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norabombay, I recommend that you find the C.J. Cherryh novels Cloud's Rider and Rider at the Gate and read them immediately you finish To Catch a Thief.

I vaguely recall that the books about the Nighthorses (mercurial, hungry, omnivorous-verging-on-carnivorous, telepathic alien horse-type things with their own agendas (said agendas often consisting of getting fed, laid, or both) ) were written in reaction to the Companions (white, blue-eyed, Special Magical Pure & Good Reincarnated Spirit Horses), but I can't recall where I heard that said. Since I have a vague impression of it being in Alaska at Guardian, it was probably onList, but I can't recall who said it.

Rider at the Gate especially is a good antidote, as it's got a lovely blonde spoiled brat female delicate angel 13 year old, Brionne, who is In Tune with Nature (just the nice creatures, not the nasty mean scary ones) who is utterly out of tune with anything approaching reality, and it gets her in a royal mess of trouble.


I came to the conclusion that one of the more potentially explosive themes of the Lackey books is that innocence is one of the most powerful forms of Good and Protection that there is, and that often ignorance and innocence go together. (What the hell is 'innocence', anyway? That's one of those slippery words that escapes me at this hour of night.) This is the sort of innocence/ignorance that lets characters be happy and everything is all right as long as they don't know about the bad things that are going on, and if there are bad things going on that they know about, they have to Make It Stop in order for things to be OK again. Even so, once the characters have found out about all the bad things that can happen in the world, they'll never be completely OK again.

Thing is, when you're trying to preserve innocence as a virtue, what often goes along with it is ignorance of the basic life skills to cope with bad things. Take the Buddha, for example. He was kept ignorant of death and disease and poverty, and lived in a charmed dreamworld, and it was a major shock to him when he learned that Bad Things could and did happen to people. He managed to recover; a lesser mind might have gone boink and broken.

Innocence as a virtue only happens when there is an active force working to shield a protected class from reality, and those who are so shielded never learn, or learn too late, how to cope with reality. Think of immune systems, and the archetypical person shielded from all dirt and disease. Their immune system will be shot to hell, and the least sniffle will take over and kill them. A kid who eats poop and drain cleaner will, of course, suffer for it, but a kid who gets to play in mud, play with sick friends, and eat the occasional thing that's been dropped on the floor will develop a robust immune system unless there's an uncommon medical factor at work (such as AIDS).

I wonder if there's a correlation between people who are vehemently against all forms of vaccination, and the people who are vehemently against allowing any form of something they consider 'bad' to get to their children.

The preservation of innocence at the price of knowledge and skills to deal with reality is anathema to those of us who value knowledge and experience. Little cute fluffy-bunnies who have never been exposed to General Dodginess will not have an instinctive revulsion for everything that is bad for them; instead, they will have a revulsion for certain classes of unfamiliar, having learned only that Things That Mommy Says Are Bad Are Just Bad, M'Kay?, and will not have the experience to pick out why that person who is buttering them up and saying they're perfect and wonderful is actually not having their best interests at heart.
Gone away, gone ahead,
Echoes roll unanswered.
Empty, open, dusty, dead.
Why have all the Weyrfolk fled?

Where have dragons gone together
Leaving weyrs to wind and weather,
Setting herdbeasts free of tether;
Gone, our safeguards, gone, but whither?

Have they flown to some new weyr
Where cruel Threads some others fear?
Are they worlds away from here?
Why, oh why the empty weyr?

-- "The Question Song", Anne McCaffrey
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