A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 144: Mad Ship, Chapter 6

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

The following chapter, “Satrap Cosgo,” begins with the titular monarch whining at the Companion Serilla, who does not accept the pleading well. She rebuffs his bumbling advances and rebukes him; her doing so has the effect of altering his behavior in the moment, and she briefs him on her understanding of relations with Bingtown. His conduct has worsened them, and he offers to put a Chalcedean in charge of the territory. Serilla expresses revulsion at the idea, pleading her case to handle matters in a way that might well work.

Not quite so dignified as this…
Image from Wikipedia, used for commentary

Cosgo is unmoved by her arguments, however, and Serilla reflects on her experience with the present Satrap. She also reflects on the just and now subverted role of the Companions, and she is surprised when Cosgo purposes to take her to Bingtown–rather than sending her, as she had proposed–and to Chalced afterward.

I have elsewhere discussed the worship of Sa and its focus on the sacral monarch, the Satrap. The initial appearance of that monarch in the present chapter is far from impressive (although it does correspond to some presentations of similar figures in history; Julius Excluded from Heaven comes to mind as one such presentation, and Popes Benedict IX, John XII, and Stephen VI offer other examples). There is some small mitigation in the institution of the Companions–Jamaillian Satraps are not expected to be celibate, evidently–but a markedly power-unequal polygyny is not exactly poised to read as “moral” and “upright” to Hobb’s presumed audiences, nor yet is a dissolute ruler. (Indeed, Cosgo seems somewhat in the model of Regal, and I am certain something could be made of the connection.)

And it is certain that the power-relationship between the Satrap and his Heart Companions is markedly unequal. Aside from civic control, the incumbent Satrap has arrangements with a foreign power that has a demonstrated disdain for human life; the Liveship Traders novels reinforce the assertions in the Farseer books that Chalced makes use of and relies upon slave labor, and the rampant misogyny of the region has also received overt and oblique comment–such as that which concludes the chapter. It is not a good place, a clear (and, surprisingly in Hobb, not-nuanced) evil. Taking a subordinate there and noting “There is much you can learn” to that subordinate is a threat, and threats do not make for equal relationships.

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