A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 77: Assassin’s Quest, Chapter 18

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

The next chapter, “Moonseye,” opens with a brief note about Moonseye’s position and its history with Chivalry Farseer. It moves thence to Fitz and the others’ conveyance to the titular location. Fitz makes contact with Nighteyes through the Wit, and they reassure each other of their lives and relative safety. Nighteyes also shows Fitz an incoming attack; when it falls, it is family of the betrayed smugglers coming to rescue their kin.

Definitely the kind of thing to give pause.
Nighteyes by Alcine on DeviantArt, here, used for commentary.

After the attack, Fitz is guarded more closely, and he describes Moonseye as he reaches it in custody. His incarceration is also described, and Fitz assesses his situation. He also tries to work on his captors, meeting limited success with that or with finding an escape option. Nighteyes has more success, however, and he informs Fitz of fires beginning in the town.

As the fire spreads, Nighteyes takes the opportunity to make himself known to Fitz’s captors. They flee, and Nighteyes pursues, retrieving the key to Fitz’s cell as Starling arrives to aid Fitz. They make their escape from the burning town into the bitter cold, where they join Kettle. Starling relays the status of the earlier party to Fitz as they flee, and Fitz shivers from more than the cold.

Through Fitz, Hobb lampshades the cyclical nature of the heroic journeys that pervade Tolkienian-tradition fantasy fiction. Bilbo returns to the Shire, as do Frodo and Sam, and Fitz returns to Moonseye, site of his earliest memories. In some sense, he has returned home, though he feels no real connection to the place. But, as with the earlier examples, the place he has returned to has changed–and not necessarily for the better. The Shire to which Bilbo returns has assumed he is dead (not without cause, admittedly) and begun despoiling his possessions. The Shire to which Frodo and Sam return is treated far worse, laid largely to waste and the depredations of outside forces. At Fitz’s involuntary return, Moonseye is more like the latter than the former, with troops loyal to Regal imposing their will far outside what should be the confines of the law. It is not the most comforting touchstone connecting Hobb to her literary forebears, but it is one that lines up relatively well with them.

Too, each of Tolkien’s Ringbearers moves on from the Shire. Bilbo retires to Rivendell before going with Frodo into the West. Sam joins them later. Fitz is similarly bound for other places–coincidentally, perhaps, a mountainous west. It is such things that push readings of Hobb towards the Tolkienian model; there are correspondences to be found, certainly, and I’ve written to that effect before. A closer examination of the parallels specifically to Tolkien, rather than to the amorphously European / English settings of Tolkienian fantasy literatures generally might be warranted–but that is yet another project for another time.

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