Chapter 2:

In the last chapter, our dear Romilly managed to, in a feat that should have logically killed the bird, tamed a very special bird that’s so special the author couldn’t decide if it was a hawk or falcon, and naturally named her Preciosa. This of course, pissed off her evil misogynistic father, and they made a huge row about it that should be more suited to a modern fifteen-year-old bitch than a young woman that was the product of her time and setting.

In any case, the chapter opens with Romilly and her siblings having a lesson that’s being taught by her governess, reading and writing to be particular. Of course, she’s being piss-poor inattentive, looking out of the window and dreaming about hwo she’s going to train Preciosa to do her every bidding, how she can’t trust the hawk/falcon/bird thing not to fly away, and how they’re going to go places together. Of course, this doesn’t stop her from excelling at her lessons anyway. Of course, her sister, the designated sell-out to the evil patriarchy, complains about the lesson, and this sets off the governess on a speech on the importance of education to women that doesn’t fit the scene at all:

“My fingers ache,” Mallina grumbled, “Why must I learn to write anyway, spoiling my eyes and making my hands hurt? None of the daughters of the High Crags can write, or read either, and they are none the worse for it; they are already betrothed, and it is no loss to them!”

“You should think yourself lucky,” said the governess sternly, “Your father does not wish his daughters to grow up in ignorance, able only to sew and spin and embroider, without enough learning even to write ‘Apple and nut conserve’ on your jars at harvest time! When I was a girl, I had to fight for even so much learning as that! Your father is a man of sense, who knows that his daughters will need learning as much as do his sons! So you will sit there until you have filled another sheet without a single blot. Romilly, let me see your work. Yes, that is very neat. While I check your sums, will you hear your brother read from his book?” (Pg. 416)

I’m not disagreeing with the base point here, and even if I did I shouldn’t be bringing it into the picture, because then it wouldn’t be a discussion on the book. Yes, education is important, not just for women but for everyone. The problem here is that Mallina is turned into a caricature of the opposing viewpoint, hell, not just here but pretty much in every scene she’s turned up in. Why? She’s the designated sell-out brainwashed tart in service of the evil patriarchy, just as we had the idiot atheist in Dragonknight and the strawman robot Christian in Morningwood . Because it’s impossible for women to want to get married, or understand the importance of strategic alliances between families to ensuring economic prosperity and stability without being a ditzy fat lazy slut.

Flip-flopping of misogynistic father, although here I can damn well see a reason—oddly enough, very few fantasy protagonists are actually lilliterate, despite them sometimes coming from backgrounds that don’t make sense for them to be so (although not in this case). Either they start out knowing their three Rs, or learn amazingly quickly (remember the one-month language learning shit that the Pao pulled off?) Either way, the inconvenience that comes from not being able to read and write is strictly forbidden. This makes all the attempts to portray Evil Father as a misogynistic bastard all the more irritating, since it only makes Romilly look even more of a whiny bitch who doesn’t know how nice she’s having it in life.

And of course, finally, the heroine, paragon of the author’s feminist ideals, can do everything without fail, save those activities which are considered traditionally feminine and hence EVVVVVIL. She’s so awesome at reading and writing that the governess asks her to help in the teaching, makes all animals love her without question, manages to tame on the first try a very rare and special hawk that’s a struggle for even a supposedly professional falconer to try with a reasonable chance of success, can ride excellently, blah blah, blah blah, and I look at the steadily lengthening list of Romilly’s abilities and get out the popcorn.

In any case, Romilly helps with the governess teaching her younger brother to read and write, and of course, does excellently. Who’da thought it? After that, it’s time for sewing and emboridery, and since this is a traditional feminine activity it is Bad and Evil and hence forbidden to a modern and forward-thinking woman.

Lenka is a modern and forward-thinking young woman, being a law student and falconer. She can also sew well. I am a member of the male persuasion, and I can sew well enough to mend ripped pillowcases and put back fallen buttons. Last time I checked, I had a dongle instead of a port.

OH NO! LOGIC PARADOX!

Which only goes to show the soapboxing and stupidity in said soapboxing. In any case, Romilly isn’t good at sewing, while being an evil sellout to the patriarchy, Mallina is. Of course, her efforts have to be rubbished by Romilly:

“Well,” said Romilly, driven to the wall, “What do I need of embroidered cushion-covers? A cushion is to sit on, not to show fancy stiching. And I hope, if I have a husband, he will be looking at me, and not the embroidered flowers on our wedding sheets!”

Mallina giggled and blushed, and Calinda said, “Oh, hush, Romilly, what a thing to say!” But she was smiling. “When you have your own house, you will be proud to have beautiful things to adorn it.” (Pg. 419)

Yes, it was pretty, Romilly thought, but why did it matter so much? A plain one would keep her just as warm at night, and so would a saddle-blanket! She would not have minded, if she could have made something sensible, like a riding-cloak, or a hood for a hawk, but this stupid flower-pattern designed to show off the fancy stitching she hated! (Pg 419-420)

I would like you to go over to the School of Architecture and tell all the folks over there that decoration and aesthetics are completely irrelevant to an abode, and hear them laugh your ass out of the door. Frankly, I wouldn’t have minded it so much if Romilly had acknowledge that while she doesn’t see the same value that Mallina does in stiching, the latter still has a right to value what she does, believe in its importance, and choose the course she wants in life. No, instead she has to go out of her way to rubbish Mallina’s work, therefore dragging herself down to the level of Mallina and her evil misogynistic father.

