Let’s talk about heroism

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.

Spoiler space.









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.


29 thoughts on “Let’s talk about heroism”

  1. Davv has always seemed a hero to me, though I agree that he is a tragic figure. But he has also made the best out of some seriously BAD situations, and I believe that the rssult of his continued existence has been, on the whole, good. He was a good mate to Kamele, a good father to Theo, his son Val Con was tested in the fires of his trials and tribulations, but came out of it a stronger and more balanced human with a lifemate who helps him run Korval with strength and grace. He has taught and nurtured others as a teacher, he has done good things as a scout and his keeping of his lifemate in his psyche has afforded him some measure of comfort and perspective throughout his life. In all, I’d say that Daav is the kind of man I’d like to sit down and have a cup of tea with under tree. He fascinates me, and I am sure other fans of the Liaden Universe feel the same.

  2. It makes me spitting mad that you have to defend him. He has been my favorite character since the first book I read (Local Custom) of yours, he continues to be my favorite. He is the epitome of melanti. I wonder what else readers who see him as a coward or selfish are missing! Geesh.

  3. those descriptions of Daav and his general plight are in keeping with my impression of him. Taking the long road to Balance is usually the least popular but most complete.

  4. I have always thought that this ‘long faithfulness’ to Aelliana’s Balance was a particularly elegant way for Daav to mourn his loved one & to protect his clan & to be very congruent with the Liaden group culture (vs. an individualistic culture, such as the American culture). Plus, it leaves such a lovely space in which the story line can move forward :))

  5. I’ve always liked Daav a lot too, and I do see him as heroic. I really think much of the negative reaction to him is based on differences in cultural expectations – e.g. the fact that he leaves Val Con in the care of his clan makes complete sense in the context of Liaden culture, whereas we have a cultural expectation that parents bear the primary responsibility for their children.

    One of the things I love about these books is that the characters do behave in ways that are consistent with *their* culture, though.

  6. Daav is one of my favourite characters and I had never thought of his method of balance as being unheroic. That said, I had always felt sorry for Val Con for knowing his father had to leave him in that way. It was a sad scene with the child weeping and not wanting his father to leave.
    Maybe that’s the gut and emotional response some people are making? In that for whatever reason, they respond to the parental abandonment emotion and not to the logical fact that Daav had to remove himself away from everyone as his family was at risk if he stayed.

  7. I have always seen Daav as, well, complicated. I am Terran and human. Daav is NOT and cannot be judged by our woefully simplistic media depiction of heroism. Aeliana’s Balance involves a long complicated series of actions over years. Daav attempts this even while knowing he might never see the results. Once all the pieces start coming together over the many books involved all I have to say is “wow”. Complicated. Thank you!

  8. After you did all that work, I hate to say that it was a no brainer for me–in other words, until the end, I thought I was reading no more than a very accurate synopsis of Daav’s story.

    Heinlein talked about heroism of Daav’s kind, although I admit to being at a loss to name the tale off the top of my head. I’ve always been one to worship the quiet, plodding heroes rather than than the flashy sort. The former are less in service to their ego, and I have no real appreciation of the latter’s inherent narcissism.

  9. I’ll admit that I never really saw Daav as heroic, but that was that I had him as a very capable, skilled, and well-trained individual who did what he saw as “his duty” – to the Scouts, his clan, family, Tree, melant’i, and to “the passengers” – to the best of his ability. (don’t read any priority in my order of ‘duty’ listings …).

    Yes, often, there were conflicts between his various “duties”, but even there, he managed to find an acceptable answer.

    With regard to Aelianna’s death and Balance, I understood that the reason she died was due to the Terran Party (or their unknown puppet masters) not wanting the knowledge that all of “the clans of man” (as Edger would say ..) had a common origin and were related. I can’t say that widespread knowledge of that would defeat their long-range goals to stur up conflict between Terrans and Liadens using racial bias tactics, but it would hamper them greatly in achieving those goals.

    Because of Daav’s different “hata”, which prevented his just having Korval declare war on the Terran Party, with a very high potential of swiftly escalating into general Liaden-Terran warfare, and which Aelianna would also have abhorred. that his solution was well-thought out and fitting.

