A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 346: Dragon Haven, Chapter 14

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

After a more extended passage in the ongoing exchange between bird-keepers, in which economic and marital prospects are discussed, “Divergence” begins with the weather shifting on the dragons, their keepers, and the Tarman as they proceed upriver. Leftrin voices doubts about the dragons’ memories and ruminates at length on his situation, musing on Alise and their entanglements. His management of the throng in his care receives attention, as does his recognition of building tensions among the groups and their members. And, at length, Leftrin is jolted from his reverie by the Tarman running aground, entirely unusually for the eldest liveship.

Something like this, yes.
Photo by Blaque X on Pexels.com

The keepers aboard the Tarman are summoned to assist the crew in plying poles to push the liveship off of the sandbar on which the ship has become grounded. Thymara assesses matters as she does her part, noting the changes to the keepers and crew since setting out on the expedition, not all of which are to the good. Alise also comes under attention, as do Sedric and the dragons, and Thymara notes tensions among the latter. Efforts to free the Tarman fail, however, as the liveship actively resists them.

Leftrin tries to gather information from his ship, only to be told things are “wrong” with no further detail. Efforts to free the Tarman are left off for the day, and Leftrin feels satisfaction from the ship at remaining in place.

Thymara goes out to scout for food, and Alise asks to accompany her. The two go off together, conferring as they do, and Alise becomes more than usually aware of the differences between her and the keeper. The shock of learning about Hest and the notion that Leftrin would trade in dragon parts sit ill with her as she thinks upon them, and she fumes at the doubts growing in her mind. She is surprised, however, to find solid ground in the Rain Wilds.

Leftrin retires for the evening, considering the events of the day. He mulls over Tarman‘s quirks and strange behavior, and he dreams of walking in Kelsingra with Alise, waking as she calls on his cabin in the night. She enters, and they talk together about the dream of Kelsingra they both had before falling into another assignation. Afterward, she remains in his cabin for the night, and they talk briefly together of others before he steps out to breakfast while she sleeps in. At table, Leftrin’s niece greets him, talking briefly about Alise, and Leftrin begins to consider ramifications of his actions. Over coffee, the two look ahead to the coming day together.

I have commented before, I think, on Hobb’s use of chapter-prefatory materials, noting the tendency in the Farseer and Tawny Man novels to do something akin to Asimov’s Encyclopedia Galactica entries in the early Foundation novels to provide context to and commentary on the events in the chapters they precede. I have also commented, I believe, on the ongoing exchanges among bird-keepers in the Rain Wild Chronicles novels, noting that they follow the general form of the earlier insertions. The noted enclosures, although only glossed rather than presented, offer insight into the broader goings-on of Trader society, as well as particulars of specific people not always directly seen. In so doing, they do the usual work of implying a greater world in which the events of the novel exist, lending to the “inner consistency of reality” necessary to sustaining a secondary sub-creation (to use Tolkien’s terms from “On Fairy-stories”) and to the verisimilitude Hobb has noted being at pains to produce in her work.

If I have remarked on it before, though, I find myself prompted to do so again by the more extended commentary between Erek and Detozi at the preface of the present chapter. The attention to the details of the work the two do, refining their trade and looking for means to expand their economic clout (not to be wondered at in a society that predicates itself on commerce; they are not called Traders for nothing), seems to me to deepen and enrich the overall narrative. That the personal relationship between the two is clearly growing stronger, as well, strikes my fancy. Not only does it play into some of the romance-novel tropes I’ve pointed out as being at work in the Traders-focused novels before, it resonates with me; my wife and I conducted a fair bit of our early romance through letters, and both of us feel our relationship is stronger than it otherwise would have been because of our epistolary courtship. Seeing others, even in fiction, feel the same is nice.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 345: Dragon Haven, Chapter 13

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

This one needs a content warning about suicidal ideation.

After yet another part of an exchange among bird-keepers, this one working to refine their craft as well as to trade news, “Choices” begins with resumed progress up the Rain Wild River, the straitened circumstances of the dragons, their keepers, and the crew of the Tarman detailed. Greft continues to be an annoyance to Thymara, as do the boys competing for her affections. She and Tats put themselves to work fashioning replacement oars, if awkwardly, and they talk together as they do so. Tension between the two is clear even as they reaffirm their friendship.

