- "See a man without a face? Move like ghosts from place to place. What's their plan? What's their plan? Chandrian. Chandrian"
- ―Folk song of The Chandrian
The Chandrian are a group of seven beings known in myth and folklore throughout Temerant. They are alternatively known as the Seven, the Rhinta, and the Nameless.
Not much is definitively known about the Chandrian, except that they are almost universally seen as a force of great evil. According to most accounts, there are seven in total. In Ademic legend they are named Cyphus, Stercus, Ferule, Usnea, Dalcenti, Alenta, and Alaxel. Some, if not all of the Chandrian also go by other names as well. Ferule is commonly referred to as Cinder, and Alaxel is more widely known by the name Haliax.
Each of the Chandrian is believed to have a specific sign associated with them, through which one can tell if they are near. One of the most well-known of these is blue flame, which is often seen burning in the wake of their attacks.
To most of the Four Corners of Civilization, the Chandrian are a myth, more so than perhaps any other beings or creatures of legend. Nevertheless, speaking the name of any member of the Chandrian is strictly taboo, as there is a (perhaps not unfounded) superstition that speaking their name will cause them to appear.
The word "Chandrian" comes from the Temic languages Chaen-dian meaning "seven of them." The Etymology of the Ademic, "Rhinta" is yet unknown. Much speculation has related "Rhinta" to "Rhinna", the name of the all-healing flowers growing from the tree inhabited by the fae creature, Cthaeh. The word is also similar to "rhinata", found in the inscription above the main doors of the Archives, "Vorfelan Rhinata Morie". According to Wilem, the inscription means "The desire for knowledge shapes a man". Thus it can possibly translate to something similar to the Knowers or the Shapers, the two factions of the Creation War, as told by Felurian.
In The Chronicle
The Chandrian are major antagonists in the story and the overall driving force behind much of Kvothe's character development. They are first introduced as the murderers of Kvothe's Troupe, though they have also been firmly linked to the carnage at the Mauthen Farm in Trebon. It is suggested that at both of these events, historical information regarding the Chandrian may have been revealed or discovered.
However, a definitive reason why the Chandrian would seek to destroy knowledge of themselves remains a mystery. But there is evidence pointing out that they seek to destroy knowledge about themselves to hide. During the aftermath of the murder of Kvothe's Troupe, it is divulged by Haliax that the remaining Chandrian fear the Amyr, The Sithe, and an unknown conglomerate referred to as "The Singers". It is probable the Chandrian also fear the revelation of their true names and are drawn to the calling of them. What this act pertains to has yet to be revealed.
- "Who keeps you safe from the Amyr? The singers? The Sithe? From all that would harm you in the world?"
- ―Haliax to Cinder
As to the Chandrian's origins, it is suggested by Jake that the Chandrian were the first men and women to refuse the Path of Tehlu. However, this suggestion is disputed by Skarpi during the narrative of Lanre which he shares with Kvothe, claiming that the Chandrian were cursed by Selitos at the destruction of Myr Tariniel shortly after the conclusion of The Creation War.
The Chandrian are generally considered fictitious throughout much of the Commonwealth appearing primarily in nursery rhymes. Despite this, they are still often regarded with an atmosphere of superstition and widely considered demons. This custom, along with curiously absent historical record of The Chandrian, often makes it very difficult for Kvothe to locate information about them.
Signs and Symbols
It is suggested throughout the Chronicle that there are signs the Chandrian are near. These include all manner of accelerated entropy including rotting wood, rusted metal, and blight; as well as blue flames and madness. It is suggested that each Chandrian actually causes these occurrences, accounting for their inconsistency in appearance at locations their presence is reported. The Adem account each Chandrian and their effect in the below poem.
- Cyphus bears the blue flame.
- Stercus is in thrall of iron.
- Ferule chill and dark of eye.
- Usnea lives in nothing but decay.
- Grey Dalcenti never speaks.
- Pale Alenta brings the blight.
- Last there is the lord of the seven:
- Hated. Hopeless. Sleepless. Sane.
- Alaxel bears the shadow's hame.
Signs are also described in verses of a children's folksong. The only other description that attaches the names of the Chandrian to their possible signs, however, came from Nina's depiction of the relic found in Trebon. She recreates three of the eight figures shown on the vase; believing them to be Cinder, Haliax, and one of the Ciridae. In the drawings Cinder is depicted with black eyes, standing in water surrounded by snow. Haliax is shown with a waxing moon and two candles, one bright and the other shrouded in shadow. She also remembers additional figures in less detail, a nude woman, a broken sword, and a fire.
It has been suggested that the Chandrian may be able to at least partly mask the signs that reveal their true nature using the fae magic known as glamourie.
The first two books have four major stories that tell of the Chandrian and their origins:
- Trapis' story about Menda and Encanis (a possibly-heretical version of the Tehlin gospel).
