How to Write an Arthurian Urban Fantasy in 800 Words or Less

THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING
Pictured: Louis Ashbourne Serkis (Alex) Hugging Patrick Stewart (Merlin) in the upcoming film, The Kid Who Would Be King (2019). To be fair, that would be my reaction if I got to hug Patrick Stewart.

Happy 2019, folks!

I’m doing something different this year. As some of you may be aware, I wrote 100K words of fiction over the past two months, and learned the value of planning that kind of stuff out. I’ve been a fairly prolific writer since Middle School, and I’m always looking to improve myself.

And after doing some thinking, I’ve decided that this year I’d like to help others get more prolific. To that end, I’m going to be walking you through my process to generate new ideas. Feel free to use any of them. If they work for you, great! If not, there will be another one up on Wednesday!

I’m here, I’ve got my morning coffee, and I’m ready to come up with some ideas. One problem: where do we start?

Well, I’d like to start today with just a concept. I was recently directed towards the trailer for an upcoming film: The Kid Who Would Be King. And while the trailer referencing Night at the Museum and Percy Jackson and the Olympians doesn’t reassure me about that film’s quality, I do like the central conceit: a child from the modern day as a neo-King Arthur.

Side note: neo-King sounds like a really cool title. Someone write a book with that title, stat.

So what can we do with this?

Well we can tweak it a bit to make it our own for a start. (Because as we all know, no writer has ever stolen an idea from another writer….right?)

We can start by aging up the character a bit. It’s one thing for a child actor to portray our neo-King (Queen?). It’s quite another to live in that character’s head. And I can remember being sixteen or seventeen better than I can anything from Middle School.

But hey, if it worked for Harry Potter, I suppose you can make your character younger if you think you can pull it off.

Next, I want to extrapolate on that family theme we see here and there in the trailer. Can we pull from the Da Vinci Code and weave an Arthurian bloodline into this story? Can we have a Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Pendragon? Family has always been an important theme in Arthurian literature. Almost all the knights are somewhat related. There are few among the ranks of the Round Table who can’t also find a cousin or two amongst them. How can we reflect that.

Hell, we’ve got enough conceptual material already for a short story: what does Thanksgiving dinner look like at the House of Pendragon?

How many other knights and/or characters from Arthurian literature survived to the modern day? How messy does that Thanksgiving dinner get? Could that be our opening scene–or somewhere close to the opening. George R. R. Martin began his story with a King dropping by his main characters’ home for a feast. Would we be able to pull off the YA equivalent of that?

I imagine it must be YA. How can draw attention to this as a family drama by-way-of-fantasy that hasn’t been done before? What can we say with this story that hasn’t been said before? The YA genre is infamous for its portrayal of hapless adults. From Gilderoy Lockhart to the districts in the Hunger Games, it’s often teens who take center stage.

Can we subvert this with this story? How long has our main character known about their heritage? Are they next door neighbors with the ancestors of Morgana Le Fay? Or perhaps there are descendants of some more obscure Arthurian villain like King Vortigern or the giant Ysbaddaden?

And finally, how do we approach our villains? For my money, too much modern Arthurian media paints characters like Morgana and other villains with too little sympathy. I’m not a fan of easy answers, and while imagery of skeletons on horseback riding into battle absolutely rocks, it may not make for the most compelling story. It’s an easy way out. How can we make our villains feed into the nature of the familial aspect of this story?

Which isn’t to say you can’t have imagery of skeletons on horseback and moral complexity. In fact you should do that. You should absolutely do that.

What do you think? Am I copying too much from the trailer? Have I made it sufficiently original? Have you written anything Arthurian? Got any ideas from this article? Let me know in the comments below!

_ _ _

C. M. Perry writer and lifetime sword enthusiast. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter.  If you enjoy his content, you can buy him a coffee through Ko-fi to support his work and help him buy sandwiches.

Announcing: Patreon

Between Death and Dreams (2)

Find my Patreon here!

Hello, dear readers! Thank you for taking the time to look over this Patreon account. I’ve got some great stories in store for you and I hope you’ll be able to help me on my journey! My name is Connor Perry. I used the middle initial since it looks pretentious prestigious.

