A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 297: Fool’s Fate, Chapter 20

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The succeeding chapter, “Corridors,” opens with a brief note about Aslevjal Island before turning to Fitz and the Fool investigating the first dungeon, the door to which is described in some detail–as are its inmates, including the two who had been dispatched to retrieve supplies. One of them is dead, the other Forged–along with the three other inhabitants of the cell. The Fool pleads with Fitz to aid them, but Fitz refuses, noting that he would be as likely to be killed as to kill them and that their essential humanity is already lost.

Fitz and the Fool proceed, finding other prisoners and additional signs of habitation beneath the ice. They find a tidal chamber in their explorations and are turned back, and they manage to find where Icefyre lies, with evidence that someone has already tried to kill the dragon, without success. The Fool espies the Black Man and gives chase, along with Fitz, and while they are in pursuit, they are themselves taken captive, Fitz knocked unconscious.

I note with some interest a small detail at the end of the chapter. As he and the Fool are ambushed, Fitz notes that he “plunged [his] blade into the wolf-hide tunic of the first man who leaped upon” him. It could have been reindeer-hide, bear-hide, seal-skin, or any number of other things; it was, instead, a wolf. A character who had himself inhabited the body of a wolf and who had long enjoyed a psychic bond with one stabs another lupine-associated figure–justifiably so, certainly, but still…I’ve seen the comment made that Hobb delights in being cruel to her characters, and while I cannot speak to its accuracy (though I think not), it is another insult piled upon Fitz, who, despite the many, many bad decisions he has made, does not deserve quite so many as he has received.

Maybe you could send something my way?

A Hymn against the Stupid God: 185

The sunshine does not work to end disease
Among the folk who say to illness “Please
Infect me with you; help me thus to cease
To be a part of life, to join the ranks
Of those whose life is held in pressured tanks
Purchased, set up, used with little thanks
To those who still must smile despite abuse.
Put us thus to Stupid God’s misuse.”
Let those who from such orisons recuse
Themselves be free of their effects, I pray,
And be not scalded by the too-bright day
That seems to plague those who, not far away,
Are bound by those named to devotions foul,
Spared the torment of the bright-eye’s scowl.

Nothing apropos at all here…
Photo by Travis Rupert on Pexels.com

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Or send a little bit my way!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 296: Fool’s Fate, Chapter 19

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The following chapter, appropriately titled “Below the Ice,” starts with in-milieu historical comments from Fedwren before returning to the excavation work. Dutiful, Elliania, and Peottre all join in the heavy work, as do the Witted who have accompanied Dutiful, the Fool, and the Hetgurd representatives. Chade sends for more supplies, although Peottre is dubious about the errand, and Fitz notes the striated layers that indicate annual snowfalls, pondering the ancientry of the dragon in question.

Even the NSF gets it…
Image is Kendrick Taylor’s on an NSF page, which makes it public domain, I believe.

Fitz also considers relative strengths in the Wit, as well as Thick’s infatuation with the dragon. The perils of Skill use are recalled, and Fitz’s own talent with the magic remains quiet. Dutiful makes contact with Nettle through the Skill, and Fitz is given more reason to regret his decisions to keep her away from Buckkeep earlier in her life. His lessons in the Wit with Web also continue, if quietly.

Chade expresses his worries about the pair sent to retrieve supplies and decides to dispatch Fitz, Thick, and the Fool to retrieve the pair and the supplies. Fitz agrees, and he persuades the Fool to accompany him along the way. Their trip goes pleasantly enough at first, with Fitz noting Thick’s improvement–done via the Skill–and that they are observed. The group does encounter difficulty with their trail, the glacier opening before them, and Fitz and the Fool are swallowed into it.

Fitz and the Fool find themselves in an icy cavern that they begin to search out. At some length, they come into ice-caves that have been worked; signs of occupation are clear to Fitz. The Fool grows apprehensive as they proceed and come “to the first dungeon” as the chapter ends.

