Reflective Comments about the Fourth Year

It has been four years since the first post to this webspace went up, four years that I have been working on Elliott RWI. As I write this, I have made 747 posts to the blogroll (this will be post 748), and I have posted many individual pages, collecting 21049 views from 8113 visitors. In the last year, therefore, I have made 151 posts and collected 3638 views from 2560 visitors (based on “Reflective Comments about the Third Year”). Performance seems to be up from last year (see the figures below), which I ascribe to more regular posting and work to integrate images into more of my online writing.

Figure 1 is posts per year by year of blogging.

Fig1

Figure 2 is views per year by year of blogging.

Fig2

Figure 3 is visitors per year by year of blogging.

Fig3

I am pleased to be able to continue doing this kind of work, and I look forward not only to another year of it, but many other years of it. I hope I can count on your help to do that work; I’d appreciate you sending a little bit my way here.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series–Entry 7: Assassin’s Apprentice, Chapter 7

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


The seventh chapter in Assassin’s Apprentice, “An Assignment,” presents commentaries about the death of Regal’s mother, Queen Desire, from what seems to have been a drug overdose. It moves on to note the mourning rituals enacted in the wake of Chivalry’s death, focusing on haircutting and noting the extreme removals Burrich inflicts on Fitz–appropriate to mourning a father–and himself–more fit to a crowned king, despite Chivalry’s abdication. The extent of Burrich’s emotional investment in Chivalry is clear.

https://i0.wp.com/images2.fanpop.com/images/photos/6200000/Fitz-fixes-feist-s-fits-robin-hobb-6220226-612-770.jpg
Valérie Lachambre’s (?) Fitz Fixes Feist’s Fits, from Fanpop, used for commentary

In the weeks and months following Chivalry’s death, Chade summons Fitz several times. Fitz asks about his father and his circumstances, and Chade agrees that the death is suspicious–as well as noting both that Fitz is far from safe and that he judges his father overly harshly. Fitz’s regular life continues among the summonses, and he notes the increasing frequency of raids from the Out Islands before learning that he is to be sent as part of a diplomatic envoy to one of the Six Duchies experiencing many such raids. Burrich instructs him rapidly, and Fitz encounters the Fool unexpectedly; the Fool delivers a prophecy to the boy:

Fitz fixes feist’s fits. Fat suffices. It’s a message, I believe. A calling for a significant act. As you are the only one I know who endures being called Fitz, I believe it’s for you. As for what it means, how should I know? I’m a fool, not an interpreter of dreams. Good day.

Later, Chade informs Fitz his presence in the envoy is a cover for his first assignment as an assassin–potentially. Fitz is to assess the situation and, if disloyalty on the part of the local duke underlies the increase in raiding, he is to eliminate the duke–without allowing any of the others to be any the wiser. Fitz asks Chade about his own entry into the assassin’s profession–and Chade offers some answers, but not many.

Some thoughts emerge as I reread–and some, I think I have not thought before, though I have to wonder if I am bringing up things I’ve read without realizing I’m doing so. I’ve read a lot of criticism of Hobb’s writing, so it’s possible I’m recapitulating it; if I am, it’s unintentional.

  • Burrich is described in the novel as having been Chivalry’s man, committed to him to a degree exceeding the normal loyalty one might expect from those in service. (It’s a relationship that might well be likened to that between Sam and Frodo in Lord of the Rings.) Later novels explicate the relationship to some extent, though those novels also make a point of noting how little is ever made clear to Fitz–and thus to the reader–about life before Fitz’s arrival. (It is possible to read into that a comment about our own partial knowledge; what can we really know of the past other than pieces of it?) Given the metaphor for homosexuality already presented in the novel, though, as well as the decided homoeroticism that emerges in the later novels (and that no small amount of fanart depicts), that Burrich and Chivalry were more than servant and lord is a tantalizing prospect.
  • While this is not the first appearance of the Fool in the narrative, it is the first of the Fool’s predictions to come up in the text. It does seem to indicate that the concept of the Fool–what the Fool actually is–is not entirely clear at present; the Fool’s comment about not being an interpreter of dreams is at odds with later information, suggesting the concept changes during composition–or that the Fool does.
  • Fitz notes at the end of the chapter that he is thirteen as he takes on the first assignment. This is, of course, horrible to current sensibilities; sending children to wage war is atrocious, and assassination is less savory work than open war. At the same time, it sets up something of a precedent in the series; he is sent in part because, as a child, he would not be expected to be an assassin, and that lack of suspicion of a child returns in force later in the series. Seems there’s quite a bit of groundwork laid here for what comes afterwards…

