Dragonquest: Confronting One’s Ancestors

(by Silver Adept)

When we stepped away last time, Kylara intended to take over the world, Brekke would be happy if Kylara would take on her proper duties, and F’nor and Canth went for a bath, and then a nap. Something, however, has come to say hello that most of the residents wouldn’t believe, even if they saw it.

Dragonquest: Chapter IV: Content Notes: Domestic Abuse, Victim-blaming, Abuse Apologia

F’nor, Canth’s gentle summons penetrated the brown rider’s delicious somnolence, do not move.

That was sufficient to dispel drowsy complacence, but the dragon’s tone was amused, not alarmed.

Open one eye slowly, Canth advised.

Resentful but obedient, F’nor opened one eye. It was all he could do to remain limp. Retutning his gaze was a golden dragon, small enough to perch on his bare forearm.

Once the tiny dragon notices he’s awake, it moves to fly off, but both rider and dragon try to calm it down. Canth instinctively knows they’re of the same blood, and uses that as his pitch for the tiny dragon to stay. The little dragon expresses skepticism at the idea, but eventually, curiosity takes over. (I should mention at this point that the little dragon is communicating entirely in feelings, without words. So, when I say curiosity takes over, that’s the communicated feeling from the tiny gold. Onward.) Eventually, the dragon communicates wonder at how a little dragon could become a human, and F’nor gently corrects the idea, which causes skepticism about the relative sizes of the two dragons. F’nor, pragmatically, and with Canth’s help, puts things in perspective for the tiny dragon (quite literally – he walks a ways away from Canth so that the two sizes are similar when viewed), who promptly disappears.

Canth, do you realize that was a fire-lizard?…Those legends are true! You were bred from something as small as her!…Just imagine being able to breed tiny fire-lizards into a creature the size of you!”

Genetics! Also part of the ancient knowledge here on Pern.

F’nor, ever-practical, wonders if fire-lizards could be trained to do things that dragons can, on a much smaller scale, of course. Like running messages. Canth is a bit miffed at F’nor, but when the fire-lizard returns, Canth informs F’nor that she’s hungry. F’nor feeds her and tempts her closer every time until she eats out of his hand, and then he scratches her eye ridges the way dragonriders do to their dragons.

She is a hatchling. You have Impressed her, Canth told him, very softly.

Congratulations, F’nor, it’s a girl! And also a potentially panic situation, as the newly-hatched clutch on the beach is in danger of predation from wherries and each other. As the fledglings fight each other. F’nor asks Canth to send for help, and a green dragon and some riders arrive to scare off the wherries and feed the fire-lizards. Including Brekke. Seven of the original fifty in the pile Impressed, three to Mirrim, one each to Brekke and the riders that came with her. Plus one for F’nor, so eight of fifty-one. By the time everyone gets home, Southern is abuzz with activity and the news.

Now that he has some time to think, F’nor realizes something he probably could have picked up on earlier.

“You don’t suppose he’s [Canth] jealous, do you?” F’nor asked Brekke, when he found her in her Infirmary splinting the little blue’s wrenched wing. “Wirenth [Brekke’s queen] was interested until the lizards fell asleep…And you know how touchy Wirenth is right now. Mercy, F’nor, what is there for a dragon to be jealous of? These are toys, dolls as far as the big ones are concerned. At best, children to be protected and taught like any fosterling.”

Which produces Meaningful Glances at Mirrim, with her three fire-lizards contented around her.

“Mirrim is very young for this,” he [F’nor] said, shaking his head.

“On the contrary, she’s as old as most Weyrlings at their first Impression. And she’s more mature in some ways than half a dozen grown women I know with several babes of their own.”

“Oh-ho. The female of the species in staunch defense…”

“It’s no teasing matter, F’nor,” Brekke replied with a sharpness that put F’nor in mind of Lessa. “Mirrim will do very well. She takes every responsibility to heart.”

Brekke defends Mirrim, pointing out that she has three to everyone else’s one as a sign of character before Kylara bursts in, fueled by anger at not knowing and jealousy at not having, advancing on Brekke such that F’nor attempts to disperse Kylara’s anger before there is violence. Kylara does her very best Veruca Salt impression, reaching out to take away an already-Impressed bronze lizard from one of the green riders at the beach, and is about to get bit for her trouble, when the knowledge that F’nor having Impressed a queen brings her focus on to him. F’nor describes how they managed to get them, when none had before, with an extra mental insult for Kylara’s avarice. Stymied, Kylara storms off.

So, in the middle of this, there’s a segment I skipped over in the plot summary, but that I want to get back to.

It was too bad you couldn’t beat a Weyrwoman with impunity. Her dragon would never permit it, but a sound thrashing was what Kylara badly needed.

Cocowhat by depizan

F’nor doesn’t know what Kylara is suffering from, or what fetishes she may have, but the narrative does, and placing that thought in F’nor’s head, the practical, level-headed one, is either a deliberate signal about how deep this fucking shithole of abusive culture goes or a really, really poor decision. From the demeanor expressed, I’m pretty sure there was no kink to that thought at all. Are all dragonmen expected to beat their women? Or is abuse just tolerated in Weyr culture? We’re supposed to think of this, I think, like a parent spanking or taking the strap to a spoiled child, so it’s okay to beat Kylara to teach her a lesson, but NO! NOPE NOPE NOPE FUCK YOU, SHITHEAD!

[LA MARSEILLAISE]

Abuse is not okay, ever. And fuck the idea that someone deserves abuse in any way, shape, or form.

Ahem. Brekke and F’nor discuss whether or not fire-lizard Impression might not be a bad thing – the “commoners” outside of the weyrs have built up a mythos and imagination about Impression and being chosen on Search. If they could have their own mini-dragons, they might be able to understand all the issues that come with being attached to the big ones, and they’d stop being so jealous of the riders. It would foster understanding. F’nor, having had his privilege checked, returns to our pragmatic and affable guy and apologizes, something his brother would never do. Which is kind of frustrating, given how he was entirely okay with beating someone a few pages earlier. It’s like he can’t quite translate one experience to another yet. He does at least seem to be trying more than the higher-ups in the Weyrs to not be an ass.

F’nor is still my vote for best male protagonist so far, but his esteem just went way down with this chapter. Brekke is trending upward as best female protagonist, though – I’m hoping she can break free of the patriarchal culture of the Weyr soon, and her and Lessa (and possibly Mardra and Kylara, too) can lead the queens’ rebellion for feminism and better treatment in Weyr culture. Not that such things will ever happen on Pern with F’lar in charge.

