Gwin is a marten (a critter kinda like a ferret)
with horns. Though martens don't normally have horns, Gwin's from a
fantasy-land, which his horns—since they don't exist on real world
martens—remind us of. Gwin belongs to Dustfinger, and their close
relationship actually points us toward what Gwin symbolizes in the
story: Dustfinger's lack of belonging, along with his survival
Consider this: If you see a cute little furry
mammal—let's say a squirrel—while walking down the street one afternoon,
you probably wouldn't give it a second look. However, if this was a horned squirrel,
you'd definitely give it a second look… if you weren't too busy running
away, that is. One thing's for certain: you'd recognize something as
off immediately. Your attention would inevitably be drawn to just
how out of place this critter was. And though you've probably seen more
squirrels than martens in your days, this premise is true when it comes
to Gwin too.
It is also true of Dustfinger. It's not that there
aren't wandering fire performers in our world, or guys who can juggle
and put on a good street show—it's that Dustfinger, no matter where he
goes, simply doesn't fit in. For instance, at one point he notices some
women in a town staring curiously at him: "Dustfinger often attracted
such glances; anyone could see he didn't belong here. A stranger
forever" (26.19). In other words, just like Gwin, Dustfinger sticks out
as strange and otherworldly.
everything goes down with the Shadow, Dustfinger runs into Farid and
asks how Gwin is doing; Farid reports that Gwin ran away during some
gunfire, but then came back. Dustfinger replies:
Well, he always knew when it was time to run, just like his master. (58.18)
we aren't the only ones who see a parallel between Gwin's
survival-oriented behavior and Dustfinger's behavior. Dustfinger sees it
too. And when he says, "A marten like Gwin will always survive"
(58.20), we suspect that Dustfinger will always survive, too. Come to
think of it, we never really think he'll die while reading, not even
with all that Basta and Capricorn put him through. That's because
Dustfinger knows how to look out for number one.
It makes sense
that Gwin—a wild animal—symbolizes Dustfinger. After all, Dustfinger
himself is pretty wild—he definitely doesn't fit in with civilized
people—and has strong survival instincts. Plus martens are adorable—and
Dustfinger's not quite as tough as he'd like everyone to think he is
(check out his write-up in the "Characters" section for more on this).