A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 238: Fool’s Errand, Chapter 18

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

The next chapter, “Fool’s Kiss,” opens with another in-milieu commentary from Badgerlock’s Old Blood Tales before pivoting into Fitz following Nighteyes, finding him at length and offering some small treatment. The two confer briefly about how they will proceed, Fitz worried for the wolf as he returns uneasily to the Bresinga household. There, he resumes his role as Badgerlock to the Fool’s Golden, and the latter works along a plot to effect their speedy departure, if at the cost of some scandal.

Fool-ish Golden Lord
Such devious plotting…
Fool-ish Golden Lord by A6A7 on DeviantArt, used for commentary.

Badgerlock accompanies Golden, with Fitz musing ruefully upon it, as the latter returns to the Bresingas’ great hall, where he flirts audaciously with another guest, making himself the happy center of her willing intentions. Badgerlock watches with a strained equanimity as Golden continues to press his flirtation, noting the reactions of others present. They confirm to him that no few present are of the Old Blood, and he begins to reason through implications thereof. He is prevented for further observation by Golden’s dismissal of him, but he learns no small amount through listening to servants’ talk as he scrounges his own meal from the leftovers.

Some time later, after he has managed to slip back to his quarters, Badgerlock is summoned to attend to Golden, who is clearly suffering the ill effects of too much strong drink. Once he has retrieved Golden, he asks what has happened; the Fool replies that he kissed the Bresingas’ son, Civil, which event will occasion their shamefaced departure the next morning. And when that morning comes, Fitz emerges to find the Fool making himself look all the worse, so as to ease their leave-taking; the formalities are accomplished, and Golden, Laurel, and Badgerlock depart the Bresingas’ household in their continued search for Dutiful. Bidden, Badgerlock rushes off ahead to where Nighteyes has continued to track the Prince; they continue their pursuit, joined at length by Laurel and Golden. Matters grow tense with Laurel, who has suffered social pains at the hands of the Old Blood, and who has not been wholly honest with Badgerlock. And in the night, Fitz reaches out with the Skill, not finding Dutiful but instead a sense of simple peace.

Ah, here it is: the place where the idea that the Wit is a metaphor for homosexuality begins to get…frustrated. Here, Hobb begins to bring in overt homoeroticism–a tacit had been possible early in the Farseer novels, as well as afterwards–and, to my eye at least, it is difficult for a thing to be made a metaphor for something present and direct in the text. A hint is not an open statement, after all. I do not know yet, because I have not gotten to a place where I can think about it yet, whether or not the presentation of homoeroticism here–which becomes somewhat more later–is homophobic, as such; certainly there are homophobic characters, but I do not recall as I write this if they are depicted…well, anyway, it will be something to consider as I look at the novel again, as I keep looking, as I keep wanting to do.

Help fund my girl’s Halloween?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 237: Fool’s Errand, Chapter 17

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

A chapter titled “The Hunt” comes next, opening with a selection from Badgerlock’s Old Blood Tales before pivoting into a dream shared between Fitz and Dutiful. In the dream, the two–and others, a woman and a cat–realize that they are pursued and attempt to evade that pursuit, only to be found out in a way that leaves Fitz in pain and craving elfbark. Through the burgeoning pain, Fitz tries to press for Dutiful’s recovery; the Fool dissuades him and tends as he can in the absence of elfbark to his spreading pain.

Cat Hunt
Illustration series for the Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb
I do so love her work…
Katrin Sapranova’s Cat Hunt, here, used for commentary.

There is little rest for him; Fitz-as-Badgerlock and the Fool-as-Golden take part in a hunt the next day, with their preparations and setting-out detailed. The hunt proceeds, and an excuse for Badgerlock to part from the rest of the hunters is made; he seizes upon it, and makes for Nighteyes, who has been attacked by Dutiful and the cat. Fitz attends to his long-time companion as he can and receives such report as the wolf can make; Fitz reluctantly returns to the hunt in time to see it end, and the two plot to head out to pursue Dutiful as soon as possible. Fitz makes shift to prepare for their departure but is informed that they will not be able to leave easily; still, an excuse for Badgerlock to be away from festivities is concocted, and Fitz begins the search for Dutiful anew.

