A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 141: Mad Ship, Chapter 3

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

The following chapter, “The Crowned Rooster,” opens with Jani Khuprus making her way through tunnels to her son, Reyn. He waxes poetic on the beauty that must have suffused them in days gone by, and the two fall into an old argument about the rule from Jamaillia. Jani tries to shake him from a partial reverie as he hints at a life within the wizardwood log in the chamber where they stand.

The Khuprus Family Crest
This seems to get it.
The Khuprus Family Crest by Dianna-Art on DeviantArt, used for commentary.

Their discussion continues, revealing that it is the casing of a dragon, kept away from sunlight and possibly dead–but maybe not, maybe waiting to be freed, and possibly not happily when and if it is released. All of the wizardwood that has been found and sold has been such, the pupal dragons contained within dumped out unceremoniously as their chrysalides were harvested as lumber to be sold away.

Their talk turns thence to Reyn’s intended courtship of Malta. He seems set on marrying the young Vestrit, although Jani does not think it will go so smoothly as he does. Still, the family seems well disposed to his efforts in that line.

Another expository chapter, the present section takes readers away from the Vestrits, although not quite as far as might be thought; the Rain Wild Traders and the Bingtown Traders hold themselves akin, and Reyn purposes to wed Malta. The chapter also reminds readers of the colonialist discourse at work in the series; Bingtown and the Rain Wilds are colonies of Jamaillia, and the latter, particularly, serves to exploit natural resources on the periphery for the benefit of the core–which does not always recall the agreements under which it receives those benefits.

Prior to the present chapter, the exploitation was of natural resources only. What the present chapter introduces to the discussion is that the exploitation comes at the cost of other intelligent life. Although that particular issue is kept from the world at large, the Rain Wild Traders are all aware that their wealth is had only because they have desecrated the graves of thinking beings–and, Reyn argues, not necessarily only their graves. Pulling unclaimed resources is one thing; despoiling tombs is another; killing what amounts to teenagers–pupal states being roughly analogous to adolescence–is something altogether different and far more reprehensible.

The relatively sudden twist serves to nuance the entire setting further than it already had been by the involvement in the slave trade. More than before, it is clear there are no “good guys” in the work, although the Vestrits seem to remain the primary protagonists.

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