A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 261: Golden Fool, Chapter 11

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

The subsequent chapter, “Tidings from Bingtown,” begins with an in-milieu commentary regarding the perils of trading along the Cursed Shores, from Chalced down to Bingtown. It pivots to Fitz-as-Badgerlock arriving at the shop where Hap is apprenticing and confronting the youth about his assignations with Svanja. Recalling his folly with Molly, he rebukes Hap for his incaution, to no avail as the teenager stalks off to his apprenticeship. Chewing on his regrets, Fitz returns to Buckkeep Castle and to the Fool-as-Golden, learning from the Fool that Chade expects the two of them to observe a meeting from the Bingtown Traders and Kettricken in which an alliance between Bingtown and the Six Duchies against Chalced will be up for discussion.

The Tawny Man Book 2: The Golden Fool - The Ambassador
Little Selden is grown up…
Image is John Howe’s The Ambassador, used for commentary.

After some preparation and some difficulties in navigation, Fitz and the Fool take up a position to observe the reception of Bingtown’s embassy. Fitz Skills a warning to Dutiful, noting the reaction of one of the embassy’s members to the use of the magic, and the two listen to the presentations and speeches being made. The thrust of the matter is presented: Bingtown seeks a military alliance with the Six Duchies–perhaps to include the Mountain Kingdom, as well–against Chalced. One of the ambassadors, Selden Vestrit, announces himself and his mission from Tintaglia, speaking of “true dragons” in a way that scandalizes the court and deeply offends Kettricken. Chade manages to call for a recess, and Fitz and the Fool make their way to Chade’s hidden chambers.

Secreted away, and over brandy, the two confer, Fitz musing bitterly on his old follies and the Fool offering such philosophical comfort as there is for the pain of nostalgia. Fitz recalls an earlier conversation the two had had and asks about Bingtown’s dragons, at which prompting, the Fool offers a reasonably straightforward discussion of the creatures and a gloss of their history. When Fitz asks about why the information had not been given to Chade and Kettricken, the Fool cites his existence as the Prophet, rather than the Catalyst, which vexes Fitz, again.

Chade arrives at the chamber shortly after. He notes that, in the wake of the recess with the Bingtowners, Elliania and Peottre “required” an audience with Kettricken, in which they argued against “any sort of alliance with ‘those dragon-breeders'” and occasioned a sharp retort from Kettricken. Fitz asks for a conference with Kettricken, Dutiful, and Chade to present information.

Doing the write-up for this chapter began to feel like a little bit of a research project–which is a good thing for me, as might be imagined. (I kept going back to school for more such things, after all.) The chapter calls back to several other points in the series, as is entirely sensible; it helps the verisimilitude of a novel or series of them to be internally consistent, and one way of promoting that consistency is to make reference, overt or tacit, back to previous events. Pulling up the references, while perhaps a bit of tedium for many, tickles my nerdy fancy. It’s like piecing a puzzle together, really, although I enjoy doing it more than I do solving jigsaw puzzles (on my own; they’re more fun with others).

I do see some strain in the current chapter, though, related to the callbacks. The tension centers on the dragons–the biological and constructed ones. In some ways, the present chapter reads as an attempt at canon welding, with concomitant problems. Certainly, ideas can and should evolve over time, and writers’ work will necessarily shift as the writer does. That doesn’t mean things are always harmonious, however, and attempts to sing those chords sometimes result in dissonances–productive, perhaps, but not necessarily always so. I’ve not always regarded it kindly, myself; how it might change as I continue to reread, I do not know. Yet.

It may be a bit late for holiday shopping, but the need for writing goes on–and so does my being able to help with it!

Something from Tutoring

I haven’t made a secret of stepping up my freelance work, which has for some years included a fair bit of tutoring. Although I am outside formal teaching structures–for good, this time, I’m pretty sure–I do still very much enjoy working with people who want to learn things as they work through ideas and come to have fuller, better understandings of the world and what people have said about it.

William Shakespeare, associated with John Taylor - NPG 1
Yes, it’s him, shown in the Chandos Portrait at the National Portrait Gallery and used under a Creative Commons license for commentary.