I’ve noted before my appreciation for the Asimovian device with which Hobb opens the chapters of the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies, the citation of in-milieu reference works. It’s not only because I retain some nostalgic fondness for Asimov (I am aware of how…problematic a figure he is, but the books read in youth tend to stick in the mind far past it.) There is a certain humor in a work narrated by a character featuring work by that same character in such references–but then, I cite myself often enough that I have to regard myself as the butt of such a joke in my turn. It’s fortunate, then, that I’ve long since learned to laugh at myself, if perhaps not to do so kindly. But then, I have it coming.

Aside from that, I’m not sure I have any comments about the present chapter. There’s probably something to mine in the contemplation of mortality that marks it, but I’m not really in a place where I can do that kind of work. At least, not at the moment…

Help me keep going?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 236: Fool’s Errand, Chapter 16

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

And my apologies for the delay in getting this out…

The following chapter, “Claws,” begins with an in-milieu gloss of the recent history of the Bresingas before turning to Fitz-as-Badgerlock following the Fool-as-Golden to the appointed feast hall; Fitz marks the appearances of those in attendance as the two of them proceed. Reactions are noted, as well, and Badgerlock takes up his position as bodyguard. is difficulty standing watch is noted, as is the information he takes in from his unaccustomed position.

Dinner at Bresingas
Illustration series for the Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb
Ahh. Perfect.
Katrin Sapranova’s Dinner at Bresingas, here, used for commentary.

Golden steers conversation so as to encourage a fair amount of exposition about hunting cats, their rearing, and their practice. As Golden turns the talk to Prince’s hunting cat, Badgerlock finds himself subjected to the attentions of an insistent kitten; it occasions some comment, innocuously enough, and dinner proceeds. Golden turns conversation to the Prince’s cat again as Fitz confirms that the Bresingas are Witted, and Golden tries to draw out information from them. The meal is shortly thereafter called to a close, and Golden and Badgerlock retire to their chambers.

Fitz makes a search of the rooms and asks after the Fool’s condition, finding the latter exulting in having given a good performance. Fitz, as Badgerlock, ventures to the kitchens to get his own meal and to take in such gossip and rumor as can be heard. He hears a few things and puzzles out some more before having another encounter with a cat, one that gives him cause for concern; he begins to think his own Wit-bond will be known.

When he reports back to his chambers, he finds Laurel in attendance on Lord Golden. They confer about findings; Laurel has learned that Dutiful has been present. Fitz awkwardly retires for the night, comforted by the bare touch of Nighteyes’s mind on his own.

Interestingly, as I am rereading the chapter, my wife and I are adopting a kitten, Stormy; our daughter has wanted a new one for some time, and we are in a position to take on the additional responsibility. Now, ours is hardly hunting stock; she’s a rescue kitty, adopted from a nearby nonprofit. Still, though, it’ll be interesting to see if our Ms. 8 bonds with Stormy the way her mother did with other cats we’ve had.

Myself, I’m more a dog person. I’m sure there’s some joke to be found in that, somehow.

I note that the present chapter makes much of performativity. I’m not the only one to note the phenomenon in Hobb, of course; both Räsänen and Sanderson speak to it, for example. The Fool is overt about it in the present chapter, however, citing his conduct with the Bresingas as a performance and noting that Fitz is the only real audience for that performance–and since Fitz is the reader’s access to the milieu, the reader becomes part of the audience at both the usual readerly level and alone with Fitz within the milieu. It seems to me, as I read the chapter again, a strange blurring of narrative perspective; it remains first-person due to the narratorial style, of course, but it also seems almost to become metanarrative, raising a number of questions in me that I’m not sure how to articulate well, let alone answer.

The only solution is to read more and think on it. Fortunately, I’m inclined toward both.

