brigid: Mildmay Fox's full name (pic#47310)
[personal profile] brigid posting in [community profile] labyrinthine
Previously, in the LJ community, there was debate over why Mildmay couldn't read and whether or not he had a learning disability.

Apparently not, because in the course of Corambis he learns to read quickly and well... really quickly for someone who was barely literate before.

So why didn't he learn how to read before hand?

Short answer: it wasn't a valuable skill for a Kept Thief, Kholkis discouraged him from doing so, and he didn't ask Felix while they were still in the Mirador.

Long answer: it was part of Kholkis's plan to keep Mildmay utterly dependent on her.

She obviously started grooming him at a young age to be useful to her; to pick pockets and steal and card sharp and other things. After his incredibly obvious facial scar, she taught him to kill. He made her a LOT of money, and you don't want a cash cow like that wandering off to provide money for someone else... or to go independent. I mean, duh.

So she carefully groomed him to believe that he was stupid (illiterate, poor grammar) and unattractive (who's gonna love that horrible scar?). This despite that fact that Felix and Kholkis are both proof that poor grammar can be unlearned, and literacy can be acquired late in life (I'm assuming that despite his history of reading newspapers with Joline, that Felix couldn't read well; thus most of his literate education came from Malkar, in addition to the vast bulk of his magical education) and also despite the fact that Felix and Mehitabel (and probably other women and men) found Mildmay to be hot shit and totally attractive.

By twisting Mildmay to think that she was the only person who could ever find him attractive despite his hideous physical appearance and his stupidity, Kholkis thought she was guaranteed to control him forever. And then he fucked off and became a cat burglar, because he really isn't as stupid as she claimed, and he did come to realize that she didn't care about him. Of course, Kholkis's actions continued to influence his actions and reactions.

Paralleling this is Felix and Malkar. Malkar also took Felix and turned him into exactly what he wanted. Someone intelligent and interested in learning for learning's sake, but whose forays into knowledge were severely limited by Malkar's guidance (thaumaturgical architecture is boring and for old ladies. Malkar says so, so it must be true!). Malkar stripped the Lower City out of Felix's voice and mannerisms, while also drumming into his head that he was weak and unable to stand up to Malkar. Mildmay comments more than once that Felix isn't exactly clumsy, but that he's too aware of his body and thus acts in a clumsy way... because Malkar told him he was clumsy and graceless and would punish him if he acted clumsy or graceless, making him extra aware of his body and being clumsy and graceless etc etc etc.

Like Mildmay, Felix broke away from Malkar, but continued to be controlled by his teachings and actions, even after Malkar died. Further, Felix is terrified of becoming Malkar (although breaking the parallel Mildmay doesn't seem worried about becoming Kholkis), to the point of being paranoid about taking an apprentice even though he loves teaching.

Some of the most interesting elements in "Corambis" involve the brothers breaking out of the behavior their previous masters had groomed them into. Mildmay not only learns to read, he entertains and educates someone else through the medium of reading and discussing what was read (oh, and I dearly would have loved if he'd taken that teaching job). Felix takes on an apprentice, fights for her right to a decent education, and eventually stops trying to punish himself for failings real or imagined.

What do you think? Is this a valid reading of how their pasts influenced their present selves? Any arguments against this? Any other supporting stuff I missed?
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