A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 336: Dragon Haven, Chapter 4

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

Following more of the ongoing exchange among bird-keepers, “Blue Ink, Black Rain” begins with Alise sitting quietly and contemplating the insights offered by her burgeoning friendship with Bellin, a crewmate aboard the Tarman. Leftrin interrupts her as she writes, and she reports that she is recording conversations with the dragons, describing her progress with them. Leftrin inquires about her scholarly apparatus, which she describes in some self-deprecating terms, and an offhand comment leads her to a new realization about the work. When she tries to write of it, though, she realizes she is out of ink, and she makes to call on Sedric for more.

Cramming this much into a smaller space would be…difficult. And my library is reduced from what it was…
Image is mine.

Sedric stirs to consciousness, disturbed by the intrusion, and cries out. Alise, startled, explains herself, and Sedric panics at her going through his goods. He responds snappishly to her, and she stalks out, equally snappish. After, Sedric considers his situation and the continuing communion he has with the dragon Relpda. The changes the dragon’s blood have wrought on him are noted, and Carson calls on him. The tensions of his interactions with Carson are rehearsed, as are the doubts about his life with Hest that they prompt in him. Carson confers about Davvie with Sedric, the two arriving at an understanding regarding the boy and Carson urging Sedric to out himself.

In a boat together, Thymara and Rapskal proceed together in the dragons’ wake, Thymara rehearsing recent events and their fallout. The pair bring their boat ashore along with the other keepers, setting up camp for the evening, and Rapskal heads off in search of of food. After he leaves, Tats approaches Thymara, and the two confer about their situation. Noting the closeness among some of the other keepers, Thymara grows jealous, and discussion of sex among the keepers ensues. Rapskal returns amid it, making discussion uncomfortable in the detail he provides. Thymara stalks off, encountering Sedric, and the two talk together briefly before Thymara stalks off again. This time, she encounters Alise and Sintara in an argument about herself. The dragon rebukes both Alise and Thymara, and the two work to comfort one another afterward.

Leftrin comes off watch and considers his situation before he meets with Jess. Jess proposes harvesting parts from a dragon he has cultivated and sedated, and he suggests absconding with their prize together. Melee ensues.

Sintara considers Thymara and Alise briefly before becoming aware of an incoming flood. The dragons and their keepers scramble towards safety, but to no avail, and Sintara is taken by the flood. She recovers, but Thymara is swept away, and Sintara recovers her at Alise’s urging, claiming her triumphantly.

I find myself struck by the easy acceptance of same-sex attraction among the hunters that accompany the Tarman and the dragon keepers upstream. It is something at odds with my own experience; growing up in rural central Texas I was, and living in rural central Texas I am surrounded by people who do a lot of hunting and fishing. Many of them profess homophobic sentiments with varying degrees of vehemence; few of them avow acceptance of same-sex attraction or acting thereupon. Admittedly, I am not sufficiently acquainted with many people for them to confide their views in me, so there may be great differences between the performances made publicly and those made privately. And in any event, part of the nature of fantasy literature is that it is escapist; it can easily be aspirational, and the argument might be made that it both inherently is and that it ought to be so. (To be sure, that would have some interesting implications for such works as Donaldson’s. But that’s a discussion for another time and place, as well as another student than me. I have enough to do with this project without taking on others. Yet, oh! how they beckon!)

Indeed, the social commentary Hobb offers, consciously or otherwise, is striking. Perhaps it is because I am looking for such things, anymore. Many will oppose such things, calling for me and others who read with intent to “let a story be a story.” But stories are human products, and the people who make them are enmeshed in their systems of governance and culture. The stories told cannot help but be reactions to and engagements with the same–and with those that follow, as they continue to be told and written and heard and read.

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