There’s nothing ominous about that ending at all, is there?

It is, of course, time for this kind of thing to be happening. The present chapter is in the last half of the final book of the trilogy; the final conflict that has been foreshadowed–and how!–for quite a while, even going back to an early chapter in the second Elderlings novel, is imminent from the genre (which remains Tolkienian epic fantasy even if there are some adjustments in sourcing from North America and focus on a less-noble character) and the position in the book. Dropping the deuteragonists down a hole may seem something of a deus ex machina, I admit, but I have opined about the utility of the device, and, well, the books that involve the Fool do tend to center around questions of predestination (even if translation and gender studies seem to be the dominant threads in criticism at this point), so perhaps some machination will necessarily be at work in them. (Maybe, someday, I’ll develop the project. But this isn’t the day for it; I’ve got too much other work to do.)

Maybe I can do some of that work for you?

Or maybe you can help me?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 295: Fool’s Fate, Chapter 18

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The next chapter, “Ice,” opens with a letter from the Old Blood to Kettricken. It moves then to initial efforts to tunnel to Icefyre, the manner of which is described in some detail. Fitz works throughout the day, and in the evening, Chade and Dutiful confer with him about Thick’s seeming distraction by the dragon and Fitz’s own continued absence in the Skill. The Prince and his advisor purpose to reach out to Nettle via the Skill, and their talk turns to the Hetgurd representatives before ranging to the Fool, and Fitz finds himself pulled between the Fool and his old mentor until Dutiful expressly charges him to follow his conscience in the matter.

Image from Sharon Mollerus under CC BY 2.0 license, used for commentary.

The three continue to converse, Dutiful noting Elliania’s reluctance to keep him on the appointed task. They try to puzzle out the source for the command and the compulsion, and Fitz is dismissed, his lack of Skill making him no help to what must come next. After some brief survey, he calls upon the Fool, hearing the latter’s tale of arriving at Aslevjal–including a trip through Skill-pillars and aloft astride Girl-on-a-Dragon once again. Fitz drifts off amid the tale and wakes to find himself at peace with the sleeping Fool.

The present chapter makes reference to Fitz’s investiture of Girl-on-a-Dragon with a number of his own more painful memories, an excision of pain from himself. It is an adolescent fantasy, of course, to be able to simply pull out of one’s own mind memories of trauma and torment; they inhere in the mind and body far too deeply to be so treated, unless by some strange magic to which the readers have access only through the reading. And it is one I find I still indulge; there’s enough in my past that I’d forget if I could, certainly, but I cannot do so. (Admittedly, most of it consists of reminders of my own poor judgment. It’s part of why I don’t do a lot; I’m worried about screwing up once again.) But I am obliged to wonder what I have forgotten and what I have lost because I have forgotten what I have–and I have no Fool to my Fitz, though I would not be happy to put myself into his position, certainly.

Affective as my reading is and tends to be, I know better than to think that I would do well in such situations as the books I read depict. Years of sedentary study and of trying to live the life to which they tend do not prepare a body well for adventure, after all…

Maybe contact me below to help with your writing needs?

Or simply send your support!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 294: Fool’s Fate, Chapter 17

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A chapter titled “Icefyre” follows, opening with an in-milieu translation of an Out Island story before turning to Fitz continuing to suffer the aftereffects of his unexpected dosing with elfbark. When he finally comes to, he finds Web attending him. The older man quietly notes that he has sussed out Fitz’s loss of access to the Skill, and the two converse, Web making clear his distaste for the use of such drugs as elfbark.

The titular dragon, as imagined by Jackie Morris; image used for commentary.

Their conversation continues, Web enjoying having the chance to speak with Fitz regarding his magics and the community of which he can be part because of them, until they are distracted by a strange swelling within the Wit. At Fitz’s question, Web begins to offer instruction in uses of the Wit other than those Fitz had instinctively known, giving Fitz some practice as they arrive in the company of the others in Dutiful’s party.