Useful things to have on a boat…
Image is Motmit’s on Wikipedia, used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license

Meanwhile, Carson emerges from the isolation in which he has wallowed in self-pity. He steps out on the deck of the Tarman to find keepers and dragons at play in relatively clean water flowing into the Rain Wild, and he assess their situation and his own as he stalks to the galley and procures a scanty meal for himself. Alise confronts him there, and a tense conversation ensues between them regarding his earlier revelations. At her prompting, Sedric explicates some of the gay culture of Bingtown, and Alise reacts relatively poorly thereto. She determines to break off her marriage with Hest, and Sedric cautions her away from Leftrin, citing his arrangement to sell dragon parts to Chalced. Alise stalks off, and Sedric finds himself changing and comforted by Relpda after she does. Faced with the dragon’s regard, Sedric considers suicide and is halted by Carson, to whom he confesses much and with whom he proceeds to an assignation.

Thymara stalks off into the night, considering how matters have fallen out among the keepers. She considers remaining in place in solitude, but she is joined by Tats, and she allows herself to accept his physical attentions until Greft interrupts. In the wake of his interference, Thymara again rejects Tats’s suit.

I am not surprised at Alise’s reaction to Sedric’s unfolding of gay culture in Bingtown and her duping thereby; being lied to, and for years, is not a happy thing. I suppose there is some homophobia in her reactions, but I am not necessarily in a position to be able to address it in any particular way. Others with more vested interests in such things, whether from experience or from more focused scholarship, would be able to say more; there is at least a paper in such a thing, if not more, and it is partly for such reasons that I continue to return to Hobb’s writing.

Sexual politics do seem very much to be at play in the expedition up the Rain Wild, though. I suppose it is not unexpected; a small group in isolation, particularly one largely composed of teenagers and young adults, can hardly be expected not to experience sexual tensions and to act on them, in many cases foolishly. The overt sexuality and the efforts to control and constrain it–for varying reasons, some of which appear on the surface of things to be more legitimate or acceptable than others–do heavily mark the narrative. It’s another thing that invites at least a paper, if one written by a better scholar than I know myself to be as I am now.

Perhaps someday I will once again be the kind of scholar who can grapple with such ideas meaningfully and well. Perhaps.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 344: Dragon Haven, Chapter 12

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

After a sad entry in the ongoing correspondence among bird-keepers, “The Locket” begins with Relpda exulting in having eaten Jess as she returns to the other dragons. She also notes that Sedric has drunk her blood, which occasions upset among the others. Amid the tumult, Sintara questions Relpda about events, and Mercor notes one means through which the dragons formerly created Elderlings. His comments occasion more agitated discussion among the dragons, and Sintara considers the tattered memories she holds, that all of them have. Relpda asserts herself, which comes as some surprise to the other dragons, and Mercor presses Sintara for details that are only begrudgingly given.

Of such sort are more memories than dragons’, stained and tattered and perhaps pretentious
Photo by Poppy Thomas Hill on Pexels.com

Sedric, returned to the Tarman, delights in restoring some semblance of civility to himself and his situation, and he reflects on his recent experiences. The distance between him and Alise receives attention, and he notices the locket he had had from Hest as he dresses. Taking it up, he considers his relationship with the man whose image graces the locket, and his thoughts turn warmly toward Carson. Sedric also considers that Leftrin might have been in league with Jess, which gives him some concern.

Alise’s return disturbs Sedric’s reverie, and the two confer together about their respective situations, carefully avoiding some topics but lunging headlong into Hest. She voices her doubts of her husband, and Sedric affirms that Hest does not love her. She is about to press Sedric about Hest further but is distracted by the recognition that he is beginning to take on the features common to the Rain Wilds, which he denies. As Alise presses about the locket, however, he relents and admits his relationship with her husband, expecting scorn and finding only compassion from her. Alise departs, and Sedric ruminates further on what he had with Hest, and the touch of Relpda’s mind on his offers some strange comfort.

Elsewhere, Carson and Leftrin confer closely about events, the former confronting the latter about the notion of harvesting dragon parts. Leftrin admits his involvement and lays out the situation, and Carson accepts Leftrin’s remarks that he is done with such dealings.