    It acted against the Terran Party and was within the melant’i of Korval, which was known for having an odd, but honorable, melant’i.

    I had no doubt that everything he did as a professor at Delgado U was in support of the Balance.

    I often wished for a scene in Fledgling where Captain Cho saw a photo of Jen Sar, Theo and Kamele, and slowly recognized her old team leader/trainer, etc., leading to her recognizing the ongoing Balance, and – even if only to herself – rendering honors for his actions. Oh, well.)

    I did not have that much of a problem with the fostering of Val Con. Yes, he was younger than when fostering would it normally happen, but we have seen fostering in enough different stories to realize that it was a common and accepted practice in Liaden culture. Er Thom and Pat Rin were both fostered within Korval, and Aelianna had siblings fostered outside of Mizel.

    Brom O’Berin

  10. Thanks for a great summation of Daav’s motivations. I’ve always loved Daav, and thought of him as being a lot like Clark Kent. He does have a heartbreaking burden of tragic loss, but is also the silently suffering hero who is grossly underestimated by the people around him.

    As was just mentioned, he’s Liaden, with different social motivations, so I never thought of him as anything less than a hero. His choices were made through a Liaden POV, not Terran (or human).

    Discovering that Aliana was still with him added a different point of view on his life in exile.

    The possibility that Uncle might be able to restore some of his losses with Aeliana while opening up new elements with family is wonderously tantalizing. I long for the next installment, as always …

    Valcon had lots of loving family support, so he wasn’t exactly abandoned. Also, Daav was monitoring space comm’s, and heard when Valcon was being pursued by the same enemy.

    Trying to make Liaden characters fit into our social mores is tedious, although I guess there’s a long tradition of sci-fi writers working social commentary into their stories. I prefer to accept Liadens at face value and try to interpret them through their own social values. You’ve built such a complex universe for them to live and act, it’s a shame to try to mold them into our reality.

    That’s just IMHO.

  11. I had no idea that anyone thought Daav was not heroic. He always seemed to me both tragic and heroic, in the best terms of his culture and his own personality.

  12. Robert Heinlein always said that the best revenge is to outlive your enemies. Daav simply appears to be working towards that end, and I see nothing wrong with that. As long as he was the target, he appears to have been right. When the target shifted to the rest of the Clan, he acted rightly and came back to fight, as the circumstances had altered.

    Balance is not best served cold, it’s best served at a proper temperature, perhaps with a nice misravot.

  13. Truly I am shocked to discover that people think of Daav as a deadbeat who has wasted his life. I have always loved Daav and I found his self-imposed exile and balance as fitting within his character. More than that, it is clear in every story involving Daav that he is Liaden, that Liaden mores are not Terran mores, and that he acts within the confines of his culture, even while working to expand cross-cultural understanding. The only behavior that I find perhaps questionable is his treatment of Kamele, although, given the fact that he IS Liaden, I think that was inevitable. Does it lead to confusion and anguish? Probably, but we all face those feelings in life. Nor do I think abandoning Kamele was easy for him, just necessary.

  14. I believe we’ve been told, in one of the chapter-quotes, that the two most dangerous words in the Liaden language are “Necessity exists.”

    I hold Daav as the prof of that.

  15. I have not been impressed with all of Daav’s actions. I think he has shown errors of judgement on several occasions.

    For example, he waived the cancellation clause in the contract marriage in Scout’s Progress. With Korval’s history of having a major contract that they are unable to cancel (to protect all of Liad) you’d think he’d know better.

    I think it was a serious error not to warn Kamele about the Department of the Interior. Emotional pain aside, her survival was endangered. He owed her a warning, and gave the impression to Val Con that he was pursuing a separate balance with her, then did nothing.

    I also give his balance in the matter of his mother’s death the side eye. I don’t think that Korval refusing to stop at the planet was necessarily the best way to handle that, though I don’t know the details. If nothing else, if there are planets where Korval refuses to go, then they can be made into a handy base for the Department of the Interior.