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44 thoughts on “Dragonquest: Confronting One’s Ancestors

  1. Kitsuneko August 14, 2014 at 11:32 am

    I’m really enjoying these deconstructions; I like the world of Pern in general, but that’s because I pick and choose the parts of canon I like and ignore the parts I don’t. I kind of wish they’d done a bit more with the fire lizards and how giving them to holders effected changes in hold relations and communications, there’s really only a few mentions of it. (And if you went by the fire lizards featured in the books, you’d think golds and bronzes were the most common of the lot. That seems to be a common problem with these books–the smaller colors getting pushed aside even when there’s no need for the fire lizard or dragon to be a gold or bronze.)

    And while trying to avoid spoilers: Knowing what I can remember about future events of this book makes me very sad (and also angry).

  2. J. Random Scribbler August 14, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Ah, F’nor. I want to dismiss his thought about Kylara as “he’s just a product of his culture”, yet he turns around and shows us that he’s way more considerate and aware than anyone else we’ve yet seen in his position. He should know better.

    [Brekke] and Lessa (and possibly Mardra and Kylara, too) can lead the queens’ rebellion for feminism and better treatment in Weyr culture. Not that such things will ever happen on Pern with F’lar in charge.

    Indeed. See also Rule 2 from last week.

    When I was involved in the fandom, our club was set in a different era of Pern’s history (lots of clubs did that, long story there) so we were able to show a different take on Weyr culture. For example, the Weyrwomen really were in charge of their Weyrs, while the Weyrleaders just led the fighting Wings. I’m so used to that as my headcanon, that it’s a shock to see how messed-up the actual books are. (Not that we were perfect either; far from it.)

  3. oh6 August 16, 2014 at 7:57 am

    It’s been ages since I read any of the Pern books, but this examination certainly sheds a new light on my memories of them. I look forward with some trepidation to what other stuff I missed or ignored back in high school.

    Not sure where else to mention this; https://slacktiverse.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/dragonflight-scheming-woman-backfiring-plan/ doesn’t seem to be categorized with the other Pern deconstruction posts.

  4. Silver Adept August 16, 2014 at 11:22 am

    @ oh6 –

    Thanks for noticing. I’ve pulled it in with all the others.

    Pern lends itself to forgetting or selectively remembering parts that are awful in favor of the shiny things, like dragons, because it tends to compartmentalize things instead of having them interact. So out with the bad, keep the good.

    The “lesser” colors of dragons and fire lizards are repeatedly shoved aside in favor of the bronzes and golds because Our Heroes always have them and they’re symbols of prestige.

    And F’nor, yes. It’s like there was a decision made in between books that all dragonriders act like F’lar does, and this is the first sign of such a cosmic retcon affecting him.

  5. genesistrine August 17, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    I’d like to believe that it’s a bit of editorial hyperbole intended to hammer in how incredibly infuriating Kylara is and that no one ever should sympathise with her ever ever; look, she can make the most even-tempered dragonrider on the planet, who’s happy to swap friendly burns with Lessa, want to wallop the crap out of her! See, see how hateful she is! *

    But considering at least half of F’lar-and-Lessa greeting scenes seem to have Lessa being shaken at some point I think it’d be stupidly optimistic to take it that way.

    (* I see her as Cruella de Vil rather than Veruca Salt in this scene… I think it’s the glittering eyes and nasty laugh.)

  6. Pebblerocker August 18, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    I don’t think the firelizard-hatching scene is supposed to reflect badly on dragons by comparison. A newly-hatched dragon appears to be capable only of flapping around squawking helplessly until someone brings food, and they hatch so hungry they can’t think of anything else. F’nor’s gold firelizard, by contrast, gets out of her egg and in minutes she’s learnt to fly. She goes exploring, investigates other life forms, communicates successfully and has some quite complex thoughts about her surroundings. She’s also already capable of going between! I know dragons are domesticated and dependent on humans, whereas firelizards are wild animals, but they make dragons look pretty dopey and useless.

    Or perhaps it’s because the firelizard hatchling is a queen, and golds are so much brainier than the other, so contemptible colours.

    On that topic: golds and bronzes are the bestest of all because they’re the rarest, right, as well as the biggest and cleverest. Blues and greens are supposed to make up well over half the dragon population and nobody cares about those colours at all because they’re just filler. But for what we actually get shown in the books, a protagonist on a blue dragon would be the real special snowflake, while golds and bronzes are two a penny.

  7. genesistrine August 19, 2014 at 1:31 am

    Carrying on with the colour/status thing, it’s interesting that Lytol’s dragon was a green in the first book but switches to a brown thereafter. Did McCaffrey feel that a green was too low-status, or “too gay”, after she worked out more of the Weyr setup/hierarchy?

  8. bekabot August 19, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    If your dragon who vanished between was a green,
    make her into a brown (never mind about blue);
    a bronze or brown dragon’s a coolness machine
    but there isn’t a lot for a she-drake to do.

  9. genesistrine August 20, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    No merit accrues
    to the greens and the blues
    Just day-to-day saving the world
    while protagonists plot

  10. Sybylla18 August 22, 2014 at 8:25 am

    @Pebblerocker –

    “A newly-hatched dragon appears to be capable only of flapping around squawking helplessly until someone brings food, and they hatch so hungry they can’t think of anything else. F’nor’s gold firelizard, by contrast, gets out of her egg and in minutes she’s learnt to fly. She goes exploring, investigates other life forms, communicates successfully and has some quite complex thoughts about her surroundings. She’s also already capable of going between! I know dragons are domesticated and dependent on humans, whereas firelizards are wild animals, but they make dragons look pretty dopey and useless.”

    I Am Not A Biologist. However, my recollection of things having to do with animal development is that the closer something is to being prey/the less intelligent an animal is, the more mobile it is after birth. If it’s going to have to run for its life at any moment, it doesn’t get much chance to be dependent on its parents. Fire lizard clutches, as I recall, are immediately beset by snakes, wherries, and other predators immediately upon hatching, so it makes sense that the newborns nope on out of the clutch as soon as they’ve left the egg. Dragons, by comparison, are coddled and fed and protected from the get-go, which means they have the luxury of an extended developmentary period…similar to humans’ extremely lengthy childhoods.

  11. Sybylla18 August 22, 2014 at 8:26 am

    *developmental

  12. Silver Adept August 22, 2014 at 10:15 am

    @ Sybylla18 –

    That same knowledge that tells us about what predates on fire lizard hatchlings also has to square with what we’ve seen here – the hatchlings fight each other right out of the shell, which is pretty odd for a species with natural predators that appear very soon after the hatching. One would think they would all go nope first to avoid the snakes and wherries, and then fight amongst themselves afterward he they happen to nope into the same grounds.

    …except that the are then fairs that work together once they’re out of shell, with or without Impression, under the direction of a queen, as Future Knowledge will tell us.

