A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 282: Fool’s Fate, Chapter 5

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

The next chapter, “Departures,” opens with in-milieu commentary from an older Skillmaster before moving into Fitz’s conference with Chade in advance of their departure regarding Web’s knowledge of Fitz’s identity. They talk of Web and the formation of a de facto Witted coterie in Dutiful’s service–including Web, Civil Bresinga, and the minstrel Cockle, all of whom are set to accompany the Prince to the Out Islands, to Chade’s vexation.

Unfortunately not available to Fitz…but available at HEB, whence this image used for commentary; thank you for supporting the Kerrville economy.

Fitz calls on Hap, finding him hard at work in his apprenticeship and applying himself diligently, if in the hopes of renewing his relationship with Svanja. That done, Fitz secures his sea-chest aboard the ship on which he will sail, the Maiden’s Chance, and emerges to find Lord Golden attempting without success to take ship. Fitz is spotted by Golden and is chagrined at his part in the deception that has led to Golden being barred from accompanying Dutiful to the Out Islands. He also muses on its effects as he makes his final few preparations for departure before finding his bunk for the night.

Asleep, Fitz encounters Nettle in dream again, and they confer about Swift’s promised return and about Tintaglia. He wakes from a nightmare soon after and prepares himself for the day, not long afterwards being made to stand and wait as the various departure ceremonies take place. The party making the trip to the Out Islands is described in some detail, as is the billeting of said party. Thick’s discomfort at the travel soon manifests in others via the Skill that pours forth from the little man, and Dutiful soon Skills to him that he will be assigned to attend Thick. Reporting to that duty, he muses bitterly on “The adventure of travel by sea.”

As I reread the chapter this time, I was minded of a change in nomenclature from the Farseer Trilogy to the Tawny Man. The former uses the term “Outislands” where the latter uses “Out Islands”; similarly, “Outislanders” and “Out Islanders.” Words matter, not only in novels, and not only in this part of Hobb’s work, and I have to wonder what it is the shift in term, small and subtle as it is, signifies. There has to be something–despite the claims of some who would argue that the curtains are blue always and only because the curtains are blue; each word in the text is chosen, placed deliberately, and adjusted by consideration between author and editor, and both respond to the situations in which they have lived and do live. The curtains could easily be red or white or absent, so that even if the author is not consciously aware of a reason to make them blue, the author is responding to a context in which a curtain is or ought to be blue. Similarly, for the nomenclature to change indicates a context in which it ought to change the way it changes. Understanding it is not necessary to enjoy the story, of course, but it does not necessarily preclude that enjoyment, either–at least, not when it is done well.

So there’s that, at least.

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