The White Dragon: Respect My Authoritah!

Last chapter, we spent time setting up Dragondrums and finding a solution to the problem of too many sons, not enough space. And I complained more about timekeeping.

The White Dragon, Chapter 3: Content Notes: None for this segment

Chapter Three begins with Jaxom mad as hell and not going to take it any more, informing the other fosterlings and Deelan that he will be going to the Smithcrafthall, where he will be treated with proper respect.

This time it would not be Jaxom, however young a Lord of Ruatha Hold he still was, who apologized for his behavior. The enormous backlog of similar incidents, manfully swallowed or overlooked for any number of logical reasons, swept aside every consideration except to put as much distance between himself and his invidious position, his too reasonable and conscientious guardian and the obnoxious group of people who mistook daily intimacy for license.
[…Jaxom finds Ruth and the two head to their secret hideaway…]
Why do you let them upset you? Ruth asked, his eyes whirling with love and affection for his weyrmate.

“A very good question,” Jaxom replied after a full moment’s consideration. “But they know exactly how.” Then he laughed. “This is where all that objectivity Robinton talks about ought to operate…and doesn’t.”
The Masterharper is honored for his wisdom. Ruth sounded uncertain, and his tone made Jaxom smile.

He was always being told that dragons had no ability to understand abstract concepts or complex relationships. Too often Ruth surprised him with remarks that cast doubt on the theory. Dragons, particularly Ruth in Jaxom’s biased opinion, obviously perceived far more than others credited to them. Even Weyrleaders like F’lar or Lessa or even N’ton.

I seem to recall, way back in Dragonquest, that Jaxom has both virtues of perception and empathy, both of which are on display here. Considering how Mnementh adjusted the Benden Weyrleader’s arrival point when he was coming in hot, and the connections that Lessa and Brekke both leveraged through their dragons, and the fabulous discussion of fire lizard genetics and purposes we have been having since they were introduced, I’d say if Jaxom has been able to deduce or collect some of the knowledge that Menolly has about fire lizards and combine it with his own knowledge of dragons through Ruth, Jaxom probably knows the most about the mental capabilities of dragons.

I’d also like to believe that Jaxom is misreading Ruth as uncertain and that Ruth is actually snarking Robinton. Because, from what we’ve seen in terms of Robinton’s vaunted wisdom, he comes up short. He covers it with information and craftiness, but a school administrator that can’t expel students that tried to kill another student fails horribly in the wisdom department forever. Even though, at the time of this writing, those incidents hadn’t been written yet. Even though they may have already happened in Pern time.

There’s also something systematic going on here with Jaxom, and it’s that Dorse is dismissive of Ruth, Lytol is too concerned about Ruth’s health, and it appears that Deelan had started to play favorites and try to insinuate herself into Jaxom’s good graces for when he comes into his majority and takes over. So we have yet another sequence of a bullied child (this would be two of three, based on publication, but considering we just came off two books where the main character is bullied heavily, it would be nice if that wasn’t the case here). Jaxom wonders why it torqued him so hard today, when he theoretically is in control of the whole Hold and they’re his subjects, and he’s been dealing with it for day after day after day without issue.

Since Pern still has no mental health experts to help, and Jaxom is still young, he has no access to the idea that microaggressions still add up over time, or to spoon theory, or, for that matter, to a support network other than Ruth. Mind you, Ruth is excellent as a best friend and the anchor of a support network, but all of these bullied kids in Pern are isolated and lack friends during the period of their bullies attacking them.

I’m still a bit ish-y about Ruth deciding to frame it as Jaxom letting the others get to him, because it runs far too close to the still-useless advice that kids get about dealing with problems – “ignore it and it goes away”. No, actually, it doesn’t. Kids, generally, mature and then realize what kind of heels they have been to others, or changes in biology result in changes of behavior, but it’s not usually the case that bullies just decide to give up on someone who is ignoring them. And, y’know, Jaxom’s capacity for dealing with shit is not necessarily as big as Ruth’s. Jaxom gets extra frustration because he thinks having power means he’ll be able to use it to remake things to his liking. If only he could wield it. And all the sympathetic adults are elsewhere. Jaxom could really just use a parent.