    So fire lizard behavior appears to be whatever the plot needs them to do at the time. And the dragonriders would normally be in the best place to ascertain whether the fire lizards have a gestalt consciousness, or something more akin to dragon sense of self…but they don’t really pursue it, leaving someone else to do the major lifting and research on fire lizard behavior.

  13. genesistrine August 22, 2014 at 11:13 am

    @ Silver Adept / Sybylla18: Presumably the hatchlings are trying to eat each other out of starvation, rather than fighting. This doesn’t square with the cave hatching in a Later Book where the hatchlings just fly off in search of food, though.

    Maybe something to do with available local food – F’nor happened to be sleeping near a clutch that had hatched at high tide or with no nearby food sources? Perhaps the queen who laid it was dead – the cave hatching has the laying queen and her bronzes in attendance, though they don’t attempt to feed or help the hatchlings it’s possible they’d see off predators in more normal circumstances and they may discourage cannibalism too. Not enough data.

    The big discussions on fire-lizard gestalt consciousness/collective memory should probably wait until The White Dragon though – there’s a lot in there about them that would be too spoilerific right now.

  14. bekabot August 22, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    I always thought that fire-lizard hatchlings ate each other for the same reasons cats sleep a lot: it’s because they’re top predators* and because the Pernese ecology can only support so many of them at a time. They can’t all be active at once. If all of them survived (or if more of them survived) they’d tend to deplete their prey species, possibly beyond recovery; even more so as they alone among the beasts to whom Pern has naturally given rise can combat Thread. (How many times a year does the average female fire-lizard lay eggs? Is that ever addressed? I’m foggy about the times fertile dragons rise and mate too, although that wouldn’t be a reliable index because dragons have been meddled with by humans.)

    Among the species which can combat Thread, obviously the grubs don’t count in this sense, and not just because they’re on the bottom, not the top, of the food chain, or because they’re so uninspiring. The grubs were invented by humans.

    Also, I’d expect that the nearness of potential food sources other than fellow-hatchlings has an impact on how many of the hatchlings survive, but (I’d think) there’s more than just one factor at work. If a fire-lizard queen chooses her hatching ground well and most of her hatchlings survive, then she’s doing herself a genetic favor: more of her genetic material will persist into the future and she’ll have more of an effect on the genetics of fire-lizards to come. But if too many queens choose well and if too many of their hatchlings survive, you’ll end up with a surplus of fire-lizards, which could work to the detriment of the whole species. Instead of fire-lizards eating each other soon after hatching, you’d might end up with a dearth of food for fire-lizards in general all across Pern, to say nothing of the other consequences attendant upon the depletion of whatever species of animals fire-lizards eat. So fire-lizard survival would always be something of a tightrope walk. Situations in which too few hatchlings make it would be undesirable but so would situations in which too many of them do.

    Dragons are elaborately artificial and much of the Pernese economy is dedicated to keeping them fed. The holds have to bring up herds and then tithe herds to the Weyrs and then the beasts the Weyrs hold have to be artificially penned and guarded so the dragons can catch them. And dragons eat a lot: most of them can polish off two or three beasts at one sitting. Dragons are like hugely effective, impressive weapons systems which cost a lot to preserve and maintain. Dragons are high-maintainance, and they wouldn’t develop “as a matter of course” on Pern because the ecology, left to itself, most likely couldn’t sustain them. At least, that’s what I’ve always supposed.

    *for their size

  15. genesistrine August 22, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    @bekabot: I don’t believe the grubs were made by humans – the characters assume they were, but if the major Thread predator didn’t exist before humans arrived how come Pern wasn’t a howling wasteland of whatever Thread develops into? Fire lizards can only eat so much.

    It makes more sense for the humans to have discovered grub sacs or whatever the grubs survive through Intervals as, said something like “yuck, WTF are these, they have no place in this ecology, let’s get rid of them” and then have to try and re-introduce them when Thread starts falling and someone twigs.

    (I prefer the “landing just as an Interval begins” scenario from the prologues in the first books rather than the “landing just as a Pass begins” one McCaffrey changed it to in Dragonsdawn; it gives humans more time to muck things up like that.)

    Though an alternative explanation could be that there are that many fire lizards during a Pass, and the between ability evolved so fire lizards could get to wherever Thread fell so they could eat it. That way the species has a big die-off when the Interval starts; without such a huge source of food falling from the sky the clutches resort to cannibalism, with the larger golds and bronzes as the majority of survivors to keep the species going until the next Pass.

  16. Only Some Stardust August 22, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    Evolution does not do what is best for the species. It does what is best for the individual gene involved (not even the individual itself); ever heard of a selfish gene? Each gene wants to propagate itself more than all the other genes. Evolution is blind; if a gene is causing the death of its species in the long-term but manages to spread faster than the other genes short-term, it will do so. So, the only way a species would evolve to produce less offspring is if it would benefit the individual immediately. Now, less food sources would match up with that, as animals do display feast/famine litter variance; let’s assume thread is just that bountiful and nutritious to have such a massive effect. The queens should still be choosing the best nest for themselves, but saving the energy of producing the extra eggs that are not going to survive and making tiny clutches instead.

    Now, since greens produce and are smaller and need less food, what we should see is greens taking over, not golds. The only way the golds are going to be surviving here is if they can somehow bully the greens into giving up food, or if greens really do once in a blue moon make golds (I don’t see how they couldn’t).

    The different castes really only make sense if this is a eusocial species and greens and blues are normally behaving like worker bees; they all want to lay their own eggs, but each agrees that they’d rather help raise their mother’s eggs than their sister’s eggs and doing so helps them survive best. In a eusocial species you’d expect to see firelizards swarming and defending their brood and queen from any enemy, and with fire-breath there really should not be too much that can get past an angry firelizard swarm. You might see other firelizards sometimes making raids to improve the size of their own clutch and for fun eating, and maybe even a slaver firelizard species analogous to slaver-ants that captures eggs, impresses them, and let’s the workers do all the work.

    In a eusocial species, greens losing the ability to reproduce slowly over time makes sense and ending up with crippled reproductive abilities. But if it’s not a eusocial species then having greens unable to produce the other colors makes no sense, as why would the golds then be wasting their energy producing female offspring that share less of their genes? If it isn’t genes that decides goldness but hormones, then that is also pretty strange; we should end up with gold-greens that received the wrong mix of hormones. There isn’t much of a purpose for producing greens at all if it’s not eusocial, so it’s odd that it would evolve in the first place. If it’s merely somewhat social, imprinting still makes sense, but you’d expect parents to be engaging in parental care and protection and feeding.