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Initial Comments for the July 2019 Session at DeVry University

I have been offered two classes for the upcoming July 2019 instructional session at DeVry University: a section of ENGL 135: Advanced Composition (which I am teaching even now) and a section of ENGL 112: Composition (which I last taught during the November 2018 session). Both are co-sat, as was the case for the SPCH 275: Public Speaking section I taught during the recent March 2019 session; they combine an on-site hybrid group with an online-only group.

Image result for teaching
Image by David Senior for Flower Darby’s Chronicle of Higher Education piece, “How to Be a Better Online Teacher,” which I likely ought to read; used for commentary.

ENGL 135 appears to have gone through a redesign, which means the materials I’ve prepared for past students will not be applicable, or not as much so, as they are for the present session. There do appear to be fewer deliverables, though, which means I will likely not have as much work to prepare things as I have had in the past–or as much work to grade, which also has its attractions. I’ll need to review the course in more detail before I proceed, however, but that’s not particularly onerous.

ENGL 112 also appears to have gone through a redesign since I last taught it, so I’ll need to review the course and generate new materials in response to it, as well. Honestly, though, it is good for me to do so. Refreshing my teaching from time to time is helpful; it keeps me from growing complacent. I have seen many instructors at several colleges and universities grow fixed in their ways, inattentive to developing knowledge in their subject areas and in teaching, generally; it has not helped the students to be mired in the understandings of thirty years ago and more, nor has it helped those of us who have done more recent work in the academic humanities, to have such be the case. Nor yet is it good for the world outside to have things root in the exhausted soil of conclusions decades out of date and unresponsive to the many things learned since.

The session spans 8 July to 31 August 2019 (that’s what my contracts say, anyway). On-site meetings for ENGL 135 will be Thursdays at 1830 US Central Time in Room 106 of the San Antonio Metro Campus; on-site meetings for ENGL 112 will be Wednesdays at 1800 US Central Time in Room 105 of the San Antonio Metro Campus. Synchronous online sessions will occur at the same times; sessions will be recorded for later viewing. Office hours will be online on Mondays at 1800 US Central Time; other meetings may be made by appointment.

As ever, I appreciate having the chance to do this again. I’d hate to think that I’d get no use out of the studying I did to learn how to do it…

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series–Entry 6: Assassin’s Apprentice, Chapter 6

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


Chapter 6, “Chivalry’s Shadow,” opens with a rumination on royal naming traditions in the Six Duchies. It moves thence to a lesson Fitz has with Fedwren, the scribe who serves Buckkeep and after whom the Fedwren Project is named, who then asks the boy about the possibility of apprenticing with him. Fitz later discusses the issue with Chade, who explains why it would be a bad one to pursue. (The short answer is politics. A longer answer is that political concerns would almost certainly provoke one faction or another within the Six Duchies to kill Fitz.)

Environment - Buck Town by undercoreart
Buck Town by undercoreart on Deviantart.com, used for commentary.

During the discussion, Fitz’s frustration with being largely confined to Buckkeep emerges. He is soon tasked with a shopping trip to Buckkeep Town, during which he reacquaints himself with Molly. They reconnect relatively easily, and Fitz reads a bit of writing that Molly’s deceased mother left behind. She is grateful to him for the work, and some foreshadowing of romance to come emerges in their interactions.

