A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 235: Fool’s Errand, Chapter 15

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

The succeeding chapter, “Galeton,” opens with an in-milieu discussion of the Piebalds before pivoting to Fitz as Badgerlock, the Fool as Golden, and Laurel arriving at the ferry to Galeton, where they are forced to wait; they converse to pass the time. Talk turns to potentially dangerous places as Fitz attempts to sound Laurel out, interrupted by the appearance, however fleeting, of Nighteyes. Golden arrives shortly after, escorting Laurel off and leaving Fitz to ruminate. NIghteyes rejoins him, and the two confer through the Wit.

The three riders.
Rescue Team from Katrin Sapranova’s Tumblr, used for commentary.

Golden and Laurel summon Badgerlock back in time to board the ferry and cross the river it spans, and they proceed to Galeton in the night. Lady Bresinga and her son, Civil, welcome the party with their household, and Fitz determines that Old Blood are present among the entourage. Golden and Laurel are taken off to formal greetings, while Badgerlock is left to unpack and see to Golden’s quartering. The multiplicity of the Fool’s lives breaks upon him while he does so, and Nighteyes reports initial scouting efforts as Badgerlock is bidden attend on Golden at dinner that evening. After he prepares for the duty, he is taken aside and confronted with his own appearance; when he takes the time to present well, he presents well. After a brief exchange with the Fool as Fool, Fitz as Badgerlock accompanies Lord Golden to the meal.

Some of what gives the lie to the idea of the Wit as metaphor for homosexuality emerges in the present chapter; there are decidedly homoerotic overtones in the text at this point. Admittedly, sources I’ve annotated do a better job of explicating such things than I am equipped to do; while I am back in the classroom, I am not back into my scholarship in earnest, although I am striving to be so. In some ways, the energy fairly crackles toward the end of the present chapter; from the vantage of rereading, I can attest that it moves further as the Tawny Man novels continue. How much so, though, will have to wait for later chapters’ discussions.

Any chance you can send some help my way?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 234: Fool’s Errand, Chapter 14

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

The next chapter, “Laurel,” begins with a musing on the stone with which the Elderlings built before turning to Fitz waking in the bed in Chade’s hidden chambers, still fully clothed. He assesses his situation as Chade arrives, noting a coming breakfast with Lord Golden and a coming expedition to Galeton. The two exchange information, Fitz reporting his Skill-sharing and Chade noting the lack of romantic entanglements for Prince Dutiful. Chade also notes that matters are being prepared for Hap to have a chance to succeed.

The titular vision…
Image from Talking about the Weather, here, used for commentary

Fitz begins to attend to his errands in his guise as Badgerlock, including making arrangements for Hap. Despite worries, he notes being eager to get underway, and he is comforted by a brief touch of the Wit from the approaching Nighteyes. He reports being called to an errand before the wolf breaks contact, and when he returns to Buckkeep proper, he is bidden report to Lord Golden at once. There, he is informed that the Queen has bidden her Huntswoman, Laurel, join the pair, and they pack to depart.

Laurel meets Golden and Badgerlock as they make to depart, and they go out together, exchanging backgrounds as they do. After they are clear of Buckkeep Town, Golden urges haste, and the horses all leap into gallops, Badgerlock’s fractious mount outstripping the other two as they proceed.

The musing early in the chapter on the tensions between love and duty as they applied to Fitz in his youth, and how Chade and Kettricken have steered Dutiful away from encountering such entanglements, resonates strangely with me as I read the chapter once again. I’m fortunate enough not to have experienced such a thing; my loyalties are neatly ordered and not in conflict, and I met my wife when we were both in graduate school–neither of us were children at that point. But I cannot help but feel for the as-yet unmet Prince Dutiful, bearing an emblematic name as is so often the case among the Six Duchies nobility and royalty, and one that constrains him mightily despite his youth–no less than his position as the sole heir to an uncertain throne must.

Help me get ready for Halloween?

