The White Dragon: !

Last time, the revelations came quickly – the telescope means Threadfall can be predicted with proper accuracy, even when other planets interfere, the fire lizards appear to have some form of memory, something Ruth appears to have as well, which might give a strange credence to the idea that Ruth is an “overgrown fire lizard”, instead of its usual insulting context, and Menolly had her characterization ignored to deliver a message in favor of impulsive action, supporting F’lessan’s approach to problems instead of Jaxom’s default mode of thinking before action.

The White Dragon, Chapter Four: Content Notes: Misogyny, objectification

(Dating sequence says this chapter covers 15.5.10 to 15.5.16, so the second number is the day during whatever partial-year time division the 5 represents.)

Chapter Four starts with Jaxom trying to get away to get time for Ruth to chew some firestone. Which is easier said than done, as Lytol is filling his schedule to the breaking point, and no matter where he tries to go with Ruth, fire lizards from the Hold always follow. Deelan’s green and the blue of Brand, the steward, are everywhere Ruth is, slightly delayed. Jaxom is pretty sure he can’t get Deelan to call off her green, but he thinks he can work Brand in to getting the pursuit squad called off, based on his reputation – he was called in to curb the “lustiness” of the fosterlings and accomplished it. As Jaxom arrives to talk with Brand, two drudges are being told that if they don’t present tunnel snake corpses to show they’re taking care of the problem, they won’t be fed for a few days. Which makes me wish that we saw how this society looks from the viewpoint of the drudges more often – when we see them, or when main characters disguise themselves as drudges, we see nearly constant heavy and hard work under the threat of abuse, starvation, and other punishments, without much reward, or, as Lessa demonstrated at the beginning of Dragonflight, basic necessities like warmth and blankets. This whole society is built on the backs of a permanent underclass that is taken entirely for granted.

So Jaxom has a chat with Brand.

“Occasionally,” Jaxom hurried on, “a fellow likes to get off by himself, completely by himself. And, as you know, fire-lizards are the world’s greatest gossips. They might get the wrong impression…if you know what I mean?”

Brand did but, if he was amused or surprised, he dissembled well.

“I do apologize, Lord Jaxom. An oversight, I assure you. You know how anxious Deelan used to be when you and Ruth started flying between and the fire-lizards followed as a safeguard. I should have long ago altered that arrangement.”

“Since when am I Lord Jaxom to you, Brand?”

The steward’s lips actually twitched. “Since the other morning…Lord Jaxom.”

“I didn’t mean it like that, Brand.”

Brand inclined his head slightly, forestalling further apology. “As Lord Lytol remarked, you are well old enough to be confirmed in your rank, Lord Jaxom, and we-” Brand grinned with uninhibited ease, “-should act accordingly.”

So, apparently, Jaxom’s outburst at the table has convinced everyone that he’s a man now, and this conversation with Brand is the assumption that Jaxom has his eye on romancing someone. If we hadn’t had Menolly asking inappropriate questions on Jaxom’s sexuality last chapter, would this appear to be as double-entrendre-laden as it does here? What Jaxom said could just as easily refer to masturbation as it does to firestone as it does to sex. It’s a framing device to bring the audience along in snickering at Jaxom’s inexperience. Jaxom himself realizes he’s going to have to find a girl to maintain pretenses, based on the cultural assumption that Holder sons would dally with other women. Specifically:

He should have told Menolly that he had no trouble with any of the Holder girls…when he was of the mind. Not that he had followed some of the bawdier fosterlings’ examples. He wasn’t going to have the reputation of a lecher like Meron or that young fool of Lord Laudy’s, whom Lytol had sent back to his home Hold with a cover excuse that no one really believed. It was all right for the Lord Holder to beget a few half-bloods, quite another to dilute Holder Blood with other lines. Nonetheless, he would have to find a pleasant girl to give him the alibi he needed, and then take the time for more important things.

