Last time, Alemi figured out that RTFM works for dolphins as well as computers, Idarolan got to see and communicate with them up close and personal, Menolly came to be the Harper-in-residence, and everyone talked about what kind of a stubborn asshole Yanus is. I hope that’s not foreshadowing.
The Dolphins of Pern: Chapter V: Content Notes: Implied Neglect, Drudgeism
Chapter V starts with Alemi’s shuttle-dragonrider, T’lion, getting curious about the dolphins, too, although they’re very clearly not as good as dragons. We also find out that T’lion came to his bronze in the same way that Mirrim came to her green, which suggests these things happen more frequently than anyone wants to let on.
His brother, Kanadin, had been the official Candidate and, even though he had Impressed a brown, Kanadin had never quite forgiven his younger brother for making such a show of himself and Impressing when he hadn’t even been presented as a possible rider. Impressing a bronze was an even more unforgivable injury.
[…as one might expect, K’din didn’t believe his brother that it was an accident, and T’lion tried to brush it off as a consequence of the grounds, which didn’t have the high tiers of seating…]
It wasn’t as if T’lion had tried, in any way, to attract the hatchling’s attention. He hadn’t so much as moved a muscle. Of course, he had been so flabbergasted to find a little dragon butting him that he had to be urged by T’gellan–the Weyrleader–and the Weyrlingmaster to accept the Impression.
[…Even three years later, the rift is still present between the brothers…]
T’lion was very grateful to T’gellan, the Weyrleader, and his weyrmate, Mirrim, green Path’s rider, because they never once made the youngster feel uncomfortable.
“The dragon chooses,” T’gellan had said at the time, and often at other Impressions, shaking his head ruefully at dragon choice. Then he’d congratulated the stunned family on having two such worthy sons.
(My copy misspells Mirrim as Minim in that quote, but that’s pretty clearly a typo.)
I should certainly hope whatever Weyr Path and Mirrim are in is accepting of someone who becomes a dragonrider without being presented as a candidate. Although it would have been nice to see what the conversation was like between the two of them, because it would have said a lot about T’gellan as to how enthusiastically okay he was with T’lion’s situation. From the sounds of things, T’gellan is already laid back enough about dragon choice that this wouldn’t bother him much, but I can see Mirrim ready to give him both barrels about acceptance, only to be derailed when T’gellan says “Yeah, I’m okay with this.” It would be a nice touch of progressivism in the otherwise feudal-Randian Pern.
Also, Eastern appears to be the only Weyr we know of where the seniormost Weyrwoman is not the weyrmate of the Weyrleader. I wanna see Eastern operate now, so I can see what a functional Weyr with that situation looks like.
As T’lion reminisces, however, we get a wet fish slap of how -ist Pern still is, in the context of how T’lion prides himself on being a discreet and courteous chauffeur.
Or those who tried to order him about as if he were a drudge. No dragon ever chose a drudge personality! Of course, his being so young made some adults feel as if they had to patronize him…him! A dragonrider!
No dragon, perhaps, but at least one very famous dragonrider. Although they would argue that was before she became a dragonrider. And perhaps that Mirrim was a headwoman / dragonrider’s secretary / personal assistant. Still, the idea of the “drudge” as the untouchable caste and the repository of every societal vice is not cool. Maybe when Thread is gone, we’ll witness a drudge revolt, now that the threat that keeps them inside is gone forever.
As for the patronizing, T’lion should talk to K’van about his experiences. I’ll bet they have stories to share.
Ah, yes, the plot. Essentially it’s “dragon flies low, is startled by the dolphin speech”, and then a dolphin interlude that dragons still like them, and then more of T’lion enjoying having private space and liking the kitchen work, instead of seeing it as “drudge chores” like his brother does. (Woe to all you fools who never learned to do chores on your own. When the drudges revolt, you’ll be sorry!) And conveying Menolly a lot, since she’s too pregnant for hyperspace. Which gives him a lot of time to play with the dolphins and note that their pronunciation is shifting toward what is correct for this time.
When T’lion sees Alemi again, Alemi deduces that T’lion’s been talking with the dolphins, and the two compare notes about whether or not dolphins can hear dragon telepathy and the linguistic shift the dolphins have to undertake.
“How come they got so…twisted?”
“Ah…” Alemi held up one hand. “We don’t speak the way our ancestors did.”
“We don’t?” T’lion exclaimed, his eyes widening. “But the harpers are forever saying that they’ve helped keep the language pure, just as it’s always been spoken.”
Alemi laughed. “Not according to Aivas. He had to make adjustments to allow for”– Alemi hesitated briefly, trying to get the next words right–“lingual shifts. But let’s not rub harper noses in the fact. I certainly want to keep on the good side of my sister the Masterharper. I’ve only to mention her name and here she is! Good day to you, Master Menolly.”
Does nobody see the sinister implications of the Harpers essentially boasting that they’ve been able to prevent new words from coming into the language for so long? Essentially claiming they have stopped new ideas from getting in? And nobody calls them out on blatant hypocrisy when they throw Norist under the bus for essentially trying to do what they’ve been doing all along? And also, it appears that the information about linguistic shift had not been disseminated widely, possibly because it might break the monopoly of language and infallibility the Harpers currently hold. Somehow, I don’t think the Harpers are going to be spared when the revolution arrives.