The present chapter is surprisingly illuminating about the Elderlings and their origins, as well as about the Others–some fairly deep links back into the Elderlings corpus, such things as I tend to appreciate amid sprawling narratives. (I like things to follow the rules they set out. It’s a preference that gets me into trouble in real life, where exceptions are the norm–and I lie outside it.) I am minded of the adage that “You are what you eat,” and I note that Hobb has long established that so much is true for the dragons–they take on memories from what they consume. It is of some interest that the reverse appears also to be true, that by eating of dragons people take on something of the draconic–and that there is some peril in it for both humans and dragons.

I note, too, that Sedric begins to come out in the present chapter, although only privately and only partially. What queer theory has to say about the narrative, I do not know, not being versed in it as I perhaps ought to be. I do know that the work done on Hobb’s writing in that line has focused not on Sedric, but upon Fitz and the Fool, and I cannot help but wonder at why (except that Fitz has been out in the readers’ world longer and more abundantly). Admittedly, Sedric seems more in line with stereotypes than Fitz and the Fool, which makes for less interesting scholarship–although there may be something to gain from contrasting Hobb’s handling of the characters…

Ah, to have the time to pursue ideas about books again!

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 343: Dragon Haven, Chapter 11

Read the previous entry in the series here.
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Following yet more of the exchange among bird-keepers in Bingtown and Trehaug, “Revelations” begins with Alise waking Leftrin from their sleep together after their assignation. They confer about their dreams briefly before dressing and parting, and Alise considers her situation and the experience. For his part, Leftrin questions his ship, but the Tarman gives no answer.

Can’t you just hear Peer Gynt?
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

Downriver, Carson leads Sedric and Relpda back to the Tarman and the other dragons and keepers. Sedric chafes slightly at the situation but has no choice but to accepts it, and he reconsiders his long entanglement with Hest. Thinking about who may have supplanted him in Hest’s affections, Sedric finds himself pleased at how matters are changing.

Thymara stalks out to look for food for the group, unexpectedly accompanied by Tats. As they proceed, they discuss the possibility of return to Trehaug and the need to prove themselves. Thymara relates her experience growing up working alongside her father and the insufficiency of that in the eyes of her people. Relative risks of childbearing are also noted, and Thymara finds herself wearied by the recollection of Greft’s insistence that she pick a mate. Tats finds himself challenged on that very point, and Thymara denies both Tats and his challenger, injuring herself as she falls and flees.

Carson, Sedric, and Relpda return to the others. Alise, happy to see her friend return, is reminded by Sedric’s arrival of her responsibilities and entanglements in Bingtown, and she longs for his safe departure.

There is interesting commentary about what it takes to prove one’s self, something with which adolescents and young adults are (justly?) concerned. Given how often fantasy literature is assigned to younger readerships–even now, even in this time and after decades of serious academic treatment of the genre–this is perhaps understandable. Given Hobb’s insistence upon verisimilitude in the non-fantastical elements of her work, it is also understandable; I am not so far removed from my youth that I have forgotten the craving to prove myself, not seldom by mastering some obscure set of trivia, however useless it has been for me to do so. It might also be noted as an ongoing theme in Hobb’s Elderlings works. After all, Fitz spends a fair bit of time trying to find and assert his identity, and he wrestles with Hap’s doing the same; Althea, Brashen, and Wintrow also struggle to define who they are and oblige others to recognize the same, as do Malta and Reyn. Nor is as much restricted to Hobb; not for nothing is the Bildungsroman a commonplace.

Still, the specific questions raised about how to prove one’s self are of interest, the kind of thing I would be apt to point out to students if I had any:

  • Is breaking a rule a means of proving one’s worth? Is it so even if the rule is in place for good reason? What does it prove about a person to break a rule that protects others?
  • What does it mean to be a woman or a man? Why does it mean that, in the context of the novel and / or of the reader?
  • To whom is it needful to prove one’s self? Why?