Welcome to the Pernese Double Standard, Jaxom. Young noble men getting noble women pregnant is just standard operations, nothing to be concerned about. Yet dragonrider women, if they choose to sleep with others, and even if those men are Lord Holders, will be regularly slut-shamed. Also, where is Jaxom going to find a young Holder woman who will willingly play along with being his date? (Everywhere, if they’re aware enough about what their life is going to be like…) The fearlessly misogynist world has boys being sent around to other Holds, but the only thing I’ve seen so far about girls going elsewhere is taking lessons at the Harper Hall, so Jaxom is not going to have an easy time of finding a suitable girl to be his excuse. (And that assumes Jaxom is interested in girls at all, which is not yet facts in evidence.)

So, with a sea change underway at Ruatha, Jaxom takes Ruth out to hunt, and his chosen target for food (wherries) has the herder, a holder, out taking care of the flock. Said herder requests of Lytol a fire-lizard egg, so that he can use the accompanying fire lizard to kill the snakes that eat some of each of his wherry egg clutches. After the herder (Tegger) suggests a spot for Ruth and goes on his way, Ruth demonstrates another thing that dragons aren’t supposed to do.

Tegger was unlikely to Impress a fire-lizard, Jaxom thought as he leaped to Ruth’s shoulder.

Ruth agreed. That man had an egg once. The little one went between and never returned to its hatching place.

“How did you remember that?”

The fire-lizards told me.


When it happened. I have just remembered it. Ruth sounded very pleased with himself. They tell me many things that are interesting when you’re not with me.

Long-term memory in a dragon, as well. Ruth is shaping up to be a dragon unlike any other in more than just pigmentation.

As Ruth hunts, Jaxon reflects on the duties of a Lord Holder, and how everybody always changes the subject whenever Fax comes up as a possible topic of conversation. His mother, everyone will talk about, but nobody wants to discuss his dad, or whether they’re afraid that Fax’s ambition will manifest in him and he’ll want to go on a conquering rampage. (Given that he has a dragon, he could probably mount a more successful campaign than Fax did, at least until Benden dispatched a wing to shut him down.) He returns to the problem of firestone and fire-lizards, and when Jaxom asks Ruth whether he could get the fire lizards to go away, Ruth says that they would come to see whatever it was that had Ruth asking them to go away. Since fire lizards talk amongst themselves, Jaxom is sure he needs a space clean of fire lizards before he can train with Ruth on how to use firestone.

The action shifts to put Jaxon, Lytol, and one of the fosterling sons at one of Lytol’s vassals, Fidello, where they intend to test a new wheat seed for the Masterfarmer. Southern crops have grown well and been resistant to blight, so now it’s time to see if it will do the same in Northern climate. Which gives the boys time to eat and for the fosterling, Tordril, to comment on how pretty this Fidello’s sister is, as she serves them klah. Considering how vested the narrative is in taking about how women are the keepers of the household, and how comments of beauty and subservience are often linked, I don’t think that it’s an accident that Tordril talks beauty while being served. Tordril tries to chat her up, but she’s apparently only got eyes and smiles for Jaxom. So Tordril tries to tell Jaxom that he should get to know her better.

“I wonder would you have got her so quick if I’d been Lord of Ruatha?” Tordril asked Jaxom as they checked their saddle girths before mounting.

“Got her?” Jaxom stared blankly at Tordril. “We only chatted.”

“Well, you could have her next time you…ah, have a chance to chat. Or does Lytol mind a few half-bloods around? Father says it keeps the full ones on their toes! Ought to be easy for you with Lytol weyrbred, and not as stuffy about such things.”