As Fitz returns to Buckkeep, Verity and Regal overtake him. They bear the news that Chivalry, their elder brother and Fitz’s father, is dead.

Some points of interest emerge in the chapter. For one, a vendor in Buckkeep Town appears to recognize Fitz and to address him by the name of Keppet. The clear implication is that the vendor is Fitz’s mother, and Keppet is therefore the name he was given and should bear instead of FitzChivalry Farseer. Other bits and pieces that emerge in the series suggest that more is known of Fitz’s origins than he himself is given to understand, though it is never made clear by whom such things are known. Such things tend towards the Tolkienian bones from which the soup of story is made, though, or the unexplored vistas Tolkien mentions in his commentaries; they serve to suggest that the world of the Six Duchies has an independent life that exceeds perhaps even the authorial vision (though that is an overly sentimental and romantic reading, but I do not have to read as a detached academic unless I want to do so, being largely out of academe).

Further, while the return of a rightful and consummately skilled king to the throne is an integral part of the Tolkienian fantasy tradition, and most descriptions of Chivalry Farseer depict him as being such a consummately skilled man, the present chapter dispels any such notion. Chivalry is dead, and its honest and pompous brothers, and its bastard son, are what remain. If the series needed any more indication that it would not follow the Tolkienian narrative pattern prior to the chapter, it certainly does not with the present chapter taking place. And it serves as notice to the readers, if not necessarily to Fitz himself, that no characters in the works are safe (prefiguring the oft-lauded “realism” of George R.R. Martin’s works in publication, since Hobb’s novel was published more than a year before Martin’s–and I have Thoughts about the relationship between those novelists’ works).

While it may seem reasonably familiar ground to tread now, to the teenager steeped in Tolkienian fantasy I was then, the unsettling of such narrative tropes was almost disconcerting. I had read a lot even then, if not necessarily of the best quality, and I found myself on unfamiliar ground. It was not unwelcome that I did not know how things would go.

I do now, of course, but only after more than twenty years of reading and re-reading. It does not make revisiting the text unenjoyable.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series–Entry 5: Assassin’s Apprentice, Chapter 5

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


The next chapter in Assassin’s Apprentice, “Loyalties,” also opens with an in-milieu commentary, this one discussing the Six Duchies’ practice of single-titled nobility. That is, in the milieu, no noble can hold more than one fief or demesne; there is no long list of titles attached to any single name. The commentary also notes the schism and unrest promoted by a queen who regretted her choice to wed the king in the years leading up to the events of the novel.

Image result for engraved silver knife
Something like this drives a point home.
Image from PicClick.com, used for commentary

The main body of the chapter relates the shape of Fitz’s early training with Chade, which supplemented the more public instruction he received from others at Buckkeep and did much to make him a pleasantly regarded figure in the castle. Specific tasks receive attention, including the temporary hobbling of a horse and the interception of a particular letter intended for Regal, Fitz’s half-uncle. Small defiances and arguments also get a bit of notice, and the tension between Fitz’s own ethics and the demands of his obedience are manifested.

Such tensions emerge most prominently in a test Chade sets before Fitz. Regular reports to Shrewd have reaffirmed Fitz’s loyalty to his king, and Chade bids him purloin a table knife from the king’s chambers. Fitz refuses and is dismissed sharply; it wounds him, and he nurses that hurt through his tasks in the coming days. He comes under Burrich’s attention and ministrations, and they begin to have an effect–but Chade’s nighttime appearance and apology do more. Shrewd’s own apology, admitting that he had ordered the test of Fitz’s loyalty, also helps, though it does provoke a display of burgeoning adolescent pique from Fitz as he sits with Chade that evening.

There is something decidedly Machiavellian about Shrewd in the chapter, which is not necessarily out of place for the character but does, perhaps, serve as a comment about the nature of kingship in the Six Duchies. Again, Shrewd hires Fitz rather than welcoming him as family at their first meeting, and the wariness implicit in that transaction does emerge again in the test to which Shrewd insists his bastard grandson be put. Nor is it imprudent to determine whether an assassin can be trusted, even one that comes from within the family–after all, consanguinity has not precluded Regal from considering killing Fitz already, and it is not to be wondered at that a bastard might begin to resent social onus.