One such tutorial recently saw me working with a high school student in New York City whose teacher had asked for responses in verse to verse. The poem in question when I worked with the student was Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130, the one beginning “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.” It’s a fairly standard piece for high schoolers to treat, in my experience, and it’s not exactly uncommon in college classrooms, either; I’ve taught it, and more than once, as well as reading it more times than that. So it wasn’t really a hard thing for me to walk the student through a closer reading of the text than they‘d yet done, and it wasn’t much harder to help the student get their work in line with the sonnet, itself, mimicking its form closely to make the response more targeted and emphatic.

It occurred to me that the exercise is a good one–not that I’d ever done such a thing with my students; my pedagogy was…not innovative so much as solid and predictable, but structure’s far from a bad thing in the classroom–and that it might be useful for me to do something like it. I can use the practice, always, and it’s not a bad thing to show what all I can do.

Another fairly common reading in high school and college classrooms is Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

As is typical of one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, the poem is fourteen lines of iambic pentameter rhyming in three quatrains and a couplet, with a (somewhat shaded) turn into the couplet. There are any number of readings of the poem, of course, ranging from the romantic to the lewd, and I’m happy to get into them–another time. For now, what matters is how to address a response to the poem. The assignment on which my client was working asked for a personal response; as we conferred, the student and I arrived at the idea of answering the poem with another, something like the Marlowe / Raleigh / Donne sequence that receives classroom attention. (It occurs to me that responding to the Donne piece, “The Bait,” would also be a good exercise.) If I follow that model here, I find that I am given three options:

  1. Agree with the poet,
  2. Disagree with the poet, or
  3. Go off in a completely different direction.

Of the three, the first seems…boring. The third is likely not to be productive; I go off on tangents already without doing so on purpose. This leaves the second option, disagreeing with the poet. And that obliges me to have an idea of what the poem is saying. Fortunately, again, there are any number of readings out there, among which are surface-level interpretations–love is only real if it stays in place as it is. It’s an easy enough interpretation to contest; nothing that lives fails to change, and things cannot improve if they remain as they are. If love is a living thing, then, and something that can deepen and be enriched over time–and there are many who argue as much–then “the message of the poem” is wrong; disagreeing is easy enough to do.

Foregrounding that disagreement is also easy enough to do. The poem’s own lines can–and probably should, in the circumstance–be used against it, such that the response opens more or less as the original closes. To wit: “You never writ, nor no man ever loved.” The line makes clear both what it responds to and the thrust of the response, good things to do for such an assignment.

That much set, and knowing that the form of the poem should be mimicked, it stands to reason that the points the poet raises should be taken in order for the succeeding lines of the poem. One result of such taking might well follow:

You never writ, nor no man ever loved,
If love is never love that, finding change,
Stays as it is when it first ever moved
Or strives not living patterns to arrange
In hopes of bringing its love to the mark
That looks on tempests and is not shaken.
No, use will change the shape of every bark
That plies the waves, whatever standard’s taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, oh no, but is its flow’r
And fruit that ripens not all in one go,
But in its season and appointed hour
If tended well, made better, and let grow.
No thing that is made better stays the same,
And stasis gives the lie to goodness’s claim.

It is a rough cut, of course, a first draft of something usefully reworked. I am apt to blot my lines, after all, knowing well that matters can always be made better. But it’s also a good start, and no journey proceeds but that it has a beginning.

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written or taught, and we’ll talk! Or send me a spot of help here, investing in my future!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 260: Golden Fool, Chapter 10

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

The following chapter, “Resolutions,” opens with a report made to Chade at the end of the Red-Ship War before turning to Fitz stopping off to spy on Elliania en route to Lord Golden’s rooms. He overhears a strange conversation among the Narcheska, Peottre, and their supposed servant Henja, one in which the last tries to command Elliania to bed Dutiful, only to be refused. The Narcheska purposes to show herself as a woman grown and to rebuke Dutiful for his social gaffe, overruling Peottre’s objections.

FitzChivalry _ Lord Golden
These two, at it again…
FitzChivalry _ Lord Golden by
TakikoKyuuketsuki on DeviantArt
, used for commentary.

Fitz reports to the Fool, who reports in turn the invitation to ride with Dutiful. Fitz resumes his guise as Badgerlock, attending to his servant’s duties and taking in such gossip as he can as he does so. When he returns, he finds Golden waiting with yet more finery for him to wear–and he largely approves of it, this time. The two join the party awaiting the Prince’s pleasure, and the Narcheska and her uncle make a decided statement with their delay and deportment–one that is understood by all in attendance.