Lytol and Fidello joined them at that point but Tordril’s envious comment set Jaxom’s thoughts on a very fruitful track. What was her name? Corana? Well, Corana could be very useful. There was only the one fire-lizard about the Plateau Hold – and, if Ruth could just dissuade that creature from following them…

Nor do I think it an accident that we have had an entire discussion about how pretty the woman is, how Tordril sees her as a possession that has apparently been claimed by Jaxom through no effort of his own, and that Tordril encourages Jaxom to see her the same way and take sexual advantage of her before the narrative gives us her name. Tordril and Fidello were named before we saw them in action. Corana only gets named after her sexual virtues and her appearance are discussed, and only because Jaxom struggles with remembering her name. He’s being taught and encouraged to see women as interchangeable things, not even worthy of having names first. And Tordril thinks that Jaxom will have an easier path to having sex with Corana because Weyr culture is always told to be sexually promiscuous and permissive, even though the reality that we’ve seen in these books is anything but, with perhaps the exception of Kylara, who met a bad end at the hands of the narrative, one that the other characters think she deserved. The awful compounds.

So Jaxom thinks he’s found the perfect spot for Ruth to chew firestone – only one fire lizard to deal with, and a perfectly good cover in chatting up (and more) Corana. After pilfering a bag from the watch dragon’s stores, and manufacturing an excuse to deliver an extra bag of wheat seed to Fidello, it’s time to put the plan into action. It’s successful – Ruth can chew firestone and spit flame, but it’s not particularly big and not particularly sustained. I think some part of it is that they talk about “belching” the fire, when it seems like the technique in question would be more like whistling, playing a brass instrument, or the circus firebreathing trick – all three focus on the breath being important for sustained flame. Belch lets all the gas out at once.

After the experiment, to solidify his alibi, Jaxom goes to see Corana, who gives him a hint about how to avoid detection (he smells like firestone) and when he flies back from gathering withies, getting a few kisses in and deciding she’s not going to be an excuse for him any more. Okay, so Jaxom does like women, I guess. After a bath and cleaning the clothes, he and Ruth do a short temporal hop backward so he only looks like he’s been gone long enough for a dalliance. And then Ruth vomits firestone ash in the middle of their Hold, forcing Jaxom into a hurry-up cleaning so as not to give away the whole thing. So the chapter ends with Jaxom taking more firestone to try things again.

23 thoughts on “The White Dragon: !

  1. boutet July 16, 2015 at 10:06 am

    It’s weird to me that the guys are sitting around discussing specifically getting women pregnant. Not having sex, how it feels good or whatever. But getting women pregnant. Who does this? From similar conversations I’ve had to sit through no one is talking babies. They’re talking body parts and exaggeratedly violent phrasing of what they plan to do to the other person. No one is like “Yeah I’m gonna *** them in the *** until they **** and it’s totally fine because I’m financially secure enough to support a kid or two, and my parents won’t mind grandkids already.”

    It’s exposition dropped awkwardly into conversation.

  2. notamolly July 16, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    Seems that other than the super special females, women on Pern are interchangeable uteri with feet that cook and clean. How is this feminist anything? Other than making NOW and Phyllis Schlafly puke in unison? 🙂

  3. genesistrine July 16, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    I wonder, rather queasily, what the pre-Brand fosterlings were doing that was “too lusty”.

    And what the hell does “It was all right for the Lord Holder to beget a few half-bloods, quite another to dilute Holder Blood with other lines” mean? Does “other lines” mean other Lord families? Does this translate as “it’s OK to knock up the occasional smallholder-aka-peasant/drudge/etc but stay away from the high-status women?” Which makes no sense in Ruatha anyway, since Jaxom’s the only resident with Ruathan Blood….

  4. boutet July 16, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    @genesistrine I thought it was the opposite. It’s okay to have bastards off of the relatives of other lord holders, to have “legitimate” bastards, but not to dilute your bloodline by bringing in peasant/drudge/etc bastards.

    So it’s okay for Jaxom to go after Corana since she’s Fidello’s sister and Fidello has enough rank to foster with Jaxom. She’s second tier lord holder kin, so she’s a legitimate option for non-wife mother of bastards if it doesn’t work out for her to be wife.

