Study Guide

Hahp Malek in Skin Hunger: A Resurrection of Magic

By Kathleen Duey

Hahp Malek

Spoiled Brat

Hahp comes from a pretty dysfunctional family, but they're so rich that he's led a super comfortable life. Okay, we'll come out and say it: he's a spoiled brat when he arrives at the wizard academy.

He shows up wearing a shirt of "pounded linen, soft as doves' wings" (14.13), which is practically the dictionary definition of spoiled. (Okay, not quite, but you follow.) He's used to eating what he wants, when he wants, which means he's in for a bit of a shock when he gets dropped at the academy. He reflects:

I had never felt hunger in my life, not for more than a few minutes. At home, if I wanted something to eat, I had asked Celia. If she hadn't already made whatever I was asking for, she would set about preparing it. At every school I had attended, full meals came thrice each day, and fruit and simple foods were put out in baskets and trays in the food hall for anyone studying late. (24.6)

So yeah, Hahp's had a pretty comfy life up til the point where he's dropped off at the academy.

It sounds like living with the wizards would be an ordeal anyway, but it's especially tough for Hahp because he's used to living in the lap of luxury. This is why he complains a lot:

I was so hungry. It was hard to sleep without a pillow, and I hated the feed sack I had to wear. The chafing became painful and bloody. And my feet were so sore and swollen that the first ten or twelve steps after I woke were pure torture. (18.4)

Yes, all that stuff is awful, but Hahp's roomie Gerrard isn't complaining—because he's known worse in his life, living on the streets and all that.

Because he's so spoiled, Hahp lacks basic empathy (which is a major contrast from Sadima, right?). Late in the book he has a major realization about this:

And something dawned on me. I had made foods I had known all my life. I had made soap I had used all my life. He was still making the same bowl of fish stew and I knew why. When he was little, had he ever used soap? (54.19)

It takes Hahp a while to realize this, but at least he eventually gets there, right? Life in the academy is definitely pretty harsh, but it also does Hahp a bit of good in terms of opening his eyes to the lives and needs of other people.

Haters Gonna Hate

If you've seen Star Wars, you know that hate and anger lead to the Dark Side. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like Hahp got that memo, because he's filled with hate.

He reflects on how unhappy he is after his first lesson with Franklin:

I hated not seeing the sky. I stared at my scabby feet, adding to the list. I hated the twisting tunnels and I hated the wizards. And my father. (18.15)

Hahp fantasizes about killing his father and killing the wizards, and we can't really blame him, since they're all jerks—the wizards for murdering boys, and his father for knowingly sending him somewhere he might die.

The sheer absurdity of the situation is part of what angers Hahp the most: "Boys had died, and I was learning to hear my thoughts coming out of different parts of my body. We all were. It was all perfect, crapping, complete nonsense" (44.5). Because, ya know, sitting there and learning breathing exercises totally makes sense when you're also being starved and sleep deprived and psychologically tortured.

Coward or Courageous?

In the time leading up to Hahp's one-way trip to the academy, he thinks about killing himself. First he considers hurling himself out of the flying carriage, and then he thinks about jumping off the cliff where the doors to the academy are.

Hahp considers suicide for a couple of reasons:

If I ran straight out and jumped, I would die. I glanced at my father. I would never again have to hear how I disappointed and shamed him, how fortunate he was that Aben was the older of his sons, the one who would inherit. My mother would weep, but she would understand, I thought. Surely she had thought about it at least once, about escaping my father forever. (6.6)

We know that Hahp has had a crummy home life, and that apparently is enough to make him want to just kill himself and get it over with. But even given the chance, he backs out and concludes, "So there it was. I was a coward" (4.30-31). We don't think deciding not to kill yourself makes Hahp a coward half as much as it indicates the fact that he kinda wants to live after all—and acknowledging that in the face of all the ridiculousness the wizards put them through takes some courage.

The wizards seem to go out of their way to put the boys in situations where their fear will get the better of them, though, and Hahp falls into that trap for a while. When he first manages to manifest food to eat, he does so in secrecy: "to avoid anyone knowing, and to avoid facing the torture of deciding whether to give food away and risk Somiss's wrath again. I did not love myself for that last thought, but it was true. I was scared s***less of him" (34.10). Hey, Hahp—we are too.

Strangely, it's Hahp hatred for the wizards that helps him finally get on track to be brave enough to defy them. Hahp confides in Gerrard: "I hate the wizards… Thank you for letting me say it before I die… I hate them all" (64.16). As they talk, the boys agree to help one another in order to survive the wizards' testing and then destroy the place. So Hahp has gone from scared of pretty much everyone and everything to being courageous enough to stand up to the wizards and try to get them better of them. You go, boy.