- Skarpi's Lanre story, with a second story told the following day about the creation of the Amyr and angels. Interestingly, the second one is what gets Skarpi in trouble with the church, adding to the theme of there being competing versions of the truth.
- Shehyn's story about the Rhinta/Chandrian, where we hear about an old empire and six fallen cities.
- Felurian's account of the Creation War (doesn't exactly cover the same events, but is in the same time-frame). It's our only first-hand account, but alas it's also not very long and doesn't mention the Chandrian at all. However, it does mention the Shapers and the Knowers, with either one possibly translating to Rhinta.
Trapis' story has Tehlu taking a human body and walking among men to redeem the world's sins and cast out demons. It mentions seven people who refuse the path (and it is strongly implied that these are the Chandrian because of an allusion elsewhere in the text), but only six survive. It doesn't mention Haliax or Lanre, but it does feature Encanis, who is disturbingly similar - most notably, here's a quote from the story: "his power still lay around him like a dark mantle, hiding his face in shadows". While being pursued by Tehlu, Encanis destroys six great cities but doesn't have time to ruin the seventh. He is then caught and killed by Tehlu on an iron wheel.
In Skarpi's story, we don't get an origin for the Chandrian, but we do discover that Lanre and Haliax are one and the same, and the Chandrian are named and identified as serving/being associated with Haliax (in the second story). Once again, there are six destroyed cities and the one that survives - destroyed by Lanre's army - but interestingly, there's also an eighth city (Myr Tariniel) that's not mentioned in Trapis' story.
Shehyn's story tells of an empire with "seven cities and one city," confirming Skarpi's version of the story, with the eighth city (one city being named Tariniel (echoing Myr Tariniel). In the Ademre version, six of the seven cities are destroyed, this time explicitly by the Rhinta, or Chandrian, leaving one of the seven cities whose name is lost, plus the one city, Tariniel. But what's interesting here is this tidbit:
[The enemy] poisoned seven others against the empire, and they forgot the Lethani. Six of them betrayed the cities that trusted them. Six cities fell and their names are forgotten. One of them remembered the Lethani and did not betray a city.
Here we have an origin story of sorts: Each Chandrian may come from one of the destroyed cities. Note that in the same story, the people of the empire are called "not Ademre", and Shehyn also says that since that time "the land has broken and the sky has changed" - evidence that this was before or during the Creation War.
Supporting this theory is the story of Taborlin the Great, in which there is a wizard-king named Scyphus, whose name is similar to Cyphus, a known member of the Chandrian. If Scyphus betrayed the city he ruled and joined the Chandrian, it would correlate with the Ademic account of the Chandrian's origin.
The War in Ergen is probably also the Creation War. Felurian's story tells us that it was fought between two rival factions of ancient people of power-- "knowers" and "shapers". We also know that Iax belonged to the second faction, and since he's "locked behind the doors of stone" his faction probably lost the fight. Hence, it's likely that the Shapers were the Enemy (or manipulated by it). Of additional note is the presence of the name Iax within Haliax, the name of the Chandrian's leader.
So, what we can learn from the commonalities between stories is as follows:
- The Chandrian were born at the time of the destruction of Myr Tariniel, the creation of the "real" Amyr and the Angels, and before or during the Creation War. They were people of the empire Ergen, who forgot their Lethani and betrayed their cities to a nameless enemy.
- Seven cities were destroyed by the Chandrian, including Myr Tariniel, with only one city surviving.
- Haliax is Lanre, and may also be Encanis and/or Iax. Cyphus may also be another name for Scyphus, possibly the ruler of one of the cities that fell when the Chandrian betrayed their homelands.
Bast mentions that the Cthaeh is involved with the creation of the Nameless.
As of the second book, the motivation behind the Chandrian's murderous acts are unknown. However, it appears that they have a strong desire to erase as much knowledge about themselves as possible, especially knowledge that could prove useful to someone who wished to do them harm. The Chandrian murdered Kvothe's troupe simply because Arliden, Kvothe's father, composed a song that contained the names of the Chandrian, and they also murdered an entire wedding group after the hosts had exhumed a piece of pottery depicting some or all of the Chandrian.
From the brief encounters with the Chandrian featured in the books so far, it can also be inferred that the Chandrian are on the run from something. When Kvothe first encounters the Chandrian on the night of his parents' murder, Haliax and the others depart the scene in haste after apparently sensing the approach of something from the sky. When Kvothe encounters Cinder (acting as leader of a group of bandits) much later in the Eld Forest, Cinder displays the same apprehensive, searching behavior, immediately before a lightning bolt apparently summoned by Kvothe strikes the camp. Exactly what the Chandrian are afraid of is unknown; given Haliax's comment to Cinder in the first book, it could be the Amyr, the Sithe, or the "Singers"; it could even be the Ruach, or Tehlu and his cohort of angels.
- The Name of the Wind, Chapter 3, "Wood and Word"
- The Wise Man's Fear, page 130