When Sadima first meets Franklin, he helps her save her birthing goat's life. She thinks he looks "kind and calm and handsome" (11.34), and he has "dark brown eyes" (17.17) too. When he tells Sadima about his vision to make the world a better place by bringing back magic, "His face was bright with hope and belief" (25.39). Sometimes Franklin catches glimpses of Sadima's thoughts and feelings though, which ends up making her uncomfortable.
The whole reason Franklin goes looking for Sadima is because he's heard about her taming a horse and he thinks maybe she can help return magic to the world, which would be a good thing:
"If Somiss is right, if magic can be resurrected… there is no reason for anyone to be poor, or hungry, or to die young, or suffer too much with age. And if I am right about silent-speech, war and fighting, even murder, would disappear if men truly understood one another's hearts." (11.56)
Sounds like an awesome world to live in, right? Sign us up.
Even after things go south with Somiss, Franklin keeps hoping that their efforts will lead to a better world. Franklin makes a speech to Sadima after they figure out a translation of a healing spell:
He laid down the paper, then lifted her off her feet, turning a circle before he set her down. "Can you imagine it? When someone is sick in South End, anyone who has learned the songs will be able to help. Farmers will be able to raise a good crop every year. No one will starve through the winters. No one will ever have to sell a child, and no child will ever have to lose her mother. Then this will… " he began, then stopped, his voice thick. "It will all have been worth it, Sadima." (45.33)
Sadima knows what he means: he means that his life will have been worth it, all the pain and humiliation he suffered under Somiss. No wonder he clings to the hope of leaving the world a better place than he found it—what else does Franklin have to hope for, with his life in Somiss's hands?
It's also worth noting that after one of Franklin's more optimistic speeches about how restoring magic will change the world for the better, he kisses Sadima for the first time (25.40). This is why we're thinking that his optimism is a big part of who he is—it fills him with love, and that love spills out and finds expression in his relationship with Sadima.
Franklin seems intent on placating Somiss and helping him in every way possible, but he also seems so jazzed about Sadima's arrival. This is in part because it makes the household more pleasant. He thanks her, saying: "You have made everything better, everything. I have never been so happy" (21.29). It's very sweet of him, but after reading about life with Somiss, we also have to have to say that the happiness bar was kept pretty low.
Anytime Somiss begins to worry or get upset, Franklin is there to calm him. Sadima observes this one time, thinking to herself: "Somiss sounded like a worried child. Franklin reached out and gripped his shoulder. He was murmuring reassurances that were almost fatherly, telling Somiss how intelligent he was, how capable" (25.28).
Once we learn more about Franklin's background, this stuff begins to make sense. His parents sold him to Somiss's family when he was very young, and it became Franklin's job to keep Somiss happy and calm (43.24). Why does Franklin put up with all this awfulness? For one thing, Somiss's family technically owns him. For another, he's convinced that his presence helps keep Somiss from committing even worse atrocities. He think that if he leaves there "will be nothing left to hold him to anything human" (61.24)—so even though Franklin kinda has to stay with Somiss due to ownership, he also feels ethically obligated to.
Loyalty isn't Franklin's only good quality. He's inventive and imaginative—it is his idea to see if Sadima can make copies even though she can't read or write. This will help Somiss with his scholarship, making it a win-win situation. He also has a sense of humor that shines through when he's not scrambling to keep Somiss happy. When Sadima proves that she can make good copies one morning, Franklin is so delighted that he tells her, "You sit down while I cook. You have earned breakfast service, m'lady" (25.15). Ooh, sign us up for breakfast service.
When Hahp meets a man called Franklin, he's old. Here's how Hahp describes him:
His hair was milk white and cropped short, and his eyes were a deep, sad brown. His legs were crossed in an odd way that made me wonder if he was a cripple. His knees seemed twisted—the soles of his bare feet were visible. (16.19)
For Franklin to survive years beyond a normal lifespan (when he was in Sadima's part of the story) is a little freaky. We're guessing it has something to do with magic… perhaps all those long-life songs Sadima sang over him while he slept? And who knows what's wrong with his legs; maybe Somiss had them broken at some point to ensure that he wouldn't run away (we totally wouldn't put it past Somiss to do something like that).
Clearly Franklin doesn't really like what he's doing there. Hahp notices at one point: "Franklin's eyes flickered across the group and stopped on mine… I saw pity on his face" (18.34). When he tells the boys that yes, they will probably die in the academy, Hahp is struck by how old and sad he looks: "He looked so old it was like looking at a stacked corpse in Beggar's Field except there were tears coursing down his cheeks" (30.18). All these years after we first met him, it seems Franklin is still carrying out Somiss's wishes no matter how sad it makes him.
Franklin might be holding out for something to change, though. He finds a way to speak privately with Hahp, mind-to-mind, and tells him: "I have been waiting for you" (36.18). But Hahp doesn't find out what this means, and neither do we. Next book in the series, anyone?