Dragonsinger: Tempered Steel

Last chapter, we finally closed out Menolly’s first full day at the Harper Hall, which left her completely exhausted… and in the scrutiny of the other girls at the Hall, most of whom have coalesced into a clique that Menolly will never be good enough to join. Menolly, in return, has Groucho Marx’d all of them, except the one who appears to be friendly.

Dragonsinger: Chapter 5: Content Notes: Poor-shaming

Day two starts with a shriek. Several, actually. Because Dunca sees that Menolly is in her bed, but the nine fire lizards are protective of anyone invading her space, and that only encourages the shrieking from Dunca until Menolly orders them out the window.

This only changed the tone of Dunca’s screams because the woman was now pointing at Menolly’s nudity until she could snatch up the discarded shirt and cover herself.

Cocowhat by depizan

Okay, so Menolly sleeps in the nude. To this point in the books, this is treated like a normal thing. Mirrim even helps Menolly get out of her clothes back in Dragonsong, and this isn’t treated as some sort of Pern-shattering event. If the dragonrider culture were more consistently okay with all sorts of sex positivity, it would be an easier task to pin Menolly not being taken to task about nude sleeping as just one of those things dragonriders are okay with and everybody else isn’t. Except that Menolly has spent time in her Hold, too, and nobody has apparently objected there, either. So what I’m forced to conclude is that Dunca has some sort of nudity taboo, or that these supposedly delicate Holdbred girls do, or both. Considering what sort of acid tongue was possible just by mentioning the possibility of Dunca finding one of the girls with a boy, I have a strong suspicion that this detour into “modesty” and purity culture values is all Dunca’s fault. Which isn’t necessarily bad on face, but it’s in the same cartoonish over-the-top manner as the Mean Girl Squad that it becomes hard to do anything with it other than roll my eyes. And that’s before we get to talk about the practicality of Menolly’s choices regarding her lack of sleepwear later on. Suffice to say, this is fucking bizarre.

Having clothed herself sufficiently and calmed the fire lizards, Menolly is lectured by Dunca about the need to always check in with her when she returns to the cottage. Menolly acquiesces, realizing that she can’t fight Dunca and that Dunca is irrevocably prejudiced against her. Considering how far from Yanus and Mavi Menolly is, temporally, I would expect this to be standing on every one of Menolly’s abuse triggers right now, but there’s no indication of any mental distress at this point.

There is snobbery, which Audiva breaks from when nobody is looking, and then more snobbery, this time about her fruit-stained shirt, for which her current spare is her clothes from her cave days.

Menolly takes her leave to go feed the fire lizards, collecting an extra round of scorn from Dunca about how she shouldn’t be bothering Silvina and that Menolly is her responsibility while she stays at the Hall.

“Don’t get pert with me, girl. You may be the daughter of a Sea-Holder, but while you are at the Harper Craft Hall and in my charge, you are to behave yourself. We’ll have no ranking here.”
Half-torn between laughter and disgust, Menolly rose. “If I may go, please, before the fire lizards come in search of me…”
That sufficed. Dunca couldn’t get her out of the cot fast enough. Someone sniggered, but when Menolly glanced up she wasn’t sure if it had been Audiva or not. It was a small encouragement that someone had recognized Dunca’s hypocrisy.

High. School. Drama. Where even the adults join in on the torture. Still, good on Menolly to fight back on the grounds that she can win on.

Also, if Dunca were really sincere about having no ranking in her house, she’d be getting after the other girls much more than Menolly. As thetext is eager to point out for the woman, Dunca’s a hypocrite.

Feeding with the fire lizards is the usual cavalcade of Camo abandoning whatever he was doing to help, much to the kitchen staff’s consternation. Afterward, because Menolly has not been told where to go, after she asks for directions,one of the journeymen dismissively sends her to the women’s class of music. Because, apparently, despite her giant welcome two days ago to the Hall, she’s not remembered enough for people to recognize her as the new apprentice and be shipped off to Robinton or one of the other Masters.

Now, based on what we’ve seen of the girls here at the Hall, what do you think their skill with music is going to be? Since they’re here, and getting instruction from members of the Harper Hall, there’s every indication that these girls will be able to play competently, yes?

