Study Guide

Alanna: The First Adventure Principles

By Tamora Pierce

Principles

"When you prove yourself worthy, you will be granted free time to go into the city. And make no mistake—you'll earn every privilege you get three times over. You are here to learn chivalry, not to have a good time." (2.12)

Duke Gareth lays it out for Alanna just after she's arrived at the palace. She's not in the big city to goof off and have fun; she's hear to work and learn. Apparently there's no such thing as a chivalrous good time.

Ralon was the first to speak. "Highness, this boy was acting as if he owned the palace," he whined. "King of the castle, he was, and he insulted me like no gentleman insults another—" (2.46)

Nice job, Ralon, pretending to act like your honor was insulted when you were the one doing the insulting. We suspect that Ralon slept through all the chivalry lessons that the pages and squires received. That, or he was too busy thinking up ways to torment younger boys to pay attention.

"It's all right," Myles reassured her. "Your life here is going to be difficult. Our Code of Chivalry makes harsh demands." (2.111)

So wait, becoming a knight isn't all rainbows and unicorns? There's, like, demands and stuff? To hear Myles describe the Code of Chivalry as demanding makes it seem as though the principles contained therein are the guiding force in a knight's life.

"No, I'm not going to 'start on' the Code today," Myles replied. "For one thing, you boys won't agree with me until the glamour of being knights and nobles has worn off and you can see the toll our way of life has taken from you." (2.113)

According to Myles, following the Code of Chivalry comes with a lot of sacrifices. While the younger knights might not mind at first because they've bought into the idea of it being cool to be a knight, eventually it'll wear off. We have to wonder what Myles went through to make him so bitter about following the knightly principles.

Alanna didn't approve of lying, but in a pinch a lie was sometimes better than the truth. (3.24)

Sure, our little protagonist has principles. But she's also so driven to become a knight that she'll compromise those principles (like not lying) in order to do it. Fudging some of one's principles in order to enter a profession that is super-based on principles is sort of paradoxical, if you ask us.

Myles shook his head. "What are you trying to prove? … I truly love our Code of Chivalry. We are taught that noblemen must take everything and say nothing. Noblemen must stand alone. Well, we're men, and men aren't born to stand alone." (3.60)

Preach it, Myles! He sounds pretty bitter about the fact that the Code of Chivalry can isolate noblemen from one another, telling them they have to face their demons alone rather than ask for aid and support. And he makes a good point: noblemen are people too, with all the emotional needs of other human beings. We can't imagine that having principles is any substitute for a good friend who will comfort you in troubled times. Principles are incapable of passing the Kleenex and chocolate, after all.

"Perhaps Alan will tell me something. And remember—we have to do it his way. He'd be ashamed if he thought we were fighting his battles." (3.116)

Jonathan sees the bigger picture. When Alanna is saying that she "fell down" instead of telling the truth about Ralon beating her up, it's become a matter of honor and principles. The honorable thing for Alanna to do in this situation is fight her own battles, not ask her bigger and older friends to interfere.

The next afternoon Raoul beat Ralon thoroughly. Ralon broke the code and informed Duke Gareth. (3.132)

How ironic. Alanna refuses to tattle on Ralon in her effort to uphold the Code of Chivalry and live according to a set of principles that say she must fight her own battles, but Ralon doesn't seem to have the same scruples.

Fighting a fellow noble in the palace was breaking the rules, and Gareth had to teach her that. Yet the rules governing what a noble could take in the way of insults said that Alanna had to fight Ralon, and Duke Gareth was proud of her because she had protected her honor as a noble. (4.2)

So wait, the rules forbid nobles from fighting in the palace, but they also say that nobles must protect their honor… by fighting? Someone pass the ibuprofen; all this chivalry stuff is giving us a headache.

"Martin doesn't like the Bazhir—and they don't like him—but he is fair," Myles replied. "He's fair if it kills him. The Bazhir know that, so they'll deal with him. No one else could have gotten their respect, even if it is grudging." (7.11)

Lord Martin is a harsh but principled man, and that's what gets the Bazhir to respect him, when otherwise they might resent being ruled by a white dude. It sounds like Lord Martin is equally unkind to everyone, though, so hey whatever works.