(As an aside, at Ruatha, 5.9 is apparently just past winter. For what good that does in trying to figure out what it means.)

Jaxom goes introspective, realizing the cause of his anger is that he’s not being allowed to exercise any of the roles that he supposedly has – neither rider nor Holder. His progression understands that Lytol will give up being regent only in death, and that the dragonriders won’t let Ruth join the fighting wings (although I doubt anyone has bothered to stop and tell Jaxom what we learned earlier – that the are enough dragons to cover the fighting needs, so there’s no reason to risk Ruth or Jaxom). Ruth demonstrates more of that ability that dragons supposedly don’t have and provides Jaxom with perspective.

You are a dragonrider. You are also, and Ruth said this slowly as if trying to understand it all himself, a Lord Holder. You are a student with the Mastersmith and the Masterharper. You are a friend of Menolly, Mirrim, F’lessan and N’ton. Ramoth knows your name. So does Mnementh. And they know me. You have to be a lot of people. That is hard.

That’s…solid advice. It is hard enough for regular humans to be all the roles that we expect them to be. Adding in dragons and temporal power has to be tough, especially as a trailblazer that nobody else truly is like…or that has anything close to.

Also, Ruth gives Jaxom a great compliment by saying that Ramoth and Mnementh know his name, since dragons generally refer to people by pictures of them, instead of by their name. Since it’s not something dragons do as a matter of course, that will hopefully help him feel better. Having Menolly, Mirrim, or F’lessan actually there to help him with issues and bullies and such would be even better, but one is running errands for Robinton and the other two are dragonriders-in-training.

Now that Ruth has had a bath, and N’ton has sent Tris to find Jaxom and Ruth, we find out that Ruth has one other talent that makes him unique. There’s a quick time-shift jump to the Smithcrafthall, and Ruth can apparently hit his spots on space-time much more precisely than many other dragons.

I always know when I’m going, Ruth replied, not at all perturbed. That’s something few other dragons can say.

They were barely in a landing circle above the Smithcrafthall complex before N’ton’s great bronze, Lioth, burst into the air above them.

“And how you know how to time it that close, I’ll never know,” Jaxom said.

Oh, Ruth said easily, I heard when the brown returned to N’ton and just came to that when.

“Heard” is an odd verb to use there. It makes Ruth out to have some form of space-time SONAR that can discern the coordinates of every ping when a dragon or fire lizard hops into hyperspace or returns from there. Maybe Ruth can also read the EXIF data from pictures sent by fire lizards and dragons as well, and it helps keep him tuned appropriately to where and when he is. Still, if Ruth always knows his coordinates, he’s a candidate for being able to run backward and forward to collect the lost knowledge of the Ancients and bring it forward to the current time. Or to be able to send a slide deck of images to others to get them back and forward safely.

N’ton has Jaxom’s riding jacket with him, which he collected from Deelan after asking after Jaxom. “Can’t stand weeping women-at least women that age” N’ton says, which makes me wonder what kind of age he thinks weeping women are appropriate at…and what it is that he’s done to them that has them crying.

Actually, no I don’t. I have enough examples of abuse to last until the end of the series. So Jaxom tells N’ton about his explosion at the Hold that day, and what he has come to understand about it. N’ton is sympathetic, but still firm about Jaxom not being a dragonrider, as much as Lytol is firm about him learning all about being a Lord Holder. N’ton also understands, though, that Jaxom needs to have some sort of purpose, and promises to talk to the Benden Weyrleaders about it.

Because this chapter wants to pile on all the revelations, even though it’s only a short chapter, I’m going to pause here and pick up with the chapter again next week.

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6 thoughts on “The White Dragon: Respect My Authoritah!

