Nobody's Son, by Sean Stewart, is one of my all-time favorite books, one of those change-my-life books that I refer back to again and again. It's about what it means to be a man, what it means to be a father, a son. It's about having a relationship with your father, when your father isn't there, when your father has chosen not to have a relationship with you.
So, here in this corner, we have the stereotypical hero: all alpha, all the time. He has no emotional needs, no weaknesses, no doubts, no regrets. He always knows what to do, the best way to do it, and he has no problem getting other people to go along with his plans.
And over in that corner we have Shielder's Mark, who is nothing like that.
"...What has tha done that harpers sing? Cracked a kingdom? Drank dragon-blood?"In Mulan the song I'll Make A Man Out Of You portrays the standard hero type, the ideal that Mark is trying to live up to.
"Uh, not exactly," Mark admitted.
"Climbed a mountain's sun-spiring snowpeak?"
"I don't think so."
"Diced with the Devil on a throw of bones?"
Mark shook his head. "Not as such."
Husk glared at him. "Were ye nought then but breathing? Dost tha come armoured in air and girt with hoping?"
"That's me." Mark fished a hank of haywire from his pocket to fiddle with, unable to meet Husk's eyes.
(Be a man)Throughout Nobody's Son, Mark keeps searching for some way to mold himself into this ideal, some way to prove himself to his father. At one point Stewart describes this longing for a father as lust, so intense is Mark's desire.
We must be swift as
the coursing river
(Be a man)
With all the force
of a great typhoon
(Be a man)
With all the strength
of a raging fire
Mysterious as the
dark side of the moon
... He wanted to beg the Old Man to fill him up, to give him shape, to teach him how to be a man.In the end, Mark has to find his own way to becoming the type of man that he is content to be. Not a false image of manhood, based on misunderstanding, but a man with flaws and feelings, who is, nevertheless, someone worthy of respect.
He had never had that. Never had a man to show him what a man should be. Never worked at his father's side, never rambled in the woods with him. Never learned to ride and shoot and hunt with Duke Richard, never learned swordplay from Sir William.
He'd taught himself as much as he could, but something had gone wrong, terribly wrong; now his dreams were dust and his love was ashes and his fine castle lay abandoned behind him. But he dared not beg the Old Man for his teaching, for fear of showing how soft he was.
Books: Nobody's Son, Sean Stewart
Music: I'll Make A Man Out Of You, Mulan