Monday, January 14, 2013

a Fantastically Real Reality

Imagine a box with a story inside of it. That’s your average story. Suddenly the borders of the box dissolve and the story goes in directions you never thought possible, limited only by the author’s imagination.  Mythical races and cultures, complex story plots, bizarre characters with unique backgrounds, in this paper ill explain just few examples of things an author has to work with.  That’s fantasy and that’s why I love it!
One of my favorite books of all time is Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Here he has Orcs, Elves, Dwarves, Ents, and Hobbits all intertwined into three amazing books. These different races add so much detail to these books. It makes all of the conflict that much more significant when it is backed up with cultural rivalry.  Author George R.R Martin in his saga A Game of Thrones has invented the cultures the Northmen, Dornishmen, the Lords of the Trident, the People of the Vale, the Iron Born, and the people of the Reach. Just the names of these places—Winterfell, Bravoose, Sunspear, Ramsgate—and the detail in which the author describes them is some of the best and most meticulous writing I have ever seen. Martin creates his own reality.  R.A Salvatore in his book Homeland has created one of my all time favorite races known as the Dark Elves or the “Drow.” Here the author goes into incredible detail on their unique environment where they live, their evil nature, and their intricate social system.  Another example of a complex story and mythical cultures is Artemis Fowl. This is one of those stories that is supposedly going on all around us but for some reason we can’t see it.  It’s about a twelve-year-old boy named Artemis Fowl. He is the heir to the Fowl fortune and is responsible for every major crime of the twenty-first century.  He has a theory that there is another race on Earth known as fairies.  The reason we don’t see them is because they aren’t the basic flying, flower fairies we’re used to. They’re little tiny flying fairies with space age technology.  It has a “mythical” logical answer as to why we never see them.    They have suits that vibrate at such a rate they’re invisible to the human eye. If they are ever seen they also have stun guns, space ships, laser beams, and mind wiping technology.  The book also portrays Artemis playing-out mastermind crimes.  It’s an amazing blend of fantasy and reality that represents fantastical complexity very well.

 A great use of a complex story plot in fantasy is A Game of Thrones. It starts with the classic storyline of one king ruling over many peaceful smaller kingdoms that where all united through war. The series is based on the Stark family and their turn at the game of thrones. The king dies and all the smaller kingdoms start accusing each other of murdering him. Shortly after the king’s death, there is a rivalry over who would be the regent until the king’s son was of age. The whole kingdom erupts into a huge civil war and there is even a rumor that the king’s son is not actually his son, but a bastard.  In R.A Salvatore’s book Sojourn, he takes the story from huge icy mountain ranges to barren deserts at the edge of the world. He has even invented other plains of existence such as, the plain of shadows and the plain of crystalline. There are strange otherworldly creatures that emerge out of  these plains and not all are friendly. There are also these beings called “plain sweepers,” there called this because they relish wiping out entire plains of existence and exterminating everything within. In the plain where this story takes place, there are an elite group of sorcerers and wizards who are charged with stopping the plain sweepers. When one of these protectors has a vision of the plain sweepers planning on coming to there plain, they immediately begin preparing for the worst. In this book there are wars, murders and people seeking revenge at whatever the cost. It’s almost too much to take in.      

Unique characters, I love them. When a character just has so much background that it’s hard to remember, that’s when you know its good writing. Take the character Drizzt Du Arden from the book Homeland. He’s a Dark Elf or a “Drow,” one of the most vile and sinister races in the entire realm, created by R.A. Salvatore. They are the face of evil and they have a lust for killing. They dwell under ground in a vast network of tunnels and caves building massive cities in the larger caverns. Drizzt is different, however.  He doesn’t enjoy causing pain in others. He would rather help them and because he doesn’t love to kill, he’s viewed as an outcast and a stranger in his own land. Throughout the series he’s constantly dealing with the brand that his race has put upon him. Then there’s Bilbo Baggins, a Hobbit who comes from a very respectable family, who always follows tradition and never goes off on adventures.  Until one day when he is visited by a group of Dwarves and an old Wizard asking him to travel with them to a far off mountain. His immediate response is a resounding “no.” You see, hobbits never bother in the affairs of the “big folk” they are more then happy to live out their long lives simply farming. Some say that a Hobbits only true love is food, but I find that an untrue accusation as they also have a keen interest in the smoking of pipe-weed and the brewing of ale. From his mother’s side of the family though, there is a part of Bilbo that desperately wants to go with them. So, the next morning, he, to all the villagers’ surprise, goes running off down the road skipping and singing about the great adventure ahead and about the wealth that awaits him. This, to all the other Hobbits, is viewed as a very improper thing to do. While on this adventure, Bilbo is constantly in conflict with his desire to go onwards and his fear of the unknown. The dwarves despise him because he is not a warrior, but Hobbits, and Bilbo especially, are very sharp of wit and love outsmarting others and he is constantly trying to prove himself to them.    In John Flanagan’s series, Rangers Apprentice, he invented one of my favorite characters Halt. In the kingdom of Arulian, there is an elite force called the Rangers founded by the king to keep the peace. They wear dark green cloaks and are masters of the shadows; they are some of the most skilled archers in all the land. During times of war they usually take the role of scouts and sometimes generals. Even though they are peacekeepers they are viewed with a sense of fear throughout the realm, some even say there is sorcery involved. One of these Rangers, Halt,  a gruff, hard man who is as tough as the rocks of his lord’s castle.  His past is shrouded in legend. When people think of Halt, they envision a huge man, ten feet tall, clad in shining armor, but in reality he is a short wiry man with dark uneven hair. Halt hates how people expect him to be someone he’s not, therefore he uses his skills as a ranger to avoid people as much as he can. He is a quiet man who never willingly reveals anything about his past, yet begrudgingly opens himself up to the few people he trusts. Even his apprentice, Will, who spends every waking hour training with Halt, couldn’t tell you the first thing about him.

None of what I’ve been talking about would be possible in your history book about France or your novel about JFK.   Evil villains of a different race and heroes in shining armor, these things, sadly are not real. That’s why I find fantasy so interesting. It means anything is possible, people coming back from the dead, sorcerers with arcane powers beyond belief, wars fought for more meaning then to simply destroy another’s life or to expand borders. Orcs vs. Elves has so much more significance then man vs. man.  And, that is why, in my opinion, fantasy is the most interesting genre of literature…because it makes the impossible, possible.

by Tristan G Martin




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