A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 349: Dragon Haven, Chapter 20

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

Following a message-exchange in which the topic of marriage appears to be broached between Erek and Detozi, the final chapter of the novel, “Kelsingra,” begins with Alise taking dictation from the returned Rapskal and assessing the youth as she does so. That the party has come near to Kelsingra is noted.

It returns from before and before!
It’s still Frozen History by MeetV on DeviantArt, here, used for commentary.

The progress of the dragons, their keepers, the Tarman, and the crew of the same from the meeting with Rapskal to the outskirts of Kelsingra is glossed, being a laborious process of several days. Weather and darkness hindered the beginning of the resumed journey, but Heeby and Rapskal urge the others onwards, and the group comes to the opposite bank of a river across from Kelsingra.

Alise notes her motives for writing Rapskal’s report, and she assesses the changes that have occurred in the youth along with the party’s situation. Alise prompts Rapskal for more details, which he gives, elucidating his time from his loss to his rejoining the group. Her also notes, briefly, some of the status of the city, exciting Alise and frustrating her, as she cannot yet reach the city. After Rapskal rejoins the other keepers, Alise and Leftrin confer about him and the implications of their arrival at Kelsingra. They plan for their futures together, short-term and longer, and Leftrin’s mind reels with possibility.

Elsewhere, Carson and Sedric confer after having attended to their dragons. Carson purposes to teach Sedric to hunt, but Sedric demurs and distracts Carson with other matters. Meanwhile, Thymara muses on her situation and confers with Tats about how matters stand. Tats voices some dissatisfaction with that status, and he asks to see Thymara’s nascent wings. She reluctantly accedes to his requests, amid which Rapskal joins them. Tats attempts to deflect Rapskal, but the latter persists in urging Thymara to develop her wings as Heeby had done, offering to help her with them. And Sintara makes a test of her own wings, surveying them and taking to the air.

Formal announcement of the betrothal of Erek and Detozi concludes the novel.

It is always a pleasure to revisit such things as the image above and the references in its caption. In a sense, it is like calling on an old friend after a time away, both having changed and both taking the time to catch up. Indeed, one of the pleasures of working on this rereading series, even if haphazardly and intermittently as has been the case for me, is in that revisiting. I see different things, I think, in each reading, and the differences in what I see are a way for me to track the differences in myself from myself. I like to think that I continue to grow in more ways than the horizontal across the years, and I believe that I can look in my journals for some of how I viewed the novel when first I read it, more than ten years ago. I do recall the delight in seeing the novel on the bookstore shelves, calling to me from between hard covers. And that much remains a pleasure, when I find it again.

Less pleasant are the overtones of the interactions among Thymara, Tats, and Rapskal in the chapter. Again, I know the latter two are adolescents, and it is inappropriate to expect adult thoughts from those whose brains are presumably not fully formed–both because of the continued development of the brain into the 20s and because of the changes being effected by the dragons on their keepers. But that does not make Tats’s impositions less impositions, and it does not make the discussion between Tats and Rapskal about Thymara less insulting, as if she is not there herself and not at least as much in command of herself as they are of themselves. Once again, Thymara is treated in a proprietary way, something that has been a problem throughout the text–and which, unfortunately, contributes to its versimilitude.

For it is the case, often, that the bodies of girls and women are not considered to be fully their own, but to be governed and in some ways owned by the boys and men with whom they must interact. Even when, as Thymara, they make such efforts toward modesty as circumstances allow, and when they make clear and explicit that they are not entertaining romantic or intimate interest, they are overridden, overruled, overborne. Such interactions as are on display in the final chapter of the novel may seem innocent enough; I certainly remember a time in my life that I would have regarded them as such. But, again, I like to think that I have grown, and part of that growth is a recognition that such things–such things as I might well have done in my younger years, perhaps, had I had the chance to do so, rather than having been stymied by my own situations–only seem innocent to the guilty.

I know that a variation on Bellisario’s Maxim or the MST3K Mantra will likely be trotted out in response to such comments. (Yes, I cite such sources. Why not?) It is “just a fantasy novel,” after all, and despite my abortive attempts to make a career of compiling insightful commentaries on it and its like, there is something silly about getting up in arms over such a work. It is a remarkable position of privilege that lets me spend my time on this kind of thing rather than having to scramble to gather together enough calories in a day that I and my family don’t die, or gathering in enough money that we have a decent place to live. I know that, and better than a great many.


The art we make reflects who and what we are. What gets put into the world reflects the artist; what gets distributed reflects understandings of broader cultures; what gets read and re-read reflects the reader. (And if it doesn’t get read or re-read, it still offers a reflection.) The novel is a novel, but the novel exists, the series exists, the very genre of novel exists because it says something to us about us and the world in which we live, even as it portrays a world distinctly not our own. Just as many will lean in towards a mirror to see if that is, in fact, a pimple beside their nose or some other blemish spreading across their cheek, I can look more closely at the text to see what flaws of mine it shows me, to see the ways in which the thing reflected is marred–or, as the case may well be and often is, to see the beauty that is there to be found.

Reading Dragon Haven again has helped recall as much to me.

Hopefully, it won’t take me so long to get through the next one!

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4 thoughts on “A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 349: Dragon Haven, Chapter 20

  1. Amazing post
    This is a great analysis of Dragon Haven. I appreciate how you revisit and see different things each time. Your insight into the treatment of Thymara is thought-provoking. My question is, do you think the author intended to portray this kind of treatment of women, or was it just a reflection of the culture at the time the book was written?
    John O’Reilly


    • Thank you for reading and your comments!

      To answer, I think it’s a combination of both. There’s a fair bit of attention in the novels to how women and girls are treated (although I think it’s a more prominent theme in the Liveship Traders than in the Rain Wilds novels), and it’s consistent enough that it seems to be a deliberate commentary from the author. At the same time, writers necessarily write from particular perspectives; in this case, the comments made are in response to and engagement with broader sociocultural / sociohistorical concerns.

      Or so it seems to me, anyway. I acknowledge there are limitations to biographical criticism (as with any critical lens), and I’ve been out of academe long enough to know that I am somewhat out of practice.


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