Riding out in party, Dutiful Skills to Fitz, complaining of his treatment. Fitz counsels him to caution and calm, and the youth hopes for a return to normalcy that will never come. Entertainments follow the ride, and in the evening, Badgerlock goes to the Stuck Pig to seek out Hap. There, he is confronted by Svanja’s father, and he attempts to defuse the confrontation. As the two fathers go in search of their wayward children, Fitz confronts the ineptitude of his own actions and muses bitterly on them.

Ah, Dutiful; suffering punishment is not the same as making amends. But Dutiful is young, certainly, and has been sheltered; he can, perhaps, be forgiven for not knowing it. Fitz, however, is neither young nor sheltered, and he has had ample opportunity to learn the lesson he knows Dutiful has not. Not that I’m necessarily any better about things, although my child is not yet running around in the night with strange people of whom I do not approve…Still, one of the values of literature–whether “high” works or genre fiction–is that it allows the reader to see things from other perspectives. So seeing, we have the opportunity to learn, if we can make the leaps to distill out the lessons being taught and to connect them to our own lives. It’s not an easy thing to do, certainly, at least for me; for all that I have advanced degrees, there are areas in which I am a poor student, and rereading sometimes reminds me of so much.

It is a reminder I could probably use more often than I get it.

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 259: Golden Fool, Chapter 9

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

The next chapter, “Stone Wager,” begins with an in-milieu note about Skill training before moving into the approach of winter and Fitz’s gloss of tasks and progress. He continues to serve the Fool-as-Golden in his role as Badgerlock, passing information along to Chade, and he continues his assignations with Jinna, settling into a predictable routine that he knows is perilous. Still, with no action from the Piebalds or Laudwine, and few items of note from his continued espionage, Fitz flags in his vigilance.

Fitting that I write about the approach of a winter holiday on the approach to a winter holiday…
Image found here, used for commentary.

The state of affairs in the Six Duchies appears fairly settled. While animus against those with the Wit remains in place, actions against them are quieted. Fitz takes the time to seek out Hap, learning that he frequents the Stuck Pig with Svanja but finding Laurel drinking there instead. They confer, and Laurel notes that she has been messaged by the Piebalds in the form of killing her horse. Fitz-as-Badgerlock attempts to console her, just as Jinna enters; the hedge-witch leaves in vexation, and Badgerlock is caught in an uncomfortable misunderstanding. He escorts Laurel back to Buckkeep Castle and calls on Chade, with whom he discusses what he has learned.

Fitz is left to consider matters as the winter progresses and he continues on his duties. Starling makes much of her happy marriage, and Fitz finds himself visited in dreams by Nettle. Skill-lessons with Dutiful continue, as well, and Dutiful reports a social gaffe he has made. Fitz offers such advice as he can, though he notes such matters lie outside his expertise.

After Dutiful leaves, Fitz reports to Chade again, finding Think has been summoned. Thick speaks of Dutiful and Nettle, something Chade uses as a rebuke to his erstwhile apprentice and prod him about his daughter and her training. Fitz rejects the idea, though Chade continues to press it. Fitz notes that Black Rolf might be a candidate for training in the Skill instead of Nettle, and Chade reports that Rolf is several years dead from fever. The two reach an accord, and Chade departs.

There’s clearly a lot going on in the chapter, and of the sort that leaves me once again feeling pity for Fitz. It is perhaps a keener thing this time than in previous readings and iterations, because what’s happening with him is more authentic that the higher-fantasy shenanigans that he does get into across the novels where he features. Yes, of course, I expect to see magic and action in a fantasy series, and Hobb does not disappoint in those regards, but it is the tensions of being a parent and in shifting relationships with his own parent-figures, the unfortunately timed misunderstandings surrounding coworkers and something that approaches romance, and trying to make sense of things while working multiple jobs for agencies that would see him to his grave (again) without hesitation if it suited their interests that make Fitz a realized character, one accessible to readers.

I think I just ran myself into the idea that Fitz is a millennial. I’m not sure how to regard that assertion, really, although it does seem to check out. I’ll have to think on it some more, I suppose. But that’s hardly a bad thing, having getting to think about what I read…

If you’ve liked what I write here, think about what I can write for you!