I used to nurture, and I have not at this point forgotten, the idea of teaching a course on Hobb’s work. I have taught Assassin’s Apprentice, long ago, now, and it went over well. I am not as good a classroom instructor now as then, obviously, but I have gotten better at structuring lessons and developing assignments…I wonder if it might yet work.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 342: Dragon Haven, Chapter 10

Read the previous entry in the series here.
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Following news of a message from Hest cutting off financial support to Alise and Sedric and a comment on the scandalous nature thereof, “Confessions” begins with Relpda eating and Sedric considering his increasing entanglement with the dragon. Carson’s return and his work to assist are noted, and Sedric wonders if Carson will also offer to help kill Relpda, as Jess had done and as Sedric had earlier desired. Sedric and Carson confer, and Sedric finds himself looking forward to simple pleasures and chastising himself for being so willing to resign his autonomy. Carson lays out his plans and explicates his reasons for having joined the expedition; the upriver journey will allow him to leave a mark on Rain Wild history that he would not earlier have been able to make. Sedric compares Carson to Hest, finding the latter lacking, and Carson comments with some aspersion on the intended machinations of some in the expedition. He comments, too, that Sedric need not return to Bingtown, noting his appreciation for the other man. But the moment of intimacy passes, and more of the truth of events emerges, and Carson finds himself considering matters more deeply as he and Sedric turn in for the evening.

Gotta love a map…
Crooty’s Map of the Rain Wild River: Colour on DeviantArt, used for commentary.

Aboard the Tarman, Leftrin stands watch while his crew sleeps. He considers approaching Alise in the absence of Sedric and chides himself for the thought, conferring with his ship in the darkness. Leftrin ruminates on his ship and his family’s long work thereupon, including the refit that had given the Tarman limbs and a tail. The betrayal of trust that brought Jess aboard rankles both ship and captain, and they make their plans for the coming days. Tarman notes to Leftrin that Alise is awake, and the ship chivvies the captain as he makes to approach her. The two swiftly fall into an assignation, in which both delight.

The romance-novel conventions seem once again to be at play in the present chapter, and on the parts of both Sedric and Alise–which is itself good to see. Admittedly, it sits somewhat less comfortably with me that Sedric is getting them than that Alise is; Alise is (largely) an innocent, while Sedric is not so, and not because of Jess’s death. As I think on it, I suppose it might be a redemption arc in progress (as opposed to the self-actualization arc occurring with Alise), and there is certainly value in such things. I’ve certainly done many things I regret, some of which have been in the attempt to bring in more money, and I would like to think there is something I can do to make things, if not right again, at least better.

Too, as I think on the matter further, it is clear that both Alise and Sedric are in abusive relationships with Hest, relationships to which they therefore ethically need not be bound, even if there are legal/istic entanglements they must address. And maybe that is what is going on: commentary on the right of release from abusive relationships. It’s certainly foregrounded in the chapter’s prefatory materials, and it’s been clear that Hest is…unpleasant. So there’s probably something to explore, there, for those versed in such things.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 341: Dragon Haven, Chapter 9

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Another chapter, “Discoveries,” begins after a continuation of the exchange among bird-keepers, sending condolences and an invitation. As it does, Relpda wakes Sedric, to his annoyance, and he assesses his situation. Sedric tends to the dragon, if haltingly, and he tends to himself amid the injuries incurred fighting Jess. Communion with the dragon leaves him unsettles and uncomfortable, and Sedric begins to recognize increasing closeness with her, not entirely unpleasantly.

Not quite what the novel means by being marked by a dragon, I think…
Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

Aboard the Tarman, Alise emerges on deck to find Thymara and Jerd conferring, and she begins to muse both on friendship and on the locket she found in Sedric’s goods. Turning away from such thoughts as are provoked, she moves about the ship and continues to muse on the differences between her situation and those of others, musing on Leftrin and the feelings he provokes in her. Soon enough, Leftrin joins her, and the two confer about developments. The likelihood of finding additional survivors and supplies is noted as rapidly diminishing, though Leftrin notes that Carson, who is searching, will have reason to find Sedric.

Thymara and Jerd confer about their own situations and the latter’s sexuality. Thymara is wounded by the conversation, and she moves away from Jerd, thinking uncomfortable thoughts.

Sedric continues his efforts on Relpda’s behalf, enjoying some success, if at the cost of some pain from the caustic waters and the unfamiliar exertion. The dragon grows somewhat panicked and petulant, and Sedric angrily pushes back. His doing so clarifies matters for Relpda, and the pair have something of a breakthrough. They work together for a time, and Relpda makes to rest. Sedric hears the call of a horn and calls out in response to it, being greeted by the searching Carson. Overjoyed Carson works to tend to Sedric and Relpda, and he reports developments among the dragons and keepers before pressing on to continue the search a bit longer.