It would be nice if more characters had their “attributes” built around who they are as people instead of having to make a political statement or because “that’s what they do”, as happens most commonly with women and ethic characters (or racial substitutes thereof). I put Lenka the phoenix in the equivalent of a smithy/machine shop because 1) she’s impervious to extreme heat and cold, 2) likes being around plenty of fire, 3) has the drive to acquire the technical knowledge required and 4) it’s a job that doesn’t require to interact with people on a personal level. Nothing at all to do with her gender, but rather who she is as a person. I didn’t sit down and say “all right, I’m going to need a feminist statement to accompany this character, so I’ll put her in a smithy to do a “man’s job”.” Which is what appears to be the case here.

But then again, what did I expect? Saying this is like saying the sky is blue. It’s a MZB book, complete with the reputation. What did I expect? You know, come to think of it, the feminist statements are quite out of turn considering Romilly’s doing the EXACT SAME THING with the bird that the authority figures in her life are trying to do to her, and it’s perfectly fine when Romilly’s the giver but not the receiver.

Anyways, this rapidly degenerates into a squabbling match:

“Well, I ride a horse,” Romilly said, “I don’t sit on its back and simper at the stableboy!”

“Bitch,” said Mallina, giving her a surreptitious kick on the ankle, “You would, fast enough, if he’d look at you, but nobody ever will—you’re like a broom-handle dressed up in a gown!”

“And you’re a fat pig,” retorted Romilly, “You couldn’t wear my cast-off gowns anyway, because you’re so fat from all the honey-cakes you gobble whenever you can sneak into the kitchen!”

“Girls! Girls!” Luciella entreated, “Must you always squabble like this? I came to ask a holiday for you—do you want to sit all day in the schoolroom and hem dishtowels instead?”

“No, indeed, foster mother, forgive me,” said Romilly quickly, and Mallina said sullenly, “Am I supposed to let her insult me?” (Pg. 421)

Aaaand by now, I’m frankly not surprised that Romilly’s more polite than her evil brainwashed sister. Caricatures, people, caricatures. Never a good idea when you’re trying to get a message across. These aren’t young noblewomen growing up in tough times with an understanding of their rights and responsiblities in a harsh world where survival is in doubt. This is a scene right out of a junior high hallway or girl’s locker room.

In any case, Luciella announces that she’s had some riding dresses made for the girls, and she brings them up to the sewing room to have them try them on. During this whole process, Romilly manages to find the time to express her dislike of even more things traditionally considered feminine, such as frills on clothing:

Luciella’s taste ran heavily to ruffles and flounces, and, from some battles when she was a young girl, Romilly feared that if Luciella had ordered her riding-clothes they would be some disgustingly frilly style. But when she saw the dark-green velvet, cut deftly to accentuate her slenderness, but plainly, with no trim but a single white band at her throat, the whole dress of a green which caught the color of her green eyes and made her coppery hair shine, she flushed with pleasure. (Pg. 422)

And the traditional idea of a desirable female figure:

Mallina skulked, “Why must all my dresses be cut like a child’s tunic? I already have more of a woman’s figure than Romilly!”

“You certainly have,” Romilly said, “If you grow much more in the tits, you can hire out for a wet-nurse.” (Pg. 423)

All right, all right. I get the idea. You’re a tomboy. All right. Fine. I know that, I’ve heard it, and you don’t need to keep on repeating it over and over again until I’m throroughly sick of it. Even if Romilly had been a likable character from the outset, this would have grated on me. As it stands, all it does is make me roll my eyes and reach for my water bottle, since I don’t drink alcohol and it’s not nice to be chugging too many sports drinks at this time of night.

On a slightly unrelated side note, I’ve seen two primary schools of thought about this whole women’s figure business by women themselves; one is that it’s rude and/or exploitative of women, and the other that their figure is a symbol of sexuality and feminine power and there’s no shame in using these traditional perceptions of an ideal female figure. Me? I’m not of the female persuasion, but I think if there’s a situation in which a shirtless guy as a sexual symbol is fine, then by extension it should be fine for a lady in a cleavage-exposing top.

But there I go again, soapboxing and not even giving you adequate warning. Bad me! Bad!

Back to the book, then. There’s also news that some people from the High Crags will be here for hawking and hunting during midsummer, and Romilly’s STILL being tiresome about it. I mean, even though Lenka’s SUPPOSED to be a contrary bitch, I had to stop at some point, but this specimen goes on and on and on like the duracell bunny:

Romilly felt no such pleasure—Jessamy and Jeralda were about her own age, but they were like Mallina, plump and soft, an insult to any horse that carried them, much more concerned with the fit of their riding-habits and the ornaments of saddle and reins than in the well-being of the horses they rode, or their own riding skill. (Pg. 423)

To draw an analogy, I think it’d be quite unfair to think of someone as a weakling because they let their butler/chaffeur/mechanic bother with the intricacies of a car, and even more so to lambast them for not being able to drive a grand prix when their intention in buying a car was a ride around the countryside every weekend.

