: fantasy monarchies
margaret at onr.com
Sun Feb 2 10:46:41 EST 2003
>But then, so much fantasy buys in
>unquestioningly into the idea that some are born to rule and others to serve
>(in a way which few of its writers or readers would promote in real life),
>by seeming to advocate - amongst other things - absolute monarchy. From
>Narnia to Prydain to Middle-Earth to Earthsea, no fantasy society seems to
>be well-adjusted without a true-born king sitting on a throne and wielding
I think there are several reasons for the popularity of this setup:
(1) Tolkien. Breathes there a fantasy writer who hasn't read Lord of the
Rings, probably in uncritical childhood? And as best I recall (ok, it's
been a long time since my own uncritical childhood, so somebody who's
read it more recently may be able to pull up counterexamples) he manages
to pack three volumes full of kings, noble warriors, elves, wizards, and
spear carriers, with nobody outside the Shire doing anything prosaic
like growing turnips or maintaining roads.
(2) Love of a quasi-medieval setting without adequate understanding of
medieval society: damn few kings were "true-born" if you went back more
than three generations, and while they may have liked to style
themselves absolute monarchs, most of them didn't wield anything like
that kind of power. A lot of those "absolute monarchs" would have had
more trouble starting a war of aggression against a distant country than
a certain president I can think of seems to be having now.
(3) Love of a quasi-medieval setting *with* adequate understanding of
medieval society: the nobility have more options, and more interesting
problems, than the peasants.
That last one, though, makes me think of an extremely good and
undervalued novel: Diana Norman's _Fitzempress' Law_. Anybody here read
it? She catapults four modern teenagers back into the mid-twelfth
century. And one of them is a peaant. And she makes it interesting. In
fact, the whole book is fun. She doesn't lean hard on the time-travel
trick at the beginning, I think that was just a device allowing her to
describe twelfth-century life from the point of view of an outsider. I
think my favorite scene is the one where one of the characters gets
wounded in a tournament and tells his solicitous friends, "Stop! Nobody
touches that wound untill they've washed their hands and boiled the
knives....uhhh....that is.....it's a charm my old nurse taught me."
To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at suberic.net with the body "unsubscribe".
Visit the archives at http://suberic.net/dwj/list/
More information about the Dwj