Menolly grew up in Half-Circle Sea Hold, where she helped the Hold harper, Petiron (Robinton's father), write songs and dreamed of becoming a harper. Her parents, Yanus and Mavi, grudgingly allowed her to continue teaching the local children music after Petiron died, as their community had no other harper. They forbade her to sing after the replacement harper came, and to become a harper in her own right, as they believed it was not right for girls to do such things.
Menolly ran away from home and found refuge in a cave, where she unintentionally Impressed nine fire lizards: gold Beauty, bronzes Rocky and Diver, browns Mimic, Lazybones and Brownie, blue Uncle, and greens Auntie One and Auntie Two.
Menolly was rescued from Threadfall by brown dragonrider T'gran and brought to Benden Weyr. After the Hatching feast, she was finally identified by Masterharper Robinton as the apprentice Petiron had mentioned in messages to Harper Hall and was allowed to fulfill her dream of becoming a harper (Dragonsong).
At Harper Hall, Menolly made friends with Camo, Piemur, Audiva, Silvina, and Sebell. Not everyone approved of a girl becoming a harper and she was victim of envy among the female students especially because of her fire lizards, but she proved her talent and abilities and became a Journeyman. She wrote many popular songs, such as the "Fire Lizard Song" (see Fire Lizard) and "Brekke's Song" — songs that helped transmit news and current events throughout Pern. Later, she married Sebell and became a Masterharper, helping with the movement to banish Thread from Pern forever. Menolly inadvertantly impressed another fire lizard, bronze Poll, when she was handing the unhatched egg to Lord Holder Groghe of Fort Hold.
Personality and traits
Menolly has been described as being very tall with long and lanky legs. Artwork in the The People of Pern and the Dragonlover's Guide to Pern depicts her with dark hair which was long and thick. Menolly's fire lizard Beauty frequently hides in her hair, with her tail wrapped around Menolly's neck like a necklace.
Menolly was not very proud of herself as a girl and was often shy, probably a result of being neglected and abused by her parents. She had a great ear for music and was exceptionally talented at writing and playing songs. She was also very talented at handling and training fire-lizards.
As Menolly spent more time as a Harper she became more confident. In Dragondrums she held her own against other Journeymen, especially when she suspected that Piemur was being abused in the drum heights. She was not happy to lose the chance to question the situation when Piemur ended the discussion, and she had no trouble disciplining an apprentice when she saw bullying. Her reaction to Piemur being injured and then disappearing was close to that of a sibling and, while her brother Alemi believed the situation in their hold was so bad for Menolly that it was best not to try to look, she was willing to do anything to find Piemur.
She dealt confidently with people of high rank throughout Pern. She was asked to study with other young people from the Crafts and young Holders and developed relationships with them, and was able to approach Weyrleaders and others in authority without nervousness.
She also became more playful over the years, from being amazed at the relaxed attitudes of the Harpers on her first day in the Harper Hall to teasing Lord Jaxom throughout The White Dragon.
Menolly was born the youngest daughter of Seaholder Yanus and Mavi, of Half Circle Sea Hold. Yanus was very focused on his fishing fleet and tasks and considered most other activities less important, although he understood the duty to the Weyrs and the responsibility to have the children taught the Teaching Songs. Menolly was allowed to remain with their Harper, Petiron, because the man was elderly and she both offered the help Yanus and Mavi expected their two youngest in the household to provide (feeding him for instance) and, since the harper could no longer play due to arthritis, she provided the playing that was required for the teaching.
Petiron, who had served at Harper Hall as a Composition Master, had chosen the isolated Half Circle Sea Hold because it had been awaiting a Harper for 15 years. In contrast to his neglectful and overbearing relationship with his son, Robinton, he had a close, parental relationship with Menolly. The possessive nature that he had had with his wife, however, may have resurfaced in his old age, as he sent information about Menolly to Robinton when he was close to death, knowing it took a long time for messages to travel.
