A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 343: Dragon Haven, Chapter 11

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

Following yet more of the exchange among bird-keepers in Bingtown and Trehaug, “Revelations” begins with Alise waking Leftrin from their sleep together after their assignation. They confer about their dreams briefly before dressing and parting, and Alise considers her situation and the experience. For his part, Leftrin questions his ship, but the Tarman gives no answer.

Can’t you just hear Peer Gynt?
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

Downriver, Carson leads Sedric and Relpda back to the Tarman and the other dragons and keepers. Sedric chafes slightly at the situation but has no choice but to accepts it, and he reconsiders his long entanglement with Hest. Thinking about who may have supplanted him in Hest’s affections, Sedric finds himself pleased at how matters are changing.

Thymara stalks out to look for food for the group, unexpectedly accompanied by Tats. As they proceed, they discuss the possibility of return to Trehaug and the need to prove themselves. Thymara relates her experience growing up working alongside her father and the insufficiency of that in the eyes of her people. Relative risks of childbearing are also noted, and Thymara finds herself wearied by the recollection of Greft’s insistence that she pick a mate. Tats finds himself challenged on that very point, and Thymara denies both Tats and his challenger, injuring herself as she falls and flees.

Carson, Sedric, and Relpda return to the others. Alise, happy to see her friend return, is reminded by Sedric’s arrival of her responsibilities and entanglements in Bingtown, and she longs for his safe departure.

There is interesting commentary about what it takes to prove one’s self, something with which adolescents and young adults are (justly?) concerned. Given how often fantasy literature is assigned to younger readerships–even now, even in this time and after decades of serious academic treatment of the genre–this is perhaps understandable. Given Hobb’s insistence upon verisimilitude in the non-fantastical elements of her work, it is also understandable; I am not so far removed from my youth that I have forgotten the craving to prove myself, not seldom by mastering some obscure set of trivia, however useless it has been for me to do so. It might also be noted as an ongoing theme in Hobb’s Elderlings works. After all, Fitz spends a fair bit of time trying to find and assert his identity, and he wrestles with Hap’s doing the same; Althea, Brashen, and Wintrow also struggle to define who they are and oblige others to recognize the same, as do Malta and Reyn. Nor is as much restricted to Hobb; not for nothing is the Bildungsroman a commonplace.

Still, the specific questions raised about how to prove one’s self are of interest, the kind of thing I would be apt to point out to students if I had any:

  • Is breaking a rule a means of proving one’s worth? Is it so even if the rule is in place for good reason? What does it prove about a person to break a rule that protects others?
  • What does it mean to be a woman or a man? Why does it mean that, in the context of the novel and / or of the reader?
  • To whom is it needful to prove one’s self? Why?

I used to nurture, and I have not at this point forgotten, the idea of teaching a course on Hobb’s work. I have taught Assassin’s Apprentice, long ago, now, and it went over well. I am not as good a classroom instructor now as then, obviously, but I have gotten better at structuring lessons and developing assignments…I wonder if it might yet work.

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