character is odd. The language is odd. I’ve read it out loud a couple times, and I’ve found the sound of it to be... well... odd. Rhythmic. Almost like a chant."
- ―Author's Foreword
The story describes a tree "Old Holly" and a lady living in a tower by the tree. All actions and events are tagged as good, bad, both, neither, or other which appears to make explicit the underlying Lethani or perhaps judgement by the God of Temerant. The lady is revealed to be physically weak but performs strong magic through singing, transforming Old holly into a man who fights an approaching evil:
- "There were great black wolves, with mouths of fire. There were men who had been bent halfway into birds. They were both,and bad.
Worst of all there was a shadow bent to look as if it were a man. Old Holly felt the ground beneath the last grow sick, and try to pull away."
The lady leaves her tower twice, the first time with a man ends in sadness. The second time she leaves to do something dangerous and instructs Old Holly to stay with her tower "to keep it safe for her return", which he continues to do through the ages.
Background and publication
Rothfuss was writing a novella as an entry for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWiMo) writing project in November 2011, when the idea of the story of How Old Holly Came to Be came to him during a walk home. The next day he decided to jot it down to avoid forgetting it and as he was in a good flow, he kept writing and writing until he finished the entire story in a total of seven and a half hours.
He donated the story to his friend and fellow writer Shawn Speakman to include it in the anthology Unfettered, a book edited by Speakman and published as a means to relieve his medical debt after recovering from cancer.
|Works in the The Kingkiller Chronicle series|
|Novels||The Name of the Wind (2007) ▪ The Wise Man's Fear (2011) ▪ The Doors of Stone (to be released)|
|Companion tales||How Old Holly Came to Be in Unfettered (2013) ▪ The Lightning Tree in Rogues (2014) ▪ The Slow Regard of Silent Things (2014) ▪ The Tale of Laniel Young-Again (to be released)|
|Derived works||Cealdish Currency (2013) ▪ The Name of the Wind Playing Cards (2014) ▪ Pairs (2014) ▪ TV Series, Movie and Video Game (optioned)|