It’s Still a Kerrville, Hill Country Christmas That I Love

I am far away, now, from the limestone hills of home
Where oaks and cedars, cypress and mesquite, rise from the riverbanks
Listening to the songs blown by breezes across the bass’s dwelling
Dancing in intricate rhythms of which Avie would approve
Sparkling in the night with our pale imitations of the stars above
I had thought it silly, long ago, when my voice was higher, and
I joined the warbling sopranos and altos breathing out
Their paean to the season and the city
Lookin’ for a Santa Claus down by the Guadalup’
As I and they made ready to take on spikes and four-point racks
Dolphins and mustangs and scorpions as we fancied ourselves then
Struggling to lift up our voices, light as they were,
And in later years, when I had donned the blue and gold,
Their hues changing over years to darker tones and back again,
My thoughts were darker yet amid the lights that sprang
From trees acorn-grown and steel-wrought beside the streets
Or tall beside where a fountain stood and a gazebo stands
And they stayed darker when I went away
Visiting far-off places where the languages shifted but still extolled
The season’s glories, whatever the weather
In later years, when I, beaten down, returned to that place where I was raised,
I found forgiveness in all the feasting, let my heart be lifted
Where once I had pushed it down, and if I struggle still to let it rise,
Ascend the old trees whose knees poke out of the current beside
A tranquil place amid the rush and flow, overlooked by learning’s shrine,
Scale the rising landscape that strives for green in every month and finds it
Under gray curtains when Aestas has fled for other lands
Only rarely hiding it under a white blanket, and less often for long,
As the old ones note who speak of such things over cups of coffee of a morning
And whose words I still hear in my heart when I think back on it all
From where I now sit, having sought greener fields for a time and found
They are not so much to my desire as my old home
To which I return as I may, less often than I might like,
In any month, but more in the old tenth when
Older, finer clothes are donned again beside the water and
By an earl that runs from north to south and
By a baker of no small renown on the state’s longest highway
I realize, perhaps not too late for me, that
It’s still a Kerrville, Hill Country Christmas that I love
And I look forward to seeing it again

Is it any wonder?
Image from the City of Kerrville and so public domain

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 258: Golden Fool, Chapter 8

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

The next chapter, “Ambitions,” opens with an in-milieu commentary about the interrelatedness and distinctions of magics in the world of the Elderlings. It moves then to Fitz mulling over his hubris in presuming to be able to teach Dutiful the Skill and the many tasks facing him amid the instruction. The course of his days during the winter is noted, as is his reluctance to engage Thick about the Skill.

r/DnD - [OC] Schools of Magic Periodic Circle
Something like this inspires the prefatory note, perhaps?
Image taken from a Reddit thread and used for commentary.

Amid their talk, Fitz confers with Chade about Dutiful’s rapid progress in the Skill and realizes the effects of age creeping up on his great-uncle. Talk turns to Thick, as well, and Fitz mulls over his Skill-training with Galen and the depravities of his once-teacher. And Chade’s own longing for the Skill comes to the fore, with the older man admitting its intensification against the exigencies of increasing age. Conversation turns sharp, and Fitz retires to his own chambers, mulling over his personal connections.

Hap occupies much of Fitz’s thoughts, and he does not like that Svanja so often accompanies Hap when he sees his foster-son. He also calls on Jinna, trying not to fall into a habit of assignation with her and not succeeding. Fitz mulls over his hypocrisies as the chapter closes.

I don’t know that there’s necessarily much on which to comment in the current chapter, other than references to earlier events I’ve linked already. I suppose the ruminative interlude on display is a good thing, though, allowing for some explication as well as altering narrative pacing. Such does not offer much for engaging commentary though, even if an occasional breather is a welcome thing amid reading.

Like what you see? Perhaps you might help me keep it going?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 257: Golden Fool, Chapter 7

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

The succeeding chapter, “Lessons,” is introduced with an in-milieu commentary regarding the formation of coteries–groups of allied Skill-users. It proceeds thence to Dutiful raging at Fitz-as-Badgerlock for his perceived delinquency; Fitz takes the boy in hand and muses over the contents of the chamber in which he conducts Dutiful’s Skill lessons, rehearsing some of the history of the Skill scrolls within. He lays out his background and training in the Skill, glossing what details he can. Fitz also notes his training in the Wit, which is even scantier than his formal study of the Skill.

