Chapter 13, part 2:

When we last left Romilly, she’d just managed to calm to perfection a crazy human-killing horse that no one else could. And I sip at my wonderful cup of rage, and take just a little solace that I have to bear this burden alone rather than subject the rest of humanity to the raw prose. Well, not exactly, but you know what I mean.

So everyone is amazed at how she’s managed to control that huge stallion, and a certain someone proves she knows nothing about animals:

“But you have laran,” said one of the watchers, grudgingly, “we don’t; how can we do what you do?”

“Laran or no,” Romilly said, “if your whole body and every thought in it is still with fear, do you expect the horse not to know it, to smell it on you, even? Act as if you trusted the animal, talk to him, make a clear picture in your mind of what you want to do—who knows, they may have some kind of laran of their own. And above all, let him know absolutely that you won’t hurt him. He will see and feel it in every movement you make, every breath, if you are afraid of him or if you wish him ill.” (Pg. 656)

Now, this isn’t completely wrong. Anyone who works with animals knows the importance of treating them well and with respect. But to suggest that doing so is a certain way to win their affection is just dumb. Animals are animals. They don’t see things the same way humans do. And there are some animals that, no matter how well you treat them or how empathic you are to them, will still be evil buggers.

Like plenty of accipiters, one of which took a piece out of her trainer’s ear because she felt like it. The point I’m making here is that the view of animals as portrayed in this book is a highly romanticised one, more attributable to the Al Gores of the world than anything else. Like all the other instances of soapboxing, this is just irritating, and doubly so when it’s a half-truth at best. To quote my resident Crazy Horse Lady:

MZB is totally clueless. Horses don’t “smell” fear”. They interpret body language, which is the basis of natural horsemanship (of any name, whether Parelli or DUH) training. It takes time with horses, like any animal, to “read” their body language, much less learn the feel and timing of proper training. Even if you gain the respect of an aggressive stallion (and most are to some degree, which is why we geld them), like any horse, it takes more than one session to make that a habit.”

Anyways, Romilly leads the horse away from the other women, never mind that she’s supposed to be conducting this…I suppose you could call it horse-training session. Great responsibility there. So there’s some description of this big black stallion which I won’t go into, because even as a guy I can imagine the stereotypical horse which, according to popular culture, plenty of young women dream of riding. Well, unless it’s a cute little pony, but I think I’ve made my point. This description goes on for about one page, whereupon it’s unarmed self-defense lessons for Romilly.

Although I can think up a half-dozen reasons why knowledge of unarmed combat might be necessary, MZB sucks out Romilly’s wits so that she has to ask. The answer, of course, takes up a whole page, so I’m going to leave out the soapboxing about how men are evil, rutting beasts and women are seen as property to be chained and imprisoned in their homes, and just get to the reason that Romilly needs to know how to protect herself if she’s sexually assaulted. Because that’s the only reason one might need to know unarmed combat. Ok, fair enough. What’s slightly creepy is this:

“When you are life-pledged to the sisterhood, like myself, you will wear this.” She laid her hand on the dagger at her throat. “I am pledged to kill rather than let myself be taken by force; to kill the man if I can, myself if I cannot.” (Pg. 658)

To quote a reader from the LJ:

“Actually, my jaw dropped as I read the quote you posted. That is ridiculous.

To me, it’s like implying “If a man touches you, you have no reason to live.”

THIS IS NOT AT ALL EMPOWERING TO WOMEN. It’s giving the rapist the ULTIMATE power over you—your fucking life is at stake, now, not just your god damned dignity! It’s TELLING the girl “Your sexuality is SO FUCKING IMPORTANT AND VIRTUOUS, it’s better that you kill yourself than live as a soiled flower.” How ironic that this was meant to be empowering—what a joke. Everything sexist out there will tell you that a woman’s virginity, purity, sexuality pretty much equates to her worth as a person. How sad that MZB couldn’t see the Unfortunate Implications of her own writing. Just… facepalm

What would be more empowering is “if he lays his hand on you, then it’s your responsibility to hunt him down and cut his gnards off.” I think that would be better punishment to the fuck than letting him die. But really, it should be “If someone rapes you, NONE OF IT IS YOUR FAULT. It’s him, NOT YOU. You should NOT be punished for something HE did.” I’m not even an uber-feminist and this is making me mad.

