Every week, Fantasy Review Barn runs a feature where they seek out examples of fantasy tropes. Other bloggers are welcome to join in, finding their own books to match the given topic. This week’s topic is fairy tales that aren’t just stories, which is a bit of a mouthful.
Fairy tales are real in fantasy land. They may seem like stories told to kids, but in fantasyland they are very, very real.
To an extent, almost all fantasy books contain some element of this. There’s always a legendary item, or elves who were thought to be extinct. Generally, by book two of the trilogy, every mentioned legend has been shown to be true.
For this list though, I picked books where the link between stories and reality was a little more obvious and more central to the story – books in which stories being true was a central theme, not just an event. The entries are in no particular order.
Dragons and Greek Fire – George R. R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire
A Song of Ice and Fire is a series that starts off quite low fantasy. Magic is something people are aware of, but they don’t take it particularly seriously, and those who have tried spells know they don’t work. But as the series progresses, this starts to change. Greek fire is suddenly more potent, strange figures emerge from the icy wastes, and dragons are born.
Elves – Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies
To my mind, Pratchett’s writing in Lords and Ladies is some of his most powerful. It’s a book about stories and fairy tales, and how they work and what they really mean. And it’s a book about responsibility, and about how even true stories are only somewhat true, and how sometimes the best stories being true is not the best thing. I can’t explain it as well he can, so I’m not going to try. This quote though, sums it up rather well:
…elves far away in fairyland, well, maybe that’s something people need to get ’emselves through the iron times. But I ain’t having elves here. You make us want what we can’t have and what you give us is worth nothing and what you take is everything and all there is left for us is the cold hillside, and emptiness, and the laughter of the elves.
The Gloamglozer – Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell, The Curse of the Gloamglozer
The Gloamglozer isn’t real – the whole idea is ridiculous. There definitely isn’t a malevolent shapeshifter that feeds on fear lurking in the Deepwoods or in the caves of the floating city. But there is something there – a face in the smoke, a presence in the tunnels. It’s definitely not the Gloamglozer though, because that’s a myth.
The Trolls – J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring – J. R. R. Tolkein
Tolkien’s trolls aren’t really fairy tales – everyone knows that they exist, as do other monsters. But these specific trolls are a local legend to the hobbits of the Shire – they’re the ones that nearly boiled Bilbo and the dwarves, they’re the ones that Gandalf tricked into staying out until dawn.
The story of the trolls is one that is told time and time again in the Shire, but never confirmed – it’s just another story, taken as seriously as Bullroarer Took’s invention of golf. But before Frodo et al. reach Rivendell, they find the statues in the woods – proof positive that all the stories are true.
Most things, The Secret of Platform Thirteen – Eva Ibbotson
Ben is a miserable, neglected, and over-worked child. The only person who cares about him in the entire world is in hospital, and he has to constantly watch fat, spoilt Raymond fail to appreciate the wonderful things he is given.
This all changes when he discovers that there is a magical world, accessible through a train platform, filled with wondrous creatures and incredible experiences. All of the monsters, all of the magical things that he has dreamed about and longed for are real. Naturally, this is an exciting moment for him.
His joy is quickly cut short when he discovers that Raymond is the long-lost prince of this magical world.
I’ve been terrible about joining in with this lately, and blogging in general. I’m trying to take part more regularly again.
The post on Fantasy Review Barn is here, and in addition to that list, there are links there to many other bloggers with their own take on the idea. Next week’s topic is the military genius.