Death, Afterlife, and Between

Death, Afterlife, and Between

Anna Isaacs '07 English 65, Fantasy, Brown University, 2004

In Anne McCaffrey's book Dragonsong, the protagonist Menolly lives in the tradition-bound, port city of Half-Circle Sea Hold. Menolly is a talented young musician, forbidden to obtain her musical dreams of being a Harper because of her gender. Stifled in her environment, Menolly runs away and Impresses nine fire lizards. She is terribly surprised to see them as they are considered no more than a myth in the Sea Hold. The discovery of the existence of the fire lizards makes Menolly start to wonder about the world beyond Sea Hold.

But Petiron had been very kind to her, Menolly knew, and her throat tightened with remembered regret for his passing (Had he gone between? The way dragons did when they lost their riders or grew too infirm to fly? No, one left nothing behind, going between. Petiron had left his body to be slipped into the deeps.) And Petiron had left more behind than his body. He'd left her every song he'd ever know, every lay, every ballad, saga, every fingering, chord and strum, every rhythm. There wasn't any way a stringed instrument could be played that she didn't know, nor any cadence on the drums at which she wasn't time-perfect. She could whistle double-trills as well as any wherry with her tongue or on the reeds. But there had been some things Petiron wouldn't -- or perhaps couldn't -- tell her about her world. Menolly wondered if this was because she was a girl and there were mysteries that only the male mind could understand." [27]


1. Why is "between" always italicized? Does this mean that it is thought of as the only kind of afterlife?

2. Menolly states her belief that dragons have an afterlife. Does her society not believe the same of people? What is significant of dumping the deceased into the "deeps?"

3. Is it coincidential that the name Menolly sounds like a play on the name Melody?

4. Does Menolly begin to realize that technical perfection isn't the only thing necessary for a Harper?

5. Does being a Harper for a long period of time induce an understanding of the music? Is this the reason for the prestige?
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Last modified 2 February 2004