Now, I’m completely ignoring the idea that a woman may kill herself after being sexually assaulted because of emotional reasons, because that is NOT what the text is saying. It’s saying it’s her duty to kill herself before she lets a man touch her. Unbelievable.”

So the Sister in charge of the training notes that Romilly’s still unsteady, so what does she do? Oh, she just organises special sessions for Romilly, because she’s just that special in the midst of so many other women. Oh, and that Romilly gets amazingly good at it not in a matter of years, months, or even weeks, but DAYS.

Take that, all you folks who trained in martial arts for years. So long as you have majeek, you can become proficient in mere days:

She began to realize, then and in the days that followed, that when she faced another woman in these sessions, she could read, by following tiny body and eye movements, precisely what the other was going to do, and take advantage of it. (Pg. 659)

But of course, that’s hardly surprising, considering that she’s gotten all amazingly buff in the course of a year:

A year ago her father had betrothed her to Dom Garris. What changes there had been in a year! Romilly knew she had grown taller—she had had to put all the clothes she had worn when she came here, into the box of castoffs, and find others which came nearer to fitting her. Her shoulders were broader, and because of the continuous practice at swordplay and her work with the horses, her muscles in upper arms and legs [sic] were hard and bulging. How Mallina would jeer at her, how her stepmother would deplore it—you do not look like a lady, Romilly. well, Romilly silently answered her stepmother’s imagined voice, I am not a lady but a Swordswoman. (Pg. 659-660)

Oh, wow, wow, it’s the standard “protagonist of bildungsroman matures physically, so s/he must be growing smart and worldly too” scene. And of course, they all get amazingly buff in equally amazingly short periods of time. Not that they shouldn’t have been already, given a low-tech setting, so this doesn’t make much sense.

“Women don’t gain bulging muscles from riding. Not even the hard work of dressage riding will develop muscles to the degree described in the passage you quoted. if anything, it will strengthen the muscles, but that does not equate body building, and burn fat so the legs slim down, not get bulky with muscle.”

Let’s just chalk this up to another ability that our idiot hasn’t even worked to earn, shall we? And no, I don’t consider the author telling me that she has to be enough, thank you very much.

So Romilly works with this stallion every day, although exactly how is never mentioned, and she names him Sunstar and intends to make the horse fit for the king to ride. Fair enough. There’s some more angsting over how her family might react to what she’s become in the year since she’s left them, and how her father will react to her “independence” and “strength”. All right, whatever. More filler following the changing of the seasons from winter to spring, and one day there’s a big commotion outside the Sisterhood’s hostel. Apparently the REEL KEENG’s army has come to camp outside here. Supposedly, there is only seven days’ ride between Romilly’s currently location and the EVIL CHANCELLOR’s seat of power.

How have they managed to come this far? I mean, you don’t just walk into Mordor with your army—or at least, not without stopping at the gates first. Anyways, they’re here, and headed towards the Plains of Valeron to battle the armies of the EVVVVIL KEENG. Blargh. Romilly asks the Sister who’s told her this whether she’s for or against the REEL KEENG, and this is the reply:

“A partisian of Carolin? I am,” the woman said vehemently, “Rakhal drove my father from his small-holding in the Venza Hills and gave his lands to a paxman of that greedy devil Lyondri Hastur! Mother died soon after we left our lands, and Father is with Carolin’s army—I shall ride out tomorrow, if Clea will give me leave, and try to find my father, and ask if he has word of my brothers, who fled when we were driven from our lands. I am here with the Sisterhood because my brothers were with the armies and could no longer make a home for me; they would have found a man for me to marry, but the man they chose was one Lyondri and his master Rakhal had left in peace, and I would not marry any man who sat snug in his home while my father was exiled!” (Pg. 661)

The intent of this paragraph is clear: enforce the idea that EVVVIL KEENG is EVVIL. The problem here is that, well, frankly it doesn’t. Again, it’s a Galbatorix situation—the words come from the people most likely to twist the truth and have a thoroughly unfair view of EVVVIL KEENG. Furthermore, there’s always an alternative explanation—after all, EVIL KEENG cannot be personally around everywhere, and as The Dark Griffin and The Griffin’s Flight prove, overzealous subordinates acting out of or interpreting orders too liberally can be a big problem for their superior’s reputation.