…if you said they’re going to be awful at it, you remembered how much skill Menolly demonstrated yesterday. You also remember that the narrative has been setting up Menolly as an exceptional female compared to the other girls in all other aspects. The journeyman in charge of instruction, Talmor, is patiently trying to teach gitar. Poma cannot get basic fingering down, nor manage an alternative in time. Menolly runs the fingering silently, which attracts Talmor’s attention. He asks her to run the exercise, in both alternate and regular fingering pattern, and she does. Audiva takes notice, and is trying to study her hands to replicate her skill. The other girls are angry at being shown up.

Then Menolly gets to study new music – music meant to be played as entertainment after dinner and as background music for conversations. To Menolly, it’s a very simple piece. Audiva is able to play it, although slower than tempo. Another of the girls can’t really read the music. Pona can play with a little spirit, but not a lot of skill. Menolly gets a hack at it after everyone else, after Talmor is starting to show a fray at the edges.

It was such a relief to play the music as it should be that Menolly found herself increasing the time and emphasizing the chords with a variation of her own in the strum.
Talmor just looked at her. Then he blinked and exhaled heavily, pursing his lips together.
“Well, yes. You’ve seen it before?”
“Oh, no. We had very little occasional music in Half-Circle. This is lovely.”
“You played that cold?”
Only then did Menolly realize what she had done: made the other girls look inadequate. She was aware of their child, chill silence, their hostile stares. But not to play one’s best seemed a dishonesty that she had never practiced and could not. Belatedly, she realized she could have hedged: with her scarred hand she could have faltered, missed some of the chordings. Yet it had been such a relief, after their limping renditions, to play the music as it was meant to be played.

Riddle me this: Why? Why is Menolly even considering not playing to her full ability as a way of trying to get along with any girl not named Audiva? (Who is also apparently giving Menolly the evil eye over her playing ability, because the narrative only mentions Audiva breaking from the pack when it wants to) These girls and Dunca have given her zero welcome, have made her feel completely alien instead of at home, and have gone out of their way to hurt Menolly, as we find out, by withholding the message that Master Domick sent in the morning to attend him for lessons. Yet Menolly has, to this point, met their disapproval and snark with pushback on her own terms and a few well-placed artillery barrages of her own. Why does she stumble here? If this is supposed to be vestigial from Yanus or Mavi, then Menolly should be thinking of something different than “Must try to get along with these girls!” I can find no reason in the narrative at all as to why this thought would enter Menolly’s head, and the narrative is usually really good at providing reasons why it believes women with skills and progressive views should be hurt and try to conform.

Relief from the uncomfortable stares arrives in the form of Sebell, the seniormost Journeyman studying under Robinton, and Menolly’s partner in her apprenticeship. He takes Talmor’s acidic remark that Menolly was misdirected in stride, deduces (with Menolly) why Menolly was not studying under Master Domick this morning (Dunca and the girls withheld the message), which upsets Menolly because she’s convinced Domick doesn’t like her, much to Sebell’s amusement (“Master Domick doesn’t like anyone,” he says, “including himself. So you’re no exception.”), and then asks her all about life in a Sea-Hold on the way to rectify the problem, as “Harper business”, so she doesn’t get to ask questions. Sebell also obliquely references that Harpers do more than just play music – they’re the spy network for Robinton all over Pern.

Before continuing, I’m going to point out that teaching is not, in fact, for everyone. In the most Menolly-friendly interpretation of this scene, Talmor is a reasonably competent journeyman and instructor, perhaps one that is taking his Masterclass that requires actual teaching to demonstrate his competency in a core requirement of being a Master Harper. His current crop of students are more difficult than most, because they’re untrained and his usual methods of instruction aren’t working. Menolly is thus a breath of air – a student with skill, possibly skill beyond his own, that should be studying with the Masters and not him.

In the less charitable interpretation, which seems more in line with what we’ve seen of the Harper Hall and Pern in general, Talmor is a journeyman currently the leader on a Master’s shit list, probably Jerint, who has been assigned to the women’s class as a punishment. He is just going through the motions of teaching and hoping soon for the time where he will be relieved of this torture of dealing with the airheads. Menolly is clearly in the wrong class, to him, because she has more talent in her pinky than any of these hopeless girls.