But that’s just my evil, misogynistic self speaking, eh?

Moving on, Romilly consoles herself at the prospect of having to WEAR DRESSES and BE A LADY by dreaming of how she’s going to go riding and maybe fly her newly acquired bird, and she goes back into her room but her riding pants are missing!

Oh noes!

Another thing I’ve noticed about a lot of said “feminist” books is that they hardly deal with the status of women as a whole in the society presented in the novel, and almost never portray it as a general movement across the population. Instead, it’s always focused on a single person, and often concentrates on the superficial instead of the underlying problems. Hence, Romilly’s whininess only serves to excerbate the idea that the problems presented aren’t challenges to women in the Darkover setting, but rather her own selfish desires, and as to the trappings of the problem rather than the problem itself…well, there’s a bloody undue amount of weight put on her riding pants.

Apparently, her evvvil father and stepmother have ordered Romilly’s riding pants to be thrown out, as punishment for her disobeying her father. Guess how she reacts?

“You threw them out?” Romilly exploded. “How dared you?” (Pg. 424)

“I can’t ride Windracer in this!” Romilly wadded up the offending skirts and flung them across the room. “He’s not used to a lady’s saddle, and I hate it, and there aren’t gusts or anything like that! Get me some riding breeches,” she stormed, but Gwennis shook her head sternly. (Pg. 424)

Romilly stared in horror at her nurse. So this was to be her father’s punishment. Worse, far worse than a beating, and she knew that from her father’s orders there would be no appeal.

I wish he had beaten me. At least he would have been dealing with me, directly, with Romilly, with a person. But to turn me over to Luciella, to let her make me into her image of a lady…

“It’s an insult to a decent horse,” Romilly stormed, “I won’t do it!”

She aimed a savage kick at the offending habit on the floor. (Pg. 425)

Before we start, though, I’d just like to slightly paraphrase that last quote:

I wish she had let me starve. At least she would have been dealing with me, directly, with a bird of prey. But to attack my mind, to force me into her image of a loving pet…

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions while I get out the pills.

There’re a few things I’d like to discuss here. Firstly, is the prevalence of pants in this kind of novel. They go beyond the ordinary symbolic crap, and are actually treated as some sort of holy grail for all enlightened women to aspire to, as if they were some sort of +6/+6 pants of awesomeness that gave you magical powers just by putting them on. And frankly, in the worst-case scenarios, some female characters DO have awesome ephiphanies just by putting on pants. Which frankly boggles the mind.

In short, pants are overrated. Romilly would be the person she is, pants or no. Romilly is supposed to make the pants, not the pants make Romilly, and if she’s so pathetic that not wearing pants would cause a complete shift in her personality she wouldn’t be anywhere near a strong character, would she?

Which brings us to the next point. Romilly has no pants. What does she do? She throws a tantrum, is rude and unfair to her nurse, and messes up her habit, which is the result of the hard efforts of so many people, from the weaver to the dyer to the seamstress. I’d like to ask you; is this what you consider to be a strong woman? It might be arguable that Romilly at this point isn’t supposed to be a strong woman and instead grows into one throughout the course of the story, but given as how she’s portrayed now, being all stereotypically tomboyish and anti-traditionalist and all that, I gather she’s supposed to be the “strong, independent, forward-thinking” type. I’d have been far more convinced of her strength if she actually did something, like surreptiously procuring a pair of riding breeches for herself, conspiring with others around the castle to let her go riding with pants in secret, or preparing such a moving speech and apology that moves her evil misogynistic father.

But no, she throws a tantrum, whines and lambasts her nurse, who had no choice in the matter. Great to be a grown-up woman, Romilly.

And finally, I cannot, WILL NOT believe that having your pants thrown away is worse than being physically abused. It’s simply insulting to real victims of abuse, and the constant attempts by the author to make me believe that Romilly is OPPRESSED and ABUSED simply fall flat on their faces and make me laugh.

In any case, Romilly continues to whine and believe that everyone hates her:

“I expected this of Luciella,” she said, “she hates me, doesn’t she? It’s the sort of spiteful thing Mallina might do, just because she can’t ride a decent horse. But I didn’t think you’d join with them against me, Nurse!” (Pg. 425)

Way to be fair to your poor servant, bitch. You’re not the center of the universe, no matter what the author says. Anyways, Romilly goes out the hawk-house to go and fly her bird with a lure, and there’s some crap about birds that I won’t confirm because Lenka isn’t currently here to putch in and I know enough to keep my mouth shut about stuff I’m no sure about. While the bird flies, Romilly continues dreaming about how she’s going to control her bird:

She stroked her again and again tenderly with the feather, crooning nonsense words of love to her, feeling the sense of closeness and satisfaction from the fed hawk. She was learning. Soon she would fly free and catch her own prey, and return to the wrist… (Pg. 427)

Fascinating. All that from a wild thing in what, three days? Two, even? I still stand by my opinion that Steven Brust is the only author I’ve ever come across to portray a BEST FRIENDS FOREVAH human-animal relationship to my satisfaction, and his reign still goes unchallenged. We’re about to end the chapter, but not before we get the obligatory “why am I not a man” and “men have it all better” monologue:

Why, then, had she been given this laran, since it seemed that only a man had the freedom to use it? Romilly could have wept. Why had she not, then, been born a man? she knew the answer that would be given her, if she asked Luciella what she would do with her Gift; it is, the woman would say, so that your sons will have it.