    The being able to move around soon after hatching despite parental protection does have some analog to ostrich and crocodiles, which are mildly social and offer only protection and not feeding; these are not at all analogous to eusocial species though, where you’d expect offspring to be like naked mole rat pups, completely helpless but well protected by the group.

    I suppose the author could have been trying to go for ‘greens, blues, and bronzes evolved for different fighting capabilities against thread’ and maybe temporary eusocality that only kicks in when thread is around. It doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, because eusociality is a huge advantage and one you should keep full time and not have temporarily, and even in deserts with very little food one still finds prosperous termite colonies and ant hills, and also having an animal adapted for eusociality act purely solo is crippling it. Greens would be under a lot of pressure to keep their full reproductive abilities, as it would be too great of an advantage for short sighted selfish genes to pass up. Something has to enforce it, like other workers eating their eggs or forcing them to lay them far away and abandon them.

  17. Michael I August 22, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    @Only Some Stardust “what we should see is greens taking over, not golds”

    Not necessarily. We learn in another book (Dragondrums) that green-laid eggs rarely survive to hatch.

    So what we have is that the Golds probably lay fewer eggs overall, but their eggs are more likely to survive.

  18. Silver Adept August 22, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Re: Fire lizards –

    Regrettably, severe lack of data with regard to hatchings. Although I believe there’s a bit of Future Knowledge that says green fire lizards (if not all fire lizard queens) behave in evolutionarily unsound ways, laying eggs too close to tidal points and burying them too shallowly to effectively hide and protect the eggs from predation. It’s also justified in-text, using the draconic example, that the bronze lizards are the ones that can sustain a mating flight with a gold, while all types can twine tails with a green. If golds are somehow evolutionary more fit for cetain roles, because of their ability to control others, but they produce low numbers of clutches (Future Knowledge says “like hell they do”, but we have no data on whether fire lizards clutch more like dragons do when Threadfall is near), the greens’ job is to carry on genetic diversity and continue to allow the fire-lizards to adapt. It doesn’t explain the pigmentation variances, though.

    Weirdly, the closest analogue seems to be aristocratic and royal families of Latin Christendom over time – as they continued to breed with each other, recessive and sex-linked issues cropped up more and more, even though the human stock outside their eddy was doing fine, interbreeding with each other and improving genetic diversity. Perhaps gold and bronze fire lizards only appear when there is a need for organization in the ranks to deal with an existential threat, and they disappear otherwise due to being recessive and sex-linked recessive pigmentations and abilities.

    I doubt we’ll know, even when we get to the point where we see the geneticists at their work.

    Re: Grubs –

    I can’t believe that the Ancients, who clearly had access to hefty amounts of science and genetics, would categorically dismiss and destroy a native species in the insect kingdom, considering how much they would know about the roles of insects in growing crops and other things. Future Knowledge will point out the grubs are not obviously parasitic to their host plants, which removes another reason why they would be attacked as dangerous. So their destruction seems like it is based more, as Future Knowledge says, on a misunderstanding of the directive given to farmers over time wih regard to grubs after whatever cataclysm caused the disconnect of continuity of knowledge.

  19. genesistrine August 22, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    @ Silver Adept:

    Re fire-lizards: that’s an interesting thought, that bronzes and golds might only appear during Passes – it ties in nicely with Benden Weyr’s situation during the Long Interval; only one queen producing few bronzes and one queen egg at the end of her life.

    Re grubs: as a general rule, yes, but we’ve already noted that there are some very peculiar gaps and changes in Pernese knowledge and culture. They might be results of random loss of knowledge when the first Falls hit, or they could be taken to indicate that the Ancients weren’t very nice people by our standards. After all, looking at the history of pioneering on Earth, there’s a definite tendency for pioneers to be misfits, fanatics, utopianists, or people who reckoned that society had got it all wrong wherever they lived and wanted out. They may well not have attracted top-flight genetic engineers and ecologists….

    For instance, I think the pseudo-mediaeval setup is at the very least some kind of reflection of the society they wanted to set up – the shift back from the scientific ideal of sharing knowledge back to the Craft-secrets paradigm, for example, seems too big and too stupid to be anything other than deliberate.

    (Bear in mind I never read past Dragonsdawn, though.)

  20. bekabot August 22, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    Evolutionary pressure may not do what’s best for a species but the fire-lizards have to have developed some kind of way to survive not just individually but en masse and they have to have done it (for the most part) without the benefit of human meddling. They have to have done it without human interference because for many centuries on Pern humans had very little interaction with fire-lizards and weren’t even certain they were real, and besides that, during the intervening lapse of centuries the humans had lost so much of their biological expertise that they were no longer capable of rearranging the genetics of animals in any other way than by breeding them up slowly, generation by generation. Fire-lizards seem to produce pretty large clutches and they also seem to be pretty hungry as a rule; so I still think that if they all survived there wouldn’t be enough for all of them to eat, especially if all they had to pick over was a Thread-depleted landscape. And we know the fire-lizards survived somehow, not just individually but en masse, because they’re there in the Pernese “present” of the narrative.

    Could golds be mutated greens who possess the power of imposing eusocial behavior on the rest of their species? Fire-lizards have a gestalt sense and can act as a unit, but they don’t act as a unit all the time. Maybe the gestalt sense developed as a result of the golds, or in the persons of the golds. As in: in the dim Pernese past, under the evolutionary pressure of Threadfall, with lots of new niches opened up and with all of the land species under severe stress, a green fire-lizard produces a gold egg. The gold egg is a pure sport and nothing like it has ever been known before in all of fire-lizard history. When the gold egg hatches it develops into a gold fire-lizard who either is able to impose a sense of shared purpose (which is mostly her purpose) on the rest of her group or to intensify an already extant group-sense. She is the hatchling of only one egg (or maybe greens have been laying gold eggs all along, though it’s a tremendously rare occurrence) but she in her turn lays many gold eggs, of which the majority hatch, leading to an increase of gold fire-lizards who share her powers (which she doesn’t always exercise) over the fairs of fire-lizards which they lead. Fire-lizards turn out to be better able to hunt and eat as a group than as individuals (they can take down bigger prey and get more Thread) so the groups of fire-lizards who have a gold at their head tend to to better than individual fire-lizards or smaller coalitions of greens, browns, and blues. If that’s true the greens could gradually be losing their reproductive powers, just as you say, although I agree that it’s kind of a mystery why they should continue to be hatched out at all. Maybe just for the sake of variety, like Silver Adept says.

    (My head-canon says that the original fire-lizards were green, brown, and blue, and that the bronzes are the result of crossings between browns and golds. Once the bronzes existed they routinely out-competed the browns — they could last longer in a mating flight — so they eventually edged out their brown progenitors as the golds’ mating partners.)