Help me get back on track?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 235: Fool’s Errand, Chapter 15

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

The succeeding chapter, “Galeton,” opens with an in-milieu discussion of the Piebalds before pivoting to Fitz as Badgerlock, the Fool as Golden, and Laurel arriving at the ferry to Galeton, where they are forced to wait; they converse to pass the time. Talk turns to potentially dangerous places as Fitz attempts to sound Laurel out, interrupted by the appearance, however fleeting, of Nighteyes. Golden arrives shortly after, escorting Laurel off and leaving Fitz to ruminate. NIghteyes rejoins him, and the two confer through the Wit.

The three riders.
Rescue Team from Katrin Sapranova’s Tumblr, used for commentary.

Golden and Laurel summon Badgerlock back in time to board the ferry and cross the river it spans, and they proceed to Galeton in the night. Lady Bresinga and her son, Civil, welcome the party with their household, and Fitz determines that Old Blood are present among the entourage. Golden and Laurel are taken off to formal greetings, while Badgerlock is left to unpack and see to Golden’s quartering. The multiplicity of the Fool’s lives breaks upon him while he does so, and Nighteyes reports initial scouting efforts as Badgerlock is bidden attend on Golden at dinner that evening. After he prepares for the duty, he is taken aside and confronted with his own appearance; when he takes the time to present well, he presents well. After a brief exchange with the Fool as Fool, Fitz as Badgerlock accompanies Lord Golden to the meal.

Some of what gives the lie to the idea of the Wit as metaphor for homosexuality emerges in the present chapter; there are decidedly homoerotic overtones in the text at this point. Admittedly, sources I’ve annotated do a better job of explicating such things than I am equipped to do; while I am back in the classroom, I am not back into my scholarship in earnest, although I am striving to be so. In some ways, the energy fairly crackles toward the end of the present chapter; from the vantage of rereading, I can attest that it moves further as the Tawny Man novels continue. How much so, though, will have to wait for later chapters’ discussions.

Any chance you can send some help my way?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 234: Fool’s Errand, Chapter 14

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

The next chapter, “Laurel,” begins with a musing on the stone with which the Elderlings built before turning to Fitz waking in the bed in Chade’s hidden chambers, still fully clothed. He assesses his situation as Chade arrives, noting a coming breakfast with Lord Golden and a coming expedition to Galeton. The two exchange information, Fitz reporting his Skill-sharing and Chade noting the lack of romantic entanglements for Prince Dutiful. Chade also notes that matters are being prepared for Hap to have a chance to succeed.

The titular vision…
Image from Talking about the Weather, here, used for commentary

Fitz begins to attend to his errands in his guise as Badgerlock, including making arrangements for Hap. Despite worries, he notes being eager to get underway, and he is comforted by a brief touch of the Wit from the approaching Nighteyes. He reports being called to an errand before the wolf breaks contact, and when he returns to Buckkeep proper, he is bidden report to Lord Golden at once. There, he is informed that the Queen has bidden her Huntswoman, Laurel, join the pair, and they pack to depart.

Laurel meets Golden and Badgerlock as they make to depart, and they go out together, exchanging backgrounds as they do. After they are clear of Buckkeep Town, Golden urges haste, and the horses all leap into gallops, Badgerlock’s fractious mount outstripping the other two as they proceed.

The musing early in the chapter on the tensions between love and duty as they applied to Fitz in his youth, and how Chade and Kettricken have steered Dutiful away from encountering such entanglements, resonates strangely with me as I read the chapter once again. I’m fortunate enough not to have experienced such a thing; my loyalties are neatly ordered and not in conflict, and I met my wife when we were both in graduate school–neither of us were children at that point. But I cannot help but feel for the as-yet unmet Prince Dutiful, bearing an emblematic name as is so often the case among the Six Duchies nobility and royalty, and one that constrains him mightily despite his youth–no less than his position as the sole heir to an uncertain throne must.

Help me get ready for Halloween?

About Another Classroom Activity

I have noted my return to teaching and commented upon some of the work I’ve done in the classroom after making that return, I know. The work continues, of course, and that means I’ve gotten to come up with more things for my students to do–and since I teach English, that’s meant I’ve had the opportunity to share my love of reading, and some of the things that I love to read, with my students. Whether or not they like it.