And was she nothing but a vehicle for giving some unknown husband sons? (Pg. 428)

To quote Limyaael:

The same phrases appear over and over again when Special heroines have fights with their parents, want to go hunting or riding, run away from home, or just mope about their Special lives.

“…just because I’m a girl.”
“Act like a lady.”
“I like a woman with spirit.”
“That’s nice, dear, but you’re not a boy.”
“Girls don’t get dirty.”
“Girls don’t do that.”
“But you’re a girl!”

My god, SHUT UP.

It doesn’t impress me with your level of creativity when in the background I can hear a thousand whining voices repeating the same dialogue and thoughts. And it makes even less sense that every single fantasy heroine, in worlds that are supposedly wildly different and the products of wildly different minds, would have the exact same thoughts.

Find a different way of expressing yourself. Give the heroine troubles that don’t arise from what’s between her legs or on her chest. Try it. You’d be surprised how much more “woman-like” the girls and ladies become.

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Comment

  1. Danielle on 2 February 2010, 16:04 said:

    I have no words….

    …so I’ll borrow some to tell you how awesome this is!

    C’mon….can’t fantasy writers come up with another way to show how strong a female character is? Like you said, Romilly apologizing sincerely or stealing pants when no one was looking would’ve been a far better way of making her a strong protagonist.

    And having a “revelation” when you put pants on? Uhh…what kind of revelation? “Holy cow my butt is HUGE!” Or maybe “Oh. My. Gosh. I never knew I even HAD a butt!”

    That’s about all I can think of, revelation-wise.

  2. Kyllorac on 2 February 2010, 16:54 said:

    Danielle… you win the internetz. All of them. XD

  3. Snow White Queen on 2 February 2010, 20:06 said:

    Awesome spork!

  4. Anonymous45 on 2 February 2010, 23:30 said:

    Un question:
    have you considred that maybe Romilly is actually supposed to be all bitchy? What if the author is trying to pull like an original twist or something, or if this is a parody of the “feminist pants wearing princess” archetype? I mean if she has already written other books wouldn’t she know not to do this, so this is on purpose? what if Romilly is the villain?

    P.S. when I was in elementary school, they made all of us do embroidery for some reason. The whole class. Even the guys.

  5. Artimaeus on 3 February 2010, 00:19 said:

    Fantastic work, as usual.

  6. falconempress on 3 February 2010, 03:02 said:

    @Danielle – have you ever read Shadowmarch or its sequel Shadowplay? Because thats exactly where all it takes for a woman to go from tradition bound to a “rebellious”, “independent – thinking” “strong” personality. At one point the books equivalent of a nun has to disguise herself as a man and what does she think? Is she concerned about the mission? No. All she keeps thinking about is “damn, these here pants are mighty comfortable. its like… freedom! OMG WOMEN SHOULD WEAR THEM TOO AND BE INDEPENDENT

    I kid you not. These books made me the angriest I ever got reading a book. Hm, until Hawkmistress! anyways.

  7. Danielle on 3 February 2010, 15:23 said:

    OMG WOMEN SHOULD WEAR THEM TOO AND BE INDEPENDENT

    You’d think that a woman, accustomed to a life of skirts, would feel uncomfortable in pants. I mean, c’mon! Skirts (back when all women wore them) reached the floor and covered everything. A woman used to that feeling of being covered would probably feel a bit…exposed, what with the sudden focus on her legs and the fact that her backside is much more prominent. Add that to the fact that ladie’s underwear usually meant “bloomers,” and you have a girl who feels like a slut because she’s running around in her undergarments.

  8. Nate Winchester on 3 February 2010, 15:51 said:

    Warning: I’m about to get serious here.

    “Well,” said Romilly, driven to the wall, “What do I need of embroidered cushion-covers? A cushion is to sit on, not to show fancy stiching. And I hope, if I have a husband, he will be looking at me, and not the embroidered flowers on our wedding sheets!”

    Yes, it was pretty, Romilly thought, but why did it matter so much? A plain one would keep her just as warm at night, and so would a saddle-blanket! She would not have minded, if she could have made something sensible, like a riding-cloak, or a hood for a hawk, but this stupid flower-pattern designed to show off the fancy stitching she hated! (Pg 419-420)

    Ok, where does Romilly think riding-cloaks and hoods and saddle-blankets come from in the first place? Someone has to sew! Yet she’s totally ignorant that embroider and such evolved natural from crafting ‘practical’ things as a way of self-expression. (as an architect or potter will put personal touches on their work) It’s like she (and the author) assume this stuff materializes out of thin air.