It doesn’t bode well.

Before Menolly can pursue the line of inquiry about nonmusical Harper business, Sebell asks her about his fire lizard egg, in detail, and then in great detail about life in the Sea Hold, all the way to the lunch bell, where Menolly gets the silent treatment from all the other girls, a request to see Master Oldive after lunch, and then, the sound and fury of Master Domick about her missed appointment.

“I realize,” Domick went on sarcastically, “that you’ve been living holdless and without authority for some time, but while you are an apprentice here, you will obey the masters.”

Hey, Domick?

Fuck you.

You have a student whose history includes physical and mental abuse, for which she carries visible scars, and you think the best way to approach them about an issue is to go in full-bore with verbal abuse, not allow her to provide explanation, and believe someone who you should probably know by now is no friend to the student. And because Menolly has reason to believe that a master that starts verbally abusive will progress to physical abuse (Yanus did, Mavi did), this is an extra dose of anti-empathy. Fuck you, you insensitive clod.

And a big hearty fuck you to the Harper Hall that allows him to terrorize students this way and passes off his abusive nature as just who he is, instead of demanding that he find a way to chill out or he can take the long walk to a far distant Hold.

The fire lizards, after the latest barrage, decide they are having none of this shit, and Beauty and the two bronzes enter the hall on attack vector, forcing Menolly to intercede and call them off. Which sends the other girls into a blind shrieking panic, and they scatter. Domick is unfazed by this display.

“Master Domick,” said another voice near the floor, and Audiva crawled from under the table. “Master Domick, Dunca told Menolly nothing about your message, but we knew all about it. Fair’s fair.”
[…]
“How did you contrive to alienate Dunca?” asked Domick, his expression sullen but less fierce.
Menolly followed and glanced at the fire lizards.
“Oh, them! Yes! I can quite see her point.” There was no flexibility in Master Domick’s attitude. “They do not, however, intimidate me.”
“Master Domick-”
“That’s enough, girl. Since you haven’t the native intelligence to be tactful, I shall have to-“

Domick’s threat goes unfinished, as Sebell arrives to deflect Domick away – Domick gives instructions to Menolly directly about what her afternoon and next day’s morning will be, and waves off Sebell (“I’m not so lost to common sense as to punish her for being the victim of envy.” he says, which is utter bullshit, because he was about to do just that) before departing. Once the coast is clear, Piemur appears from under the table, having heard everything, and gets Menolly to agree to let him help feed the fire lizards before vanishing to his chores.

Menolly sees Oldive, who gives her an exercise ball to do her physical therapy with, and some pain relief salve, and oils up Beauty when he notices skin cracking on her. The narrative attempts to gaslight us by having Menolly call Beauty’s attack at Domick “deplorable” instead of “utterly justified”, and Oldive scolds Menolly and tells her she needs to stay off her feet more before sending her on to Jerint for her afternoon lesson. Menolly heads back to Dunca’s to collect her pipes, but overhears the other girls discussing her.

“She’s an apprentice,” Pona was shouting in strident and argumentative tones. “He said she was an apprentice. She doesn’t belong with us. We’ve rank to uphold. She doesn’t belong in here with us! Let her go where she does belong…with the apprentices!” The was a vicious, hateful edge to Pona’s voice.
[…]
She did belong there [her cave from Dragonsong] because she’d made it her place. And really, what place was there for her in the Harper Hall, much less the cot? She might be called an apprentice, but she wasn’t part of their group either. Ranly had made that plain at the dining table.
And Master Morshal didn’t want her to “presume” to be a harper. Master Domick would as soon she disappeared, for all he’d been willing to teach her. She had played well for him, scarred hands and all. She was certain of that. And she was clearly a far better musician than the girls. No false modesty prompted that evaluation.
If her only use at the Harper Hall was to instruct people on being bogus seamen or turning fire lizard eggs, someone else could easily perform those services. She’d managed to alienate more people than she’d made friends, and the few friends she’d acquired were more interested in her fire lizards than they were in her. Briefly she considered what welcome she would have received if she hasn’t bright the fire lizards or the two eggs with her. Then there would have been no fire lizard song for the Masterharper to rewrite. And he’d apologized to her for that. The Masterharper of Pern had apologized to her, Menolly of Half-Circle Sea Hold, for improving on her song. Her songs were what he needed, he said. Menolly took a deep breath and expelled it slowly.
She did have music in the Harper Hall, and that was important! There might not be girl harpers, but no one had said there couldn’t be girl song-crafters and that mightn’t be a bad future.