Fitz and Verity
Something recalled…
Fitz and Verity by AravisDeistery on DeviantArt, used for commentary.

Fitz and Dutiful also discuss Civil Bresinga, whom Dutiful notes is trained in the Wit. Dutiful also lays out why he continues to trust the other youth, despite his family’s involvement in his kidnapping. Fitz mulls over matters, and the two of them proceed in the Skill instruction, Fitz somewhat hesitant, Dutiful willingly. They hear Thick’s Skilled music and Dutiful finds himself swept up by the Skill, Fitz plunging into the magic after him. He retrieves the Prince and steadies him in his body as he considers his own experiences with the magic.

After admonishing Dutiful not to stray back into the Skill, Fitz ends the lesson. On his way out, Dutiful asks about Fitz’s entanglement with Golden, citing Civil’s assertion of Golden’s homosexuality. Fitz sets aside the Prince’s concerns and, as Dutiful leaves, considers other adjustments that need to be made. He also mulls over reports exchanged with Chade, as well as the ferret–Gilly–that he now has. Their talk ranges to current events and trade arrangements before returning to the Skill and Skill pillars, Fitz urging Chade to caution.

Following the conference with Chade, Fitz spies out Civil, musing on the dullness of the subject, and returns to the hidden tower room. There, he encounters Thick, with whom he attempts some rapprochement. There is limited progress on that front, and Fitz falls asleep after Thick departs.

I note Fitz’s comment that “it seemed to me that someone else almost spoke to me, in a distant echo of thought” as he retrieves Dutiful from the Skill. Such things have been mentioned before, spectral figures glimpsed only in passing through the eldritch veils of magic. There is some suggestion in the text as to what they are, but memory does not serve at present to bring up any specific identification–something that might frustrate many fantasy readers, who often like to have things spelled out, but I recall something of Tolkien’s comments about unattainable vistas and the bones from which the soup is made. I am curious, of course, but I accept that not all things can be revealed or need to be.

I note, too, Dutiful’s clear distaste for homosexuality when he asks Fitz about Golden. Once again, other scholars have spoken to the queerness of the Fool and the overall Realm of the Elderlings narrative, far more eloquently and eruditely than is mine to do; their works are attested here, and I encourage exploration of them. I note again, however, that the explicit inclusion of homosexuality and tensions surrounding it frustrates the assertion that the Wit is primarily a metaphor for homosexuality–one that was always somewhat fraught, really. I’ve remarked on it repeatedly before, so I’ll not belabor the point–save to note that it is once again there to make.

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As it happens, I’m working primarily as a freelance writer and tutor at this point, other work not being what I’d thought it would be. Now, those of you who’re looking at this know how I write and what I tend to write about, and those of you who keep coming back seem to like what I do, so I’ll put it to you this way: If you’ve got some writing that needs doing, some writing that needs reviewing, or some literary or writerly thing that seems to be messing with you, or somebody you know does, reach out. My rates are reasonable, and my results speak for themselves.

How can you say “no” to this?
Image is mine, multiple ways.

I work in the following:

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So, if you or someone you know needs help with any of those, reach out in the comments below. I’ll see them there!

I look forward to hearing from and working with you!

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 256: Golden Fool, Chapter 6

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

The following chapter, “Obliteration,” opens with a selection from an account of the battle in Bingtown Harbor before turning to Fitz returning to his room in Lord Golden’s suite to find an argument between Golden and Laurel in progress. He halts rather than intruding, overhears the message Laurel has for him, and enters to confer with the Fool after Laurel stalks off. He also notes a need to go into town to offer a series of apologies, and the Fool notes such arrangements as he has made as they confer about Fitz’s meeting with Kettricken. He also stalks off to his own private room, leaving Fitz-as-Badgerlock to go about his day.

Yes! YES!
Image from one of many internet forums, used for commentary.

When Badgerlock meets Laurel in the stables, she takes him to what had been Burrich’s residence in them–and Fitz’s, early on–to confer privately about news she has received from her Old Blood kin of Piebald machinations at work in Buckkeep. The remaining Piebalds, following the maimed and convalescing Laudwine, thirst for power and revenge; Badgerlock glosses his own recent local encounter with the group, and he wonders if Chade can be of any help to Laurel and her kin. They part amicably, understanding one another in that regard.

