This post potentially contains spoilers for Liaden Universe® novels: Mouse and Dragon, Fledgling, Saltation, Ghost Ship. . .I think that’s it, but there may be more. Probably best not to read the following unless you’ve read most-if-not-all of the Liaden novels.
Possibly the most maligned figure in the Liaden Universe® is Daav yos’Phelium, deadbeat dad, slacker, and false kinsman, whose existence is entirely and only in service of his own pleasure.
For those with foggy memories: Before Val Con takes up the Ring, his father, Daav, is delm of Korval; a position he finds burdensome (see “Who wants it least will do it best”). It can be argued that he’s not a very good delm of Korval, but he’s certainly far from the worst.
He becomes a far better delm once he has lifemated with Aelliana Caylon, and has access to her support, advice, and unique view of Balance and society. With her connivance, he is able to fulfill some of his personal goals, and avoid being consumed by the delm’s melant’i.
During his brief marriage, in fact, he becomes very much reconciled to the necessity of standing Korval. By the time we’re nearing the end of Mouse and Dragon, he’s actually quite content with his life, clan-bound though it is.
Tragedy then strikes: His lifemate is gruesomely killed before his eyes, having made and acted upon the split-second decision to literally take the bullet that was meant for him.
In other parts of the universe, it has been made clear that there is a set, or possibly more than one set, of Very Bad People out there and they are specifically gunning for, as it appears, Daav. The possibility exists that this/these set/sets of VBP are gunning for Korval as a group — in fact, it is later revealed that they are — but at the point when Aelliana is murdered, this question is up in the air.
A third attempt on Daav’s life (this after Aelliana’s death) seems to pretty positively pinpoint a Terran group as the single set of VBP, and that they are after Daav.
Daav, with input from Er Thom and Anne — for he did not decide on this plan on the spur of the moment, or all by himself — and with the necessity of Balancing Aelliana’s death in the manner Aelliana would wish it Balanced, decides that he can perhaps reduce the danger to others of the clan by removing himself from the field. In order to make his exile from clan and kin productive, he will pursue Aelliana’s Balance, which is, yes, a very long-sighted, subtle and essentially non-heroic Balance.
I point out at this juncture that, to a Liaden, to be clanless is to be dead. Daav, having been a Scout, has some counter-conditioning to this cultural imperative, but even as a Scout, he had been the head of a team, the members of which he treats with as extended family. Further, except that people are shooting at him and by that tendency endangering the people he loves and is responsible for, he is not burdened by his family; his family is what kept him from committing suicide in the immediate aftermath of Aelliana’s death.
Everybody with me so far?
OK. I’ll try to wrap the rest of this up quickly. Oh, and in case I didn’t say, there is textual evidence for all these wild claims being made by the author; though you (Universal You) may have to read closely and think a little.
So! Decision taken, Daav leaves the clan, fakes his suicide and emerges as his alter-ego, in pursuit of Aelliana’s Balance. It is his intention to dedicate himself to this Balance, making the Balance his life. Becoming, in essence, a Balance-monk, where nothing that does not directly serve the Balance is permitted to distract him.
Aelliana, as we know, scotches that business. She knows that Daav needs “clan” and she provides “clan” so that he can function, and live as full a life as possible, given the very great losses in his immediate past.
Which is how Jen Sar Kiladi comes to take a mistress (or, to be taken by a mistress) with whom he eventually has a child, and has a comfortable, even pleasant life while pursuing Aelliana’s Balance as she wished it to be pursued.
Now we come ’round to it; the heroism thing, that some folks want to talk about.
We are not here talking about the folks who think that Daav “abdicated” his authority so he could have a “pleasant life.”
Nor the folks who think that Daav “abandoned” his son into the care of unfeeling, abusive strangers.
But the folks who think that Daav’s self-exile from clan and kin in pursuit of Balance is not heroism. Who think that it’s A WASTE.
Which is to say — his choices are unheroic and self-serving; built purely on selfish foundations.
Apparently, the only way one may be a hero is to go out, lasers blasting, and kill the bastids. Or figure out a way to take all their money. Expose them to public ridicule. To Make Them Pay Right Now.
Making them pay (much) later is not heroic; it’s. . .lazy at best and reprehensible at worst. A hero’s only coin is immediate gratification.
Clearly, I reject that. I see Daav as a hero — and a particularly tragic hero at that. He leaves everything he wanted and cared about. That he comes to have a liveable life does not negate his losses or his sacrifices. He does not have “everything” he wants (see, “I want my father back, you son of a bitch,” for more on this concept); he would have been far, far happier had his lifemate never been murdered. He would have been far happier if murderous people didn’t make a decision to leave his support structure and his son seem not only rational, but the only good decision available to him.
The fact that he has a life after surviving tragedy does not make him despicable; it makes him human. The fact that his Balance is a long one does not make him a self-serving wimp.
Heroism comes in many shapes and sizes.
I rest my case.
Counter-opinions? Note that I’m looking for closely reasoned counter-opinions, not knee-jerk reactions, based on current US “mainstream” cultural mores.