Sintara muses on her situation, as well, conferring with Mercor about events and her responses to them. The other dragons are less sanguine about Mercor’s philosophizing, and they determine together to press ahead rather than die in sucking mud. Conversation among the dragons grows tense and approaches violence, but is defused partly by Mercor and the revelation that they are developing as dragons. The fragile truce brokered is broken by the silver dragon, now recovered, who proclaims himself–Spit–and asserts a place among the rest. Sintara watches for a time before settling in to sleep, joined soon by the other dragons.

It’s clearly been a while since I put myself to work on this long project, and I have no excuse. I can only say that I have been greatly busy with a number of other things, and that it is good to come back to Hobb’s writing once again.

As I return to the reread, I find myself questioning some sympathies I have had with the various characters. I’ve noted before that I tend to read with more affect than ought to be the case, something that my schooling would have had me leave behind but that I never have been able to shed fully. (Perhaps it is part of why I was never able to secure a tenure-line job. Ah, well!) I feel for the characters more than is seemly, something for which I have been teased and more by a number of people in my life. (It is a bit silly, I acknowledge.) I contend that it’s part of the quality of Hobb’s writing that the characters are so easy to feel with, even when they are not necessarily good or nice people.

Returning to the text, though, after so long away and in such an awkward position in the book–nine chapters in to twenty–I am not having trouble picking the narrative threads back up. (There’s a reason to write summaries.) The feelings, though, are not springing back as quickly as the memories are. I’m not sure what’s going on with it, really, whether it’s in me or in the text. (Some of each, perhaps?) Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’m fighting off a head-cold at the moment.

Be that as it may, however, I do note that the current chapter would appear to reward feminist reading, as I believe I have noted that the Bingtown-centered series tend to do. The “frontier” aspects of the work also continue (?) to attract my attention as I read; there is something decidedly pioneering about the keepers and their progress upriver, with much less of the baggage that so often associates itself with such narratives as they apply to the United States. There are no people living in the areas where the keepers travel and to which they are bound, although there once were (something of a commonplace, really); the keepers and their dragons are therefore not on track to impose the kind of oppressive settler colonialism so often seen in the readers’ world. But then, fantasy is supposed to show something of an idealization, an “other way” that could have been, had things been different.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 340: Dragon Haven, Chapter 8

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With more tidings passing between bird-keepers, these unpleasant, “Horns” begins with Alise rousing to the sounds of active dragons. The sounds of the approaching Tarman soon follow, and the reuniting groups compare notes about who has been found–and who has not. Greft again attempts to assert some measure of control, finding himself annoyed not to be lauded, and again nettled when Alise points out Thymara’s efforts to provide for the keepers.

Not the worst choice…
Image is Tats by FloorSteinz on DeviantArt, used for commentary

Leftrin, hearing Carson’s signal, exults as he rehearses findings to that point. He urges the Tarman to caution and the barge-crew to action as the ship reaches the keepers and their dragons. Greft, when he comes aboard, attempts to forestall further searching, only to be reminded that Leftrin, not Greft, is the captain of the Tarman. After Greft’s dismissal, Leftrin hastens to welcome Alise aboard, but their reunion is shadowed by concern for Sedric, Leftrin’s own guilt, and the crew’s questions about provisions.

Alise retires to her cabin and considers the likely loss of Sedric, as well as her complicity with the same. Her guilt at feeling for Leftrin emerges, as well, and she assesses herself. After, she determines to set Sedric’s possessions in order, finding among them a locket that turns out to be from Hest. Her mind shies away from possibilities.

The keepers and dragons confer, somewhat tensely, over the disposition of the fallen. The dragons assert their right to consume the corpses of their keepers, with the keepers refusing. Leftrin notes that any bodies would have to be given to the river, and the keepers agree to be given to their dragons–save Thymara, who argues against Sintara’s claim. She watches and considers her place and ill fit as rites are conducted, and she and Tats confer about relative standings and politics among the keepers. Tats echoes some of Greft’s rhetoric, occasioning upset no less than his reports of more of Greft’s decision-making. Their continued conversation is interrupted by the return of another dragon and keeper, and Thymara finds herself considering Tats closely. She kisses him suddenly, leaving him uncertain of her intent.