    Romilly felt no such pleasure—Jessamy and Jeralda were about her own age, but they were like Mallina, plump and soft, an insult to any horse that carried them, much more concerned with the fit of their riding-habits and the ornaments of saddle and reins than in the well-being of the horses they rode, or their own riding skill. (Pg. 423)

    If you ride horses regularly you are not going to be very plump and soft. Horsemanship takes a lot of effort. Sure it’s still somewhat easier than walking but just riding in a saddle still strains a lot of muscles and is tiring. And being more concerned with saddles than horse well-being is just stupid. It’s like saying a guy is more concerned with his car’s upholstery than its engine.

    “I can’t ride Windracer in this!” Romilly wadded up the offending skirts and flung them across the room. “He’s not used to a lady’s saddle, and I hate it, and there aren’t gusts or anything like that! Get me some riding breeches,” she stormed, but Gwennis shook her head sternly. (Pg. 424)

    … really? You know, once horses are saddle trained, they never notice the difference in saddles because a pad is usually laid on their backs first before the saddle is tightened down. Saddles are far more about human comfort.

    Why had she not, then, been born a man?

    This just pisses me off to no end. Life was a shitty deal for all of primitive humanity regardless of sex and things were more about raw survival than “rights” and “oppression”. Let me give you an example:
    It’s 4 am, been snowing all night, 3 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Which would you rather do? Cook breakfast in the kitchen or go distribute hay to the livestock? Guess what: both your family and the livestock (which you need to live) are going to have to eat and there’s not enough time or ability for one person to do both, so which one do you choose?

    The correct answer is: “Thank you McDonald’s for all your glorious mcmuffin goodness.”

    There was a purpose and reason behind ancient divisions of labor in societies and households and it would be nice if some people figured it out at least before they went off making fools of themselves.

  9. falconempress on 3 February 2010, 18:09 said:

    The correct answer is: “Thank you McDonald’s for all your glorious mcmuffin goodness.”

    THIS

  10. Chant on 3 February 2010, 19:40 said:

    I think Anonymous45 has a point, what if Romilly is supposed to be a whiny horrible character who is eventually set straight? I’ve thought of doing the same thing myself… except I would make it more obvious that’s what I was doing. I’d have to read Hawkmistress! myself to give an actual opinion tho…

  11. lccorp2 on 3 February 2010, 20:09 said:

    I’ve read ahead a little.

    As far as matters go and knowing MZB’s reputation, this does not happen.

  12. Anonymous45 on 3 February 2010, 23:48 said:

    @ Nate Winchester

    What if Jessamy(sounds like a guy) and Jeralda don’t ride horses regularly? If they are noble ladies/lady+ladylike transvestite wouldn’t they be more likely to be transported by cart? (avoids ruined dresses/getting thrown off by spooked horse/getting bitten by pissed off horse/the dirt/vulnerability to brigands/not to mention what saddles do to your a** if you ride for hours) And that is if they had to go anywhere at all. Some places had a tradition of noblewomen staying indoors for most their lives.
    So medievaley noble women very likely might not be horse riding everyday==not as physically active+easy food availability==plumpness. Unless they are especially badass of course, to go everywhere mounted.
    Even if they did, look at paintings of Napoleon. He probably rode horses a lot more than a lady (being military et al) but he didn’t exactly have the body of an Olympic athlete either. Ergo Jessamy, Jeralda and Mallina have a right to be plump and soft.

    Next, about them being concerned with frills and not horse wellbeing : have you read Black Beauty?(its on Wikibooks btw I read it last year=D. most of it)have you heard about bearing reins? bits and bridles? spurs? whips? breaking in? horses being galloped to the point they drop dead from exhaustion?
    Yes people are often more concerned with frills than with horse wellbeing. Especially before the animal rights stuff came along.
    If they’re noblewomen and they don’t ride a lot they probably don’t know much about horses in the first place,(though I might be wrong) and would probably see the horse as something more like a servant for their whims. A car, you know its a tool that needs to be maimntained. A horse, it is a living thing that first and foremost needs to be subjugated and kept under control.

  13. Anonymous45 on 4 February 2010, 00:21 said:

    Last point, a saddle on a horse is not just for comfort of a human, it also does a very important thing of spreading your weight over a bigger area of the horse’s back, thus lessening the pressure and keeping their back healthy(ier) (seeing as they are actually not built to be ridden). If you ride a horse bareback it can actually hurt them.

    Secondly, going from astride to sidesaddle: the issue is probably not the saddle itself, but the change in riding style——the horse is trained to respond to cues the rider will give it so it goes where the rider wants it to. Cues from moving and turning may be given by moving your legs from the knee down, if riding astride. I don’t know how sidesaddle riding works, I think they use whips instead of their missing leg.
    So if a horse that is normally ridden astride with legs directing it on either side suddenly has two legs on one side an a whip on the other, plus the weight imbalance, IMO we’d have problems. Which is not helped by the horses’ dislike of sudden change and tendency to freak out over everything.
    So in this case Romilly is right to have concerns and the family is the one being…irrational. Unless they expected her to ride another horse. Seriously they could solve this really easily by sending Windracer on some hunt and so Romilly is stuck with a sidesaddle horse. She’d have no choice but to wear a dress. Muahaha!! Hey, do they actually do that by any chance?!

