As happens every so often, other stuff has popped up for me. In attending to it, I’ve not been able to attend to this webspace (or a couple of others) as I would prefer to do. Rather than push out work that doesn’t meet (my admittedly low) standards, I’m pushing back a bit. I’m still working on the Robin Hobb Reread, and I mean to have my next bit of it pop out on Monday, 12 August 2019. Today, though, I’ve not got it ready.
Following the address of questions from the previous class meeting and before, discussion turned to concerns of research, including the environments of writing and publication, before addressing upcoming assignments.
Class met as scheduled, if with some interruptions, at 1800 CDT in Room 114 of the San Antonio campus; the class was broadcast online, and a recording will be made available soon. The class roster listed 21 students enrolled, a decline of two since the last class meeting; nine attended live online or onsite. Student participation was good. No students attended the week’s office hour.
Students are reminded that the following are due before the end of day Sunday, 11 August 2019:
Discussion: Beginning Research (five posts or equivalent)
Students are still urged to be at work on the rhetorical strategies essay, due at the end of Week 6. (A sample is available for student reference here.) Working on it longer will allow for better results.
Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.
A chapter titled “Jhaampe” follows. It opens with a blurb from a fragment that Fitz swiftly after reports reading later on. It proceeds to Fitz’s first impressions and description of the city itself, as well as the awkwardness of the entrance of the Six Duchies party into it. They end up being carried into the city, at which Fitz chafes.
Fitz does what he can to make the best of the situation, studying the surroundings with clear delight and practicing what he knows of the local language. It attracts the attention of Jonqui, with whom he converses, if haltingly, along the way.
He and the rest of the Six Duchies party are shown into the main hall of Jhaampe, which Fitz describes amid an inner lament for how exposed he will be as he attempts to carry out his assigned work. The ruler of the Mountain Kingdom and his children, Rurisk and Kettricken, are introduced, and Fitz realizes to his chagrin that such royal family as the Mountain Kingdom has has tended to him and those he accompanied.
Gifts are exchanged, and Fitz, to his surprise, finds himself presented to the Mountain royals. Rurisk notes his grief at Chivalry’s death, and the two talk briefly of Fitz’s father. Kettricken interrupts with questions about his training as a poisoner, which greatly unsettles Fitz, before leading him out into the gardens surrounding the royal hall. The two converse reasonably amiably, and Fitz takes the chance to speak well of Verity as he had been asked. Kettricken lays bare that Regal has been creating poor impressions of Verity and of Fitz in the lead-up to the nuptials. Fitz pleads misunderstanding her words, and she makes to re-explain when she is summoned away.
It is not long afterwards that Fitz becomes aware of having been poisoned. He takes such corrective measures as he can after the fact, with no small regret, but he survives–and looks forward with unease to what will come next.
A thought occurs as I reread the chapter and look at Starsong Studio’s art, above. One of the things that promotes bright colors in nature is the presence of poison. Monarch butterflies, for example, are noxious eating–and signal it by their bright colors. Any number of species of frogs do the same, as do no few sea creatures. Even many of the flowers Fitz compares Jhaampe’s buildings to are themselves toxic. Looking back on the beginning of the chapter after reading the end, the appearance of the town foreshadows its peril for Fitz. It is perhaps a subtle thing, but that does not detract from the quality of the writing; instead, it increases it that the foreshadowing is subtle.
Something else that calls attention to itself is the strange misunderstanding of the Six Duchies party’s entry into Jhaampe. Being carried in litters or palanquins can be seen as an indication of status; it seems the Six Duchies party, generally, regards it so. But it is also, as is noted in the chapter, a thing done for those whose mobility is limited–and the appearance of incapacity, however inaccurate, can be damaging. What other signs are interpreted in such ways as to cause confusion make for interesting investigation…
Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series soon.
The chapter that follows, “Journey,” opens with an in-milieu reflection on the general history and politics of the Mountain Kingdom, whence Verity’s chosen bride, Kettricken, hails. It is a harsh land with harsh ways that work well for it, if not for other places.
The chapter moves on to summarize the state of the Six Duchies–which is increasingly bad. Red-Ship raids and Forgings continue, with people carrying poison to kill themselves rather than being Forged. Discontent with Shrewd’s policies grows, both among the people and among the Dukes, themselves, with a schism growing between the coastal and inland Duchies. Shrewd seeks to quiet unrest with the royal wedding, and details of its arrangements–Regal traveling to Jhaampe, the seat of the Mountain Kingdom, to pledge for Verity, and Kettricken pledging at Buckkeep later–are noted. Galen leaves Buckkeep with Regal, stopping off in an inland Duchy, and Fitz finds himself at something of a loss.
To ease it, Fitz seeks the Fool, looking for him in his private chamber. The chamber is described in detail, as is its strange effect upon Fitz. So is the later summons Fitz receives from Chade. During their conference, Fitz asks Chade after his assignment to kill Rurisk; uncomfortable silence falls, broken by Chade’s note that Verity has interceded with Shrewd on Fitz’s behalf. Chade reminds Fitz that all are expendable against the need of the Six Duchies.
The next morning, Patience summons Fitz. He responds as bidden, and, after a brief and confusing exchange, Patience pierces his ear with an earring that had been Chivalry’s. She reminds him of his heritage and sends him off.
The following day sees Fitz line up for his part in the caravan to Jhaampe. The Fool offers him a purgative and a warning, and Fitz apologizes for having intruded into the Fool’s chamber. Fitz also receives new clothing for the journey, complete with a new crest assigned by Verity. Verity himself charges Fitz to speak well of him, and Fitz finds several of Regal’s men, Burrich, and Verity’s cousin, August, in the procession, as well.
Fitz glosses the progress of the caravan towards Jhaampe, noting its comforting familiarity. He also mulls over his coming mission. At length, the caravan is greeted by people from the Mountain Kingdom and sped in happiness to Jhaampe.
There is something a bit colonialist in the opening description of the Mountain Kingdom, an attitude that tacitly contributes to Tolkienian-tradition readings of the Elderlings corpus. Looking at a more itinerant people’s ways as “quaintly barbaric” speaks of an ethnocentrism that lines up with entirely too much of observed history. The reluctance of several members of the caravan to associate with the Mountain folks when they arrive at the Kingdom speaks similarly. It’s something I had not noticed in earlier readings of the novel, but something that comes across to me as I read now, and I think it speaks to some of the social changes that have marked nearly twenty-five years that the novel’s been in print and the personal changes of some twenty years of my reading it.
I wonder what will change in the next twenty to twenty-five.