My comments about Greft that accompany my summary of the previous chapter…do not go far enough in the event. He’s not some image of the putative evolutionary biologist or incel, but of a cult leader of the sort depicted in Netflix series and true-crime documentaries. The manipulation of events to ensure the “protection” of a younger woman among the keepers is…chilling. Despite the usual publication disclaimer–“Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental”–it is all too easy to find real-life parallels, and ones recent to the context of composition for the novel, as well as close enough to where Hobb lives (near Seattle/Tacoma, per her website over the years). Too, Hobb is open about working from real-life inspiration, not on a person-per-character basis, but certainly with an eye toward how things are in her readers’ world (here it is). So there are enough parallels to point out.

There are more than enough.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 339: Dragon Haven, Chapter 7

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Following another part of the ongoing exchange among bird-keepers, “Rescue” opens with Thymara assessing her situation, which is described in detail. The losses the keepers have suffered begin to tell upon them, fatigue setting in, and Thymara goes out to forage for food. Her efforts yield some success, and she brings a small load back to her fellow keepers, who are themselves at work ensuring food is available for them. Thymara does have a tense exchange with some of her fellows as she goes about her business, and arguments about how to divide what provisions are available ensue. Greft attempts again to assert authority and is met with stubborn resistance by some. Distraction from the conflict is welcome, and Alise suggests asking the dragons if they know the whereabouts of their fellows as some keepers anguish over not being able to feel their dragons.

A comfort amid the chill damp.
Photo by Oussama Elhaidi on Pexels.com

Alise assesses herself and her situation as she remains among the keepers in the wake of the flood. She eats and frets about what has been lost, but she takes some comfort from conversation with Thymara. Others join in on the conversation, and the group begins to take stock of how it will proceed. Various alternatives are proposed, and the decision is set aside in favor of attending to immediate needs. More tension emerges over who will accompany Thymara as she goes out to forage again, and Alise becomes aware that more is going on among the keepers.

Elsewhere, Jess presses upon Sedric for aid in slaughtering and processing Relpda. Sedric decides to aid the dragon, and melee ensues. Sedric acquits himself ably for one with limited experience, but Jess soon gets the better of him and begins to throttle him. Relpda saves Sedric, however, eating Jess and delighting in the meal.

As Thymara stalks out to forage, she considers the romantic entanglements at work among the keepers and assesses her own feelings toward those involved. The pair return to where the keepers, rejoined by the dragons, are bivouacked for the night. Accommodations are described, and in the night, Greft approaches Thymara again. He broaches the topic of who she will take as a lover, brusquely explaining his reasoning and noting that he and Jerd are expecting. Thymara rages at the implications, but Greft presses, on citing ostensibly biological justifications for his policies as he proposes founding a new settlement where the flood has marooned them. Sintara, however, commends Thymara’s thoughts on the matter.

As happens so often, I find myself reading with current events in mind. The exchange between Greft and Thymara at the end of the chapter is…chilling in light of putative evolutionary psychologists and the incels who idolize them. It is the kind of rhetoric–coercive if not outright threatening, and presented as a “natural” inevitability not far out of line with Hobbes–that is all too frequent among execrable groups and people. It is the kind of rhetoric that points toward (young) men being owed sex, an attitude that is unfortunately common and all too often reinforced by the works of media consumed and held up as being worth consuming.

Given what else is in the chapter and what else is in Hobb’s work, and given the usual separation between authors and the narrative personæ they necessarily adopt, it would be folly to ascribe to Hobb the kind of belief Greft presents. (More indication of that incorrectness will emerge as the reread continues, as well.) But it is also the case that many who make arguments in favor of the kind of rhetoric and underlying beliefs that Greft voices refuse to recognize larger contexts; it doesn’t matter that the next sentence is “And that is wrong,” only that the present one is something they can use. They’re not alone in such things, certainly, but the fact of prevalence isn’t proof of correctness. Nor is it proof of goodness, maugre the heads of many who would say otherwise.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 338: Dragon Haven, Chapter 6

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After a missive that remarks on the flood and its effects, “Partners” opens with Sedric coming to his senses in the mouth of the dragon Relpda as she swims upon the swollen, caustic river. The two continue their mental communion, and Sedric begins to despair as he assesses their situation. Sedric prevails upon Relpda to put to shore, albeit with some difficulty on both their parts, and as they struggle to reach land, Relpda presses upon Sedric for more, effectively making him her keeper.