  5. Funaria July 17, 2015 at 1:39 am

    @ boutet I wonder if they talk about getting the women pregnant because they don’t have to worry about it. In western society these days if a boy gets someone pregnant, they are generally expected to take some sort of responsibility for it. (ie they will be praised for assisting the girl they got pregnant and slightly shamed for not assisting, though of course not nearly as shamed as the girl would be for getting pregnant in the first place)
    In Pern society, it seems almost like a point of pride to impregnate many women, since it shows how virile you are. And after all, what other purpose could a woman have? *sigh*

    As far as diluting the bloodline with peasant and drudge bastards, I think they’d only care about peasants. From the way drudges are treated, and the way they are referred to (as though they could never be anything *but* a drudge) they seem to be a slave class by another name. The children of female slaves usually were slaves, no matter who the father was, so I doubt they’d be considered even a dilute part of the bloodline.

  6. genesistrine July 17, 2015 at 2:56 am

    @boutet: Tordril’s the fostering; Fidello’s a vassal holder – the type I’m reading as “peasant”.

    I don’t think they’re anywhere near the same perceived class to Pernese, though the narrative does its damnedest to shade over that by calling them all Holders. (See also the mostly ignoring drudges bar the occasional horrifying hint, as above…)

  7. emmy July 17, 2015 at 8:22 am

    I never quite understood that diluting comment either. My two guesses:

    1 – It’s okay for Jaxom to beget half-bloods because he’s the Lord Holder and everyone beholden to Ruatha is his property, but it’s not okay for the fosterlings to do it becaue Ruatha women are not their property and they would be bringing in bad outside blood and diluting the true ruathan blood with their ‘other lines’.

    2 – It’s okay to beget a _few_ half-bloods but not to go around sleeping with every girl you can find. If you take a single mistress at a time, you can only produce about one kid a year. If you sleep with every woman in the province you could create an overwhelming number of closely-related children and that’s a mess.

    Which is creepier?

  8. boutet July 17, 2015 at 9:14 am

    @genestrine Whoops! Got my ranks mixed up

  9. Silver Adept July 17, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    I think it’s both together, emmy, so compound the creepy as much as you like. Groghe and the other Lord Holders have been hinting, if not saying outright, that there are too many potential heirs to their Holdings, which suggests that the sons are not heeding the warning against knocking boots with every woman they can. (Why would they? There’s no penalty for getting anyone pregnant.) From what we collected at Harper Hall, while the young sons and daughters might want to explore their sexuality, there are chaperones for high-status enough women to prevent that from being anything other than discreet hanky-panky, and fosterlings that do break that line will be sent away.

    So, it seems like the idea is that you can boink anyone who, if they had a son, would be too far down the line of succession to make a real claim to your Hold, but you also have to take care that you don’t get a reputation for just boinking everything that moves. Or that your…preferences aren’t made public (as Kylara and Meron were disapproved of because kinky as well as because cross-caste).

    We’re going to find out that a lot of this book is about Jaxom coming into his sexuality and setting how that relates (or not) to Ruth.

  10. genesistrine July 17, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    @emmy: ahahahaha. That’s a trick question isn’t it. They’re a sort of descending Escher staircase of creepy, every time you look at one or the other it’s creepier.

    @boutet: I think your subconscious was trying to come up with something less awful than what’s actually on the page!

    @Silver Adept: Given that he has a dragon, he could probably mount a more successful campaign than Fax did, at least until Benden dispatched a wing to shut him down.

    Let’s give credit where credit’s due; Fax’s campaign was outstandingly successful. His only errors were a) no clear line of succession for his multi-Hold empire, so it fell apart when he died and b) fighting his own duels rather than giving an annoying dragonrider a botulism cocktail.

  11. Silver Adept July 19, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    That’s a fair point – Fax was very successful in his campaign, and probably would have done even better if he hadn’t been goaded into fighting. Jaxom would have the additional advantage of Ruth and would probably have a better plan of succession or more tactical ways of taking Holds with the idea of keeping them.

  12. genesistrine July 20, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    Jaxom would also have the disadvantage of Benden and its Sith Weyrwoman taking an interest, so he’d need to come up with a very convincing reason an Overlord would be good for Pern, at least as far as the Weyrs define Pern.

