A Robin Hobb Rereading Series–Entry 2: Assassin’s Apprentice, Chapter 2

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.


The second chapter, “Newboy,” follows the first chapter in opening with an in-milieu historical document, to which the narrator, Fitz, responds in the main text. He gives a brief overview of the ruling dynasty, the Farseers, and their central holding, Buckkeep, before detailing his own initial billeting at Burrich’s command. A press of people triggers an adverse reaction in him, one that prompts him to hide away until he returns to Burrich in the evening.

Image result for buckkeep
One of John Howe’s takes on Buckkeep
Image used for reporting/commentary.

As the chapter progresses, Fitz settles into life at Buckkeep, noting the events at large as he does so and describing both the keep and its town. He also describes meeting Molly, the daughter of a drunkard who makes his onerous presence known. Fitz reacts adversely to him, as well, and betrays his juvenile lack of understanding before falling in with other children and passing an idly delinquent summer with them.

At length, Fitz encounters Burrich while about his delinquency. Burrich moves to take him in hand and uncovers that Fitz has the Wit, a magic that allows him to commune with animals–and that is widely regarded as perverse and unnatural. Burrich takes from Fitz the pup with which he had bonded, Nosy, and Fitz falls into depression from the sudden loss.

The second chapter builds upon the first, setting up a pattern of loss for Fitz. He is bereft of familial ties, and those bonds he tries to set up in place of what should be innate connections are threatened by the inflicted loss of one of them. While it is true that psychoanalyzing characters in a story is something of a fallacy, the affective reading I still cannot help applying to Hobb’s novels tells me that such things happening cannot help but traumatize a child, instilling fears and problems that may never be resolved.

Perhaps more important to the overall Elderlings corpus is the introduction in the chapter of the Wit. The inborn magic is one that exerts substantial influence throughout the novels, and its social regard is a matter of much consideration. It is easy to read it as a metaphor for homosexuality, given its depiction in the novels and peripheral materials, though doing so introduces some problems (the association with animals, for one; it is a mistaken commonplace that homosexuality leads to or is closely akin to bestiality, which commonplace is often used to oppress and abuse homosexuals). Later novels destabilize the metaphor further, as I found and will doubtlessly discuss, though I seem to recall it being clear enough for me at the time.

I’d also note that there is some clear foreshadowing at work in the chapter. The first female character to receive any substantial narrative attention, Molly, could be assumed to have…particular roles later in the novels. How fully Hobb engages those expectations remains to be seen in later parts of the reread, and exploring them–as well as many other things in the novels–promises to be enjoyable.

Help me keep this going?

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