    I’m also not sure that he investigated Aelliana’s death thoroughly enough (although it’s possible he could have been killed if he pursued it further, so it is debatable.) Also, I think he might have subtly checked up on his clan more often. Yes, he visited his spaceship, and yes he acted when he heard the Juntavas message, but given the information he had, perhaps “all is well at home” is not the assumption he should have made for all of those years.

    I’m also not impressed with the shifty answer he gave Theo when she raised a concern about being off planet during a bureaucratic proceeding that could get her drugged.

    That said, if Daav was a real person, I would enjoy talking to him, and I would ask his advice for knotty problems. But I would not trust him to solve a problem correctly or to give me all the relevant information that he knows about it.

    Also, I think that choosing to educate people and slowly work on a problem from a roundabout way is an interesting way to deal with that situation, and an honourable choice.

    Also, I don’t think it is proper to judge Daav without Aelliana. She made similar choices, and her influence makes a difference to the situation. She was complicit in several of the errors, in my opinion.

    As to whether he is a hero? If I was making a list of interesting questions about Daav, that one wouldn’t make the cut. I don’t tend to classify the characters I read about as hero or non-hero, so it doesn’t make all that much sense to me to frame the question that way.

  16. I agree with pretty much everything commented above.

    However. I would like to know just who, singly or in a group, in bothering you with their misunderstanding of Daav’s idiom to the point that you must address it… rather than continuing the story…

    Yes, this is entirely selfish on my part. I WANT MORE.

    So stop bugging the esteemed authors with petty annoyances based on your misreading or misunderstandings of the books. Yes, it was TERRIBLE that Daav had to leave. Terrible, most of all, for HIM.

    But, truly, he had no choice – it was the right thing, the only thing he could do. Necessity…

    Now, let us allow the authors continue their work. All shall be revealed. We hope.

  17. I’ve always thought Aelliana’s balance was a very good solution to the problem at hand. I also think that going through with it was very courageous on Daav’s part–especially since at the time he didn’t know that Aelliana was still with him and would be around to help him build a new life.

    Where I think he reveals an (hitherto unsuspected) cowardly aspect of his character is in the way he disappears from Kamele’s and Theo’s lives in the end, leaving them totally clueless and unprepared for the danger they end up following him into.

    Not that this makes him any less of a hero in my eyes, just a flawed one. Which proves that Liadens are only human, after all. 🙂

  18. RE: Daav and Aelliana leaving Theo and Kamele w/o notice. I disagree that this was cowardly, I think it was an attempt to protect them from Korval’s enemies. If they didn’t know of any connection to Korval the no one else should have either. I doubt Daav could predict that the logic of a children’s book would have led Theo to Delm Korval, and that in turn leading their enemies to Kamele. Given the speed Daav needed to depart there is no way he could have explained what was happening and provide sufficient warning of Kamele’s danger (that she would believe and understand) if she attempted to follow.

  19. My reading seems to have been pretty close to Authors’ Explanation. Daav was a favorite character early on, and his actions made sense in light of the choices available to him at the time–which included the little we’ve seen on his background and experience prior to his marriage to Aelliana.

    My personal views on what makes a hero have never included being mistake-free, perfect in every way. Nobody is a hero, if you insist on perfection (and the perfect is the enemy of the good). If an old burnt-out alcoholic risks his life and endures injury to save another person’s life…does it make him less heroic that he’s an alcoholic? I knew such a man; to me, he was a hero *in that situation*. I’ve never known a totally perfect person, but I have known many who met one difficulty or another with courage and a determination to do the right and honorable thing–whether it was their behavior in combat, their willingness to risk their job to oppose bigotry and do what they felt was right, their courage in facing pain and death from a long, gruelling medical ordeal, their quiet taking on of additional responsibilities–adopting a friend’s children when the friend died, etc. And in literature, the tragic hero is flawed–the flaw is what makes the tragedy (not outward circumstances) but the hero is still a hero. So a character making mistakes doesn’t take away from their “hero potential”…it’s how they handle the aftermath of mistakes, and what their underlying code of conduct is, that does it for me.