They arrive with them to find an argument in progress regarding Icefyre and how to approach the task of his destruction. Information about the dragon is offered, and aspersion heaped upon Dutiful and upon the Narwhal Clan that has caused his challenge to be in place. The Witted members of Dutiful’s party confirm that Icefyre is present and lives, thought they do not understand how it can be so, and Dutiful himself asks Narcheska to release him from the promise made rashly. She does not, and more argument about the manner of taking Icefyre proceeds, leaving Fitz to consider many unfortunate possibilities and the likely need of his clandestine skills. Meanwhile, the Witted coterie finds the place in the ice where the dragon is most likely to be, and a plan to dig to him is begun.

The present chapter is just shy of halfway through the novel. It is clear that a turning point in the narrative has been reached, both in terms of the physical object of the book (I am reading a print copy) and of the sense of story; the present chapter reads as a sort of narrative pause. Matters will soon accelerate–and I look forward to being swept along by the novel once again!

I’m always grateful for your support!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 293: Fool’s Fate, Chapter 16

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The succeeding chapter, “Elfbark,” opens with a brief passage from an in-milieu herbal that reinforces the addictive nature of the plant. It turns then to Fitz reporting to Dutiful and Chade after a night of poor sleep, reporting the Fool’s suppositions about Civil’s erstwhile fiancée. They purpose to set up Skill-communication with Nettle at Buckkeep, and, after a tense exchange, Fitz excuses himself from his prince and his mentor.

This kind of thing again…
gabbyworks’s art on Elderling Magic is used for commentary.

Fitz sees to Thick and learns from him that bad dreams were broadly afoot the previous evening, such as even Nettle could not address. Fitz considers it as camp is struck and the journey up Aslevjal continues. Talk with the Fool commences, soon turning to the Elderlings and such of their nature as the Fool has been able to uncover and determine. Progress up Aslevjal is slow and tiresome, wearing on Thick, and at length, he lashes out through the Skill at Fitz. Fitz walls himself off from the Skill and realizes in short order that the magic is being used against not only him, but the whole party; Thick comes to the same realization shortly afterward. The two reach an accord and join the rest at length.

Fitz and Thick are summoned to attend on Dutiful and Chade, and Fitz reports as he is able, warning of the Skill being deployed against them. They are interrupted by Peottre arriving, offering cakes laced with elfbark–which herb Fitz is aware of too late to help himself, though he prevents Thick from taking any, and he gives a coded warning to Chade. Chade heeds it, joining Fitz in preventing Thick from eating any of the drug, and he dismissed Fitz, intimating that he should try to purge himself.

Fitz makes the attempt, with little success, and he finds his way to the Fool for aid. The Fool takes him in and is taken aback at the effects of the elfbark upon him: “It’s never affected you that way before.” The effects are detailed, including pulling at his hair and lip–and the melancholy that sets in on elfbark users begins to take hold of Fitz, to the Fool’s chagrin.

This is not the first chapter in an Elderlings novel to bear the title “Elfbark,” clearly, though Hobb can be forgiven for recycling a title more than two hundred chapters later. I can imagine that comparing the two chapters directly might make for an interesting short work–alas, that I have not Marvell’s world enough and time! I do, however, note the greater attention to the drug’s immediate effects in the present chapter than I recall being the case previously, and I am reminded of particular experience in my work at the substance use treatment center. Again, Hobb does well at putting forth the verisimilitude with the mundane she cites as necessary for effective fantasy–and I am glad of it, even if I am a bit uncomfortable at the reminder of things I have seen.

I can always use your help!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 292: Fool’s Fate, Chapter 15

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The following chapter, “Civil,” opens with a passage detailing the White Prophet Hoquin and his Catalyst, Wild Eye, before moving to Fitz calling on the Fool in the evening. He finds Swift with him, entertained by the Fool’s puppetry, and realizes he has made a gaffe by entering, but he cannot find a way to extricate himself politely or with discretion. The Fool opines on his tent and possessions, remarking at some length on Tintaglia and his need to save dragons. Swift rebels at the idea that the Fool, whom he knows as Lord Golden, would oppose Dutiful’s mission.

