Saturday, January 9, 2016

Aravis and Shasta: Differences and Similarities at Tashbaan

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]

Canonical text:
 “Is anything wrong?” whispered Shasta to Aravis, who had an odd look on her face.
 “Oh it’s all very well for you,” whispered Aravis rather savagely. “What would you care about Tashbaan? But I ought to be riding in on a litter with soldiers before me and slaves behind, and perhaps going to a feast in the Tisroc’s palace (may he live forever)—not sneaking in like this. It’s different for you.”
 Shasta thought all this very silly.

Even though Shasta wanted the exact same things in Chapter 1.

* * *

“Is anything wrong?” whispered Shasta to Aravis.

Aravis tried to restrain her emotion, said, “You wouldn't understand,” and hoped Shata would drop it.

“I can't even try to understand if you don't tell me what's going on,” Shasta said, “and now I know something is wrong.”

Aravis had tried being nice, but right now it was just too much and she wasn't going to try anymore. It was bad enough to feel her heart rend, but now she had to justify herself to this child that had sacrificed nothing and stood to gain everything? She whirled to Shasta and spoke with as much force as she thought she could use without being noticed:

“How could you understand?” Aravis asked savagely. “What's Tashbaan to you but a stop on the way to Narnia? This is the heart of my homeland, this is where I belong. This is everything I've been forced to give up.

“I should be riding on a litter with soldiers to guard me and slaves to attend me, perhaps on my way to a feast in the palace of the Tisroc, may he live forever, not sneaking in and pretending I'm the lowest creature here.

“This is everything I've left behind,” Aravis said. “What did you leave behind? The life of a slave for that of a free person in Narnia; a bargain. For myself the price of freedom is far higher. I had things here. I had station, I had wealth, I had class, and respect, and privilege. And all of it is right here in Tashbaan, paraded before me like a cruel joke.

“When you arrive in Narnia you'll live a better life than you ever have because you were one of them,” Aravis pointed at a slave bearing a litter. “For me everything will be worse because I was her,” she pointed to the woman on the litter, “and I'll become nobody.

“Bree would probably call it fairness, if he could speak freely right now,” Aravis said, “and maybe it is, but it doesn't change the fact that you can't know what I've lost because you never had anything to lose.”

Aravis was finally finished, and she looked around to see if her outburst had drawn any unwanted attention. Her hands were still shaking from the raw emotion she'd loosed.

No one paid them any heed. They were just two slaves who were talking to one another instead of doing their jobs. Dragging their heels was what slaves did as far as anyone here was concerned, and their slowness would be seen as Tash punishing their master for being too lenient with them, not a cause to intervene and make them hurry up.

“You're wrong, Princess,” Shasta said with a slight bow at the last word. Not enough for someone else to realize that's what he had done, but enough for her to know he was showing her respect. It was more nuance than Aravis had expected from the unrefined slave boy.

“You're right that I haven't lost anything,” Shasta said, “though I risk as much as you do on this journey.”

Aravis nodded; she knew very well that they both risked their lives and that the punishment for an escaped slave would be just as brutal for a traitorous* noble. Shasta deserved credit for risking as much as she had, and she gave him that credit, though she was mostly concentrating on regaining control of her body; her hands still shook.

“But you're wrong that I can't understand your loss,” Shasta said. “I've never had what you had, but I've dreamed of it for as long as I can remember. I never wanted to be a nobody in Narnia, I wanted what you had. I wanted to be here on my liter, guarded by my soldiers, attended by my slaves, going to feasts I'd been invited to.

“This may be where you belong, but it's where I've always wanted to belong. I can understand the pain of losing the life you knew, because it was the life I dreamed of,” Shasta said, and Aravis thought he might be on the verge of crying. “I did lose something; I lost my dreams.”

Her hands steady again, she said, “Perhaps I was wrong,” and began leading Hwin again. Even out of their master's sight, slaves could only tarry so long.

Shasta resumed leading Bree beside her. He said, “Perhaps.”

“Everything I had was a lie,” Aravis said. “I was sold as easily as a slave.” She closed her eyes a moment and willed herself not to cry. “Your dreams were lies too.” She didn't look at Shasta to see his response. “If we live through this we'll have something that isn't a lie.”

“Freedom,” Shasta said.

“Freedom,” Aravis repeated. “Even if it isn't the life either of us ever wanted.

-

* If we consider marriage alliances to be like treaties, she's violating an alliance between two powerful houses by escaping. Even if we don't look at it that way, she's defecting to another nation. Unless she can get off lightly on some kind of a “Kids these days” defense, she probably can't count on the law taking her actions as anything less than treason. The witch totally has more right to her than to Edmund. The fact that her actions are justified is why being a traitor isn't always a bad thing.

Consider the American example of Benedict Arnold, he was a hero of the revolution until he turned fucking loyal. If the bastard had remained traitor then we'd probably celebrate him to this day as one of those vague people that mattered in ways we don't bother to look up in the revolution instead of treating him as a vaguely remembered in ways we don't bother to look up ... traitor. Traitor to the cause by stopping being a traitor to the government.

(The witch really should have made the case that everyone who picked a side was a traitor since the Aslan side was a traitor to her government and her side was traitor to Aslan/Emperor. Which, maybe she did? Maybe the world being destroyed would be a result of her calling in all her owed lives at once.)

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