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 soon.

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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Small Howls Still Echo

A year later
Lives later
Daughters and sons
Sisters and brothers
Mothers and fathers
Cousins, aunts, uncles
Gone away now
Not dust in the wind but
Mesquite leaves beaten down by
Hailstones falling all too quickly
All too often

Image is still from Uvalde CISD’s “School Spirit & History” page, used for commentary.

Those who might build shelters from the storm
Take up their hammers and their Phillips-heads indeed
But what do they seek to pound on and screw
While some new La Llorona festers gestating
Ready to be born into a world made wet with obscene dripping

She will scream as she is born
And her own mother will scream
Again and again
And it may be that we have already heard the pangs of her birth
Ringing in a tritone over
Smaller cries silenced too swiftly

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 349: Dragon Haven, Chapter 19

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

After more expressed concern from Bingtown about Sedric and Alise, as well as the ongoing exchange between Detozi and Erek, the penultimate chapter of the novel, “Mud and Wings,” begins with the Tarman running aground, the waters grown too shallow to float the old liveship and no clear current emerging from searches for the same. Leftrin sourly surveys the situation, discussing things with Alise as he reviews events. Reports of Greft’s death diminish morale, and Alise notes changes in the dragons. Leftrin announces that he will make a decision in the morning, and the crew tucks in for the night.

I believe this goes here…
ThereseoftheNorth’s Thymara and Sintara on DeviantArt, used for commentary

In Alise’s quarters, Thymara and Sylvie confer, the former asking the latter to examine and tend her back. The state of Thymara’s nascent wings is detailed, and Thymara urges Sylvie to keep quiet what she has seen. Sylvie agrees to wait only a day before taking it to Bellin.

Sedric calls upon Alise as she cooks dinner and reviews her notes, asking to speak with her. Alise rehearses her reassessment of her life in Bingtown with Hest, and she brusquely agrees to hear him out. Sedric confesses more of his perfidy with Hest and the Chalcedean dragon-parts traders. Alise commiserates with Sedric about Hest, and the two reconcile.

Thymara muses over the changes going on in her body once Sylvie leaves, and she makes to confront Sintara about them. The dragon exults in the process at work in Thymara, noting that she is being made into an Elderling–and admitting that the changes were not initially intended. Some of Sintara’s insecurities emerge as she rails at Thymara, and the commotion attracts the attention of the other dragons. Mercor urges calm, Spit violence, and further upset is interrupted by the unexpected return of Heeby and Rapskal, aloft, announcing the proximity of Kelsingra.

There is much I might point out in the present chapter. It is possible, if perhaps something of a strain, to read them as mimetic of transitioning, although I am assuredly not informed enough about such things to offer any kind of insightful commentary thereabout. (I might note, however, that it seems to run athwart of other parts of the author’s work, as Roberts attests.) It is also possible, and probably a stronger argument, to read the changes the keepers are undergoing as allegories or analogies to puberty, especially given the ages of many of the keepers and the pregnancy remarked upon among them.

The puberty-reading works well in part because of structural concerns. I’ve noted before, here, that the novel has somewhat of the Bildungsoman about it; I’ve commented, also, that other parts of Hobb’s corpus have spoken to such concerns (here and here, for example). There are possibly other places I have, and there are definitely other places I likely ought to have, made such notes–and that they were available for making at other points in the corpus and in the novel means they are possible, if not likely, in the present chapter.

It has been a while since my own pubescence, as might well be imagined, and, as also might be imagined, my memories of the experience will be somewhat occluded by that time. But I do recall that much of my experience was determined by things other than my choice. Forces beyond my control acted upon me to occasion changes in my body that were confusing and distressing at the time, and I am given to understand that the process is more…intense in that regard for those born with ovaries / uteri. (Having not directly experienced as much, I must rely upon the reports others who have have made to me, but I trust those who have made such reports to me.) Teasing out any metaphor is, of course, conjectural and conditional; all metaphors fail at some point (which is good; I’ve used that failure repeatedly in the freelance work I have done). But I think I may be on some solid ground with this one.

It’s not the only reading, of course. But it is a reading, and that is good enough to get started again.

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Skewering the one in a hot time
Two going together in the split of a third
Melting into each other and
Leaving the sticky white clinging
To the lips that taste them all
Guided thence by a firm grip
Again and again and again
Something shared well with many people

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Not Burnt Out Yet

Pulling current
Rheostat rolling back slowly to
Let more power through
Shine more light as the filament
Grew more heated
More strident
More incandescent
The gassy tube more charged and pulsing
Scattering widely what it took in

Pretty neat, this one.
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

Things wear out as they are used
They rot in place as they are not
And there is no preservation in the end
Nothing to keep things as they have been
Despite the desires and protests of many

The globe on the fixture has been swapped out
And it may be that the bulb does not
Cast so much as once it did
When the switch is toggled
But it still alleviates the gloom
From time to time

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A Reflection on #Kzoo2023 from an #AcademicExpatriate

At the end of the week just past, I had the opportunity once again to take part in the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. As was the case last year, but not in the years about which I have written in this webspace (2018, 2019, and 2020), my participation was virtual; as was not the case last year, but was in previous years, the Congress did have on-site meetings, meaning this year’s exercise was a hybrid event. I continued my work with the Tales after Tolkien Society, about which here, and I do still have a few things to do for it in the coming few days, an attenuation of an academic career attempted in earnest but which was never truly begun.