Not quite right, but telling…
The Fool by uponadaydreamer on DeviantArt is used for commentary.

Conversation is interrupted by the intrusion of Civil Bresinga, who believes an unseemly assignation is soon to commence. That conversation is interrupted by the call of a guard, challenging a passer-by whom Peottre remarks is the Black Man, occasioning unease. After it is settled, Civil challenges the Fool, still upset about Golden’s earlier manipulations. The Fool is not blameless, and Fitz recognizes his own complicity in what has become the shame of Civil’s former fiancée. Melee ensues, with the Fool swiftly gaining control of the fight and restraining Civil with little evident effort. Amid his assertion that the matter is and should be closed, the Fool claims his status as White Prophet and Fitz’s as Catalyst, and Dutiful calls an end to proceedings.

Fitz tends to the Fool after, and the two confer quietly about Civil’s former intended and Piebald entanglement. Talk turns to the Black Man, the Fool noting the pronounced portentousness about him. Talk pivots to fate, and Fitz asserts that he cannot be as he is and stand by while the Fool faces death. And, at the Fool’s request, Fitz bunks in his tent that night.

I find myself once again, yet again, still, reading affectively as I reread the current chapter. I note with some concern the accusations of grooming voiced in the chapter, given prevailing public discourse as I write this; yet another reactionary drive to boycott Disney is but one symptom of a larger problem in the world, and I admit that there is something somewhat silly about my continuing this project as if it matters in any way against the troubles of the world. But that’s been something of a concern for me for some time; it’s nothing new, really, and I should be more accustomed to it at this point than it seems I am. And in any event, the accusations are false in the book; there is that much, at least, though those in the readers’ world cannot be so easily addressed as are Civil’s against the Fool.

I am minded of one of the truisms about fantasy fiction: it is escapist. And I’m minded that there’s nothing wrong with that, in itself; I’m reminded of Tolkien asking in “On Fairy-stories” “Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?” I may not be in a prison such as eats too many people, and in the United States, disproportionately people of color, and I acknowledge that I occupy a number of positions of privilege–there’s a lot in my life that makes it easier, and a lot more that doesn’t make it harder. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a fair bit wrong, and it is pleasant at times to see visions that, even in a fallen world and with flawed characters, a better resolution is possible.

Help me make this Friday a good one?

A Translation of The Dream of the Rood

Coming from my archives and appropriately enough for the season on this Spy Wednesday, the following, which I did in support of some of the scholarly work I was doing back when I still thought I might be able to be a professor when I grew up. (Seriously, I did the translation so I could write a conference paper–which I presented as a PhD student in 2008.) Use it in good health, and note that any errors are wholly my own.

Indeed, the best of dreams I intend to tell
what I dreamt at midnight,
after voice-bearers went to rest.

One source…
The Ruthwell Cross by JThomas is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

It seemed to me that I saw a most wonderful tree
lifted on high, enwrapped in light,
brightest of beams. That beacon was all
covered with gold; gems stood
fair at the corners of the earth; and five were there
up on that shoulder-span. All beheld there the angel of the Lord,
fair through the fore-ordained. Indeed there was no gallows of a felon.
But holy spirits there beheld him,
men upon the earth and all this great creation.