Hooray, resilience, even if it is setting sights lower than the original because of the weight of the constant mental and emotional abuse the narrative has been throwing at Menolly. Also, Menolly wins the award for perceptiveness in a main character for this book. And I’m a bit worried, because women expressing “radical” ideas usually is followed by some form of physical abuse.

Having buoyed herself sufficiently, Menolly returns to the task at hand of trying to get her pipes for Jerint’s lesson, concentrating on where the pipes are, when all nine fire lizards return from hyperspace and drop the pipes into her hands. Menolly is delighted, and thinks this discovery is because of the harsh attitudes of the girls. Even though, earlier, other people were talking about training fire lizards to send messages.

Anyway, onward to the Master Instrument Maker, who asks about the technique used to create her pipes (with a Menolly shudder at having to mention packtail), and then asks her to create a drum, which she does while he is supposedly working on a harp, but he is watching her work for some undisclosed amount of time. After she finishes, he sends her onward to Shonagar for her voice lesson. Which mostly consists of breath control and posture. As anyone who has sung can tell you, however, that’s exhausting by itself. After Menolly has a seat, Shonagar has Piemur sing as an experiment to see if the singing fire lizards will sing with any voice. Menolly is surprised by Piemur’s singing voice, and after a while and some encouragement, the singing lizards accompany Piemur’s melody. Shonagar has essentially no comment and sends both of them on their way to feed the fire lizards and themselves. The kitchen has adapted to the schedule of the lizards, and Camo is waiting for Menolly, instead of abandoning something to help feed. Feeding the nine is much easier with two extra perches for them in the form of Camo and Piemur.

At dinner, Piemur lets on that he’s been banned from sitting near the girls’ table because of something he did that rankled Pona, who complained to Dunca, who complained to Silvina. Menolly’s esteem for Piemur rises with this disclosure. Menolly also figures out the easiest way to avoid having to sit by the girls is to be just a little late for dinner perpetually, and has a private laugh at the expense of the girls being afraid of Thread. Which is mean, but I’m giving Menolly a lot of latitude based on previous behaviors. After dinner, Robinton and Sebell ask Menolly to check their eggs, with very little mention of the heaps of abuse being pulled on Menolly, but the attention is enough for Menolly to come to the conclusion that her previous idealization of Harpers will have to be sacrificed to the demands of reality, with the narrative providing an exclamation point on the end by having Dunca swing a litany of complaints at Menolly about everything from her fire lizards to her need to be more respectful of the other girls. According to Dunca…

Menolly’s attitude was presumptuous, uncooperative, unfriendly, and discourteous, and Dunca was not having a tunnel-snake in her cot where the girls were as friendly and as considerate of one another as any fosterer could wish.
After the first few sentences, Menolly raised that she could put forth no defense of herself or her friends acceptable to Dunca. All she could do was say “yes” and “no” at appropriate intervals, when Dunca was corrects to stop for breath. And every time Menolly thought the woman must surely have exhausted the subject, she would she onto another imagined slight until Menolly seriously considered calling beauty to her. The appearance of the fire lizard would certainly curtail the flow of abuse, but would irrevocably destroy any possibility of getting into Dunca’s fair record.
“Now, have I made myself plain?” Dunca asked unexpectedly.
“You have,” and since Menolly’s calm acceptance momentarily robbed her of speech, the girl flew up the stairs, ignoring the stiffness of her feet and grinning at the explosive and furious reprimands Dunca made at her retreat.

And that’s Chapter Five!