Reading through the chapter again, I found myself struck by how frightening a figure Chade actually is. He moves more or less unseen and unknown throughout Buckkeep and is a dedicated assassin given free rein to explore many different avenues of inquiry. He is also committed to the idea of kingship and reconciled to his place as a servant of the king–whoever the king may actually be. As open as he seems to be with Fitz, it is clear that if a kill order came down–if, say, Regal got his way with things–Fitz would be dead. It seems a reinforcement of Fitz’s loneliness that his closest connection is with such a man; however strong the mentor/mentee relationship is and may become, the distance that is present seems set to remain in place, and there are things such a relationship cannot teach that Fitz may well need to know.

Again, I find myself reading affectively. I am not sure whether or not it helps.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series–Entry 4: Assassin’s Apprentice, Chapter 4

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


The next chapter in Assassin’s Apprentice, “Apprenticeship,” continues the pattern of opening chapters with in-milieu commentary that bears in on the topic of the chapter; the passage regards education, as the chapter does. Fitz wakes to find his chamber, which he had thought private, attended to, and he is disrupted from his routines yet again to be fitted for clothing. While he is thus fitted, he overhears the gossip of the tailoring staff and learns more of the back-story of his origin and his father’s discommendation.

An image of Chade Fallstar,
taken from the Realm of the Elderlings Wiki,
used for commentary / reporting.

After, Fitz resumes weapons training and his other lessons. That evening, his clothing is delivered to him; it bears the emblem of the royal house with a cadence mark denoting his bastardy. He asks Burrich about it as he helps the older man mend tack; Burrich opines about Chivalry’s failure to some extent.

Regular routines and Fitz’s sense of isolation resume. Fitz continues to study as Shrewd has commanded, musing on his loneliness until one night sees him summoned to follow a cadaverous, pock-marked figure behind the walls of Buckkeep. It is Chade, the king’s assassin, who is frank about his trade and the fact that Fitz will be trained in it–by him. The two pass a late night in what is, in effect, Fitz’s first night of study as an assassin; he has become the assassin’s apprentice of the novel’s title.

The next day sees Fitz confer with Burrich about Chivalry once again. The two seem to arrive at a new understanding of one another, though Burrich still sees the failure of his master in the bastard boy, and Fitz remains uneasy around the man.

The chapter is notable in being the one that cements Fitz into the eponymous role of the novel. It does as much as anything to move him away from being the warrior-hero who typifies Tolkienian-tradition fantasy literature (as I’ve commented), or even the renouncing heroes who are the ostensible focus of Lord of the Rings (though it could be argued that Aragorn is the actual protagonist of the story)–while bastards often rise above the challenges of their births in the dominant streams of fantasy literature, assassins are almost always antagonistic, and even the sneakier protagonists stop far, far short of the kind of quiet killing that is an assassin’s stock in trade. For Fitz to begin to work to become an assassin, then, moves him into a realm of endeavor that would normally be called evil–yet he remains a sympathetic protagonist, and it is not to be wondered at that a nation-state would resort to such measures as assassination to maintain its power and internal security.

At the same time, Fitz remains firmly entrenched in the more “upright” pursuits expected of a minor noble. As noted in the previous chapter, he is on tap to use as a royal envoy, and so he must be trained in the skills and knowledge befitting such an envoy. It is a reaffirmation of much of the Tolkienian tradition and its ennobled warrior-hero that such a figure be skilled in practical and intellectual arts–literacy and at least basic mathematics are expected knowledge, in addition to fighting, equestrian arts, and the like. In the chapter, then, Hobb nuances the standard fantasy trope; the appearance of it remains in place, even as the truth that undergirds and supports it is far less traditionally wholesome.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series–Entry 3: Assassin’s Apprentice, Chapter 3

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


The next chapter in Assassin’s Apprentice, “Covenant,” continues the pattern of opening with a passage from an in-milieu reference text before musing on the reestablishment of normal patterns. Fitz glosses over his integration into the daily childhood life of Buckkeep and its town, noting his reluctance to let Burrich know more of them and commenting on relationships with members of his family and people about the castle. Regal and his mother were to be avoided. Verity was distant but kind when remembered the boy. A few friends were to be sought, and several others were annoyances or dangers.