After, Badgerlock takes his time getting to Jinna’s, purchasing gifts for her and waiting as she conducts her business before being taken inside. And in the wake of his going in, Fitz thinks of Molly, as he had not in some time, noting his lack of connections that had been highlighted by the conference with Kettricken. The two talk about Jinna’s magic and what it shows her of Badgerlock, and her cat interrupts rudely as talk turns to Hap and his dissolution. Badgerlock’s lack of knowledge becomes evident, and he makes off awkwardly to see to his foster-son.

Hap complains of the apprentice-work to which he is put, Badgerlock reminding him that such work is only to be expected. It falls on deaf ears, as do Badgerlock’s concerns about Hap’s infatuation with Svanja, a local girl.

After, Badgerlock returns to Buckkeep Castle, where a summons to Chade awaits. It gives him cover to return to his hut near Forge, and he speeds thence as best he may. He finds that it has been visited, likely by a neighbor, and he notes the thefts as he culls his work. Some things, he retains; most go into a fire. Taking with him pots of preserved herbs, he leaves the rest to burn, uncertain of what might have escaped him.

I will say that Fitz is not the only one who looks back over the writing they’ve done and has thoughts of burning it all. I feel the temptation myself, even now, even about the things I’ve managed to shepherd into publication and which I know have received some approval. (I’ve been cited a few times. It’s nice.) And there have been times, indeed, when I’ve succumbed to the temptation, purging papers and files and things that I have had–and there have been times I’ve regretted doing so, largely because events occurred afterward that would’ve been easier for me to address had I had what I had thrown away.

At the same time, there is only so much baggage from the past a person can carry around. I know that from experience, too. So I can’t say that Fitz has the wrong of it to burn it away…

I continue to appreciate your help!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 255: Golden Fool, Chapter 5

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

The next chapter, “Shared Sorrows,” begins with verses from Starling Birdsong before turning to Fitz waking where he had dozed off while awaiting Dutiful. The Prince has not attended his scheduled meeting, occasioning rueful disappointment from Fitz. He leaves a message for the wayward royal and returns to Chade’s hidden rooms, where he is again confronted by the power of Thick’s Skill. He steels himself against it and, when Chade addresses him as though he were a young child, intercedes, noting Thick’s different intellect and Dutiful’s neglect.

Mourning Nighteyes
Illustration series for the Golden Fool by Robin Hobb
I still love this artist’s work.
Katrin Sapranova’s Mourning Nighteyes, used for commentary.

Chade swiftly conducts Fitz to a meeting with Kettricken, who mourns for the lost Nighteyes. Her mourning triggers Fitz’s, and the two weep together for a time. Kettricken then brings up the topic of Dutiful’s Wit, noting its source in her, and she speaks with Fitz regarding his comfort and care. She also repeats something of Shrewd’s old gesture to Fitz, and Fitz asks her about Rosemary. She notes the disposition of her former adversary, as well as others, and Fitz begrudgingly accepts the reasoning involved.

Their talk turns to the Piebald threat, both as it directs itself toward Fitz in particular and as it menaces the Six Duchies more generally. And it takes in some of the Outislanders’ concerns, as well, before Fitz excuses himself with Kettricken’s welcome wishes for healing.

The return to Thick in the present chapter would seem to be a motion towards consideration of neurodivergence and disability. As is the case with many things, my scholarship and background is deficient in terms of treating those concerns, although I’d imagine that such scholars as Kisha Tracy would have more to say about it. (At least I can point to other scholars this time!) From the vantage of re-reading, I can say that it’ll be something of a theme, moving forward; Hobb gets into many kinds of difference in her novels, treating them openly (if perhaps not always ideally) in a way that too many other authors elide, especially in fantasy fiction. (Problems with similar concerns have been noted.) I’m glad to (again) see it happen with Thick; at least the conversation is happening.

The present chapter also reinforces something I’ve noted as being an issue throughout the Six Duchies novels. Throughout, there is a clear message that upright conduct is, ultimately, untenable on its own; the exalted courtly structures so frequently depicted in fantasy literatures and held up as aspirational examples flatly cannot exist on their own. No, they consume and cast out, making use of “necessary evils” such as Fitz is trained to be and setting them aside–and if it is the case that Fitz accepts effective exile, it is also the case that he has little choice in the matter. And that says something worth attention.

Help me give my girl a happy holiday season?