Frankly, I’m still trying to piece together why Menolly gives a fuck about Dunca, when she’s already repeatedly come to the conclusion that Dunca hates her, the girls hate her, and nobody, except Audiva, intends to extend even the illusion of an olive branch to Menolly. Even though there’s no reason to believe courtesy would be extended to her, we’re supposed to believe that the girl who ran away from her Hold over parental abuse is so starved for peer acceptance that she’ll keep trying to make friends with people who have no interest in it. Or, for that matter, with Dunca, because Menolly believes Dunca has power over her? This cartoonish group of Mean Girls runs completely counter to how everything else goes in this and the last book. Can they please be excised retroactively?

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12 thoughts on “Dragonsinger: Tempered Steel

  1. Firedrake February 5, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    Hmm. Maybe an unspoken meme of “whatever else you do, you MUST fit in with other people of your own age and sex”?

  2. depizan February 5, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    So what I’m forced to conclude is that Dunca has some sort of nudity taboo, or that these supposedly delicate Holdbred girls do, or both.

    And we’re right back to there being no consistent world building, and/or the Hold Menolly comes from being just weird. But I don’t see how the Sea Hold can have enough importance that Menolly ranks the other girls, yet be so far out culturally that it’s people sleep in the nude, but other Holders don’t. I mean, it isn’t impossible, but, well, it’s just more of that great question of what is normal, socially speaking.

    Menolly is lectured by Dunca about the need to always check in with her when she returns to the cottage

    Given that Menolly tried to do that and Dunca wasn’t there, this isn’t just unfair, it’s weird. Did Dunca hide from Menolly so that she could shout at her later? It’s written so that one can assume she’s genuinely surprised to find her. Yet why was she checking Menolly’s room if she didn’t think she was there? Was Dunca shirking her duties last night and is dumping on Menolly to hide the fact? And why was Dunca waking her with the entire rest of the cottage in tow? Shouldn’t there be a bell or a gong or some method of waking the entire cottage at once rather than having Dunca and a growing train of girls wake everyone?

    Nothing about the gitar lesson makes any sense. While the girls could all be new at the gitar, despite being expert singers (they’re good enough to perform!), it just reads really, really off. Menolly has to have some idea of what is and is not easy music, or she couldn’t have taught back at her hold. So she must be right that this is easy music. But if they’re having trouble because they’re new at the gitar, why are they angry at Menolly and not frustrated that an expert’s been put in a beginner class to make fools of them? Or at least not also angry about that. (Even if they apparently did that to themselves. Didn’t they realize this would happen? How could they not?) How can one of the girls be unable to read music? Has she been learning her vocal parts by ear? (Which is impressive in it’s own right.) Or is this can’t read music as in can’t translate the notes to the gitar fingerings? And why are all of the girls (except Menolly) apparently on par with one another? Can you only learn gitar at Harper Hall?

    Why is Menolly even considering not playing to her full ability as a way of trying to get along with any girl not named Audiva?

    Making this even stranger is the fact that Menolly showed little sign of bending herself to get along with people when at the Sea Hold. Why should it be more important to get along with the girls and Dunca than her abusive family? I can see being afraid that Dunca will step up from verbally abusing her to beating her, but that’s not how it’s presented.

    Hey, Domick?

    Fuck you.

    I’d like to give Sebell a hearty fuck you as well. It doesn’t excuse Domick in the slightest, but if he had gone to Domick after finding Menolly and explained what happened, that might have helped. (It’s also weird that Sebell can guess that Dunca is to blame but Domick can’t. Either Dunca is a known problem or she’s not. And if she is, why the flaming FUCK does she run the girls’ dorm. Fuck you, Harper Hall.)

    Oldive scolds Menolly and tells her she needs to stay off her feet more

    You know what, fuck him, too. She doesn’t have that power. He does. If he wants Menolly off her feet so they can heal, he can send a stern message to the Masters that he’ll flay their feet if they don’t allow Menolly to stay off hers. Telling the person with no power in the situation to act is unfair and seems more victim blaming than helpful.

    “…She doesn’t belong in here with us! Let her go where she does belong…with the apprentices!”

    I hate to agree with Pona, but in this she’s right (if for the wrong reasons). Why was Menolly put with them? (Other than so the narrative could have some women to abuse her?) Simply because she’s a girl? If so, that seems like further proof that she’s just an exceptional girl and not meant to be part of a change that normalizes female Harpers.

    has a private laugh at the expense of the girls being afraid of Thread.

