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The next chapter, “Testimony,” starts with the Vivacia hurting from the bond with Wintrow. Despite the correctness of his earlier actions, he still suffers the onus of the crew’s disdain–and his father’s–and the ship aches with Wintrow. His progress is rehearsed, as is an accident that has left him significantly injured and the relationship between boy and ship that is strained as a result of it. She ponders his ponderings until he voices the certainty that he will have to have a finger amputated.
Wintrow muses to the ship about his injury and the work he has done caring for others’ wounds. He rails again at being ripped from the monastery to take up a life at sea that he does not want; the Vivacia offers him strange comfort. Emboldened by it, Wintrow calls upon his captain to attend to the injury, displaying its worsening condition to affirm his decision and persuading the captain to have the amputation up on the foredeck where the ship can observe best. The captain refuses to do the work himself, however, assigning it to the first mate.
The mate agrees, at least, that the finger needs to be removed and issues a rare rebuke for it not being seen to sooner. The ship overrules the captain’s objections and demands his presence. The crew assembles to watch as the mate begins the surgery, guided by Wintrow, who steadies himself in prayerful discipline. The amputation is successful, and Wintrow’s blood soaks into the planking of the Vivacia‘s deck.
Wintrow challenges the captain with his finger; the captain turns away, knowing he will not master Wintrow now. The mate issues orders to see to Wintrow’s healing and the ship’s operations, relocating Wintrow’s berth to the fo’c’sle with the rest of the crew and ordering a low dose of laudanum for him. The ship takes the discarded finger and considers it closely before eating it.
Near Bingtown, the Paragon sits in the wintry rain, vaguely annoyed by it, until he is intruded upon by Amber and a broker. Amber had been interested in working with the ship’s wizardwood, believing the report that the ship is dead, but the evidence that the Paragon remains thinking deters her; she stalks off. She later returns, however, to converse with the ship; they swiftly forge a connection, and he invites her into himself.
The chapter seems almost to eroticize Wintrow’s injury and the removal of the injured digit from him, spending time considering it from multiple gazes and perspectives and going into substantial detail regarding the process of removal itself. That the Vivacia takes the appendage into herself, even as she takes Wintrow into herself, reinforces the impression. It is, for me, a strange realization, although I have spent enough time on the internet to know that some people are very much into such things…I do not judge such, but I do not quite share the fascination.
There is something of the erotic, too, in the interaction between Amber and the Paragon. It is made more overt, in fact, with the comment that “the warmth of her shot through him the way the heat of a woman’s hand on a man’s thigh can inflame his whole body.” Leaving aside the heteronormativity of the description–problematic as indicated by the work of several scholars, as noted here–the sexual overtones of the connection between woodcarver and ship are clear. Again, I do not judge such, though I do not share the fascination that I know is out there. It is something that comes to bear later on, however, and so bears attention in the present chapter, where it appears to begin.
2 thoughts on “A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 120: Ship of Magic, Chapter 19”
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