I am a quadruplet who started writing so that I could have something I didn’t have to share with three other children the same age as me. Right now, I am the only writer for The Mythlings. I tend to gravitate toward writing historical fiction and fantasy, but I’ll write basically anything as long as I get to include swords. To quote the site:​​

“The Mythlings are a compendium of fantastical stories. Here, we aim to steep our stories in history, legend and myth—or create our own, if necessary. The Mythlings are focused on telling small myths with a big impact. We update every Friday with a new story or opinion piece.”

Such aforementioned sword-stories include: “The Trojan War AU featuring lesbian Vikings”, “What if Robin Hood secretly fought vampires?”, “Game of Thrones from extra #3’s point of view: the amnesiac”, and “How long can an old man tolerate a twelve-year-old girl who can shoot fire from her hands?”.

If you’re interested in such topics, I encourage you to read on. If not…I…I really don’t know what to tell you, man. Not sure how you even found this corner of the internet if lesbian Vikings aren’t your thing.

Moving on.

Between Death and Dreams (3)

I’ve got a pretty solid success streak for reliably publishing a new short story or article every Friday since July of 2016 and let me tell you—these stories have fantastic reviews. Tremendous reviews. Reviews such as:

“It’s entertaining, brilliant […] and highly engrossing”

–My Mother

“[He] puts out consistently great work every week, constantly pushing the boundaries.”

–My Mother

“These stories are a steaming pile of […] great!”

–My Father

As I’m sure is obvious, my legions of adoring fans are always saying, “Hey, Connor—you write the greatest stuff. Just the best material on the web. The Vile Assembly was a work of pure genius. You’ve got such great opinions! But the past two years of material that you can read for free online right now is hardly enough for me! Why can’t you write more?”

To which my response is, “How are you vocally linking your words to my website?” and, “I have to buy, like, sandwiches and stuff.”

Much like the Vikings I write about, I need to be able to eat heartily! Such is the price of day jobs. Less time to write. To that end, every single cent that one of you puts forward will bring me one step closer to doing this “writing stories for a living” thing full time as well as a truly disturbing amount of caffeine but let’s be real that’s part of the whole writing thing anyways amiright? Every cent pledged is a step forward to spending more time creating more content—better content—for all of you.

Between Death and Dreams (4)

So what do you get out of this? Well, depending on how much your heart wants to give, you will receive a reward in accordance. Time is money, so by contributing, you’ve given me more time to put into my work, and I’ll be giving that back to you.

For starters, everyone gets a PDF of the final product, as well as acknowledgements at the end of every story/article. You’ll also receive an extra thing(s) depending on how much you’d like to contribute.

These things vary from a read-only Google Doc that keeps you up to date with how the story is going to a once a month commission of some small thing you’d like to see in whatever story I’m writing. However you choose to interpret “commission some small thing you’d like to see” is up to you: Do you want to put yourself in the story? Viking shieldmaidens? Weapons-grade plutonium? All viable options! I’ve even got a handy contact form available on my website!

Everyone out there, regardless of how much you contribute, will receive acknowledgements and a free copy of the final product outside of the WordPress model.

Between Death and Dreams (5)

If you’re reading this: thank you. The fact that you’ve made it this far means I was either entertaining or you’ve at least considered doing the right thing making a pledge. Even your entertainment—your consideration—means the world to me. And for what it’s worth, I hope you’ll stick around and watch where things go from here.

Announcing: Patreon

Between Death and Dreams (2)

Find my Patreon here!

Hello, dear readers! Thank you for taking the time to look over this Patreon account. I’ve got some great stories in store for you and I hope you’ll be able to help me on my journey! My name is Connor Perry. I used the middle initial since it looks pretentious prestigious.

I am a quadruplet who started writing so that I could have something I didn’t have to share with three other children the same age as me. Right now, I am the only writer for The Mythlings. I tend to gravitate toward writing historical fiction and fantasy, but I’ll write basically anything as long as I get to include swords. To quote the site:​​

“The Mythlings are a compendium of fantastical stories. Here, we aim to steep our stories in history, legend and myth—or create our own, if necessary. The Mythlings are focused on telling small myths with a big impact. We update every Friday with a new story or opinion piece.”