    As for the grubs, when I said that I thought the humans invented the grubs, what I meant was that (in my view) the humans invented the grubs as grubs, not that the humans invented the grubs out of a vacuum. To me the grubs look like the embryonic form of a species which has an adult form which doesn’t resemble its larval or immature form closely and which (probably) doesn’t share in the Thread-eating ability of the larval or immature form. Since only the immature or larval (“grub”) form of this species would have been of interest to the early human pioneers of Pern, because of its Thread-eating ability, the challenge the pioneers would have faced would have been to make this immature form reproductively viable in its own right. To me that sounds like a tall order, and it would call for what no doubt is a very weird reproductive cycle, which is why I suggested that the grubs (most likely) weren’t a fair index or indicator of anything. We know that, whatever the original Pernese pioneers were trying to do with the grubs, they succeeded — they have to have succeeded because, like the fire-lizards, the grubs are still there to be rediscovered later in the narrative.

    (All of this is strictly IMO.)

  21. genesistrine August 23, 2014 at 4:15 am

    Fire-lizards: Maybe the explanation for the green/queen thing is that queens are rivals – one per fair. A queen egg is a potential rival who might take fire-lizards from your existing fair as well as the rest of the clutch, while a green egg is a breeder who can add more fire-lizards to your fair (if your fair helps keep a lookout on her clutch) but can’t breed a rival queen?

    @bekabot

    Re grubs: um, well, that they’re there doesn’t necessarily mean the pioneers succeeded in whatever their plan was – they could have, of course, but the grubs could also have survived and spread in spite of what the plan was, assuming there was a grub-based plan in the first place.

    The characters assume there was, which is a perfectly sensible conclusion; their ancestors created dragons to protect them so of course they created this other protective creature. But that doesn’t mean they’re right.

    My problem with this scenario is that you have to jump through multiple hoops of incredible stupidity to make the “watch for the grubs” thing plausible as a mistake. The communication lines for farmers on Pern are so long that they have to know what to do with notifiable stuff at once – send a sample, kill it/burn it out/keep a close eye out for recurrence, mark it and leave it alone until the experts arrive, etc. It’s not the kind of knowledge that can be kept a Crafthall secret. You have to figure out a scenario where a dying Masterfarmer is the only person who knows that the grubs are protective and the reason why he didn’t get the word out to every single farmer on Pern while he was still lucid. He must, presumably, have figured it out on his deathbed, but from what?

    [Obligatory black comedy option: all his lab assistants were women and no-one listened to them.]

  22. Michael I August 23, 2014 at 5:29 am

    @gnesistrine “you have to jump through multiple hoops of incredible stupidity to make the “watch for the grubs” thing plausible as a mistake”

    And this is a problem because? 🙂

  23. genesistrine August 23, 2014 at 7:14 am

    Well, yeah. Standard Pernese Operating Procedure. God forbid you actually tell anyone anything, even if it would help you and others immeasurably! 😀

  24. bekabot August 23, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Wasn’t the “grub” problem dealt with in The White Dragon? A lot of what happens in The White Dragon takes place on the Southern Continent, which is swarming with grubs. (And which is therefore relatively Thread-free, though it takes a while for our heroes to figure that out.) Grubs, meanwhile, are comparatively rare on the Northern Continent but the Masterfarmers et al. do know what they are, in the sense that they can identify them, but they mistakenly believe them to be pests. (When F’lar shows a grub in the North to the Masterfarmer — I think it is — the Masterfarmer pitches a fit.) And yet this identification of the grubs as pests shows that the Farmers and Beastcrafters too know there’s something unusual about them and that that they should be watched out for. They just don’t know what’s unusual and why they should be watching. And they (the grubs) are thriving on the Southern Continent, which is much greener than the Northern Continent. So they (the grubs) aren’t harming the vegetation there. {Spoilers} Fb, va Gur Juvgr Qentba gurer ner n srj fprarf va juvpu bhe urebrf qvfphff nyy guvf naq pbzr gb gur pbapyhfvba gung lrf, va gur cnfg gur Fbhgurea Pbagvarag jnf fhpprffshyyl frrqrq jvgu tehof, ohg gung fbzrgvzr nsgre gung gur Fbhgurea Pbagvarag jnf nonaqbarq naq gung pbzzhavpngvba nobhg gur cebprff jnf ybfg naq gung xabjyrqtr jnf zvfcynprq. “Fbzrguvat frevbhf tbg va gur jnl,” va bgure jbeqf. The Ancestors didn’t make any mistake about the grubs other than to forget what the grubs were, though one is obliged to admit that that one’s a doozy.

    It’s not very exact as an explanation but it covers the ground well enough — after all Pern is explicitly presented as a world on which Much Has Been Forgotten, and it doesn’t presuppose stupidity on the part of The Ancestors, just forgetfulness. After all, Threadfall is a bear, and they may have had their attention taken up with other things. JMO.

  25. Silver Adept August 23, 2014 at 11:45 am

    @ genesistrine –

    Good point regarding the ideology of the progenitors of Pernese humans – although we haven’t received any official confirmation that they are from another world, colonists do tend to go to new places based on a shared ideology, and they may not be bringing a full complement of skills to go along with that.

    Future Knowledge will confirm that gold dragons, and likely fire lizards, will see each other as competition during mating flights, with violent results, so there’s a good chance that a gold doesn’t want to produce other golds (unless/until they produce enough of the others for their own fair? Maybe there’s an upper bound to how many lizards any given gold can control?).

    Fire lizards are odd, though, in that they have their sex related to their pigmentation. And that there’s one more male variety than female, even if bronzes and golds are supposed to be rare or situation-dependent. It seems like the progression of fire lizards is that blues and greens are the original pairing, and then something (predators?) produced a mutation in the blues that changed their pigment and made them bigger, generating the brown lizards. (A flood of the fire lizard equivalent of testosterone in an evolutionary attempt to protect the greens and the eggs?)

    The browns survive, but apparently they aren’t enough to fend off the Thread threat (maybe the fire lizards predate the presence of the Red Star, and so they had to evolve in a hurry when Thread arrived?) and so the genetics go to work again, and they produce gold dragons off a mutation of the greens, who are equipped to handle Thread more systematically. Bronzes are a brown/gold combination, breeding for endurance to fight through Threadfall, so they’re even bigger and stronger. And somehow, there are always enough bronzes and golds whenever Thread is on the way.

    Sure, why not?

  26. genesistrine August 23, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    @bekabot: Sorry, I jumped ahead of where we are in the series, my bad, but yes, that’s a fair summation. I’ll rot13 this just in case.

