[DWJ] An alternative view of Lenina (was: Cart and Cwidder Cwestion)

Philip Belben philipbelben at alice.de
Fri Mar 23 10:14:57 EDT 2012

> It seems to me the spell got them married and Lenina's duty got her
> the rest of the way.  If you don't think women can be that insane, go
> read No Longer Quivering *shudder*.  I also think that the only reason
> Clennen got it to work for him was that was the only time he told the
> truth.

Isn't it interesting that almost all the discussion so far has been 
about Clennen and Lenina's back story, and very little about the actual 
themes of the book.

With all this discussion, I have been pondering what truth it was that 
Clennen told with the cwidder that made Lenina come away with him?  "I 
love you" doesn't work on its own (been there!).  So what was it?  Here 
is one possibility.  I shall say right at the start that I am not trying 
to excuse Clennen, merely to offer one possible answer among many to the 
question, how did he get the cwidder to seduce Lenina?

We are not told whether Lenina was Tholian's niece through her mother's 
side or her father's, but given the similarity of names, I'll go for 
Thorn and Tholian being brothers.

Thorn is the younger son of an earl.  Not the best position to be in. 
Not many careers open to him - officer in the earl's army, or maybe a 
justice.  On a slab, you might say, till he's under one.

Thorn marries and has kids.  Lenina is valuable to the earl, as a 
granddaughter/niece, because she could secure a useful alliance through 
marriage.  She is actually quite exceptionally lucky - she is betrothed 
to one of Tholian's own vassals, sorry, hearthmen, a man she knows and 
likes, and who quite clearly adores her.  I wonder how this came about. 
  Maybe Tholian needed to tie Ganner more closely to him; or maybe he 
wanted to reward Ganner for something.  We get no clues that I can discern.

But perhaps she is not entirely happy.  Perhaps she secretly longs for 
adventure.  Or even just to get away from politics.  Whatever it is, a 
travelling singer turns up at her betrothal party.  Handsome (and 
probably not as fat in those days), and embodying at least one sort of 
romatic dream that a Southern girl could entertain.  And when he plays 
that cwidder, it's as though he is playing for her alone (which in fact 
he is.)  Through the cwidder, Clennen says to her, "You secretly long 
for a life of adventure.  You find me attractive.  Come away with me, 
and I'll give you all the adventure you ever wanted."

So she does.  She goes off and marries Clennen, and they scarper for the 
North.  They settle at Hannart, where Clennen becomes court singer to 
the Earl - he dare not go south again, but I'm not sure why he doesn't 
just tour the North for a bit!

At first things are new and exciting.  This life is not the life she'd 
been expecting, but she still finds Clennen attractive, and he clearly 
loves her.  The position of court singer's wife is not as important as 
that of one of the lords' wives, but precedence is a lot more fluid in 
the North, and she probably gains some status simply from the novelty of 
her being from a Southern earl's family.

Children are born.  By the third child, she is beginning to realise that 
the practical differences between a lord's wife, who can engague 
nursemaids to help her with the kids, and a singer's wife, who has to 
look after kids and husband both, are rather important.  The 
relationship is going sour.  Clennen still loves her, but it's a selfish 
sort of love - he can't or won't see what she really needs.

And then the final straw is that Clennen decides to go back on the road. 
  End of court life.  Not only must Lenina continue to look after the 
kids and keep house for Clennen, she must do it in a cart (not to 
mention the spying)...

An important theme in this book is the misuse of truth.  Moril learns 
about this at Flennpass - he gets the cwidder to work by telling the 
truth about Tholian Jr and the invasion, but he does it out of grief 
over Olob.  It seems that Clennen may have done something similar - told 
the truth about Lenina's romantic yearnings, but out of selfishness, not 
true love.

Looking ahead to Dogsbody, which I've just finished reading, Kathleen's 
thoughts after breaking Duffie's pots are remarkably similar to Moril's 
after Flennpass.  In both cases, they are having difficulty coping with 
grief.  Another common theme?


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