Wonderful was the wood of victory, and I stained by sins,
badly wounded with sins. I saw the wood of glory,
honored in clothes, to shine pleasantly,
adorned with gold; gems had
covered worthily the tree of the forest.
Yet through that gold I was able to perceive
the former struggle of wretched ones, when that it first began
to bleed on the right side. I was troubled with all sorrows.
I was afraid for that fair vision. I beheld that eager beacon
to change in clothes and colors; at times it was with wetness moistened,
drenched with the flow of blood, at other times adorned with treasure.
Yet I laid there a long while
beheld sorrowful the Savior’s tree,
until I heard that it spoke.
The best wood then began to speak a word:

“That was very long ago, (I yet remember that),
that I was hewn in the end of the forest,
moved from my root. Strong evil men took me away from there,
where they made themselves a spectacle, commanded me to lift up their outlaws.
They bore me there on the shoulders of men, until they set me on the hill,
enough evil men fastened me there. I then saw the Lord of mankind
to hurry with great zeal, he who intended to ascend upon me.
There I dared not against the word of the Lord
to bend or to break, when I saw to tremble
the corners of the earth. I might all
the evil men have felled, yet I stood fast.

“He stripped himself then [,] the young prince (that was God almighty),
strong and resolute; he mounted on the high gallows,
brave in the sight of many, when he meant to redeem mankind.
I trembled then [as] the warrior embraced me; I dared not yet to bend to earth,
fall to the corners of the earth. But I [was] obliged to stand fast.
I was raised up the Rood. I lifted up the powerful King,
Lord of heaven; I dared not bow down.
They drove through me with dark nails; on me are the wounds visible,
open malicious wounds. I dared not injure any of them.
They mocked us both together. I was all moistened with blood,
[it] poured out of the side of the man, when he had sent his ghost on.

“I had endured on the hill much
of cruel fate. I saw the God of the hosts
violently stretch out. With darkness had
the heavens covered the Wielder’s corpse,
the bright radiance; shade went forth
dark under the heavens. All creation wept,
lamented the fall of the King. Christ was on the cross.
Nevertheless the eager then came from afar
to that noble one. I beheld all that.
I was sorely troubled with sorrows, yet I bent to the hands of the men,
humble in great strength. They then named almighty God,
removed him from the oppressive punishment. The warriors left me
to stand drenched in moisture; I was all wounded badly with darts.
Then they laid down the limb-weary one, they stood at the head of the body;
they then beheld the Lord of heaven, and he rested a while,
tired after the great conflict. They began then to make him a tomb [,]
men in sight of the slayer; they carved that from bright stone,
set him therein the Wielder of victory. They began then to sing him a dirge,
wretched in the evening; then they desired to depart afterwards
tired from the glorious lord; they rested there as a small host.

“Yet we there weeping a good while
stood in the position, after the cry went up
of the warriors; the corpse cooled,
fair house of the spirit. Then to us the man began to fall
all to the earth; that was dreadful fate!
They buried us as one in the deep pit. Yet to me then the thanes of the Lord,
friends heard of ………
adorned me in gold and silver.

“Now you are able to hear, oh my hero the dear one,
that I have endured the work of evil men,
of pains of sorrows. The time is now come
that they honored me far and wide,
men across the earth and all this great creation,
they prayed to this standard. On me the Son of God
suffered a while. Therefore glorious I now
tower under the heavens, and I may heal
every one of those who is in awe of me.
Long ago I was become the hardest of tortures,
most hateful to people, before I for him a way of life
prepared right, to voice-bearers.
Indeed, the Lord of splendor honored me then
over the wood on the hill, Warden of the kingdom of heaven,
just as he also his mother, Mary herself,
almighty God for the sake of all men
honored over all womankind.

“Now I bid you, my hero the dear one,
that you should say this vision to men,
reveal in words that it is the tree of the world,
he on whom almighty God sorrowed
for the many sins of mankind
and Adam’s old actions.
He tasted death then; yet afterwards the Lord arose
with his great might as an aid to men.
He then ascended into heaven. Hither afterwards comes
in this middle earth to seek mankind
on doomsday the Lord himself,
almighty God, and with his angels,
he who then desires to judge, he has the power of doom,
he to each of the ones as to him earlier here
in this fleeting life deserves.
Then are none able to be unafraid
of the word that the Wielder speaks.
He will ask of the multitude then where the man should be,
he who desires [,] for the name of the Lord [,] of death
painful to taste, as he who died on the tree before.
But they will then be afraid, and think little
what they should begin to say to Christ.
Then need not any be very afraid
who before themselves bear in their breasts the best of beacons.
But through the rood must seek the kingdom
from the earthly way every soul,
they who with the Wielder intend to dwell.”