Yep, this one again.
Image is still mine.

Perhaps it is maudlin; perhaps it is elegaic. I would like to flatter myself that it is the latter.

In any event, it was good to have the reconnection with old friends and to hear new ideas. It was good to have a few of those new ideas, as well, and to push them out into the world, even if only in a small way. (The text of the paper I gave will go online soon; there’re a few things I need to adjust, infelicities noted in passing during the presentation.) It was good to be able to look ahead to some kind of a scholarly future, despite my utter lack of institutional affiliation and the correctness of my decision to get out of the profession of teaching. And, given some of the other context and contacts, there is some hope that others will take up where I have been obliged to leave off, save for the occasional bit of puttering that remains entertained by those scholars I am privileged to know, who yet persist and find reward in the work to which I had hoped to devote myself.

I am not apostate from that priesthood, but I had to leave the ivory tower, never advancing much beyond its basement, if at all.

I was reminded of it this weekend. I do not know if it was not a good thing.

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If You’ve Done Nothing Wrong

It’s often becried
By those who’ve espied
If you’ve done nothing wrong
You have nothing to hide
We know it’s not true
Some things I don’t rue
But don’t want others watching
Me carry them through

Photo by Simone Defendi on Pexels.com

How often they try
To catch folks in a lie;
If you’ve done nothing wrong
What have you to deny?
We know it’s not true
We all know someone who
Had their words twisted ’round
And it might’ve been you.

Across many years
We’ve oft had to hear
If you’ve done nothing wrong
You have nothing to fear
We know it’s not true
Whatever you do
Something ugly can always
Happen to you

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A Rumination on a Birthday Not Mine

I had had the thought that, in discussing what I mean to discuss today, I would borrow from the Gettysburg Address and make some declamation beginning with “Eight square and no more years ago,” because it has been so long and because the word-play suggested itself to me for a moment. I know many would get the joke; I know, too, that I do not have the skills and insight to carry that joke through the way it really ought to be done, and I suspect that the joke would not go over so well as I would like. A great many of my jokes go that way, after all, as most know who speak to me for more than a few moments. Consequently, I shall content myself with but a short comment, knowing that the day needs but little from me said about it.

The birthday girl herself…
Family photo

Happy birthday, Mom!

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How many
Look at things through
Manichean lenses
Polarizing into
Chiaroscuro starkness
And think they have the whole picture

Red and yellow and pink and green…
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

I try to look
Not only at the shades of grey
But across a broader spectrum
Where others see only black and white
And think themselves well bleached

I know I am deeply stained
Both with ink and otherwise
Unlike the Scottish lady at play
That I cannot get those spots out
And even so
There are hues I miss

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A Rumination on Cinco de Mayo

Today marks the victory of Mexico over France at Puebla, and, in the part of the world where I grew up and where I live again, it is spent as a celebration of Mexican culture. (Admittedly, where I am used to be Mexico, but it wasn’t still Mexico at the time Puebla happened. Oh, no, there was another war going on, and this part of the world was on the wrong side of it.) Given how much of the rest of the year a lot of people here spend decrying that culture, the observance strikes me as odd to disingenuous to hypocritical to appropriative and reductionist, at least as many make the observance. But then, that’s hardly unique to this day, as I think I might’ve mentioned a few times before.

It’s admittedly not a holiday meal for me, but just a regular dinner.
Photo by Chitokan C. on Pexels.com

For me, the day is something that attracts attention; again, I live where I live, and, for better or worse, I identify as a resident of that part of the world, so the common observances are part of the identificatory markers. And I confess to some hypocrisy of my own; I do love me some tacos, and they do tend to be on special on Cinco de Mayo. It’s far removed from the origination of the observance, and it doesn’t do me any credit, thought it does contribute to my waistline being what it is.

There is this, too: My wife and child are both Hispanic, specifically of Mexican descent. My wife’s grandmother, though born in the US, grew up south of the Rio Grande; her parents hailed from there, if memory serves, or her grandparents did. So they, at least, have the more direct tie, and I am happy to celebrate their heritage with them, even if I do not share it myself. It is part of who they are, even if it is not the part they necessarily foreground; I am rather quite fond of the both of them, so why should I not laud what contributes to making them who they are, so long as it does not hurt them?

But then, given how things are in this part of the world and many others, perhaps they would come to harm from the acknowledgement of their ancestry. Enough people do so where I can see it, and I look in few places and with poor eyesight; there is surely far more of it of which I am unaware.

Funny how that kind of thing can work out.

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