A chapter titled “The Quiet Years” follows, opening with a reminiscence from Fitz about his birth and upbringing, his efforts at creating a coherent history of his nation. He follows by glossing over the next days with the Fool, who seems to seamlessly reintegrate himself into Fitz’s and Nighteyes’s lives. At length, they exchange more reports of their time apart, Fitz relating his life since the Fool left him at the dragon garden in bits and pieces, keeping himself from relating some of his deeds and losses. He does, however, dwell upon having visited Verity-as-Dragon, as well as a place where he saw a vision surrounding the Fool.
The Fool presents the crown worn in the vision and places it upon his head. Nothing happens, surprising both of them. Fatigue and drink overtake them, and Fitz retires for the evening.
I am taken by the reminiscence with which the chapter opens. I’ve noted before the Asimovian move of grounding chapters in in-milieu reference materials, something I appreciate, being a scholar prone to grounding my own work in reference materials from my own milieu no less than a long-time reader of the Good Doctor. Accordingly, the device attracts my attention readily, and I am all too happy to pay that coin. And in the present case, the opening passage is particularly compelling, the piecing-together of disparate and not always complete sources being something with which, as a medievalist, I am familiar. Similarly the concern about possibly perpetuating the errors of others–intended or inadvertent–is one with which I struggle; I work from sources, cited and remembered and internalized to the extent that I do not always know where they end and I begin anymore, and like all things human, they are subject to error and to being superseded, to having their mistakes and failings pushed forward by my work and made, in part, my own.
Too, there is the metaphor at the end: “A child sees the acorn of his daily life, but a man looks back on the oak.” Aside from the somewhat problematic nature of gendering–Hobb is on record as affirming her continued use of the masculine as the default neutral, a practice with which I disagree, and I am far from alone in it–there is a lot to unpack. It is, of course, inexact; a child and an acorn are not at the same stages in their respective developments, for one thing. And, as a Texan, I am aware of many uses of good oak wood; it makes for tasty smoked foods, among others. Too, an oak is more prone to break than to bend, even if it can endure a damned lot before it does; I have to wonder, as I think on it some more to write this, if that doesn’t actually justify the masculine pronoun, an unwillingness to adapt being often taken as a hallmark of toxic masculinity. It’ll bear more consideration, I think.
And, yes, this ties in. It’s the same crown.