Anyway, there’s flying Menolly around (and mention of archivists at Landing, so maybe someone learned proper Archives and Records Management from the AI before it turned itself off?), a worry that Menolly might go into labor and T’lion would be useless (for which he files away a note to ask Mirrim about it, good lad), getting kitchen-drafted, and then T’lion accidentally puts himself into the AIVAS room trying to grab a breather and a bite. Since he’s a dragonrider, though, after the initial embarrassment, AIVAS will talk to him, and appreciates and encourages T’lion’s continued interaction with the dolphins, dropping a nice tidbit that most of the dolphin names encountered so far seem to be derivatives, shortenings, or parts of the names of the original complement of dolphins that first arrived.
After T’lion reports, we switch to Idarolan, who has disseminated the reports he has on dolphin intelligence and tasks, consults the Records of the craft and makes correlations between various incidents and the presence of dolphins, and then gets his own printout and training sheet from AIVAS to spread among the Craft that is interested in more relationships with their dolphins. His efforts are rewarded personally by better fish hauls and avoiding unknown reefs by following the dolphins. It’s nice filler.
Where the plot actually wants to go is with Menolly and Kitrin and the children. Menolly wants to have Alemi come swim with them, and Kitrin mentions he’s off talking to the dolphins, but trying to do it in such a way that won’t upset Aramina or encourage Readis. She can hear the bell call when the wind is right, but she’s afraid Readis will get hurt because he would chase dolphins everywhere.
“Well, I can help distract him from that,” Menolly said. “At his age, they don’t have a long concentration span.” She gave a sigh. “You see to keep one step ahead of them, with something new to do, a game or a challenge. Your girls are a great help with him, by the way. Such biddable children.”
Kitrin sat a bit straighter, delighted at by praise of her Kitral, Nika, and Kami, and neatly diverted away from the previous topic.
Cocowhat by depizan
I don’t think the idea of “biddable children” should be seen as a virtue, but then again, I’m also a 21st century person with a mentality that children are intelligent enough that they can be reasoned with and given some freedom. I also think that women should be destined for something other than motherhood and child-rearing, even from the early days. (I also realize that it’s a societal thing that older children will be expected to help keep an eye on the younger ones.)
That’s mostly griping about how Pern is such a horrible society, which has been going on for books now, though. The reason this is extra horrible, however, is that Menolly should not be talking positively about “biddable children” at all. She is, after all, the child disowned cause she wasn’t biddable. The child maimed because she wasn’t biddable. The child who spent quite some time in hell at the Harper Hall because everyone assumed she was biddable, and has since been flying two middle fingers to Pern’s idea of what gender roles are. We haven’t been able to see what Menolly’s journey to Mastery was like, but it follows that it was probably a lot like her journeyman journey – full of assholes and dicks getting in her way because she’s a woman.
Unless motherhood and being married to Sebell somehow caused a complete Stepford transformation, Menolly’s past should make her someone that is utterly uninterested in traditional gender roles (or traditional anything) ever.
Then again, marriage and babies made Lessa a lot less of the firebrand that she was in the original books. Maybe that is what the author believes is true about marriage and babies.
Getting back to the plot, Menolly sneaks off to see Alemi. She hears the dolphins before she can see them, and then is introduced to them by Alemi. Who notice, of course, that she has a “babbee” inside. They talk about dolphin things, teaching words, and Menolly and Alemi sing a song for the dolphins, and then Menolly sings a Traditional ballad for all of them. The dolphins are attentive, and then go on from there.
Menolly and Alemi walk back and talk dolphins, fire lizards, and the brave new world their getting in to.
“We have much to be thankful to the Ancients for,” Alemi said in an expansive tone.
“Though I wonder,” Menolly replied thoughtfully, “if we will say the same in a few Turns’ time when Aivas unleashes all the wonders stored up.”
“I thought the Harpers were applauding all the–what is it Aivas calls it–input?”
“Knowledge is sometimes two-edged, Alemi. You learn about all the marvels that used to be and they set the standard for what can be, and maybe shouldn’t be.”
[…Menolly shakes off the worries…]
“Isn’t it up to the Harper Hall and the Benden Weyrleaders to see that we learn only the best of what there is?” He was half-teasing, half-serious.
“Indeed it is.” She was very solemn. “A great responsibility, I assure you.”
And there’s confirmation that the information from the AI is being selectively fed into the population by the people who have yet to show they have enough ethics to make an attempt at getting it right. There’s an argument to be made that dripping the information in is superior to opening the gates and seeing what all floods out, but nobody seems to be making that case, because nobody seems to be making the opposite case. Norist would have had a convincing case to the idea of giving everyone access to AIVAS instead of taking up the cause of Ned Ludd.
It also seems like Menolly is at least cognizant that the AIVAS trove could have unintended societal effects, but of course, she’s not going to get to articulate those further, because that would introduce doubt about whether what Our Heroes are doing is right and proper. These are questions that should have been resolved before tapping in as much as they have to the AI.
The dolphin segment at the end of the chapter is about the songs sung by the humans, which comes with the knowledge that dolphins carry their history in songs that have been taught to them over the generations, in much the same way the Harpers do the same for the humans.