    Zl ceboyrz jvgu vg vf gur xvaq bs zvfgnxr vg vf. Va beqre sbe gur cybg cbvag gb jbex ab snezre rire pna unir orra gbyq gung tehof rng Guernq naq cebgrpg cynagf. Rkprcg gur Znfgresnezre jub qvrq unysjnl guebhtu rkcynvavat. Fb vg jnf cerfhznoyl xrcg n Pensg frperg orsber gura, ohg jul? Ab-bar orarsvgrq ol xrrcvat vg n frperg, hayrff lbh cbfghyngr gung Znfgresnezre nsgre Znfgresnezre tbg n znq-fpvragvfg tybng bhg bs orvat gur bayl crefba va gur jbeyq jub xarj nobhg Guernq-rngvat tehof. Vs gurl jrer qrirybcrq be fghqvrq ol Napvragf abar bs gubfr Napvragf rire jrag nebhaq jvgu teho synfupneqf gryyvat crbcyr gurfr jrer tbbq tehof gung rng Guernq, qba’g fdhvfu gurz vs lbh frr gurz.

    Juvpu vf jul V guvax gur punenpgref unir pbzr hc jvgu na nggenpgvir ohg vapbeerpg gurbel bs teho bevtvaf. Gur Napvragf qrzbafgenoyl qvq fbzr ernyyl qvz guvatf, ohg V qba’g guvax rira gurl jrer qvz rabhtu sbe gung.

  27. bekabot August 23, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    @ several people

    1. If both the golds and greens reproduce within a fair, but perform different reproductive functions within a fair, what they do would possess aspects of rivalry but also aspects of co-operation. It would be more like symbiosis than like warfare. Hence queens would not be inclined to get into fights with greens.

    2. Also if both the queens and the greens reproduce, it would explain why the greens haven’t lost their reproductive powers.

    3. IIRC it’s pretty well established that queens see each other as rivals — not that they see greens as rivals — and we never see a dragon/fire-lizard of any other color than gold at the head or center of a Weyr or a fair. (Which absolutely doesn’t mean that there are no fairs which are centered around green fire-lizards; all it means is that those fairs are less conspicuous.)

    4. If there are fairs which center around green fire lizards it’s possible that the green fire-lizards — if they produce gold eggs — either destroy the gold eggs or drop them somewhere far out of the way of the rest of the clutch and the existing fair. Since all fire-lizards can go between and travel to anyplace they can envision, the gold eggs are no doubt dropped off in some very isolated spots.

    5. But, @ genesistrine, the golds have no such reason for rivalry with the greens. The only reason the golds would have to feel rivalry with the greens would be in situations where they’re unwilling to take on the nurture (or extend fair-membership) to the offspring of fire-lizards who only share half their genes at best. (As would be the case with a gold fire-lizard who has a fertile green fire-lizard as a daughter or a sister.)

    6. I wonder whether these aren’t instances in which the ethics of a fire-lizard turn kind of circumstantial. If the fire-lizard queen already as many other fire-lizards in her fair as she can care for, or if she has more, she might drive the errant green out to lay her eggs by herself, or drive the green out for good, or destroy the green’s eggs. But if her fair isn’t as big as she would like, or if she has access to enough food, or if she needs extra fire-lizard bodies for some reason, she might accept the green’s eggs as her own, or she might accept the hatchlings into her own fair once they’ve survived the hatching ordeal. What the fire-lizard queen does would depend on whatever the contingencies surrounding her are. So golds and greens could act like rivals at some times and like buddies at others.

  28. genesistrine August 23, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    @ Silver Adept: are we ever given any info about what colours hatch from a green clutch? Bronze/gold pairings produce all colours; would a green clutch include blues and browns, or would it depend on which flew her?

    The pigmentation seems to be related to size as well as gender – blues are the smallest males, browns are medium and the bronzes largest, and greens are far smaller than queens. Not sure if that adds anything useful though….

  29. Only Some Stardust August 23, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    The grubs idea of being a reproductive larval form is not very weird; all you often need to do is keep them from producing adult hormone and ensure they have reproductive abilities early. Some newts do this in order to become fully aquatic.

    If we look at eusocial insect species, greens and blues could sort of be the equivalent to termite workers, which come in both male and female versions, and have kings and queens (bronzes and golds). Browns would be, I suppose, ‘soldiers’.

    In many eusocial species like honey bees, workers can in fact produce eggs, but those eggs tend to not hatch or only hatch male drones/other workers, not queens and kings. They often have difficulties because they’ve converted their reproductive capabilities towards stinging.

    Unfortunately, termites aren’t the best comparison, because their workers are often more ‘larval’, undeveloped forms of the king and queen and if given the chance can grow into royalty. Bees are better comparison, though they don’t have male and female workers; the queen has some ability to choose what reproductive material to use, to have fertilized or unfertilized eggs; unfertilized will turn into male drones, fertilized into female workers or potential queens if given special royal jelly.

    So, what they probably do here is that firelizards have genetically determined caste, like some ants, though such ants mate with multiple males in order to have enough diversity.

    Logically, there needs to be some gene flow going between the royal caste and the lower caste in this case; greens need to produce the occasional queen perhaps, or blues and browns need to occasionally catch the queen so she doesn’t lose the genes for them.

    Queens and bronzes would be some sort of recessive gene, or possibly a set of linked recessive genes, and to stay heterozygous with greens and blues produced (theoretically) you’d need an occasional homozygous green/blue/brown worker OR promiscuity with multiple mates in one flight which does not happen. (Browns admittedly don’t fit in this picture very well, but if it’s a set of linked genes bronzes could indeed be brown/gold hybrids of sorts or alternatively browns are bronze/gold hybrids, and perhaps the link between the two castes if browns are produced by greens and do not _too_ infrequently catch golds) In this instance it would make sense to have the different male castes and one extra female worker caste, which otherwise seems odd.

  30. Only Some Stardust August 23, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    Oh, it could also be hormonal / nutrition based casting, and the queen decides how much nutrition to give each egg to let it develop into which case. Greens cannot produce very well in this picture because they don’t have the necessary size to feed their own eggs into the proper castes.

  31. Firedrake August 23, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    A possible reason for keeping the secret of the grubs: they help, but they’re not enough to deal with Thread on their own, and those lazy peasants would stop supporting the Weyrs if they thought they didn’t need them any more.

