Last chapter, Menolly assisted in the Impression of two fire lizards, composed a new song after Brekke psychically broadcast her anguish to the world, and may have finally given us a reason to break out Beware The Nice Ones, as Menolly has (potentially correctly) deduced that Pona is poisoning other people’s opinions of her, by the way Lord Groghe reacted in surprise to meeting her. Both Silvina and Sebell have warned her away from getting revenge, but considering that all Menolly has received for being a good girl whose only heterodox idea is that girls can be Harpers is scorn, sexism, misogyny, and disdain from the other girls and most of the Masters at the Hall, I think it will be nice to see Menolly step outside the Good Girl box. Fisticuffs would be even better.
Dragonsinger, Chapter 8: Content Notes: Misogyny
Chapter Eight’s proper action starts with Piemur looking for the sign that the will be a craft fair, since it’s a restday and there’s no Thread due. The isolation of Half-Circle Sea Hold means Menolly knows what these craft fairs are, but that she hadn’t been to one in nearly seven years, because the traders stopped coming when Thread started falling. So, basically, seven years in isolation for Menolly, which must have suited her abusive father just fine, since no new ideas or information could get in to his domain.
And then there is this:
Piemur was thoroughly disgusted with her obtuseness. “Marks! Marks! What you get in exchange for what you’re selling at a gather?” He reached into his pocket and pulled out four small white pieces of highly polished wood, on which the numerals 32 had been incised on one side and on the other, the mark of the Smithcraft. “Only thirty-seconds, but with four I got an eighth, and Smithcraft at that.”
Menolly had never actually seen marks before. All trading transactions had been carried out by her father, the Sea Holder. She was astonished that so young a boy as Piemur had possession of marks and said so.
Okay, firstly, yet another way Yanus controlled his family, by controlling their money. Secondly:
Cocowhat by depizan
Pern has money.
Cocowhat by depizan
Pern has money.
Which really cements the idea of Pern as a steampunk version of the Italian city-states. With time-traveling, hyperspace-hopping dragons and alien spores, that is. But also makes the feudal idea of the Lords Holder even more ridiculous, as there are now two very different reasons that the feudal idea should have long since evaporated. The dragonriders hold the martial power and could have steamrolled the Lords Holder at any point they wanted to, and the Crafthalls hold the economic power, through producing goods and by controlling the monetary system. There really is no reason for the Lords Holder to exist as anything other than ceremonial lords, once structures can be constructed that can withstand Threadfall, or be hardened against it, or once it’s certain that the dragonriders can basically ensure that Threadfall is a non-issue with regard to destruction of property and crops. The Holds may function as cities for trade and other economic functions, but that’s all they should be at this point.
Secondly, this is clearly fiat money that’s being used, even though it’s divided in ways that suggest it should function more like real money. The wood used in the construction of the mark pieces has no intrinsic value, because it’s stamped with a value, rather than being a segment of a coin with actual value (for example, in very old England currency, the penny was a whole coin, the half-penny half of a penny coin, and the farthing a quarter of the penny coin). And fiat money needs either a store of valuable material to draw on, or the power of the monopoly of violence (and usually both) to actually work the way it’s supposed to. So the Crafthalls might have the valuable materials, which are…? But theoretically, the Holds have the monopoly on violence, even though it’s really the Weyrs that have said monopoly, so I would expect any money to be minted in the names and badges of the Holds or the Weyrs, not the Crafthalls.
And Piemur’s implication is that the various Crafthall marks have differing values, with the Smithcraft marks superior to most, if not all of them. Which makes me wonder what, exactly, a mark is worth. Some sort of bushel of goods from each of the crafts? A precious metal value of some sort? There has to be some exchange rate between marks and goods (and that’s in the control of the Crafthalls, so the Holders can easily have their power eaten away by inflation) or the whole system would collapse. And this is a worldwide system, because even isolated-at-the-end-of-the-world Menolly knows what marks are and their usage. I suppose we don’t see it from the dragonriders, because their goods are a protection racket, but it would seem that they should have mentioned it at some point earlier? (That does assume that there is a plan in place from the beginning, or at least Dragonquest.)