So what would I take as a suitable token that EVIL KEENG is EVVVIL? Well, someone coming across orders with the king’s seal on them to commit atrocities, or something that proved beyond reasonable doubt that the EVVIL KEENG was the idealogue that led to these actions, and most importantly, coming from either physical evidence or a neutral party. But frankly, I don’t like the idea of EVIL KEENGS in the first place, simply because all too often they’re underdeveloped paper tigers that do nothing whatsoever and sit on their bums waiting for the dashing hero or plucky heroine to come and topple them.

Another point of interest—yes, it’s a point of interest because it’s not really a complaint, but something interesting—is that the last part of the quote reminds me of the Order of the White Feather, which began in Britan in the First World War and essentially used women to coerce men into joining the army and throwing their lives away, simply by giving them a white feather and hence accusing them of cowardice. Let’s just say it was very, very successful and makes you wonder.

Anyways, Romilly is about to head back inside the hostel when who should appear but Jandria! She says that she’s been instructed to take Romilly to the REEL KEENG’s camp, since she is apparently the only person who can handle sentry-birds well, never mind that a huge army with enough resources to take on the EVIL KEENG’s apparently can’t seem to find a competent falconer.

Pitiful excuse much?

So Jandria compliments Romilly on how well the horses are doing, and Romilly has this to say:

“It is how I train them; I win their love and trust and they do my will.” (Pg. 663)

All right. You do that. You keep on saying that. And a whole generation of hippies are going to try and release the birds at the Royal Gardens in Prague, and Lenka gets a free laugh when they turn around and attack the hippies. So Romilly goes and washes up and prepares to leave, but before that we get a totally-not-lesbian moment:

“But not outside the hostel,” Jandria said severely, and suddenly Romilly saw herself through Janni’a [sic] eyes, her hair tangled and with bits of straw in it, her loose tunic unfastened because it was hot and sweaty, showing the curve of her breasts. She had put on a patched and too-tight pair of old breeches she had found in the box of castoffs which the Sisterhood kept for working about the house. She flushed and giggled. (Pg. 663)

All right, I’ve had a whole day at the library sifting through urban fantasies for one that 1) I haven’t read already and 2) aren’t crappy paranormal romances, so this is enough for me. Goodnight.

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Comment

  1. Danielle on 24 March 2010, 23:08 said:

    Take that, all you folks who trained in martial arts for years. So long as you have majeek, you can become proficient in mere days.

    fkhsdfjofriofhuhgfreuhfuie

    fghfdioruf48e9rt78hf

    Gah.

    If MZB were still alive, I’d hunt her down and show her the martial arts skills I got after FIVE YEARS of WORKING HARD TO GET THEM!!!!

    I trained in Shudokan for five years, finally achieving the rank of brown belt. That’s right—brown belt. And I’m proud of it! My hands and feet are considered deadly weapons in four countries. I know moves that can break arms, legs, elbows and necks. I can anticipate an attack and have gotten pretty good at reading peoples’ emotions because martial arts teaches, among other things, the fine art of noticing details.

    Not only that, but I’m not done training. I’m nowhere near the skill level attained by those who have been training for longer. Martial arts is a lifetime process; you can train your entire life and still not be perfect at it.

    kfdghudfuehwegruisecgfyu

    MZB, you’ve done it again. If I swore, you’d be getting an earful.

  2. fffan on 25 March 2010, 06:56 said:

    After you’ve finished this spork you should do Delina Delaney by Amanda McKittrick Ros. Possibly the most AWESOME book EVER. Check out the opening scentence:
    Have you ever visited that portion of Erin’s plot that offers its sympathetic soil for the minute survey and scrutinous examination of those in political power, whose decision has wisely been the means before now of converting the stern and prejudiced, and reaching the hand of slight aid to share its strength in augmenting its agricultural richness?
    Why yes Mrs McKittrick Ros. Yes I have.

  3. Lilan Jaku on 25 March 2010, 07:48 said:

    I hate to do this but about the muscle bit…it’s actually not that impossible. I have a bulging muscles even without trying hard. In fact, I don’t work out at all, because I started sit-ups (just 50 a day) and push-ups (20 a day) and I gained 2 kg of muscle weight in a month:S my muscles just grow unbelievably fast:S if I were a boy, it would be amazing but…let’s be honest, nobody likes a muscled girl. So I guess with the right genome…but I look like this ever since I was about 13 or 12 so I think it would show on Romilly a bit earlier as well.

