fantasy monarchies

Kathryn Andersen kat_lists at
Sun Feb 2 16:45:28 EST 2003

On Sun, Feb 02, 2003 at 02:23:52PM -0000, Charles Butler wrote:
> 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.

You talk about that like it's a bad thing.

Me, I'm sick and tired of the jingoism (most recently encountered in
Star Wars Episode 2) that treats the concept of Democracy (with a
capital D) like holy writ, something to be worshipped and not
questioned.  Not that I'm at all against democracy, I think it's a good
political system, but I don't think it's the *only* good political
system.  I actually do think monarchy (whether constitutional or not)
has got something going for it -- if you get a good person on the
throne.   I kind of get the feeling that the chance of getting a good
person as the leader of one's country is pretty random, whether you have
a democracy or a monarchy, but the benefit of a democracy is that you
can kick out the bad leaders relatively quickly, and the benefit of a
monarchy is that a good leader gets to do more good.  Swings and

Maybe I'm just so egalitarian that I can be pragmatic about
Aristocracies.  I know in my bones and in the marrow of my bones that
all men are created equal, so why should the trappings of aristocracy
bother me -- anyone who starts talking about "blue blood" is deluded,
but it doesn't threaten *me*.  Whether the rich people are aristocrats
or big businessmen, the rich will always oppress the poor, no matter what
system of government you have.

Or maybe I'm just too much of a Blake's 7 fan to get annoyed at the True
Heir thing either.  Why bring B7 into it?  Because it's made pretty
clear that Our Hero, Blake, is the only one likely to unite the
scattered factions of resistance against the Evil Federation; he's well
known, but not associated with any particular faction.  Sometimes
someone is just the Person-of-the-moment, the person people will follow.

Now, if you want to take Aragorn in LotR as an example of a True Heir,
it isn't because he's a Royal Infant that people will follow him, it's
because he's a leader who can unite Men against the Dark Lord, and being
the True Heir is part of the thing that does make people willing to
follow him, yes, but it sort of makes him non-factiony because he's
doing this because the people need him, not because he's a power-monger
(after all, he could have decided to remain in exile as a Ranger of the

Wasn't it Machiavelli that said something about monarchies being good
because they don't have to waste their energy defending their right to
the throne, and they can get on with being a (good?) ruler.

A monarchy is just one way of saying "hey, this person is your leader,
let him get on with leading".

When you've got a *good* story about a True Heir, the True Heir is
someone who rescues the country from political turmoil, like Aragorn
did.  Someone who is a True Heir *and* a good leader, not just a True
Heir.  That's my opinion, anyway.

Of course, in Fantasy (and in SF too) things do get complicated when
there is actually something genetically different about the aristocracy,
like having magic or Psi powers -- which may have been why they became
the aristocracy in the first place.

Kathryn Andersen
"Another factor that should be pointed out here is that I'm not terribly
interested in neurotic fears of circuses."  David McKinnon in rec.arts.drwho
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