Source is in the image, I believe, but just to be sure, it’s from the blackandwhitemotley Tumblr feed, here, which I’ve used for commentary before

Aboard the Tarman, Leftrin gives orders to secure against the results of the flood and maintain both a vigil and a signal for survivors not yet recovered. Assessing the losses–which appear to include all the keepers and Alise–his thoughts darken, and Carson offers to assist in the search for survivors. Carson heads out to search, and Leftrin and his crew continue their efforts, Leftrin berating himself against the flood and its effects.

Sedric and Relpda continue to struggle together, Sedric realizing that the effort of preserving him is costing the dragon dearly. Sedric shunts aside thoughts of returning to Bingtown and bends his mind to how he might help his benefactor, making some headway to that end despite his overall physical ineptitude. As he does, however, he is surprised to be encountered by Jess. The two assess their improved prospects, and Jess discusses killing Relpda to sell her parts–alongside Sedric. Sedric takes some time to realize the proposal being made to him, and when he does, Sedric considers the offer, moving to pacify Relpda as Jess approaches.

The present chapter certainly makes much of pathos, emphasizing it through the burgeoning connection between Sedric and Relpda. As I reread, I find myself in mind of animals being led off to die, and the thought occurs to me that the present text might well be read as a musing on animalism or sentientism. As with many, many things, however, I am insufficiently versed in either philosophical approach to do more than recognize that they might apply; I must leave to others the work of explicating any such thing.

More and more, such is the case. I am some time away from academe at this point, and it is increasingly clear to me that I should be away from it. Even recognizing as much, however, I am called to continue such projects as this (even if with some pauses and hitches and false starts). I know there are still things for me to say about these works and about works like them, things that I can recognize and point out to others so that they can build upon what I find to learn yet more about the works and about the worlds they depict and in which they exist.

Such action, looking at what people make to better understand the made, the maker, and the world, is a goal of literary study, generally. Even though I no longer participate in that field professionally, I still think it is a worthwhile thing.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 337: Dragon Haven, Chapter 5

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

Following more exchange among bird-keepers and indications of the clear concerns of some members of Alise’s and Sedric’s circles, “White Flood” opens upon Leftrin trying to kill Jess amid bad weather and the unraveling of the latter’s plans. Floodwater and debris sweep over them, and Leftrin begins to give himself up for dead. The Tarman makes shift to retrieve him, though, and he waits for rescue.

Not so gentle as this…
Pudsey Beck by Martin Rankin is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

Sintara unceremoniously deposits Thymara with Alise, and the two women orient themselves amid the tumult, taking stock of their situation. The Rain Wild River is swollen in the wake of a flash flood and running a milky acidic white. The dragons, heeding Mercor, struggle for the riverbanks, Thymara urging Sintara along.

Sintara struggles, and Alise and Thymara urge her along more vocally and fully, and they join other keepers to secure their dragons against the continuing flood. The keepers confer about damages and losses, and Thymara begins to blame herself for the loss of Rapskal and his dragon, Heeby. Alise attempts to offer comfort, but more comes from other keepers who speak to the current billeting of Sintara and others. The loss of much material in the flood is noted, however, but a grim resolve to continue settles upon the keepers.

As I reread the chapter, I was put in mind of an experience more than twenty years gone, now. In the summer of 2002, I was commuting from my parents’ home to my undergraduate school, moving back in after a year in the dorms and a year in on-campus apartments. And I had been laying on the couch for a fair bit of the time I was not in class, rereading a different series of novels on the days when I was not working. My doing so attracted some commentary from my parents, to which I replied with some angry crack about things being boring otherwise.

I have said before that I have mellowed out in my old age.

The day after I made the comment, a tropical system decided to seat itself over the Hill Country and dump feet of rain upon us. Two dams upstream of my parents’ house failed, and in the time it took us to look out the back door, out the front door, and turn back to look out back, the creek rose a dozen feet. It didn’t stop there, either, flowing into the house and through it.

We all got out safely, but it was a long time getting things back in order from the flood. Not everybody in town has, even now; some houses were flatly washed away, and their foundations still stand in lots overgrown with weeds.

We had support, though, and even then, it was a hard thing. For people isolated and already living under onus, it can only be worse.

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