  14. Nate Winchester on 4 February 2010, 08:22 said:

    What if Jessamy(sounds like a guy) and Jeralda don’t ride horses regularly? If they are noble ladies/lady+ladylike transvestite wouldn’t they be more likely to be transported by cart? (avoids ruined dresses/getting thrown off by spooked horse/getting bitten by pissed off horse/the dirt/vulnerability to brigands/not to mention what saddles do to your a** if you ride for hours) And that is if they had to go anywhere at all. Some places had a tradition of noblewomen staying indoors for most their lives.

    (heh, I thought those were two guys the first reading)

    But if their riding by cart most of the time, why then are they concerned about saddles? Why are they an insult to any horse that carried them? The passage outright says they ride horses.

    Unless they are especially badass of course, to go everywhere mounted.

    The author says they went mounted.

    Next, about them being concerned with frills and not horse wellbeing : have you read Black Beauty?(its on Wikibooks btw I read it last year=D. most of it)have you heard about bearing reins? bits and bridles? spurs? whips? breaking in? horses being galloped to the point they drop dead from exhaustion?

    I haven’t read it, I’ve actually worked and lived with horses.

    Yes they can drop dead from exhaustion. But people rarely do that twice especially in more primitive times when livestock was even more valuable.

    Yes people are often more concerned with frills than with horse wellbeing. Especially before the animal rights stuff came along.

    Now that’s just STUPID. Horses aren’t things that grow on trees but animals that take years to not only grow to be useful but also to train and we’re talking about a society where these animals are their livelihoods. Losing a horse would be economically devastating for them (not just because a well trained horse would be highly valuable if not irreplaceable). Seriously, go spend time around a farming family or community. They may not pamper an animal but you better believe they are very concerned about their health because if something happens to say… their ox, then they can’t plow the fields, leading to the family starving next year. Ancient people had a symbiotic relationship with domesticated beasts. They couldn’t just let something befall their livestock without suffering horribly.

    If they’re noblewomen and they don’t ride a lot they probably don’t know much about horses in the first place,(though I might be wrong) and would probably see the horse as something more like a servant for their whims. A car, you know its a tool that needs to be maimntained. A horse, it is a living thing that first and foremost needs to be subjugated and kept under control.

    A horse also needs to be “maintained” as well. (I never will forget the winter our horses got into the feed and dad had to get the vet out there immediately less they come down with colic.) Just as most people nowadays know at least some basics of their cars (even if they are not mechanics), you can bet those who used horses as a part of their livelihood knew them very well as well, it would have just been a part of their culture that they learned through osmosis at the very least. (I would even say that back then, even some noblewoman would have laughed heartily at these posts.)

    Last point, a saddle on a horse is not just for comfort of a human, it also does a very important thing of spreading your weight over a bigger area of the horse’s back, thus lessening the pressure and keeping their back healthy(ier) (seeing as they are actually not built to be ridden). If you ride a horse bareback it can actually hurt them.

    Proof of this? In all the years I’ve worked with horses I have never heard of any injury from riding bareback. Indeed, not every horse riding society even had saddles. According to wiki horses were domesticated probably around 4000 BC while the earliest saddle we have was 800 BC. Nor could everyone afford saddles.

    If riding bareback had any negative effects either saddles would have become a lot more widespread or it would have been bred out of domesticated horses long LONG ago.

    Secondly, going from astride to sidesaddle: the issue is probably not the saddle itself, but the change in riding style——the horse is trained to respond to cues the rider will give it so it goes where the rider wants it to. Cues from moving and turning may be given by moving your legs from the knee down, if riding astride. I don’t know how sidesaddle riding works, I think they use whips instead of their missing leg.

    Actually the bit in the horse’s mouth is what’s used to steer it. (unless the horse is trained in “western style” which just uses the reins but that’s an anachronistic touch you see in a lot of movies) The most the legs are used for is usually to spur the horse (yes, they are used as a gas pedal). You don’t need to spur the horse on both sides to get it to go and even just the reins can be used in many.

    I have a seen a guy who trained an appaloosa where he could steer her in any direction depending on where he nudged her with his heel but that’s obviously very rare.

    Yes, my family had horses for several years.

  15. Anonymous45 on 4 February 2010, 22:20 said:

    I meant they might ride in carts most of the time i.e. like in daily life. Here this is probably a special occasion because there is a festival involved, so they apparently ride horses on special occasions but it would be infrequent.

    Black Beauty-okay you lived and worked with horses, but have you lived worked with horses several centuries ago?

    Yes, but those examples you cite are of people who are farmers. The characters in the story are clearly nobles which means they
    a) don’t rely on livestock directly for food—they rely on farmers’ taxes and dues for food, so the condition of livestock used in food production is more the serfs’ issue, not the nobles’. The nobles don’t farm.
    b)they are wealthy which means they would have multiple horses, so if one goes down yes its bad but they have others.

    Yes horse needs to be maintained, but the noble ladies have servants for that, why it be their concern?

    Okay I agree with you on the bareback issue, but I doubt having ca.40-80 kg of weight bounce on like 1/8th of your back is very comfortable.

    Um, no the legs can be used for turning together with the bit. I know because I did that. It might just be a difference in riding styles/cultures etc.