Christopher Marlowe - The Marlowe Society
The man himself
Image from the Marlowe Society, used for commentary.

One such thing was Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love,” a poem I’ve read repeatedly over the past twenty or so years and that I’d previously taught, along with Raleigh’s “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd” and Donne’s “The Bait,” several times during that span. I’ve enjoyed the reading and the teaching pretty much every time, and students usually get into it by the time we get to Donne, catching on to what’s going on in the poems and realizing that we are still doing more or less the same things the three of them do in their poems. When I had the students read and discuss the sequence most recently–a couple of weeks ago, as this emerges into the world–I had much the same experience; I had a good time, and so did the students, with even some of the more reticent getting into discussion.

I say much the same experience because there was one key difference. As it happened, I stumbled into understanding a joke in Marlowe’s poem that I’d not previously recognized–and I’m embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t seen it before, although I must plead that I am not a specialist in early modern English literatures. I mean, yes, I sat for a comprehensive exam in it, but it was not my major or even my secondary area. (My apologies to Prof. Vaught; the fault is entirely mine.)

Anyway, at the beginning of the third stanza, Marlowe’s narrator offers to make for his putative love “beds of roses,” which seems a strange thing to offer someone, especially as a first item to be offered. Now, my students noted, rightly, that offering a bed works as an invitation into bed, and the shepherd is trying to make something of a score–a “goods for services” arrangement, as one student put it, not incorrectly. With the first class I had that day, though, I noted the thorniness of roses and that a bed of them would make for uncomfortable lying down–which the students seemed to understand and agree with.

With the second class I taught that day, though, I had the revelation. A bed of roses, one still having all the thorns, would be a bed upon which the shepherd’s love could expect to be pricked abundantly. It’s the kind of joke I should have pointed out years ago, a little bit of fun embedded in the lines that helps make them continue to merit study–and something that, like a chicken joke in Malory about which I failed to get published, I wouldn’t’ve realized without the help of my students. And it’s the kind of thing that makes teaching continue to be worthwhile.

I can, of course, use more help to keep doing this.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 233: Fool’s Errand, Chapter 13

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

A chapter titled “Bargains” follows, opening with a brief in-milieu commentary on hunting cats before turning to Fitz receiving a clandestine evening summons to the Queen. As he answers it, he rehearses his progress through the day, including an extended musing on weapons practice with Prince Dutiful’s training partner and his assessment of the boy as a solitary figure. He also notes having infiltrated and inspected Dutiful’s suite, as well as his old castle room–which is largely unchanged and untended. When he returns to Lord Golden’s chambers, he accidentally stumbles into a magical experiment the Fool had been conducting, which unsettles him badly, and the Fool passes along the message that Chade wants to see him.

Queen Kettricken
Illustration series for the Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb
She is our queen!
Queen Kettricken by Katrin Sapranova, image used for commentary.

Chade conducts Fitz to the Queen through hidden passages, commenting on their construction along the way. She welcomes Fitz warmly, and after a remarkably friendly exchange, their talk turns to the recovery of Dutiful. Fitz reports that he has no information to offer, and Kettricken affords him two more days to make progress before she will make public the prince’s disappearance. She also grants him full access to the spy tunnels, Fitz musing on what that access will cost him and what it has likely cost Chade. And he agrees to ply his Skill to the extent of his ability, despite knowing what will come afterwards.

Afterward, Chade conducts Fitz back to his hidden chambers, and they confer. The source of the gift of a hunting cat to Dutiful is noted: the Bresingas of Galeton. Fitz advances the idea that a Wit-bond has been offered to the prince without his knowledge or understanding, used to lure him in. At length, Fitz begins to ply his Skill again, and though he does not find Dutiful, he does suffer the deleterious effects of working that magic. Chade eases him as best he can without elfbark, and Fitz suffers the pain poorly. Amid it and Chade’s questions, he notes needing to gather coin for Hap’s apprenticeship; Chade is offended that Fitz thought he must bargain himself so, that he has trusted so few. He sets aside his offense, however, and sends Fitz off to rest as best he can. And as Fitz’s mind slips between wakefulness and sleep, he becomes aware of Dutiful and his location: Galeton.

