A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 182: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 3

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

A chapter titled “Wintrow” comes next, and it opens with the Vivacia considering the departure from Others’ Island and calling for a healer for Wintrow. Kennit does what he can to allay the liveship’s fears for the Vestrit youth, but it is not much; the ship speaks to an absence of Wintrow’s psychic presence within her, one that gives her cause to fear. Kennit attempts to insinuate himself further with the ship, but the Vivacia rebuffs him, if gently. He withdraws, and as he does, the charm on his wrist mocks him, and he ponders matters as he makes for Wintrow’s cabin.

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Within, Etta tends to the unconscious, injured Wintrow, detailing the harm done him and girding herself against the feared pain of his death. And not only for herself; she muses on what Wintrow’s death would do to Kennit. She voices her concerns to the unconscious boy and is startled by Kennit’s entry. After a brief discussion, he orders that Wintrow be taken to the foredeck.

Within himself, Wintrow finds himself conferring with the psychic echoes of the dragon that the Vivacia should have been. It is beginning to reassert itself through the layers of the persona that have been forced upon it, unknowingly, by the Vestrits. He is jolted by being moved, and the underlying dragon begins to force him back to health and wakefulness.

Kennit watches as Wintrow is brought on deck, and he assesses the youth’s condition; he looks like to die. He calls to the youth and bids Etta begin to tend him again. Within himself, Wintrow begins to act to repair his body and speed it along. He returns to consciousness, and Kennit takes the credit for redeeming him from death.

Following the Vivacia, She Who Remembers reaches out to the ship, hoping for a response. She receives none, though she is sure she is heard.

In the second section of the chapter, Etta, musing on Kennit’s exaltation and success in forging a cohesive polity in the Pirate Isles, wonders “What kind of a man harbored such dreams, let alone brought them to fruit?” As I read the novel again–and, truly, it has been a while since I last cracked it open; I think it was in advance of a paper I wrote for Kalamazoo some years back–it occurs to me that depictions of Kennit do work as an answer to that question. What kind of person dreams of building a kingdom for themself and actually goes about doing it? Not a good one, seems to be the answer, despite the legends that creep up and stories that are told in later years. What readings I have done about real-life foundational figures suggest that so much is true, at least, and even in myth and legend, Utopian founders are hardly saints; Malory’s Arthur, for example, mimics the Scriptural Herod in ordering the deaths of babies–and, more, to kill his own (incest-born) child. So much for the Once and Future King–and so much for the Pirate King.

There are, of course, other readings to perform. I know it well; I’ve done a few of them, after all. It would be easy, particularly given the discourse in the present chapter, to read the Liveship Traders novels as commentary on the legacies of (colonialist) oppression, how even those ignorant of historical wrongs benefit from their perpetration. Wintrow, after all, had not known how the liveships came to be, although his family fortune and (admittedly formerly) privileged position are entangled in such a ship; he benefits from the fruits of trees fertilized by shitty deeds and worse. And the parallels to the readers’ world invite consideration that more would benefit from conducting.

Care to send a bit of help my way?

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