    The whole planet is afraid of Thread! Why, in this book, has it suddenly become Not That Big A Deal? I mean, I could see Menolly being less afraid of it because she actually survived living holdless. But she also nearly died and ran her feet bloody trying to outrun Thread. She might just as easily be even more afraid of it.

  3. Silver Adept February 6, 2015 at 9:15 am

    @ Firedrake – Maybe. Except there’s really no indication that these women are the same age as Menolly, since she’s the youngest daughter and their introductions seemed to indicate they were older. Menolly is, at this point, only fifteen, I think.

    @ depizan – The best I can conclude out Dunca and the other girls in tow is that Dunca is a willing participant in the hazing, because ??? and so had the girls coming with her for extra effect of shame and derision.

    The gitar lesson really doesn’t make sense. I would think their anger should be directed at least some at Talmor for being an incompetent instructor.

    There’s plenty of victim-blaming to go around in the Harper Hall, and later on, it will be hinted at that Dunca is deliberately where she is and that Menolly was not sent to her by mistake, but for some purpose. It won’t be clarified what purpose, but one all the same.

    I think the joke about Thread is supposed to be an analogue for a bullied child taking refuge and pride in the thing they do will or have experienced so as to build a sense of superiority to their tormenters. Having nearly been killed by Thread would be an excellent reason to stay afraid of it, though.

    Pern still seems to run on “the world is whatever the plot needs it to be.”

  4. beappleby February 6, 2015 at 11:59 am

    Menolly is at Dunca’s while the Harper Hall tries to figure out what to do with her. She’s an apprentice, but since she’s a girl she can’t stay in the barracks with the other apprentices; so they stick her in with the paying students, even though she’s not one, because they are girls. It was for appearances’ sake, to give Robinton time to sweet talk the masters into accepting her as an apprentice. It’s just too bad Silvina couldn’t have left her in that original guest room in the first place while they sorted everything out.

  5. Silver Adept February 8, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    That’s just it, beappleby – there’s no stated reason she couldn’t have stayed with the apprentices – they are neither dragonriders with their tendencies, nor Holders (who, we will find, have issues with keeping it in their pants), and I doubt that Menolly’s nude habits came only because of living Holdless. It may be common Pern custom for everyone not being trained to be a marriageable daughter to sleep without clothes on.

    And if Robinton did this to try and get the masters to accept Menolly, he did a piss-poor job of it, with the way that all of them have taken to her.

  6. genesistrine February 8, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    I think you’re being a weeny bit over-optimistic there – putting one teenage girl in with a load of teenage boys doesn’t seem like it’d be comfortable for anyone, particularly if they sleep in dormitories rather than having separate rooms.

    But, as already said, there doesn’t seem to be any reason not to leave Menolly in the guest room other than the narrative wanting to make life extra shitty for her in a way that can be fixed without restructuring the Harper Hall.

  7. animefan February 9, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    The gitar lesson – People can be very divergent in their musical skills. I’ve known a lot of people who can learn vocal songs by ear but cannot read music at all and can’t learn instrumental songs by ear. I was a music major at university, so everyone in the program was obviously very interested in music, but many of them still couldn’t sight-read. *Most* of the choir couldn’t sight-read (they weren’t all music majors though).

    All music majors were required to do some basic piano-playing along with the theory classes, and even after months of being tested on it, people who hadn’t trained as children were slowly limping and stumbling along, while those of us who had could just sit down and play what we were handed without having to rehearse.

    And we were voluntary music students rather than bored Hold girls being forced into it when most of them have no interest in the subject and never practice outside of class.

    These girls are still playing scales (the scene says) and trying to train their fingers. They’re very inexperienced gitar players. (There doesn’t seem to be much reason to teach them the gitar at all, honestly, except that I guess they wanted some instrument to be a ladylike accomplishment, they don’t have pianos on Pern, and they didn’t think the harp would be believable as a beginner’s instrument?) I don’t think we have any information on how long they’ve been here or how many instruments they’ve been expected to work with.

    Anyway, I’m not surprised that they’re struggling, but it’s a pity that it’s used as another way to show what horrible people they are.

  8. beappleby February 9, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    Considering the shenanigans that the apprentices get up to in Dragondrums, I definitely see why they wouldn’t even consider putting her in the dorm with the boys!