Shrewd and Fitz by sherwin-prague
It is hard to find images of Shrewd Farseer.
Shrewd and Fitz by Sherwin-Prague on DeviantArt, used for commentary / reporting.

Perhaps the most important, though, was the beginnings of his arrangement with his natural grandfather, Shrewd, King of the Six Duchies and father to Chivalry, Verity, and Regal. Shrewd makes him an object lesson for Regal, openly declaring his intent to use his bastard grandson for the benefit of the kingdom–and specifically in those ways a legitimate prince could not be used. He also swears the boy to his service, young as he is, and smilingly indulges what he hears as a petty exhalation from Regal.

At length, Fitz returns to Burrich, where he learns that the pattern of his life will be changing yet again. He will no longer be a relatively free boy at play, but will instead be put to training at the King’s behest and ultimately, for his service. Fitz is upset by the changes, and Burrich offers him some small comfort.

Fitz then glosses over the forms of change in his life, touching on the various forms of instruction in which he must now engage. He learns a bit more of what is nosed about the castle about himself, his family, and Burrich. He begins to study combat, and he is given his own room, which is described in some detail and compared to his previous lodgings in the stables with Burrich as he finds his way to sleep.

Some things stand out in the chapter:

  • The focus on the way in which Shrewd claims Fitz is of interest. He makes a point of hiring Fitz’s service–he says to him “You need not eat any man’s leavings….If any man or woman ever seeks to turn you against me by offering you more than I do, then come to me, and tell me the offer, and I shall meet it. You will never find me a stingy man, nor be able to cite ill use as a reason for treason against me,” situating his loyalty in terms of economics rather than consanguinity–rather than on accepting him as a member of his family or commanding it as his due. (Indeed, Fitz comments on it, that Shrewd “could have declared himself [Fitz’s] grandfather and had for the asking what he instead chose to buy.”) And he does so after making a point to Regal that Fitz’s heritage is both clear and something that makes him particularly useful. It has to be wondered if the terms are a misreading on Shrewd’s part of Fitz’s character or a reminder to the young Fitz, who seems neither to need it nor to understand it in the moment, of his status as an outsider–or perhaps part of a performance for Regal and any others who might be observing that the boy is marked as of use but not necessarily beloved.
  • The chapter is the first introduction of the Fool, whose presence suffuses the main line of the Realm of the Elderlings novels. The character receives attention that is denied to many others in the narrative, marking importance, but that importance is left to be imagined at present. Several of the works in the Fedwren Project focus on the Fool, and what they say about the character is more erudite and eloquent than can necessarily be reported here, but this is where the character begins in the narrative, so it is worth attention.
  • The chapter also introduces the connection between the Six Duchies and the Elderlings, which becomes an important point in the narrative. Buried amid a flood of other details, it escapes notice at first, but it is a common point of reference in many of the succeeding novels. It is a sign of Hobb’s attention to narrative detail and a commendation of her writerly craft that the image is presented without being made obtrusive, there where readers can find it but not so overtly that it smites them with its presence. More writers could stand such subtlety.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series–Entry 2: Assassin’s Apprentice, Chapter 2

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


The second chapter, “Newboy,” follows the first chapter in opening with an in-milieu historical document, to which the narrator, Fitz, responds in the main text. He gives a brief overview of the ruling dynasty, the Farseers, and their central holding, Buckkeep, before detailing his own initial billeting at Burrich’s command. A press of people triggers an adverse reaction in him, one that prompts him to hide away until he returns to Burrich in the evening.

Image result for buckkeep
One of John Howe’s takes on Buckkeep
Image used for reporting/commentary.