About Another Classroom Activity

I have noted my return to teaching and commented upon some of the work I’ve done in the classroom after making that return, I know. The work continues, of course, and that means I’ve gotten to come up with more things for my students to do–and since I teach English, that’s meant I’ve had the opportunity to share my love of reading, and some of the things that I love to read, with my students. Whether or not they like it.

Christopher Marlowe - The Marlowe Society
The man himself
Image from the Marlowe Society, used for commentary.

One such thing was Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love,” a poem I’ve read repeatedly over the past twenty or so years and that I’d previously taught, along with Raleigh’s “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd” and Donne’s “The Bait,” several times during that span. I’ve enjoyed the reading and the teaching pretty much every time, and students usually get into it by the time we get to Donne, catching on to what’s going on in the poems and realizing that we are still doing more or less the same things the three of them do in their poems. When I had the students read and discuss the sequence most recently–a couple of weeks ago, as this emerges into the world–I had much the same experience; I had a good time, and so did the students, with even some of the more reticent getting into discussion.

I say much the same experience because there was one key difference. As it happened, I stumbled into understanding a joke in Marlowe’s poem that I’d not previously recognized–and I’m embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t seen it before, although I must plead that I am not a specialist in early modern English literatures. I mean, yes, I sat for a comprehensive exam in it, but it was not my major or even my secondary area. (My apologies to Prof. Vaught; the fault is entirely mine.)

Anyway, at the beginning of the third stanza, Marlowe’s narrator offers to make for his putative love “beds of roses,” which seems a strange thing to offer someone, especially as a first item to be offered. Now, my students noted, rightly, that offering a bed works as an invitation into bed, and the shepherd is trying to make something of a score–a “goods for services” arrangement, as one student put it, not incorrectly. With the first class I had that day, though, I noted the thorniness of roses and that a bed of them would make for uncomfortable lying down–which the students seemed to understand and agree with.

With the second class I taught that day, though, I had the revelation. A bed of roses, one still having all the thorns, would be a bed upon which the shepherd’s love could expect to be pricked abundantly. It’s the kind of joke I should have pointed out years ago, a little bit of fun embedded in the lines that helps make them continue to merit study–and something that, like a chicken joke in Malory about which I failed to get published, I wouldn’t’ve realized without the help of my students. And it’s the kind of thing that makes teaching continue to be worthwhile.

I can, of course, use more help to keep doing this.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 233: Fool’s Errand, Chapter 13

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

A chapter titled “Bargains” follows, opening with a brief in-milieu commentary on hunting cats before turning to Fitz receiving a clandestine evening summons to the Queen. As he answers it, he rehearses his progress through the day, including an extended musing on weapons practice with Prince Dutiful’s training partner and his assessment of the boy as a solitary figure. He also notes having infiltrated and inspected Dutiful’s suite, as well as his old castle room–which is largely unchanged and untended. When he returns to Lord Golden’s chambers, he accidentally stumbles into a magical experiment the Fool had been conducting, which unsettles him badly, and the Fool passes along the message that Chade wants to see him.

Queen Kettricken
Illustration series for the Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb
She is our queen!
Queen Kettricken by Katrin Sapranova, image used for commentary.

Chade conducts Fitz to the Queen through hidden passages, commenting on their construction along the way. She welcomes Fitz warmly, and after a remarkably friendly exchange, their talk turns to the recovery of Dutiful. Fitz reports that he has no information to offer, and Kettricken affords him two more days to make progress before she will make public the prince’s disappearance. She also grants him full access to the spy tunnels, Fitz musing on what that access will cost him and what it has likely cost Chade. And he agrees to ply his Skill to the extent of his ability, despite knowing what will come afterwards.

