Friday, January 8, 2016

Aravis and Shasta: three versions of the comportment of a slave

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]

So the original has Bree saying, "Now, Aravis, do droop your shoulders a bit and step heavier and try to look less like a princess. Try to imagine you’ve been kicked and cuffed and called names all your life," to get Aravis to walk like a slave.  Not just a slave, one must remember, but the kind of slave a master would trust to be on her own with a horse that could be used to escape.

The problems with this are various.  One is that Shasta is the one with lifelong experience as a human slave while Bree is the one with nearly lifelong experience pretending to be a lowercase animal incapable of higher reasoning.  Bree shouldn't be the one to give "How to look like a slave in three easy steps," trips.

Another is that there's never a solid impression of what the slavery in The Horse And His Boy is actually like.  Slavery comes in many horrible flavors.

My first thought was the, "We must utterly crush their will," school of slavery:

* * *

"You don't look like a slave," Shasta said, "at least not a long-held trusted slave who could be allowed to roam free with one of the master's horses."

"And what should I look like?" Aravis asked Shasta.

"Try to imagine that you've been property for so long that even you think of yourself as a thing that belongs to someone else," Shasta said. "You're not a person, you're not free, and you don't think of yourself as someone worthy of the respect afforded to free people. The only people you can imagine being above are lowlier slaves. Everyone else is your better and every step you take is in constant fear that one of those free people, even the poorest and most wretched of them, might feel you're acting like you're their equal or better. Because if they do you could be beaten or worse.

"We're slaves who, no matter how highly we may think of ourselves, have had the entire concept of freedom so driven from us that our masters know we'd never even consider trying to escape to freedom," Shasta said. "We're that kind of slave because that's the only kind of slave who masters would trust to leave their sight with something like a horse."

"You know a lot about that?" Aravis asked with genuine concern in her voice.

Shasta shook his head. "I had it good," he said. "But my master was host to many people in my life, and I saw their slaves. Saw ones beaten until they could barely move. Saw the fingers that were bent and warped from being broken too often. Saw the bruises and the blood. Saw the broken look in them.

"I saw how they hadn't just stopped caring, but stopped believing there was anything to care about. That's why I never took the donkey and ran," Shasta said. "I knew how much worse things could be if things went wrong."

Hwin said, "Shasta . . ." in a sympathetic way.

"I saw others too," Shasta said, his voice growing stronger. "I saw ones that kept a fire in their eyes. I saw ones that never gave up. They walked like you princess. But they'd never be allowed to take a horse on a journey without an overseer with a strong arm and a flogging stick."

* * *

My next thought was a more Roman style where slaves were trusted with quite a bit of autonomy in a system that employed rewards as well as violence to control the slaves

* * *

Bree said, "Now, Aravis, do droop your shoulders a bit and step heavier and try to look less like a princess. Try to imagine you’ve been kicked and cuffed and called names all your life.”

"Don't do that," Shasta said. "You'll give us away if you do."

"Then how should I walk?" Aravis asked Shasta. "Since apparently how I normally walk isn't good enough," she directed at Bree.

"The way you're walking now is fine," Shasta said, "provided that you give the right people the right looks."

"Right looks?" Hwin asked.

"Yes," Shasta said. "Aravis needs to convince everyone that she's a slave so well trusted that her master wouldn't give a second thought to letting her take two horses and a fellow slave on a journey without supervision.

"A slave like that thinks she's important," Shasta said. "She holds a high rank in a rich house and knows a standard of living that is beyond many free people. She looks at the horses as valuable possessions of her master and is honored that she was trusted to oversee them alone. She looks at me, and most other slaves, as beneath her and won't hesitate to crush any attempts at freedom.

"She looks at the poor free people with resentment. She knows that they're legally better than her and that she'll never have their status, even if she is one day freed, but they'll never have her refinement and she hates the fact that she has to treat beings so obviously below her as if they are above her. She looks at refined free people with respect and deference."

Shasta turned to Aravis, "Walking like a princess will make others believe you're such a slave, provided you look at others the way they expect such a slave to. If anything you should try to walk more like a princess because the slave you're pretending to be has only her refinement to differentiate herself from the rabble."

"The rabble like you?" Aravis asked almost playfully.

"The rabble like me," Shasta said.

* * *

And that was about when I felt my muse leaving me but I figured I could get one more version before it faded entirely so I did a version somewhere between the two:

* * *

Bree said, "Now, Aravis, do droop your shoulders a bit and step heavier and try to look less like a princess. Try to imagine you’ve been kicked and cuffed and called names all your life.”

"No," Shasta said. "Such a slave would never be trusted with two horses and another slave."

"Then how do you think I should act?" Aravis said.

"Act like you regard yourself highly but you're afraid that people might notice it," Shasta said. "Like you think you're the most important person around, because your master isn't here, but you're afraid that someone will realize that."

"Why would I be afraid?" Aravis asked.

"Free people don't like being looked down on by slaves," Shasta said. "If they think you're doing that to them, then you might be beaten and kicked. Another slave might be terrified, but you're reasonably sure that, as one of your master's most trusted possessions, you'll be protected. Still, you know there's a possibility that someone won't think of that.

"Act like you're trying to hide the fact you're a princess, but doing it badly," Shasta said. "Carrying yourself like a princess will make people believe that if you're a slave then you're the kind of slave trusted to go on a journey alone; trying to hide it makes it look like you know the dangers of acting above your station, and are afraid free people will think you're doing just that. That's what will make you look like a slave.

"Just imagine that any free person we pass might give us both beatings with impunity," Shasta said, "and you'll look like a slave well enough."

* * *

This is not even close to an exhaustive look at how this scene would work in the various types of slavery.  It the three versions cover a narrow slice of a single spectrum.

* * *

1 comment:

  1. These are amazing. Especially the last one. Social complexities and characters navigating them are wonderfulf things to write as well as you do.