A picture of the manuscript, sourced here, with license.

Then I prayed to the tree with glad spirit,
with great zeal, there I alone was
small in the host. The spirit was
urged in going forth; in all many endured
times of longing. It is to me now a joy of life
that I should be able to seek the wood of victory
alone more often than all men
to honor [it] well. To me it is the desire for the
great in spirit, and my allegiance is
directed to that rood. I have not much of riches
of friends on the earth. But they hence forth
departed from the delights of the world, they sought the King of the world;
they live now in the heavens with the High Father,
they live in the world. And I hope for me
in each of the days when [it is] me the rood of the Lord,
which I before beheld here on earth,
should fetch in this fleeting life
and should bring me then where is great bliss,
joy in the heavens, where the people of the Lord is
seated at feast, where is everlasting bliss;
and it then should place me where I will afterwards be able
to live in the world, well with the holy
to partake of joys. The Lord should be a friend to me,
he who here on earth suffered before
on that gallows-tree for the sins of man.
He redeemed us and gave us life,
a heavenly home. Joy was renewed
with glory and with bliss for they who endured burning.
The Son was triumphant in that journey,
mighty and successful, when he came with many,
a host of spirits, into the kingdom of God,
the Lord almighty, with angels to bliss
and all the holy ones in the heavens who had before
dwelt in the world, when the Wielder came for them,
almighty God, where his homeland was.

Perhaps you can adorn me with some gold and silver, or seek me for your scribe-work below!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 291: Fool’s Fate, Chapter 14

Read the previous entry in the series here.
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The next chapter, “The Black Man,” opens with a comment about Skill use from a recent Skillmaster before turning to Fitz sleeping dreamlessly and waking to consider approaching Web before he checks in on Thick and assesses his situation. He also reconnoiters more, learning from the Hetgurd delegation that an offering was not accepted, about which they are concerned. Fitz considers matters as he attends to Thick, and he notes with some interest the arrival of the Narcheska on the island, the reception for whom is detailed.

“The Narcheska weeps as she walks.”
Image from Faceless Frey, here, used for commentary.

Argument ensues among the Out Islanders, leading to a formal request from the Hetgurd delegation that Elliania withdraw her challenge to Dutiful; she refuses, with clear regret. The refusal is noted formally, with claims made against future loss and accepted as valid. Fitz takes the opportunity to ask the Fool about arrival on the island, only to be told “I flew”; a brief discussion about self-determination follows before the Fool walks away. Web takes his place, and Fitz and Web confer briefly. Arrangements to continue the expedition follow, and Fitz has to chivvy Thick along with the rest of the group. Notably, the Fool strikes camp swiftly and alone, and he prompts caution from most, interest from Swift and Cockle, and ire from Civil. Fitz takes note of the attitudes on display.

Peottre outlines the challenges that face the party’s trek to the dragon, Icefyre, remarking that those who follow him should step where he steps due to the unstable and uncertain nature of glacial ice. They head out, Thick going slowly due to stature and illness and over-deliberate care with his steps. Fitz, accompanying him, chafes at the slow pace, and Chade Skills to him about the Fool and about the Narcheska, whom he notes “weeps as she walks.” Thick disrupts the Skilling, and Fitz, agitated, moves ahead. He realizes, however, that Thick is moving in time with the music that swells within him, and he tries to comfort Thick as he realizes they are being left behind. Fitz also sees a shadowy figure that he recognizes as not belonging to Dutiful’s expedition, and he Skills a report thereof. Responses to it prompt Thick along with more haste.

