Claire | On Rhysand and the Morally Gray

This is a post that’s been in the works for months. I had originally started writing it as a Tumblr post after I finished Sarah J Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses last summer, but I never got around to finishing it. Now that A Court of Mist and Fury is being released tomorrow, I wanted to make sure I got my thoughts down before they could be altered by the sequel. Since this is going to contain MAJOR spoilers for ACOTAR, I’m putting everything under the cut.

After Feyre, Rhysand is my favorite character in ACOMAF. A quick browse through the Tumblr tags showed that this was not a commonly held opinion. Many people labeled him as an abuser (a word that, in my opinion, gets thrown around way too much) or said that his actions were irredeemable and self-serving. While I think it’s perfectly fine to dislike a character and that you don’t have to justify your reasons for doing so, I wanted to make a post highlighting why I loved him as a character and ultimately want him to end up with Feyre.

Since I’m writing this post under a time crunch, I highly doubt it will read as eloquent and I’m sure there are many points I’m going to miss. Also, fair warning: this post is going to be long. That being said, if you make it to the end I would love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree, and what your hopes are for the next installment!

Rhysand

  • I will start by talking about what most people point to when they say Rhysand is irredeemable: making Feyre drink the wine and dance for him. Do I think this was Morally Good™ behavior? No. But I also don’t think this was on the opposite end of the moral spectrum. By dressing and painting Feyre as he did, Rhysand accomplished a few things:
    • He got Feyre out of her cell. Being trapped in a dungeon was not doing wonders for her mental state.
    • It keeps Feyre out of Amarantha’s clutches. While she’s hungover the next day, Amarantha can’t make her complete dangerous/stupid tasks a la clean a hallway with dirty water. Additionally, parading Feyre around in what for her is a humiliating manner also helps satisfy Amarantha’s “let’s make Feyre miserable” quota.
    • For the rest of my life–he said it as if it were going to be a long, long while. He thought I was going to beat her tasks.” Rhysand uses this moment to politically align himself with Feyre. He did so once, by betting on her during the fake task, but doing so again so blatantly in front of the assembled court members shows that his bet wasn’t just some stunt–he firmly believes that Feyre will be Amarantha’s downfall.
    • Lucien brings up this point: dancing with Feyre was sure to incite Tamlin’s fury. Up until this point (and, to be frank, even past this point), Tamlin has been a man of inaction. By dancing with Feyre and humiliating her in front of the court, Rhysand ensures that Tamlin’s wrath will be extreme once eventually freed.
    • Also I think it’s important to point out that Rhysand didn’t take advantage of Feyre while inebriated–he only ever touched her arms and waist. And while I definitely don’t think this should be applauded–“gold star! you didn’t molest someone!”–I still think it’s an important point for the greater arc of his characterization.
  • The tattoo. Was it an invasion of Feyre’s body to tattoo her without consent? Yes. But, once again this isn’t a morally black and white moment. While the properties of the tattoo aren’t made explicit, I think it’s safe to assume that the tattoo allows a mental connection between Feyre and Rhysand that likely wouldn’t have been possible otherwise (or perhaps, just without people noticing?). The pain Feyre feels in the second task through her tattoo, indicating she was about to choose the wrong answer, is the only thing that saved her life in the second task. And it is Rhysand’s voice in her mind that gives her the strength to walk away with her back straight. Since we have no confirmation that Rhysand couldn’t have done this without a tattoo, there’s also this: the tattoo is a publicly visible indication of what Rhysand announced to Feyre–he believes she will survive the tasks. Without the tattoo, Feyre could have easily denied the bargain existed, or at the very least there wouldn’t have been a constant visual reminder.
  • The bargain. Was it fair for him to demand part of Feyre’s life in exchange for saving her life? Important to consider: he did bargain down when he didn’t need to. Again, not giving him a gold star for acting like not a complete jerk, but it’s worth pointing out. As for why he needed to make this particular demand in the first place? I’m guessing we will find out in ACOMAF.
  • And now, to talk about the non-morally complicated ways Rhysand directly helped Feyre. In somewhat chronological order, we have Fire Night. Rhysand saved Feyre from being raped, in an instance that likely no one else save Tamlin or Lucien would have done the same. Fae see humans as inherently less, and no one else tried to come to Feyre’s aid. But Rhysand did.
  • Giving Claire Beddor’s name. Rhysand had a grip on Feyre’s mind, and giving what we knew of his powers he could have easily gotten Feyre’s name himself or at least known if she was lying. And yet, when Amarantha demanded a name he gave Feyre’s. When Claire Beddor was retrieved and was clearly not the same girl he had already met, he said nothing and then later lied about recognizing Feyre despite having met her twice.
  • The lentil thing: “‘No more household chores, no more tasks. . . Tell the others, too. Stay out of her cell, and don’t touch her. If you do, you’re to take your own daggers and gut yourselves.'” Not only did Rhysand put an end to Feyre’s fairy-tale-esque mini tasks, but after that day he made sure legitimate meals were delivered to Feyre in a consistent manner.
  • After the third task. When Amarantha was killing Feyre, no one else but Rhysand tried to do anything to stop her. It was Rhysand, not Tamlin or Lucien or anyone else, that yelled her name as Amarantha was killing her. It was Rhysand who attacked Amarantha, who tried to do all he could to stop her assault against Feyre. All of the court Under the Mountain was present, including the other High Fae, but no one else came to aid her. At this point, Amarantha had not relinquished her hold on anyone’s magic and yet Rhysand still fought against her. Later, when she asks him why, he echoes back the exact sentiments as she held the hand of the wingless fairy: “‘I didn’t want you to fight alone. Or die alone.'”
  • Not about Feyre at all: but he killed the man from the (Day? Dawn?) court rather than shattering his mind. Feyre inherently saw this as an act not of malice, but of mercy.
  • And on that last note I think it’s important to point out that Rhysand, during the course of ACOTAR, has been a sex slave to Amarantha for 40 years. And it seems that instead of recognizing this as a sacrifice he felt necessary to make in order to protect the people under his care, most of his peers see him only as “Amarantha’s whore”. Rhysand is not a man manipulating his sexuality in order to gain favor with a ruler to achieve his own desires–he is a desperate leader who sacrificed his own sexual autonomy in order to do the least he could for those he’s sworn to protect, all the while seeking any advantage he can to undermine Amarantha’s authority.
  • I’m sure I missed some points, but I have ~18 minutes from the point of writing this until the nook book becomes available, and, as I have zero patience, I plan on reading as soon as it does (pending the completion of this post). So, I’ll call it a day and move onto why I’m not so enamored with Tamlin.