    Daav has suffered devastating loss multiple times in his life–starting (or at least, first-mentioned in the series) being the loss of his mother-the delm and uncle-master-trader (IIRC) when he is still quite young, with his aunt, badly injured physically and psychologically, then taking over as head of line yos Galan, to Er Thom’s considerable discomfort–and his, as his aunt values security over anything else, while his natural personality and talents demand higher risk. Almost losing Aelliana to her brother’s malice and then losing her in reality would create huge psychological echoes of loss. Yet he pulled himself back from despair. He thought he was leaving Val Con to a secure, loving home–Er Thom and Anne, with a beloved near-brother, Shan, and cousin Pat Rin. The Department had not yet been identified as a problem…he could not have foreseen the choices made that led to Er Thom and Anne’s deaths, and to Val Con’s near-disastrous recruitment by the Department.

    Daav’s response to adversity is consistent and yet does change slowly as he matures and then ages–experience and intelligence together allow him to see the benefit of different strategies, without changing the essential determination to adhere to his own concept of right and wrong, and prevail in some way. This is a perfect combination for a hero, as it sets up the internal difficulty (one can prevail short-term by abandoning values that limit options) to be overcome as well as the external difficulties. Personally, I don’t think any “style” of heroism is more heroic than another–it is the response to a hard choice, whether the choice comes from interior or exterior constraints–that defines a hero.

    For me, this is where books can do what movies (and similar things) cannot–by showing the interior challenges that someone faces, that real humans face daily, a book can lead to a more complex, textured, nuanced understanding of people and heroism. Books can show the processes by which people make choices–including choices that turn out to be wrong, or seem wrong to others (either other characters or readers or both.) But for books to function in this way, readers must be willing to think through the decisions from the characters’ perspectives, not just their own. To accept that even if the reader has identified with the character, the character is not the reader, and has the character’s own life, which is different, and will make choices based on what the character knows and has experienced. One of the great values of fiction–now acknowledged in psychological literature–is that readers of fiction do develop better “theory of mind,” understanding of other people, by putting themselves, repeatedly, in the place of characters unlike themselves. Clearly, not all readers do that. Clearly, not all writers write the kinds of books that allow, encourage, even demand, that kind of reading. Lee & Miller’s Liaden books do reward that kind of reading by presenting complex characters like Daav–he’s not the only one with contradictions, by any means–and letting them reveal themselves over a long period of time.

  20. Reading “Brom O’Berin”‘s post–I’d like to see a story about Captain Cho! (For that matter, I’d like to see one about Shadia, whose appearances have been mostly short and while not incidental, she wasn’t one of characters who’ve been in tight focus and in continuing roles. (Hmm, even in the wake of Dragon Ship, (ship] has a crew complement which in effect is majority male…. Yeah, my biases are showing there, most of my life’s been spent in environments which are majority, sometimes overwhelmingly so, male. I want the future to be less striated that way.))

    Elizabeth Moon touched tangentally to something which makes certain points of view writing/stories unreadable for me–ones which put me, the reader, in the position of being treated as if I were the story point of view character. It’s a subjective viewpoint which is mostly intolerable to me, I am not the story character, I don’t react that way, I don;t think that way, and being treated as if I perceive and process and react the way the character does, tends, again, to make a story unreadable for me.

    Um, yah, I did once write a (published in the tech trade press) article in second person, but I set up who the character the reader was looking out from the viewpoint of was, and didn’t impute/denote emotional subjectivity about how the reader was supposed to -feel-. To me, -feelings- are up to the reader to determine on their own, based on the descriptions etc. from the writer, and not be -told- by the writer what the reader is feeling.

    (But then, my feelings about Sharon’s and Elizabeth’s writings are that I have most of their books in original hardcover editings, including most recently Limits of Power. They/you write from points of view which mostly are sympathetic to me, in the sense that the points of view are ones which I not only find “easy’ to read but, um, I’ll use the term anyway, rejoice in reading. The other end of the spectrum is e.g. the point of view and writing style in Snowcrash, which is anti-readable for me.)