As the chapter progresses, Fitz settles into life at Buckkeep, noting the events at large as he does so and describing both the keep and its town. He also describes meeting Molly, the daughter of a drunkard who makes his onerous presence known. Fitz reacts adversely to him, as well, and betrays his juvenile lack of understanding before falling in with other children and passing an idly delinquent summer with them.

At length, Fitz encounters Burrich while about his delinquency. Burrich moves to take him in hand and uncovers that Fitz has the Wit, a magic that allows him to commune with animals–and that is widely regarded as perverse and unnatural. Burrich takes from Fitz the pup with which he had bonded, Nosy, and Fitz falls into depression from the sudden loss.

The second chapter builds upon the first, setting up a pattern of loss for Fitz. He is bereft of familial ties, and those bonds he tries to set up in place of what should be innate connections are threatened by the inflicted loss of one of them. While it is true that psychoanalyzing characters in a story is something of a fallacy, the affective reading I still cannot help applying to Hobb’s novels tells me that such things happening cannot help but traumatize a child, instilling fears and problems that may never be resolved.

Perhaps more important to the overall Elderlings corpus is the introduction in the chapter of the Wit. The inborn magic is one that exerts substantial influence throughout the novels, and its social regard is a matter of much consideration. It is easy to read it as a metaphor for homosexuality, given its depiction in the novels and peripheral materials, though doing so introduces some problems (the association with animals, for one; it is a mistaken commonplace that homosexuality leads to or is closely akin to bestiality, which commonplace is often used to oppress and abuse homosexuals). Later novels destabilize the metaphor further, as I found and will doubtlessly discuss, though I seem to recall it being clear enough for me at the time.

I’d also note that there is some clear foreshadowing at work in the chapter. The first female character to receive any substantial narrative attention, Molly, could be assumed to have…particular roles later in the novels. How fully Hobb engages those expectations remains to be seen in later parts of the reread, and exploring them–as well as many other things in the novels–promises to be enjoyable.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series–Entry 1: Assassin’s Apprentice, Chapter 1

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


The first entry into the Elderlings Corpus is Robin Hobb’s 1995 Assassin’s Apprentice. It is not the first of the Elderlings novels I read, though. In time, it has also become other than the first work to take place chronologically in the milieu. But it remains the first book in the main narrative arc of the Elderlings Corpus, introducing characters whose deeds occupy most of the stories Hobb has told as of this writing. It remains, therefore, the best place to start rereading the novels again.

Not the edition I have at home, but pretty, even so.
Image from RobinHobb.com, used for reporting/ commentary.

The text of the novel opens with a chapter titled “The Earliest History. Its first paragraph is an excerpt from a piece being composed within the milieu, not unlike the Encyclopedia Galactica from Asimov’s Foundation novels. It moves thence swiftly into the recollections of the piece’s author, who muses on the indulgences shown to him and the enthusiasm of his earlier teachers before beginning his own recollections.

The narrator–and the Farseer books, as well as the series that follow them, the Tawny Man and Fitz & the Fool trilogies, work in first-person narration–asserts that his memories begin on a day when he was some six years old, and he questions their validity and their source. I recall it being a point at which I fell into what I would later learn to call affective reading; I identified wit the narrator at that point, having little if any recall of what happened before I was six, and wondering if what I remember is what happened or what I was told happened, my family repeating the same stories again and again until my perspective on the events cemented as if I were there and could bring them to mind.

Too, I find I cannot escape sentimentality; I cannot help but feel for the narrator as he describes being taken by his grandfather from his mother and delivered, without affection, to a keep over which his illegitimate father was king-to-be. He is taken to his uncle, named Verity, and thence dispatched to the care of his father’s footman, Burrich. Burrich takes the boy in hand, calling him Fitz for his bastardy, and the narration passes over some time until an incident in which Verity and Regal confer, with Burrich attending, on his fate. Regal proposes killing him; Verity ignores the suggestion, but heeds the command from their father, the king, that his illegitimate nephew is to be brought to the royal court at Buckkeep. In advance of Fitz’s arrival there, his father abdicates his claim to the throne; Fitz never sees his father in the flesh. It’s not something I can comfortably imagine, either as a son or as a father, though I know it is the case for many, many people.