    Putting her in with the other girls is also meant to protect her, I would think – Dunca certainly takes that part of her duties seriously.

  9. Lodrelhai (@Lodrelhai) February 10, 2015 at 5:44 am

    On Talmor’s teaching competence, I think what’s actually happening is Talmor is the newest journeyman – I seem to remember Piemur mentioning that he was only recently promoted. It’s possible that teaching the paying students falls to him as a kind of practice for real teaching. After all, it’s not like these students are expected to leave the Hall with training on par with a Harper’s, and they’re beyond the age of learning the Teaching Songs everyone seems to be required to know. So it doesn’t really matter if he screws up with them while either working out his own methods or proving himself incapable of classroom teaching.

    Which is a horrible way to train and test a teacher, but throwing people into new situations with little to no instruction or assistance seems to be par for the course around Pern.

  10. Silver Adept February 10, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    @ genesistrine / beappleby

    The only textual indication so far that mixed company would be a problem is Dunca, who is concerned about her girls getting swept away by the apparent horde of potential stories and not being returned to their families in the same condition add they left. If there is truly no ranking with her, and Menolly is primarily an apprentice, then Dunca really doesn’t have to care about Menolly. And yet she does, sort of. It requires an underlying assumption that the reader comes from a culture where young men and young women are separated because they would obviously have sex, which destroys the value of the woman to be married off to someone else because purity culture, which is usually religious in nature. Except Pern is trying to present a world without religious beliefs, or at least no cult that the reader would recognize, so somehow this highly religious idea was supposed to have developed, despite the void. It’s possible (Holders have a highly-developed sense of blood purity from…somewhere), but it’s not likely.

    The apprentices in Dragondrums are, at the moment, Future Knowledge, but I’ll grant that knowing they’re there may have influenced a decision on where to put Menolly.

    @ Lodrelhai –

    Oh, that makes sense. The Harpers get plausible deniability about the skill of the teacher and some knowledge about whether they can swim if thrown into the deep end. Still, I would think something like that would be better suited for a Master class examination, or as a training method for journeymen before posting to a place without a Master Harper nearby to help them, like Half-Circle.

    The narrative really does run on trying to make as many people miserable as possible.

  11. genesistrine February 11, 2015 at 9:16 am

    I was thinking more of adolescents-in-general rather than Pernese mores! I’d have been mortified to be sharing a dorm with boys in my teenage years, and even if there were separate rooms there’s always some idiot(s) who think low-level sexual harassment is funny, even if it never escalates.

    But from the Pernese point of view it’s already been established that Holder sexual mores are pretty repressive, and the Harper Hall is right next door to Fort Hold. Even if Harpers are a bit more relaxed about gender-mixing (which they certainly don’t seem to be as far as musical education goes at least) they’re unlikely to want scandal and gossip (with the usual exaggerations) about the shocking stuff those Harpers get up to with teenage girls; would you want one teaching your kids? And if Pona etc are paying pupils what parent is going to want to send a daughter to where (hushed whisper) that kind of thing goes on?

  12. Only Some Stardust February 11, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    In theory, it’s possible there could be a society where that kind of harassment just doesn’t happen. We’ve been given no reason to think it would be like that here though.

    It’s difficult to imagine what it would be like to live in a culture different from ours where women aren’t objectified and most men are as trustworthy as any woman (in a violent crime statistic sense, not lying or rudeness), but even in more female friendly societies it is still the norm to have some gender segregated groups.
    It is actually not necessarily a religious idea, rather, it’s more a reflection of patriarchal society or even some matrilineal ones (which still technically patriarchy but of a vastly different ilk, where women are often the ones to control the household wealth) that women do one thing and men do another. This doesn’t require a purity culture, although that certainly seems to be the case here as they do not even offer to let Menolly choose her sleeping place.

    They aren’t concerned with letting her choose what is most comfortable for her, they just assume.

    That kinda annoys me for another reason, trans-exclusion, but it would have been a massive shocker if they weren’t invisible so meh.

    Also, Pern does not totally develop from a religious void; the Founders were aware of religion and would have brought with them some baggage from those old religions even as they consciously tried to reject them.

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