After Fitz and Thick arrive at the expedition’s camp, Fitz settles Thick in and notes several absences: the Fool, and Peottre and Elliania. Fitz and Chade confer quietly about the Skill and its perils for them, and Fitz notes that Thick offers them a way to contact Buckkeep. He is in contact through the Skill with Nettle, who is at the court, and Chade offers a gentle rebuke to a still-stubborn apprentice.

I am in mind of Njals Saga once again with the pseudo-legal forms used to comment on Elliania’s challenge and her insistence upon it. I am in mind, too, of the ways in which the journey up Aslevjal parallels the earlier travel along the Skill-road away from Jhaampe, towards the stone quarry, back in Assassin’s Quest. Both Fitz and the Fool had been on that journey, during which Kettle accompanied the group, albeit at a slower pace than the rest of the party; in the present chapter, the Fool keeps his own company, while Fitz seems to take the place of Kettle in the arrangement. How deliberate the parallel is, I cannot say; intent is a tricky question at best. But the intent matters less than the effect, in any event, and I am once again taken by the work to connect the novels to one another; it is something I appreciate, and greatly.

Care to send a little love along?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 290: Fool’s Fate, Chapter 13

Read the previous entry in the series here.
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The following chapter, “Aslevjal,” begins with an in-milieu comment from Fedwren about Forging. It turns thence to the approach to the titular island and to the Fool who waits upon it for the Six Duchies’ party to arrive. Fitz is tasked with assisting Thick, Chade contriving thus to keep Fitz and the Fool apart. Ships are unloaded and camps set up, the voyagers’ arrangements described.

Remember these?
Source in image and here, used for commentary.

Taking advantage of Riddle’s offer to attend to Thick for a while, Fitz, scouts out the campground, noting the presence of memory stone in the area, as well as signs of work done upon it and with it. He finds a partly-sculpted stone dragon and summons Chade and Dutiful to examine it; Akron remarks that it is not the dragon they seek, but “one of the Pale Woman’s follies,” before Peottre silences him.

After, Fitz confers with Chade and Dutiful via the Skill about the Fool, and Fitz is charged with caution as he gathers more information. The memory stone receives more examination, and Fitz perceives a number of memories contained within it, linking the work done on Aslevjal’s shores to the work Verity and others had done carving their dragons. Fitz notes the problems that would inhere in a dragon thus made, and he reports his findings to Chade, who considers a strange repatriation.

Fitz returns to Thick, who asks for honey. Fitz takes the opportunity to call on the Fool, visiting the Fool’s tent and finding it empty; he avails himself of the honey he finds there, being sure to leave clear sign of his presence so as not to present himself as attempting deceit. Returning with the honey mollifies Thick, and he notes to Fitz Nettle’s anger at him, spurred by Burrich’s departure and her own obliged relocation to Kettricken’s court. The news offers Fitz some comfort, although he frets somewhat as he muses on his daughter’s situation and his own.

From the vantage of rereading, I can affirm the foreshadowing in the present chapter; there are signs here of what is to come. Even among them, though, I find links back to earlier parts of the Realm of the Elderlings series that I appreciate; I noted to students when I had them, and I reaffirm in the lesson plans I write for contract work, that one of the things that argues in favor of artistic quality is the way a given work hangs together. It’s not much of a stretch, if any at all, to read a series of novels as a single work rather than as separate entities (particularly as concerns fantasy literature in the Tolkienian tradition, which the Realm of the Elderlings is despite making abundant use of other sources and backgrounds). As such, it is not out of line to apply the same artistic standards to a series as to an entry in it–not obligatory, certainly, and not without the caveat, for logical and other reasons (I am aware of the fallacy of composition, thank you), that some parts can be better than others, but not impossibly or even without good cause. And the work done to unify the Realm of the Elderlings novels as they proceed, although not without flaw, helps with that. At least for me, anyway…

Toss a coin to your scholar?