Afterward, Chade conducts Fitz back to his hidden chambers, and they confer. The source of the gift of a hunting cat to Dutiful is noted: the Bresingas of Galeton. Fitz advances the idea that a Wit-bond has been offered to the prince without his knowledge or understanding, used to lure him in. At length, Fitz begins to ply his Skill again, and though he does not find Dutiful, he does suffer the deleterious effects of working that magic. Chade eases him as best he can without elfbark, and Fitz suffers the pain poorly. Amid it and Chade’s questions, he notes needing to gather coin for Hap’s apprenticeship; Chade is offended that Fitz thought he must bargain himself so, that he has trusted so few. He sets aside his offense, however, and sends Fitz off to rest as best he can. And as Fitz’s mind slips between wakefulness and sleep, he becomes aware of Dutiful and his location: Galeton.

Fitz’s experience in Skilling rings true for me, not because I have such powers, and not because I am an addict as he is depicted as being, but because I worked with addicts for some time. His rage at having been robbed of his elfbark and his carryme–something of a narcotic, as described–read to me very much like the reactions of addicts to the loss of their preferred substance. So is his swift repentance; I’ve seen no few snap and apologize immediately, and while some might follow Chade and note that “sorry” only works so many times, others might recognize the changes to brain structures and chemistries that chemical dependencies cause. I, at least, tend to be more sympathetic–but that’s me; again, I’ve not been an addict or suffered at the hands of one, so I know my opinions come from places of privilege. Others’ experiences differ; so, too, will their readings.

Any way you could help would be welcomed!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 232: Fool’s Errand, Chapter 12

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

The next chapter, “Charms,” begins with an in-milieu commentary about Kettricken’s tenure as Queen of the Six Duchies. It pivots to Fitz returning to his assigned quarters, assessing them and weighing options. He frets over Hap and Nighteyes and rehearses some of what Chade told him and showed him of the remaining available Skill scrolls before waxing eloquent about once-Skillmaster Galen‘s deficiencies. His thoughts turn to the problem of Prince Dutiful, and he reaches out to Nighteyes through the Wit. Reassured by the psychic contact, he falls asleep at last.

Getting to work…
Image from Faceless Frey’s Tumblr, here, used for commentary.

Fitz wakes the next morning to the aspersive words of the Fool as Lord Golden; the pretense drops swiftly as the Fool reminds Fitz of the roles they must play together in the present circumstances. Fitz has some pangs at his preparation for the role of Tom Badgerlock, servingman, and he goes about expected tasks. Once again, he finds himself nostalgic and marking differences between the Buckkeep of his youth and that of his present–though he notes some things remain in place. He happens to see the Queen and marvels at her until he is rebuked by a passing petty noble, and he forces himself into his role despite his anger. That anger inspires him to make some adjustments to the basic role he plays for the Fool-as-Lord-Golden; the adjustments are approved, the two converse, and Golden sends Badgerlock out on some morning errands.

When Badgerlock goes about the errands, Fitz muses on his relative invisibility as a servingman. He also takes in as much gossip and information as he can while he is fitted for new clothes and seeks out a working weapon. He also seeks out Jinna, asking her to relay a message to Hap; she offers instead to host the young man for a time, and Fitz has the strange experience of being Wit-addressed by Jinna’s cat. Jinna also offers Badgerlock some warning about recent animus against Old Blood, noting that his demeanor is not one that normally sets people at ease; she offers him a hedge-magic charm to assist with that, one that works even on her, and they start to act on it when Jinna’s niece, Miskya, arrives. Introductions are made, and Badgerlock returns to Buckkeep proper, seeking the weaponsmaster.

There is much to note about the performance of social roles and concerns of social strata in the present chapter. Fitz lampshades no small amount of it, noting his own contrasting statuses as a servingman presently and formerly as a (bastard) prince of the realm; others, notably Jinna, comment on the lower social status that comes with employment, even if it affords Badgerlock more material wealth than he was able to command in his small, independent holding near Forge. As ever, it is perilous to read with affect, but, as ever, I cannot help but do so, and with my recent relocation and shift in employment, I have had both an elevation and a reduction in social status, even as I am making more money in the classroom than at the treatment facility. The chapter, as well as experience, remind me that social status is a complex, nuanced thing, not the simple system many want to assume it is; it’s a reminder, among many others, that many would do well to take.

New month, new plea for aid…