  32. bekabot August 23, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    CN: The Problem of the Grubs

    The fact is that no matter how you slice it (or them) the non-transmission of the info about the grubs proves that the human colonists of Pern screwed up royally at some time or other. If the grubs existed in their “present” form on Pern right from the beginning, and if human colonists never meddled with them an inch, the human colonists should have found out about them when they (the human colonists) landed on Pern or soon after. The grubs are all over the place on the Southern Continent in F’lar’s time and there’s no reason to suppose they’d have been scarcer at an earlier date. So, if the human colonists did not find out about them, when they were so prevalent and when they were in position to play a major role in the ecosystem the humans were hoping to adapt to, that was silly on the part of the humans. If the humans noticed them but suffered from a severe curiosity deficit and never investigated them, that was also silly. If the humans investigated them but didn’t discover their Thread-eating capabilities, that was incredibly silly, and if the humans investigated them and did discover their Thread-eating knack but made no particular note of it, that was silly once again. If they discovered the grubs (always in their natural state) and investigated them and found out about the Thread-eating and did note it but didn’t do anything about it — that is, if they decided not to cultivate the grubs — that was (once more) silly. And if they did all the foregoing things but somehow lost their knowledge of the grubs or came to misunderstand it, that may have been sillier than all the previous possibilities combined, but it would have been equally silly whether the humans created the grubs or sort-of created the grubs or just discovered them.

    So I admit that the story here is kind of improbable, the difficulty being that it stays improbable no matter what you do.

    (Please forgive any intemperance in the expression of views.)

  33. Only Some Stardust August 23, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    re:grubs topic

    Well, it does seem to be incompetence, but it doesn’t seem too far fetched that in over, what, over a thousand years or so that records could get lost/destroyed and something as inglorious as grubs could be forgotten. You can’t really make grubs into a catchy ballad or a catchy legend. I’m going to assume that they did in fact make some record of it, because anything else seems like gross incompetence.

    Although, admittedly that level of incompetence isn’t out of the question. If these are not the best and brightest coming to colonize but rather people who have no other plans or prospects and think medieval timey-wimey times should be brought back again, I could easily see grubs being dismissed as ‘something to deal with later’ and the later never coming.

    It is possible they might have been scarcer earlier; species do not in fact stay in the same geographic location in the same population levels forever, something as small as a mini-warming or cooling can cause drastic population changes in a hundred years. Newly evolved species are especially prone to population spreading because they haven’t yet had the time to fill out all their prime habitat.

    Speaking of legends, this world could use more fictional tales, religions and myths inside it.

  34. genesistrine August 24, 2014 at 4:09 am

    @bekabot (no intemperance noticed; everything posted here is just someone’s humble opinion and hopefully taken as such by all involved!)

    Bear in mind that there’s probably a LOT more grubs during a Pass; they may be hard to find during an Interval. (Given the mention of neoteny, maybe they only mature during Intervals, and that form – some kind of insect? – keeps the species going until the Red Star’s return triggers them to reproduce in the neotenous Thread-eating grub stage instead? Cool thought but unprovable.)

    And the Thread-eating/protectiveness thing could easily be missed; it’s not going to be noticed until Thread actually falls, and any naturalists are going to be busy hiding under the nearest rock/running for the emergency phone/discovering why you shouldn’t poke fallen Thread with a stick when that happens.

    [rot13 for mention of later events/books]

    Naablvatyl jr’ir tbg 2 qvssrerag irefvbaf bs jura uhznaf neevirq ba Crea – gur vageb sebz gur svefg srj obbxf unf gurz neevivat whfg nsgre n Cnff naq fcernqvat bhg sbe 200-bqq lrnef, juvyr Qentbafqnja unf gurz neevir ng gur raq bs na Vagreiny naq Guernqsnyy ortvaavat fubegyl nsgre Ynaqvat.

    Rvgure jnl zvffvat jung gur tehof pna qb vf fghcvq va na haqrefgnaqnoyr fbeg bs jnl; va gur svefg fpranevb gur tehof ner qlvat bss be qbeznag (be znlor va n ernyyl boabkvbhf vafrpg fgngr gung 50 lrnef sebz abj vf tbvat gb qrzbafgengr gur ERNY ernfba jul gur Fbhgurea Pbagvarag’f orra yrsg havaunovgrq sbe fb ybat 😀 ) naq va gur frpbaq bar ab-bar unf gvzr gb trg nebhaq gb ragbzbybtl. Gur vapbzcerurafvoyl fghcvq ovg vf ubj pbzr gur qlvat Znfgresnezre praghevrf yngre xarj naq ab-bar ryfr qvq.

    V’ir qrpvqrq V’z tbvat gb vagrecerg gung nf uvz pbvapvqragnyyl enivat nobhg tehof va QGf be srire; S’yne naq Ebovagba yngpurq bagb vg nf gur rkcynangvba orpnhfr vg svggrq gurve oryvrsf gung gur Pensgf arrqrq gb bcra hc naq funer vasb engure guna xrrcvat vg frperg. Vg znxrf n avpr pbhagrecbvag gb gur Sbeg Jrle Rherxn cyndhr sebz gur svefg obbx.

    But that’s probably because I have an unholy love for historical misinterpretation and propaganda in my fiction…

  35. genesistrine August 24, 2014 at 4:23 am

    @Only Some Stardust

    That’s an interesting thought about climate change – it is specifically mentioned that they only show up in the warmer part of the Northern Continent; maybe it’s only got warm enough there over the past millennium or so.

    Re that level of incompetence, can’t you just imagine a battle between the grub faction and the dragon faction about who got the emergency genetic engineering budget and equipment?

    “The grubs eat Thread and promote regeneration of damaged ground cover. Th-”

    “Ew, grubs! Dude! We’re proposing fire-breathing dragons! How cool is THAT!?”

    Dragons won. Obviously.

  36. genesistrine August 24, 2014 at 4:51 am

    @Only Some Stardust

    Re: tales, religions and myths

    Couldn’t it just! All the tales we hear of seem to be glorifications of dragons or noble acts of dragonriders, the songs are mostly didactic Teaching Ballads or other propaganda from the Harper Hall, and the only “myths” mentioned were proved true when a) Thread fell and b) fire lizards turned out to exist after all.

    McCaffrey apparently declared there was no religion on Pern, but there seems to be an almost-religious aspect to the way the average Pernese regards dragons/dragonriders, especially in the first book. Dragonriders seem to be regarded as incorruptible or even sacred in a sense – see Gemma trying to stop the fight between Fax and F’lar. Obviously there’s a practical reason too; if you kill or injure a dragonrider you get a berserk dragon to deal with, but she doesn’t seem to be thinking that way. And then there’s the tithing, and one of the books has a little poem addressed to a dragonrider; “show me a glimpse of love/Greater than mine”.

    I think it’s possible to make a good argument that that whatever religious feeling a Pernese has is directed at dragons and their riders, even if it’s not an organised religion.

  37. genesistrine August 24, 2014 at 5:03 am

    @Firedrake, who has the best name for this discussion

    IIRC one of the later books has a remark something like “Juvpu jbhyq lbh engure or tengrshy gb: n qentba be n teho?”