  16. Nate Winchester on 4 February 2010, 23:16 said:

    I meant they might ride in carts most of the time i.e. like in daily life. Here this is probably a special occasion because there is a festival involved, so they apparently ride horses on special occasions but it would be infrequent.

    Maybe that context is beyond the quoted passage but depending on land topography, the ladies probably can’t ride carts much. However, it being a special occasion makes even less sense. You get a bit dirty riding horses (and by that I mean a lot) so why would they pass up this chance to ride in a cart where they would stay nice and clean and pretty to ride on a filthy horse.

    Lccorp2, can you answer this quandary from what the book says?

    Yes, but those examples you cite are of people who are farmers. The characters in the story are clearly nobles which means they
    a) don’t rely on livestock directly for food—they rely on farmers’ taxes and dues for food, so the condition of livestock used in food production is more the serfs’ issue, not the nobles’. The nobles don’t farm.

    And who owns all the livestock the serfs use to farm? And that’s assuming this is – indeed – a feudal system. Which, if it is, means the nobles are providing protection for the serfs in exchange for services. Which means that the father should then become even more concerned about horses because they’re key to keeping his military mobile and effective.

    Though from what I can tell, sounds like the book is a renaissance society set in a middle ages land (which makes even less sense).

    b)they are wealthy which means they would have multiple horses, so if one goes down yes its bad but they have others.

    Yes they won’t be as affected as the serfs but they cannot afford a pattern of behavior as such (horses are finite). Not to mention that even if they own multiples, each horse is still an investment of several thousands of dollars. Nobles in those kind of societies are less like the uber-rich of our time and more like the… upper-middle class.

    Yes horse needs to be maintained, but the noble ladies have servants for that, why it be their concern?

    If there are no carriages in this world (are there lccorp2?) then it is very much a part of their every day world. At they very least they’ll have to train to keep the horse from bucking or running wild with them.

    Okay I agree with you on the bareback issue, but I doubt having ca.40-80 kg of weight bounce on like 1/8th of your back is very comfortable.

    Nah, the skeletal and muscular system of a horse… it’s about like you wearing a hat.

    Um, no the legs can be used for turning together with the bit. I know because I did that. It might just be a difference in riding styles/cultures etc.

    Yes, I even quoted an instance where I knew a guy that trained a horse to do so (apparently it was popular with the Amerindians too). However that’s still very anachronistic and even then, horses that can be leg steered are just as capable with a bridle so there’s still no reason for her horse to be upset at her shift in position.

  17. Anonymous45 on 5 February 2010, 00:53 said:

    It said something about the festival being about hunting and falconry. Its kinda hard to follow a pack of dogs running after prey through a forest in a cart. (LOL but it would be a pretty funny sight)

    If they are not feudalist where would they get the money though?

    Why would there not be carriages in their world? How do they transport bulk goods? Weren’t horses driven before they were ridden? So wouldn’t that mean that carriages are older than horseback riding? And wouldn’t that mean that if they have horsebackriding they should already have carriages?

    So your hat weighs 10%-15% of your body weight(4-8kg) and all that weight is focused on 5 cm squared of your head? Heavier weights over a smaller area create more pressure. Physics.

    How would leg-steering be anachronistic? If you are in battle with a sword in one hand and a shield in the other how are you going to steer your horse?

    There’s still the issue of balance—human legs weigh a lot, if they are both on one side the horse would need to learn to balance it, and Romilly says he’s not used to it, which means he either not fully trained or not trained at all for it. And common sense says you don’t just jump on a horse and randomly start making it do things its not trained for. It would be like if I came to a rodeo sent a cutting horse into full gallop and started trick riding on it. It probably wouldn’t end well.

  18. lccorp2 on 5 February 2010, 04:47 said:

    -The current location in which Falconsward and its immediate neighbours is described as being mountainous. I haven’t seen a single cart or carriage so far, which is chapter six.

    -Horses are outside the reach of common farming folk not directly within the service of a noble (about three days’ travel). However, they have cheap smeerp alternatives of beasts of burden.

  19. Nate Winchester on 6 February 2010, 13:45 said:

    It said something about the festival being about hunting and falconry. Its kinda hard to follow a pack of dogs running after prey through a forest in a cart. (LOL but it would be a pretty funny sight)

    Lccorp2 as answered, there are no carts (so far) in this world so my original point stands. They should be quite familiar with horses.

    If they are not feudalist where would they get the money though?

    Inheritance, earned it through smart finances, raiding, mercenary, lots of possibilities. How do people get money in the first place?

    Why would there not be carriages in their world? How do they transport bulk goods? Weren’t horses driven before they were ridden? So wouldn’t that mean that carriages are older than horseback riding? And wouldn’t that mean that if they have horsebackriding they should already have carriages?

    No, that depends on the landscape. See here. The near/middle east developed chariots before riding. Which makes sense considering their usual terrain. Mountainous, heavily forested areas (which lccorp2 just said it was) would be highly difficult if not impossible to use chariots/carts in.

    So your hat weighs 10%-15% of your body weight(4-8kg) and all that weight is focused on 5 cm squared of your head? Heavier weights over a smaller area create more pressure. Physics.

    Your body weight is still spread out over a sizable area of the horse’s back and sides.