    If he could manage that Ruth would be a great asset in war or covert ops – his size and precision teleporting means he could probably safely teleport into Holds, which means he’d be even better at the tactic Benden first used against the Holds – kidnapping loved ones – for starters, not to mention assassination and spying possibilities.

    Of course this means Jaxom would have to get into the Holds in question first to scope out the target visuals, unless fire lizards can do it precisely enough for Ruth to arrive safely….

    (IIRC he does jump to fire lizard visualization later on, though that’s outside so arriving inside something else isn’t too much of a worry. Come to think of it I wonder if there have ever been “accidentally arriving in the same place as a flying wherry” accidents.)

  13. boutet July 20, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    @genesistrine You make me wonder suddenly if the appear-in-the-same-place-as-things applies to everything. Like, if they come out of between into a heavy fog will they have a lot of random water vapour in their bodies? What if they pop out in a hail storm? I’d think a piece of hail in your kidney would be an issue.

  14. Autumn July 20, 2015 at 11:00 pm

    Even though it was brief and most likely a throwaway scene for most readers, the part between Brand and the drudges was something that really bothered me. It’s even more disturbing when you consider the popular opinion that the drudges consist of Pern’s disabled population and Brand is considered one of the “good guys.”

  15. genesistrine July 21, 2015 at 2:06 pm


    Maybe a lot of the stupidity we’ve been complaining about can be explained by everyone of any status on Pern getting to travel by dragonback and picking up lots of mini-air-bubbles, causing lots of micro-embolisms….

  16. Silver Adept July 21, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    I think Jaxom would have some amount of support for being an Overlord, because it gives everyone a single contact point between Weyrs and Holds and a license for violence against those Holds that aren’t on board with the Overlord plan. The structure would rework itself the way it probably should have by now – Weyrs are the armed forces, taking largesse and tribute in exchange for protection, with the Overlord as both their mouthpiece and the gateway, Holds and Crafts working to supply the dragonriders and themselves, and the peasants and farmers at the bottom of the list, trying to survive both the rain of death from above and the ire of dragonriders, should their Lord Holder step out of line. Benden wants to rule the planet – this would be a perfect excuse.

    As for telefrags involving flying lifeforms, since I think dragon teleportation displaces air, the wherries would find themselves riding an impressive shockwave out of harm’s way of they weren’t too close. And if they were, maybe they are explosively displaced by the bigger mass dragon.

    I’d like to believe that the dragons can figure out their endpoint and scan it for complications before arriving, adjusting the arrival time by a little bit so as to remove those complications. Then again, we have those stories of dragons and riders entombed.

  17. genesistrine July 21, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    Then again again, they’re stated to be weyrlings, so the destination scan could be a learned ability, or at least one requiring practice.

    And yes, the air displacement makes sense now you point it out – I’d vaguely thought of the cold wind that gets described as the result of chilly wings beating, but having it as displaced air works better.

  18. Only Some Stardust July 21, 2015 at 11:14 pm

    Without air displacement you’d have problems of air bubbles in the body, as said before. Entombment presumably means there must be a limit to how much force can be applied in the displacement, or perhaps entombed dragons simply have rock all /around/ them and none actually inside them, which brings up the question why they don’t simply teleport out again.

  19. Firedrake July 22, 2015 at 2:42 am

    Perhaps panic is not conducive to teleportation? (Though it really ought to be, as a defence mechanism.)

  20. Silver Adept July 28, 2015 at 12:28 am

    We are told that trying to teleport without a clear destination in mind will result in both dragon and rider being lost to hyperspace. The other possibility is that the teleport displaces exactly enough for dragon and rider, and then there’s no air or space between them and the rock, so there’s an immediate crush and/or asphyxiation involved.

  21. genesistrine July 28, 2015 at 12:46 am

    Small dragon-and-rider-shaped rock drops out of midair on the other end….

  22. Firedrake July 28, 2015 at 2:20 am

    Those with strong nerves have a side business in making statues.

  23. genesistrine July 28, 2015 at 12:29 pm


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