Yanus was very upset when he learned that Menolly was the only person who would be able to properly sing Petiron's death song and teach the children while waiting for the new Harper. He observed the class and beat her when he heard a measure of her music. Mavi agreed with him that Menolly should be relegated to the lesser roles of the Holder's daughters and arranged tasks to keep her out of the sight of the new Harper, both because they thought she was above herself and because they believed that, since she taught the children in the brief window between Harpers, she was a shame to their Hold. When Menolly cut her hand badly, Mavi showed concern for her life by staying by her side while she had a fever; but, Manora, Silvina and Mirrim all believed that she knew from the start that the tendons weren't cut (even though Mavi had immediately told Menolly that she would never play again) and that the wound had been allowed to scar so that it soon would have, if Oldive hadn't started her treatment, been permanent. Mavi told Menolly, apparently under Yanus's orders, that she wasn't to sing so that Elgion could hear her. When Menolly ran away, Mavi displayed some worry; but, Yanus quickly dismissed it from his mind and ordered no search, other than by children already out gathering food.
The new Harper Elgion was, ironically, the only person willing to put in an extensive effort, only to be rebuffed by her brother Alemi. Elgion had no idea that the two people he was looking for, the girl who ran away and the brilliant Harper he and every other Harper outside the Hall was looking for, were the same person, because Petiron had not mentioned that she was a girl, and Elgion had been told that the children were taught by a fosterling who had left. Both Menolly and Elgion were rescued from the same Threadfall and brought to Benden Weyr. At first, everyone thought that Menolly was a boy.
After living Holdless for some time (and Impressing her fire lizards), Menolly spent some time at Benden Weyr. Manora assured her that she did not have to go back to her hold. Menolly's friendship with Mirrim began when Mirrim treated the feet she injured outrunning Thread and after Menolly first consoled Mirrim for her worries about Brekke and then celebrated with her at Brekke's recovery. While retrieving fire lizard eggs that Menolly had found while Holdless, T'gellan noted his dragon Monarth looking at her and asked why she was never Searched. Lessa stated that she did not belong in a Hold. At this statement, the women of the Weyr happily assumed she would be staying and one woman asked her age because she thought she might like to foster her. They gave her her first set of new clothing (although her only belt in DragonSong was old) but did not have time to provide more before Menolly was taken to Harper Hall.
Robinton was with T'gellan when Elgion realized Menolly was safe at Benden. Manora was concerned about his zeal and his intentions toward the girl, and assisted the Weyr Harper and Robinton in approaching her carefully. T'gellan transported Robinton and Menolly to Harper Hall and encouraged her as Robinton introduced her. He remained a friend, as did the others she met at Benden (to the extent that while visiting before a Hatching she volunteered to help in the kitchens).
Menolly met the young boy Piemur very early at Harper Hall, and he quickly became one of her best friends, helping her and Camo with feeding her nine fire lizards. He taught her about the daily runnings of the Hall and guided her at the Market Days where he showed her how to haggle.
Menolly did not get along with the other girls in her dormitory, who were mostly displeased about the fact that she was considered to be an actual Harper student, unlike them (who were paying students with few skills). She was targeted in particular by Dunca, the cotholder, who pointed out the poor conditions of her clothes and deliberately withheld her important messages from the Masters. The only girl who harbored no ill feelings towards her was Audiva, who tried to help Menolly against the other girls.
Silvina, Headwoman of Harper hall, like her equivalent Manora at Benden, took special interest in her. She moved her to a room near the Harper when the trouble developed in the cot, only grudgingly stripping down some of the comforts and still making it unusually nice for an apprentice. She insisted that she would dress Menolly nicely, preferably better than the paying students.
Menolly spent a lot of time in the Hall with Sebell, Robinton's journeyman, who asked her to teach him to sail and otherwise supported her talents as a harper. In Dragondrums, Sebell realized his feelings for Menolly and the two become romantically involved after Menolly's Diver flew Sebell's Kimi.
Even though she was with Sebell, it was suggested in The White Dragon that she retained some romantic feelings for Master Robinton, claiming that she «loved him first». Though the Master Harper reciprocated the feelings he told her she was «a dear child» to him.
Menolly was also close to Lord Jaxom, whom she helped in his struggles between being a Lord Holder and a Dragon Rider. She guessed about his involvement in bringing back Ramoth's egg after the Southern dragon riders stole it, but kept the secret - to Jaxom's relief. Her relationship with him was very friendly and he had some slight disappointment when he saw her meet Sebell and realized they were involved.