I’ve remarked before, I believe, that Fitz’s beginning is hardly the most auspicious. He is a bastard, and one effectively abandoned by his closest kin. While his more extended family does take some measures to bring him in, they are hardly kindly ones, and it is not to be wondered at that things proceed as they do for Fitz as the novel–and, indeed, the Elderlings corpus as a whole–proceeds.

A couple of other thoughts on the chapter to close out:

  • It occurs to me that Chivalry, the narrator’s absent father, is “supposed” to be the hero. The name suggests that he is an embodiment of honor, and descriptions of the character reported by others generally confirm it. That he fathers a bastard son whom he never appears to see or to acknowledge (though others in the family do) suggests either a failure on his part or a comment by Hobb about the ultimately flawed nature of chivalric constructions. There is no end of scholarship on the latter idea, as even a casual Google Scholar search shows–and there are better searches to run, to be sure, though those rely on more restricted resources.
  • Following up on the idea of commentary, if Fitz is the bastard by-blow of Chivalry, does the profession he enters–foreshadowed by the title of the novel, really–serve as the sign of chivalric failure? That is, does Fitz’s formal profession serve as the illegitimate but seemingly inevitable product of putatively upright conduct? For many or most chivalric narratives admit readily of bastards; in Malory, even the most noble of knights–Galahad (since he achieves the Grail)–is the illegitimate child of the most worshipful Lancelot, and Mordred is the natural son of Arthur. How necessary is such a thing, then, given the tension between what should be and what is? I’m not yet sure, but it’s something on which to think.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series–Entry 0: Background and Context

To follow up on the material in the last post, some background and context for my proposed series of posts working through a rereading of Robin Hobb’s works seems in order. As noted before, I’ve long been an avid reader of Hobb’s works; I began reading them in the later 1990s, having had the Liveship Traders novels suggested to me by the owner/operator of a local bookseller, Books to Share in Kerrville, Texas. I plowed through the novels greedily, almost salivating as I waited for the last one to come into print, and I soon found myself picking up the earlier-authored Farseer novels, chewing through them with the same relish.

Robin Hobb, from RobinHobb.com, used for commentary/reporting.

When later novels in the same milieu emerged, I again and again found myself buying them without counting the cost and losing myself for joyful hours among their many pages. It was the kind of reading that pushed me to become an English major when I had to give up on the goal of becoming a band director, the kind of reading that made grad school seem a good idea.

It was the kind of reading that I did not get to do as much as I would have liked in the intervening years. Even though I did my master’s thesis on Hobb’s works, obecoming one of the earliest to make a formal, academic study of them, reading for academic work is not the same as reading for love of it. And though there are things that the focused, interrogative reading rewarded by academic humanistic study reveals that no other reading can, I missed reading for the love of the words.

I was not the best student when I was doing the initial reading–at least not of the world outside the classroom. I have since worked to keep a journal, but I did not do so then, not in any way the is currently helpful. My memory is not as good as it used to be. So I am not in a position to do as Luke Shelton did in his own work recalling Tolkien; I do not recall many of my first impressions of the books. (There are a few such things, admittedly: here, here, here, here, here, and here. I am more proud of some than of others.)

Consequently, I will not be giving first impressions, except incidentally as I may end up remembering them while I read. Instead, I will be reading the novels again, following the main narrative arc and going back after to pick up some of the incidental and subsidiary materials. I generally don’t do fandom studies; I don’t much engage fandom anymore, for reasons I’ve noted. I might welcome comments from those who do engage such materials; I would love for a discussion to be ongoing. But I can hope that the reflection on such things from years after my first readings will offer some insights that those initial readings would not have done, and I can hope that they will be of some value other than just to me.

Read the next entry in the series!

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