Fitz’s experience in Skilling rings true for me, not because I have such powers, and not because I am an addict as he is depicted as being, but because I worked with addicts for some time. His rage at having been robbed of his elfbark and his carryme–something of a narcotic, as described–read to me very much like the reactions of addicts to the loss of their preferred substance. So is his swift repentance; I’ve seen no few snap and apologize immediately, and while some might follow Chade and note that “sorry” only works so many times, others might recognize the changes to brain structures and chemistries that chemical dependencies cause. I, at least, tend to be more sympathetic–but that’s me; again, I’ve not been an addict or suffered at the hands of one, so I know my opinions come from places of privilege. Others’ experiences differ; so, too, will their readings.

Any way you could help would be welcomed!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 232: Fool’s Errand, Chapter 12

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

The next chapter, “Charms,” begins with an in-milieu commentary about Kettricken’s tenure as Queen of the Six Duchies. It pivots to Fitz returning to his assigned quarters, assessing them and weighing options. He frets over Hap and Nighteyes and rehearses some of what Chade told him and showed him of the remaining available Skill scrolls before waxing eloquent about once-Skillmaster Galen‘s deficiencies. His thoughts turn to the problem of Prince Dutiful, and he reaches out to Nighteyes through the Wit. Reassured by the psychic contact, he falls asleep at last.

Getting to work…
Image from Faceless Frey’s Tumblr, here, used for commentary.

Fitz wakes the next morning to the aspersive words of the Fool as Lord Golden; the pretense drops swiftly as the Fool reminds Fitz of the roles they must play together in the present circumstances. Fitz has some pangs at his preparation for the role of Tom Badgerlock, servingman, and he goes about expected tasks. Once again, he finds himself nostalgic and marking differences between the Buckkeep of his youth and that of his present–though he notes some things remain in place. He happens to see the Queen and marvels at her until he is rebuked by a passing petty noble, and he forces himself into his role despite his anger. That anger inspires him to make some adjustments to the basic role he plays for the Fool-as-Lord-Golden; the adjustments are approved, the two converse, and Golden sends Badgerlock out on some morning errands.

When Badgerlock goes about the errands, Fitz muses on his relative invisibility as a servingman. He also takes in as much gossip and information as he can while he is fitted for new clothes and seeks out a working weapon. He also seeks out Jinna, asking her to relay a message to Hap; she offers instead to host the young man for a time, and Fitz has the strange experience of being Wit-addressed by Jinna’s cat. Jinna also offers Badgerlock some warning about recent animus against Old Blood, noting that his demeanor is not one that normally sets people at ease; she offers him a hedge-magic charm to assist with that, one that works even on her, and they start to act on it when Jinna’s niece, Miskya, arrives. Introductions are made, and Badgerlock returns to Buckkeep proper, seeking the weaponsmaster.

There is much to note about the performance of social roles and concerns of social strata in the present chapter. Fitz lampshades no small amount of it, noting his own contrasting statuses as a servingman presently and formerly as a (bastard) prince of the realm; others, notably Jinna, comment on the lower social status that comes with employment, even if it affords Badgerlock more material wealth than he was able to command in his small, independent holding near Forge. As ever, it is perilous to read with affect, but, as ever, I cannot help but do so, and with my recent relocation and shift in employment, I have had both an elevation and a reduction in social status, even as I am making more money in the classroom than at the treatment facility. The chapter, as well as experience, remind me that social status is a complex, nuanced thing, not the simple system many want to assume it is; it’s a reminder, among many others, that many would do well to take.

New month, new plea for aid…


The dark blue curtains fall
Bespangled with their shining jewels
Twinkling with their own shine
And the softer house light comes up
Strangely swiftly against how languidly the
Single stage-light dims after shining
Hot upon the actors making their
Exits and their entrances
Playing each their parts
Improvising and extemporizing
Because there is hardly any script to
Go off of

Sometimes, it’s like this, yeah.
Photo by Lisa on Pexels.com, used for commentary.

I continue to hope for your support and assistance.