  38. Firedrake August 24, 2014 at 6:18 am

    genesistrine, I think that the visibility of the dragons has to be a huge factor. Also the fact that they distort society by requiring support; basically the entire culture is about keeping the dragons in the sky.

  39. Michael I August 24, 2014 at 8:32 am

    I’ve been thinking a bit about possible scenarios about the grubs, assuming F’lar’s deduction about “forgotten knowledge” was correct. Here’s what I came up with:

    1) The actual reason to “watch for the grubs” couldn’t have been THAT widely known originally. Presumably the Weyr leadership and the Masterfarmer (and presumably some of the other Pernese leaders) knew about it.

    2) The actual order was probably “Watch for the grubs and report their appearance to the Masterfarmer”. The idea being that the Masterfarmer would want to keep track of the spread of the grubs so they could know which areas were protected. It got recorded as “Watch for the grubs” because it was assumed that the local farmers knew that they were supposed to report to the Masterfarmer.

    3) In the time gap between the plan being conceived and the grubs actually being noticed in the North, the Dragonriders didn’t bother passing on details because it was “Craft business” and the other Craftmasters didn’t pass on details because it was “Farmcraft business”. Both groups simply assumed the Masterfarmer would take care of the matter.

    4) Unfortunately, the Masterfarmer also kept the details limited to a very small group because all the ordinary farmers REALLY needed to know was to watch for the grubs and report them. The definition of who “needed to know” became smaller over time and ultimately was limited to the Masterfarmer and his chosen successor.

    5) The appearance of the grubs in noticeable numbers took longer than expected and somewhere along the line a Masterfarmer died before choosing a successor (or before getting around to telling the successor).

    6) And thus by the time the grubs appeared it was remembered (perhaps after a bit of research in the records) that the farmers were supposed to “watch for the grubs” but not why. And the Masterfarmer of the time came to the wrong conclusion. Unfortunately THIS conclusion WAS widely disseminated.

    (Still requires stupidity but I actually think it’s the sort of stupidity that’s in-character for Pernese society.)

  40. Silver Adept August 24, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Re: fire lizards –

    I don’t believe we get to see an actual clutch that comes from a green. A Future Book has an investigation into a population explosion of fire lizards around a particular area, and it’s deduced that the majority of the new lizards are from green clutches due to a lack of bronze and gold fire lizards and the assumption that green fire lizards are as sexually available as green dragons are reported to be.

    Re: grubs –

    Regrettably, Firedrake, the theory of grubs as partial protection gets disproven in a Future Book – an observer survives Threadfall in which no dragons fly the skies and is able to watch the regenerative effects of the grubs on affected vegetation. The grubs are a complete solution in terms of keeping the plants safe. So long as the animals can find shelter from Thread, the dragons are unnecessary once the grubs are sufficiently established

    But, as is mentioned, grubs do not provide any sort of psychological benefit to the humans, where dragons most definitely do, so while the grubs will take care of the ground, the dragons are there to show that something is being done about the problem.

    I’m also impressed with the knowledge on display about how this all could work it, stupidity and forgetfulness included. The ability to fix is a really great tool and helps me get more informed as I go along. Thanks!

    Re: Myths and Legends –

    I think it’s fair to say that the dragons and their riders are the figures of myth and legend in Pern, with the fire lizards occupying the space of “mythic creatures that nobody has seen…until now.” There’s a ballad, Moreta’s Ride, that talks about a heroic dragonrider (a queen rider) that sacrifices themselves to cute a plague in the past, at least. When we get to the Harper Hall trilogy and stop seeing things from the dragonrider viewpoint, a lot more of the reverence for dragonriders comes out, and fire lizards start being used as a bridge mechanism to try and de-mystify some of the elements of what being a dragonrider would have been like. When we get there, we also find a thriving community of composers at the Hall and a rich musical heritage in the Holds, both on land and at sea, but, as is standard Pernese operation, there’s almost no exchange of culture or song between the two, and even out at the Sea Holds, where superstitions would seem most natural to develop, considering how much of their livelihood depends on nature, there are a curious lack of stories involving sea gods, merpeople, or other fantastic elements.

    That may change some as the series goes on, because one of the main characters for the Harper Hall has an innate ability to both play and compose earworms.

  41. bekabot August 27, 2014 at 12:54 am

    …even out at the Sea Holds, where superstitions would seem most natural to develop, considering how much of their livelihood depends on nature, there are a curious lack of stories involving sea gods, merpeople, or other fantastic elements.

    It’s even weirder because Thread drowns, so it would plausible for the Sea Holders to attribute some magical/sacred influence to the sea, or to water in general, which counteracts Thread and thereby demonstrates a Virtue. But maybe it’s just what so many people here have been saying…the dragons are so impressive that they “use up” all the extra brainspace which the Pernese might otherwise use to generate or store wonder. They account for all the sensawonda of the entire society, the way they account for all its religious feeling, or seem to. That’s the problem with having the miracle walking among you, or flying over you, or whatever. There it is, big as life and twice as hungry, and you can’t argue with it.

    Only Fandarel and his buddies seem to have different concerns.

    But for everybody else the dragons to be the focus for the creativity of their whole world, even though ordinary Pernese have only tenuous contact with them. (During an Interval or a Long Interval the contact would have to be next to none.) The people of Pern know very little about the dragons but still the dragons are what they moon over and compose hymns to. (Though an alternative explanation would be that since these books are mostly about dragons what we get in the narrative is mostly dragon-related material; in that case, though Pernese culture produces heaps of other stuff it’s not germane to the subject at hand so it isn’t mentioned.) However if the dragons loom as large in the minds of the Pernese as they do in the books, though there are some hints that they don’t, then the dragons are It. They’re what the Mother of God was to Chartres. They take up all the room there is and there’s no space left over for anything else. (Too bad for the menfolk and their allied clans.)

  42. bekabot August 27, 2014 at 1:00 am

    (Too bad for the menfolk and their allied clans.)

    …er. “Merfolk,” that would be.

  43. Firedrake August 27, 2014 at 6:17 am

    bekabot, that does explain how the sea holders could zvfcynpr na ragver fncvrag fcrpvrf naq abg abgvpr. (“Jung arkg? Jbbqyvpr bs Crea?”)

  44. genesistrine August 31, 2014 at 4:03 am

    @ Firedrake: we need to start keeping a list of Things The Pernese Forgot About.

    Re myths: Lessa’s heard horror stories about dragons eating human flesh when she first arrives at the Weyr. Fax is a big player in the anti-dragonrider movement so it may just be propaganda she’s picked up from the occupying forces, but it might also represent a set of myths/beliefs in the Pernese underclass that the books never let us see.

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