  21. I agree with these analyses. Daav’s solving for his difficult melant’i problem requires much thinking by the reader to understand. I didn’t see Daav/Jen Sar as either heroic or cowardly… he did well in a very difficult situation. Daav’s emergency departure, leaving Kamele and Theo without any information or guidance, was surprising. But if you believe, as I do, that Korval’s tree manipulates event and people at interstellar distances, timing was critical so he could defend the alternate scout HQ and rescue Shadia and Clonak from DOI attack. A bit of guns and rockets heroism there actually.

    Lets look at the reactions of other characters. Despite their obvious question (where have you been?) everyone has profound respect for Daav. Miri, an outstanding leader and judge of character, doesn’t hesitate to join with Val Con in accepting him/them back into the Clan and assigning him/them critical solo tasks.

    Questions: people are “re-birthed” at what final apparent age from Uncle’s processes? Will Daav and Aelliana be returned to Korval, possibly via Theo/Bechimo at Tradedesk, as apparent children? Another potential plot twist as we eagerly await Kamele’s reaction

  22. I too was rather surprised to see “someone’s” reading of Daav’s character. He has always struck me as “Captain”, the one always looking out for crew and passengers…especially as he was one to get the least help from the Tree (in choosing a life mate). It said not that one, but not which one. Daav is the one who must decide and deciding is not easy especially when even your true life mate is “handicapped” initially. He always helps the weak (turtle baby, physically abused sister, morally abused nephew, etc) and is indeed a heroic teacher making his students or children stronger and able to defend themselves.

  23. I’m not seeing any counter-arguments, so putting on my Devil’s Advocate hat on:

    While it was not in pursuit of that goal, he did “abdicate” his Korval responsibilities, and a more pleasant life for himself is something he attained.
    While it was to his Cha’leket and his lifemate, he did “abandon” his son to pursue this balance.

    His own son thought so.

    As for the ultimate question of whether Daav’s self-imposed exile was a waste or not:

    It does seem to have drawn the heat off of the rest of Korval…. temporarily. Anne died tragically, was it from another attack? and Er Thom did not survive her death by long.

    But as for Balancing Allianna’s murder: we have not been shown the fruits of that Balance. Sure, Jen Sar was a brilliant and popular lecturer, pulling students from all over the galaxy,…but to what effect?

    If no effect beyond the edutainment of students, then, yes, his balance was a WASTE, given the resources Daav could have devoted to the problem as Korval, (as opposed to living off of the largess of his Cha’leket’s lifemate’s legacy as Jen Sar).

  24. I would never consider him deadbeat or slacker, he’s done too much is far too skillful to have earned those accusations. Anyone who says that has only read the stories that feature his POV, without ant insight.

    He is a tragic hero, because his one plan to grant space and safety to his kin and Balance for the murder, seems to have been less productive. Aside from drawing attack away a little (and less than he thought long term) I don’t see how the life as Jen Sar was producing any answers. I can understand not pursuing a violent vengeance, but given population spread one teacher would not reduce racial differences even if he taught many.

    His family could easily have never heard from them again, denying them any closure for the threat or Balance for his leaving. Unfortunately, he left his second family in a similar way with even less preparation. Perhaps he was partly broken by Allianna’s death, but I can’t help thinking that half-and-half life as Jen Sar wasn’t terran sentiment nor Liadan clan, which meant it failed as both when the shit hit the fan. I.e. he should be smacked for bugging off like that, they deserved better consideration.

    And considering he’s a tragic hero, I’m actually surprised he’s lived that long. Tragic heroes usually die.

  25. I can not speak to Daav’s actions as heroic, mainly because their context is so complex. Daav can not identify the enemy that is attacking, and his actions are very strongly influenced by a) this ignorance; and b) the fact that clan Korval is in many ways bizarre within the standards of Liaden society. I would have thought the distance from the tree would have influenced his life more, but who knows?