    How would leg-steering be anachronistic? If you are in battle with a sword in one hand and a shield in the other how are you going to steer your horse?

    Usually shield strap design allows you to wear it on your forearm, leaving your hand free to grip the reins.
    Of course a horse moves opposite of pressure so you can always do some leg steering:
    http://www.wikihow.com/Control-and-Steer-a-Horse-Using-Your-Seat-and-Legs
    http://www.equestrianmag.com/news/riding-styles.html
    Also depends on battle situations. If you’re riding in a company regiment, the last thing you want to do is have your horse suddenly steer into the guy next to you. As well as the fact of gripping the horse with your legs to maintain balance as well as whether stirrups have been invented. It might not be entirely anachronistic but it’s still not a major issue.

    There’s still the issue of balance—human legs weigh a lot, if they are both on one side the horse would need to learn to balance it, and Romilly says he’s not used to it, which means he either not fully trained or not trained at all for it.

    Your legs are still attached to your ass and have their own independent muscular system (yours) that makes them slightly lighter than they are as dead weight. It is NOT that much of a difference and isn’t going to throw the horse off balance.

    And common sense says you don’t just jump on a horse and randomly start making it do things its not trained for. It would be like if I came to a rodeo sent a cutting horse into full gallop and started trick riding on it. It probably wouldn’t end well.

    If a horse is trained for ridding it is not going to be upset by side saddle. Otherwise, the beast would bolt every time a person tried to mount since all the weight’s going to be on one side of the saddle (think about it). Now if you’re going to be doing some advanced tricks like jumping you’ll probably want extra practice (to make sure you don’t fall off as well). But in every case I have yet to see or hear of horses needing to be specially trained for that riding. The closest was here which referenced only the fancy dresses as disturbing the horse.
    (more sources)
    The horse might not be physically suited to side saddle but then the father should know that.

    Which gets into whole new layers of stupidity. If the horse really has some objection to sidesaddle, which the father should know, then he’s essentially risking his daughter’s life. Why? Um… because he’s a guy? (hell, at some point you wonder that if he’s so 1D bad, why he just doesn’t shoot/stab her already)

    (this book might not be D:LT bad but you still have my sympathies lccorp2)

  20. Ashley on 22 February 2010, 19:02 said:

    I have to ask…why couldn’t Romilly just wear the skirt AND ride “non-side-saddle”? (Sorry, not good with equestrian terminology.) It’s possible, right? I mean, pants don’t have “magic saddle powers” or anything.

    P.S. I’ve heard that the society Romilly lives in is (according to an Amazon reviewer) “heavily patriarchal and has few rights for women”.

    So maybe Romilly’s issues really do stem from something beyond plain bitchiness. shrug Just a thought.

  21. Nate Winchester on 22 February 2010, 20:26 said:

    I have to ask…why couldn’t Romilly just wear the skirt AND ride “non-side-saddle”? (Sorry, not good with equestrian terminology.) It’s possible, right? I mean, pants don’t have “magic saddle powers” or anything.

    Well it’s possible. Tricky though as you could get tangled up depending on the skirt. Also, try riding a horse with only a very thin piece of fabric between you and it.

    P.S. I’ve heard that the society Romilly lives in is (according to an Amazon reviewer) “heavily patriarchal and has few rights for women”.
    So maybe Romilly’s issues really do stem from something beyond plain bitchiness. shrug Just a thought.

    If it’s a feudal system (which I think lccorp2 said at one point), the NOBODY has rights. In fact, as a member of nobility, Romilly would have more rights than a majority of men in the world (who would be peasants).

    Now, I will gladly endorse the book if, at some point, Romilly realizes that many more have it worse than her and she tries to help out everyone – not just herself or noble women. But who’s taking bets on that?

  22. Zombie on 15 December 2010, 20:32 said:

    Well, I don’t see why they would let her ride astride anyways. If this is supposed to be sort of medieval, they would have made her ride side saddle. Seeing as how if you ride a lot, it can tear the membrane that makes up a woman’s virginity. (At least, that’s what I’ve heard.) So, you couldn’t really marry her off to anyone because she would no longer be a virgin anymore.

  23. swenson on 16 December 2010, 03:01 said:

    Yeah, I have to say that the fact she’s allowed to ride astride at all is pretty surprising for a medieval society. They thought it would, well, hurt a woman’s womanly bits and make her incapable of bearing children.

    Why riding astride was somehow harmful to women’s womanly bits and yet not harmful to men’s manly bits I don’t understand at all. It was the Middle Ages, I guess they hadn’t discovered basic logic yet. ;)

  24. Deborah on 13 January 2011, 11:06 said:

    I know this is late, but I’d like to say something about the pants. I remember reading one story set in the nineteenth century, about these girls who went away to college. It was a rather progressive college, and they wore bloomers for gym. They were shocked by it.
    So I’d agree that if you were used to wearing skirts all the time, you would probably think of pants as sort of immodest.

  25. Tim on 29 June 2013, 04:21 said:

    I think the medieval logic was riding astride = busted hymen = OMG MARRIAGE IS OFF SHE’S NOT A VIRGIN and then probably a pointless feud for the next 300 years.