Tamlin

  • The first time reading through ACOTAR, up until the point Rhysand was introduced, I hardcore shipped Feyre and Tamlin. Then Rhysand happened and some time passed after reading the book, and I went back and reread it. After rereading, I decidedly did not want him to be Feyre’s endgame lover. One theme ACOTAR plays around with is that of masks, and upon rereading it became clearer to me that the mask Tamlin wears is not just the one stuck to his face.
  • To begin though, I would like to say that I do think Tamlin is very much in love with Feyre. During the first read through of the book I felt betrayed when the curse was revealed–I thought Tamlin’s feelings were based off a lie and that he had manipulated Feyre. When I reread the book, though, I realized I had been wrong. Tamlin loved Feyre so much that he sent her away–essentially dooming himself and his Court just to do what he could ensure Feyre’s safety. He was so close to getting the curse lifted, but he sacrificed that chance for Feyre’s life. That is love.
  • Now for the reasons I don’t think Tamlin and Feyre are compatible long-term. First and foremost, his actions (read: inaction) Under the Mountain. As Feyre was repeatedly hurt and degraded by Amarantha and her minions, Tamlin did nothing. During each of her tasks, Tamlin did nothing. The exception being that he occasionally clutched his hand rests harder or widened his eyes. And I get that he wasn’t really in a position where he could have done more–any of his actions had a high chance of coming back to hurt him or Feyre. But, I can’t imagine Feyre being unaffected by this. She felt so incredibly alone Under the Mountain, and day after day task after task she had to watch the man she loved–the man she was risking everything for–remain impassive. I can’t imagine that hasn’t affected her somewhat.
    • One thing that was in his control though: the night before Feyre’s last task. I get that both he and Feyre assumed there was a high chance that Feyre wouldn’t succeed, but if Rhysand hadn’t stepped in (another thing that can be added to his morally-gray-but-ultimately-a-really-smart-and-beneficial-move-for-Feyre category), chances are things would have gone very badly for him and Feyre. But, mostly for Feyre. Having their sexytimes put them both in extreme danger.
  • When Feyre is dying, it is not her name that Tamlin says. He pleads to Amarantha, but does not say anything to Feyre. Once again, I’m not really blaming him for this–he was doing what he could to save her life–but it was something I noticed.
  • While again he didn’t really have a choice in this, but Tamlin did bring Feyre to his Court under false pretenses. He endangered her life (although later saved it by freeing her) by involving her in Fae politics. To give him credit, I don’t really think he had much of a choice in this (some rando human v. the lives of all in his Court) and he does take remarkable care of her family.
  • Not really related directly to Feyre, but Tamlin doesn’t have a very high opinion of humans. While he doesn’t want to enslave them or anything atrocious, it’s clear he views them as lesser beings. The example that most clearly comes to mind is when Feyre views the art gallery and he says something along the lines of ‘I didn’t think humans could feel that way’. I think knowing and loving Feyre has largely changed his opinion on humans, but I’m interested to see if that prejudice remains.
  • Feyre had some degree of an instinctual fear of Tamlin. At first, obviously, because he kidnaps her and holds her against her will. She gets over this once they fall in love but I think it’s interesting that she doesn’t really have this fear with Rhysand. At one point, she says “The instincts that had once told me to be quiet around Tam and Lucien utterly failed me when Rhysand was near.”
  • What it really boils down to is that I don’t think Tamlin and Feyre will be the same people in ACOMAF as they were in ACOTAR, and I’m not sure if their love can survive that change. Tamlin is no longer a High Lord with a fractured Court, his powers largely missing, under the thumb of an evil dictator. I doubt he’s going to be able to just lounge around the manor with Feyre–he’s going to have responsibilities that he didn’t before and more expectations placed on him because of it. As for Feyre, she’s a deeply wounded person at the moment. Her actions Under the Mountain haunt her, and additionally she’s no longer even human. I think, before committing to anyone, she’s going to have to first rediscover herself.