  1. Brenda Appleby July 3, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    I’m not sure if it comes up in the book or if it’s just something I’ve read in other online discussions, but another reason Ruth might be a little more flexible in his ways of thinking is that he was not raised at the Weyr among clutch-mates surrounded by adult dragons. Those things that “everyone knows” about dragons aren’t necessarily going to be drilled into Jaxom’s, and therefore Ruth’s, minds. And he’s not interacting with other dragons on a daily basis, ONLY with his human. Maybe he turns out a little more “human” because of that? (This doesn’t explain his unique abilities of going between, but his personality and interactions with others.)

  2. Only Some Stardust July 4, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    Ehh. The ‘I cannot stand crying girls’ thing always gets me agitated… even when it’s more positive (they don’t like seeing the other in pain), there’s often the implication that if the person didn’t cry they wouldn’t give two figs about their pain.

  3. genesistrine July 5, 2015 at 4:16 am

    The really irritating thing about this chapter is it starts just after we would have had a chance to gauge whether Jaxom is actually overreacting. I know it’s easy to look at bullying from outside and miss the full dynamics, but the telling line for me is, “Jaxom passed over the four fosterlings who were all too new at Ruatha Hold to have started jibing at him.”

    So… that’s what he’s expecting. There’s no thought of making friends with any of them or having common interests with any of them; there’s no thought of them as separate people who’ll interact with each other and the other people at the table differently; they’re an amorphous mass that, sooner or later, is going to join in with the gangstalking. That sounds very like paranoid ideation. (Or, to be fair, not untypical teenage thinking LEAVE ME ALONE I HATE YOU ALL!)

    And the conversation as reported could be innocuous – Lytol fussing about dragon health for obvious reasons; Dorse trotting out the same unfunny joke he’s been using for years because he thinks he’s a laugh riot, we all have relatives like that God help us; and Deelan mother-henning, are those nasty rough Smiths feeding you properly dear? I’ll make you a packed lunch with my special brussels-sprout salad, you look peaky. You must make sure they treat you with respect according to your station; I’ve heard there’s some of them even go around saying that we don’t need Lords to rule us isn’t that shocking! The youth of today!

    Again, not saying that long-term bullying and micro-aggressions aren’t a possibility here, but we’re basically having to take Jaxom and the author’s word for it, and the author at least has some extremely peculiar ideas about appropriate social interaction; the Harper Hall, for instance, seems to run on the principle that bullying is no problem if it comes from someone the author likes.

    Re Ruth: “The Masterharper is honored for his wisdom.” I can’t quite see why, but everyone makes a big deal of it, so….

    Only Some Stardust: The thinking seems to be “It’s OK if they’re cute and crying, then I can be manly and soothing and maybe get laid!

    “Anyone who isn’t cute can get stuffed though; why should I care?”

  4. Michael I July 5, 2015 at 8:07 am

    Ruth is just a little confused. He keeps getting these future memories from after Robinton goes into Vetinari mode mixed up with current memories…

  5. Only Some Stardust July 5, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    Maybe Masterharpers as a whole are supposed to be ‘wise old men’ archtypes.

    Is too soon maybe to know if his bullying is ‘they are not treating me like a lord enough!’ or actual bullying yet…

    The random insertion of bullying kind of reminds me of How To Train Your Dragon bad fan-fiction (or bad fanfic in general); I have a very different reaction from some fans, who seem to delight in viewing Hiccup as this horribly abused person (or resort to ramping up the abuse to make him more sympathetic even when it proceeds to affect 0.1% of the plot), whereas I see him as the guy who blows up half the village in mad experiments / leads dragons to chase after him and blow up more of the village when he’s been ordered to stay in safety, gets no punishment since he’s the chief’s son and doesn’t have to go hungry when their food stocks are heavily depleted from said dragons, and is just upset that he can’t make himself be like all the other, stronger vikings he admires.

  6. Firedrake July 8, 2015 at 8:42 am

    TEDAR: TEmporal Detection And Ranging.

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