  4. Nate Winchester on 25 March 2010, 08:50 said:

    So I guess with the right genome…but I look like this ever since I was about 13 or 12 so I think it would show on Romilly a bit earlier as well.

    It’s not just genome, it’s diet too (remember, your body doesn’t just make stuff out of thin air). How much protein (the building blocks of muscle) do you eat? Also, Romilly is a vegetarian. Which means she should be hard and lean, not bulky. (how many bulky Amish do you see?)

    And I’m proud of it! My hands and feet are considered deadly weapons in four countries.

    Must… resist… French jokes… and… silly flirting.

    I’ll just say congrats.

    What would be more empowering is “if he lays his hand on you, then it’s your responsibility to hunt him down and cut his gnards off.” I think that would be better punishment to the fuck than letting him die. But really, it should be “If someone rapes you, NONE OF IT IS YOUR FAULT. It’s him, NOT YOU. You should NOT be punished for something HE did.” I’m not even an uber-feminist and this is making me mad.

    I’d like to think that I would be classified as one of those misogynist guys MZB had in mind when she was writing this… yet I would greatly support castration of rapists and certainly oppose punishing the victims.

    Yet she’s the feminist…

    names him Sunstar

    I’m going to name my horse “Repeatingredundant”.

    overzealous subordinates acting out of or interpreting orders too liberally can be a big problem for their superior’s reputation.

    In my main WiP, one of the things that makes the “evil” emperor evil is that he sort of encourages his subordinates to be overzealous and to interpret things liberally.

    But frankly, I don’t like the idea of EVIL KEENGS in the first place, simply because all too often they’re underdeveloped paper tigers that do nothing whatsoever and sit on their bums waiting for the dashing hero or plucky heroine to come and topple them.

    I hope falconempress will keep my WiP from turning into that (I like have the emperor involved in stuff though).

    Let’s just say it was very, very successful and makes you wonder.

    What? That maybe women had power and influence even before feminists came along? Nah…
    (or as my dad liked to say: “Anyone who thinks men were ever in charge has never been married.”)

    Lenka gets a free laugh when they turn around and attack the hippies

    Dude, that would be THE GREATEST BOOK EVER!

    Janni’a [sic] eyes

    I read that at first as “Janni’s sick eyes”.
    I think that’s actually better.

  5. Nate Winchester on 25 March 2010, 13:36 said:

    Oh Lccorp2!

    I just found a great source you should be able to use in future editions.

  6. Puppet on 25 March 2010, 15:27 said:

    Another good article, Lccorp2.

  7. fffan on 25 March 2010, 22:24 said:

    Dammit Nate! Stop sending us links to TV tropes!!!

  8. Nate Winchester on 25 March 2010, 22:30 said:

    Never!

  9. Danielle on 26 March 2010, 11:32 said:

    I don’t believe you, Nate. If you really wanted me to be intimidated by an evil laugh, you’d have to steal Mark Hamill’s voice.

  10. Nate Winchester on 26 March 2010, 12:21 said:

    I’m trying to work up to that Danielle. Mark Hamill is like… 9001st degree black belt of evil laughs.

  11. Danielle on 26 March 2010, 13:16 said:

    He’s like the dinosaur with laser vision of evil laughs.

  12. Tim on 10 May 2012, 13:06 said:

    She began to realize, then and in the days that followed, that when she faced another woman in these sessions, she could read, by following tiny body and eye movements, precisely what the other was going to do, and take advantage of it.

    You know, I have a character with this sort of skill. If you play out the actual downside of it, it’s actually kind of an interesting trait, since it results in someone who has apparent skill but no background knowledge, and so can only use their skill if they have some kind of hook on their situation. Martial arts skills based 90% on mega-intuition would be worth jack shit anywhere except fighting people who were using the same martial art she learned, so some random low-life who just knows how to mess people up with a sharp knife would give her far more problems because she doesn’t know what the thug’s moves represent. Still, that doesn’t excuse her insta-learning to counter effectively and in a way they themselves can’t anticipate.

    With my character it’s the rather less excessive case that she can understand text if she knows approximately what it’s about, but can’t actually read. Still, it’s something you can work with if you aren’t just trying to make someone ricockulously good at everything for no reason.