And that concludes my thoughts on the subject! I was hoping the nook book would be released 12am ET, but it appears that is not the case. Regardless, at over 28oo words I think I’m done with the analysis for tonight. Since I’m not proofreading anything (it’s a school night and this is more writing than I usually do per hour when I actually have an assignment), hopefully there aren’t and glaring mistakes and I didn’t gloss over anything important. Let me know what you think (especially if you disagree, I love to hear about differing opinions) in the comments! Also, if you are interested, below I have included some of my hopes for the sequel.

Bonne nuit!


And now, somewhat unrelated to the content above, here are things I want to happen in ACOMAF:

  • I want the love Feyre fought for to be evident. I want to have glimpses of Feyre and Tamlin as they were before going Under the Mountain.
  • I also want Feyre to confront Tamlin about his inaction Under the Mountain. Even though she knows there wasn’t much he could do, in ACOTAR she mentions how his indifference hurt her, and I want her to let him know that.
  • Possibly in that same conversation, I want Feyre to defend Rhysand to Tamlin. I also want her to defend her decision to make the bargain, as she would have definitely died otherwise. Lucien would not have made it to her in time, and Tamlin gave no mention of ever even considering going to her.
    • Actually, what I would really like is there to be some festival where basically all of the High Fae are present and I want everyone not in the Night Court basically treating Rhysand as trash. At this festival, I want everyone to be sitting at long tables and I want there to be toasts. And I want the people making the toasts basically kissing ass to Tamlin, going on about his bravery (and, as an afterthought Feyre’s) and thanking him for their freedom. And during all of these toasts, I want Feyre slowly getting angry at what’s being said. When it seems as if the toasts are done, she’ll stand up and ding her glass. She’ll give a speech thanking the person who saved her life Under the Mountain, without whom none of them would be there, and I want everyone to assume she’s talking about Tamlin. Then, at the end of her speech, I want her to say “To Rhysand” while looking directly into his eyes and everyone will be scandalized and Feyre will give zero fucks. (Is this oddly specific? Yes. I have been envisioning this for months. If I was able to write fanfiction, I would have published a multichapter fic centering on this idea.)
  • I want Feyre to yell at Rhysand and get angry at him for taking her away every month.
  • And then I want her relationship with Rhysand to go from tacit dislike to begrudging acquaintances to casual friends to deep confidantes (and then hopfully to lovers). I want her to begin by dreading the moments that Rhysand will take her away to looking forward to leaving with him to staying extra long in the Night Court.
  • I want Rhysand to take Feyre flying.
  • I want Feyre to discover her own animal form (fingers crossed for something with wings).
  • Most importantly, I want Feyre to heal. I want her to become a stronger, more impowered version of who she was before Under the Mountain, regardless of who she ends up with. Preferably, she would also become a High Lady.

Are some of the above points contradictory? Sure. But, the heart wants what it wants.

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