Money, based on the world we’ve seen so far, makes no sense at all. Especially as an established system that just hasn’t been mentioned until now.
Back to the action. There is the care and feeding of fire lizards, now with two new members and their hatchlings. Both Sebell and Robinton make their way to the feeding ground with their screamingly hungry fire lizards – and in doing so, both gain an appreciation for how Menolly has juggled nine, and get the angry side-eye from Domick and Morshal for having their rest day sleep interrupted by the fire lizards. Morshal gives Menolly an angry look as well as Robinton, as if he blames her for it. Robinton tells Menolly not to worry about it.
“Fortunately,” he went on, “you don’t have to sit classes with Morshal.”
“No, you don’t. Morshal teaches only at the apprentice level.” The Masterharper sighed. “He really is adept at drilling basic theory into rebellious apprentice minds. But Petiron already taught you more than Morshal knows. Relieved, Menolly?”
“Oh, yes. Master Morshal doesn’t seem to like me.”
“Master Morshal has always considered it a waste of time and effort to teach any girls. What good would it do them?”
Menolly blinked, surprised to hear her father’s opinion echoed in the Harper Hall. Then she realized that Master Robinton had been speaking in deft mimicry of Master Morshal’s testy manner. Warm fingers caught her chin, and she was made to look up at the Harper. The lines of fatigue and worry were plainly visible, despite his good night’s rest.
“Morshal’s dislike of the feminine sex is a standing joke in this Hall, Menolly. Give him the courtesy due his rank and age, and ignore his biased thinking. As I said, you don’t have to sit classes with him. Not that Domick will be any easier to study with….”
Oh, for fuck’s sake. Robinton, you’re all talk when it comes to actual change in your Hall, if you’re going to just excuse Morshal’s misogyny like that. You just mentioned that all he does is teach apprentices. If you were serious about wanting change, especially to Menolly, you would have sent Morshal to retirement a long time ago. Failing that, send him to the Smithcrafthall, where he can soak in Fandarel’s neverending quest for efficiency and it’s gender-equalizing effects until Morshal understands that women are as good as men at many things, including Harpering. By saying “oh, he’s harmless. Ignore what he says and treat him as a doddering old man.” ignores that Morshal, by virtue of his position, is able to poison the minds of all the apprentices he has to teach with his misogyny, all but guaranteeing that it passes on to the next generation. It means that you have to work twice as hard, if not more, to undo that teaching before being able to instill the change you want. And Robinton has already seen how that teaching causes him problems – Petiron’s missing apprentice was assumed to be a boy, because Everyone Knows, Harpers included, that only boys can be Harpers. Petiron omitted that detail deliberately so that Robinton, or anyone else, wouldn’t be prejudiced against Menolly before they had the opportunity to see and hear her work. It’s like the attempt at being virtuous that Robinton is spinning is being blocked by a narrative that intends to hurt its women as much as possible. Seriously, though, Robinton, how can you be such a matter of intrigue and manipulation and not see what’s going on here? Morshal is the most obvious misogynist, and you haven’t sacked him yet. And then you’ll have to deal with Domick, and possibly Shonagar as well, since they’re not necessarily doing well with Menolly, either.
After feeding the fire lizards, Robinton gives Menolly a two-mark piece and some instructions to collect a new belt, something pretty for herself, and some bubbly pies that Robinton says Piemur knows where to find. Menolly turns toward feeding herself, where, after some discussion of how the fire lizard distribution went down, the boys turn to their tactical ability to maximize goods, including delicious bubbly pies, from their marks collected. Sebell interrupts with more questions about care and feeding of fire lizards, and then Menolly spies the Mean Girl squad and has several very impolite thoughts about what sort of revenge she could take on them, including pulling out Pona’s hair by the roots. Audiva is spared a kind thought, because she’s been nice, or at least fair, to Menolly so far. Menolly tries to distance those thoughts from herself, but they persist until she distracts herself with Robinton’s assignment to rewrite her Brekke song. So, before the gather, Chapter Eight finishes. No violence yet, but whatever switch that has flipped in Menolly that has her ready to fight back is not turning back off. Next chapter promises to be action-packed.