  26. I first got introduced to the Liaden Universe when the author graciously allowed ‘Agent of Change’ and ‘Fledgling’ into the Baen Free Library. As such I read Agent first then immediately after that Fledgling. When you do that you will not have a very favorable opinion of Daav since in one you see how him leaving did impact Val Con, then see him with a comfortable new life with a new family. Even when you see the instances of Aelliana’s voice in his head in Fledgling it doesn’t help, however when I started to by the back log of books I accidentally bought ‘Mouse and Dragon’ when I just want to continue the chain of events (particularly Theo’s story). After reading ‘Mouse and Dragon’ there was no more way to think bad of Daav because you learn he never had the full bond that Miri and Val Con have and with the continued attempts and thinking you are going mad (remember he started hearing Aelliana in his head) that necessitated that he had to do to things, one give up the ring because an insane Delm of Korval is a disaster and two just giving the ring up and staying does not ensure the assassination attempts stop. It wasn’t until he left Liad that he understood what was happening and at the point the second reason is still in play, at that point he made the best of what he could just like any true ‘hero’ does in a bad situation.

  27. I never thought of Daav as a deadbeat dad or as selfish. However, I always felt he made his balance decision while he himself was not mentally balanced. He was grieving, not sleeping, and thinking himself a little mad, hearing Alleana’s voice.

    I actually like Daav (but I didn’t like him when he tried to keep Er Thom from marrying Anne). He was kind to little Pat Rin, for just one of the many reasons I like him. I also feel sympathy for him.

    Leaving his beloved son to pursue his balance was perhaps heroic, but IMO totally misguided. Hindsight is 20/20, but let’s face it. In Scout’s Progress, the authors did not establish that Daav reached that major decision in a reasonably sound and sane state of mind. They did not portray Daav making the decision after exhausting all other options. They did not portray him in close collaboration / discussion with Er Thom and Anne. Nor did Scout’s Progress show Daav consulting deeply with the ageless Delm. In later books, the authors provide text supporting suchactions, but we respond to Scout’s Progress.

    The fruits of his academic labor yielded nothing, as far as the entire series shows. No newfound tolerance and unification for Terrans, Liadens, and Yxtrang. No sessation of racism. As far as the text shows (which is all we have), while Daav was Jen Sar, the DoI grew stronger.

    The best thing Daav did in Delgado is produce another pilot for Korval (Theo).

    While in the ivory tower, Daav did not keep an eye on his son. He only discovered that Val Con was in peril by happening upon a Juntavas announcement. He didn’t even know Er Thom and Anne were both dead, until Clonik told him. For all Daav knew, they could have died decades ago, soon after he left Liad, leaving little Val Con, Shan, and Nova with no clan adult but Kareen (and Luken). That death should have been expected, given that Anne was Terran.

    But none of this means Daav is a jerk, selfish, etc.

    Ellen and Patrick G make some very good points.

    However, so does everyone else, singing on the side of the angels. It’s easy to see why some people doubt Daav’s melant’i, and also easy to see why we like him. The authors have painted him in mixed hues.

  28. In response to my esteemed colleague’s statement above regarding the ‘edutainment of students’:

    Daav yos Phelium, as Jen Sar Kiladi, Gallowglass Chair of Cultural Genetics, (a teaching position endowed by Anne Davis as her way of expiating the sin of having been granted half of Korval’s wealth) has been, for over a decade, brilliantly indoctrinating scholars of the prestigious interstellar university of Delgado in the groundbreaking discipline of Cultural Genetics: the concept (as I understand it) that cultures come from, inherit gifts from, pass on burdens to, and otherwise transmit information from forbears to descendants. (I.e. Terrans and Liadens and Xtrang come from the SAME stock.)

    And because such teaching comes out of Delgado–with its strict publication protocols and stellar reputation for research integrity–it’s as close to true as anything gets. As scholars return to their own planets and continue their scholastic careers, building on the research and dialog of this new field, their efforts to expand ‘human’ (encompassing all strains of humans) knowledge will inevitably bring these concepts and insights into mass (Galactic) consciousness, thus proving wrong those hidebound “Terran First” nut jobs. And thus, achieving Aelianna’s Balance.

    What, did you think he was teaching English 101?

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