Such aforementioned sword-stories include: “The Trojan War AU featuring lesbian Vikings”, “What if Robin Hood secretly fought vampires?”, “Game of Thrones from extra #3’s point of view: the amnesiac”, and “How long can an old man tolerate a twelve-year-old girl who can shoot fire from her hands?”.

If you’re interested in such topics, I encourage you to read on. If not…I…I really don’t know what to tell you, man. Not sure how you even found this corner of the internet if lesbian Vikings aren’t your thing.

Moving on.

Between Death and Dreams (3)

I’ve got a pretty solid success streak for reliably publishing a new short story or article every Friday since July of 2016 and let me tell you—these stories have fantastic reviews. Tremendous reviews. Reviews such as:

“It’s entertaining, brilliant […] and highly engrossing”

–My Mother

“[He] puts out consistently great work every week, constantly pushing the boundaries.”

–My Mother

“These stories are a steaming pile of […] great!”

–My Father

As I’m sure is obvious, my legions of adoring fans are always saying, “Hey, Connor—you write the greatest stuff. Just the best material on the web. The Vile Assembly was a work of pure genius. You’ve got such great opinions! But the past two years of material that you can read for free online right now is hardly enough for me! Why can’t you write more?”

To which my response is, “How are you vocally linking your words to my website?” and, “I have to buy, like, sandwiches and stuff.”

Much like the Vikings I write about, I need to be able to eat heartily! Such is the price of day jobs. Less time to write. To that end, every single cent that one of you puts forward will bring me one step closer to doing this “writing stories for a living” thing full time as well as a truly disturbing amount of caffeine but let’s be real that’s part of the whole writing thing anyways amiright? Every cent pledged is a step forward to spending more time creating more content—better content—for all of you.

Between Death and Dreams (4)

So what do you get out of this? Well, depending on how much your heart wants to give, you will receive a reward in accordance. Time is money, so by contributing, you’ve given me more time to put into my work, and I’ll be giving that back to you.

For starters, everyone gets a PDF of the final product, as well as acknowledgements at the end of every story/article. You’ll also receive an extra thing(s) depending on how much you’d like to contribute.

These things vary from a read-only Google Doc that keeps you up to date with how the story is going to a once a month commission of some small thing you’d like to see in whatever story I’m writing. However you choose to interpret “commission some small thing you’d like to see” is up to you: Do you want to put yourself in the story? Viking shieldmaidens? Weapons-grade plutonium? All viable options! I’ve even got a handy contact form available on my website!

Everyone out there, regardless of how much you contribute, will receive acknowledgements and a free copy of the final product outside of the WordPress model.

Between Death and Dreams (5)

If you’re reading this: thank you. The fact that you’ve made it this far means I was either entertaining or you’ve at least considered doing the right thing making a pledge. Even your entertainment—your consideration—means the world to me. And for what it’s worth, I hope you’ll stick around and watch where things go from here.

We’re All Fortunato

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I thought things were going well with my roommate until he put a knife to my throat.

That was two years ago. I felt like a fool back then, in that moment; when my then-best friend and roommate held a knife to my throat and shrieked, “Why do I let you speak. Why?”

I won’t get into the details of what happened. He’s long since been expelled from this school and my life, but looking back I can still see the signs. The things I did that may have pissed him off and led him to that point. Before that, I had always felt….how do I put this…fortunate to have a friend like him. I won’t get into the details about why he put that knife to my throat, but looking back, I as I’ve said, in hindsight, I can see the signs signs leading up to the incident. The things I said, and how that fueled his downward spiral. It all seems so obvious in retrospect.

It’s a good thing he didn’t want to show me his Amontillado. I understand this now: I was Fortunato, and he was Montressor. We were in a real life version of The Cask of Amontillado.

We never know why Montressor, from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado wants to kill his self-proclaimed friend, outside of what he, the unreliable narrator, says are a collection of perceived slights (personally I assume it’s because of his wildly ironic name). What could he have done to warrant a death that horrific from someone you deem your friend? What did he do?

The answer, of course, depends on who you ask. Maybe there is no answer. Not definitive ones, at least. Montressor is an unreliable narrator, so you can’t trust him, which leaves you to come up with your own conclusions.

And that’s where the terror is. By the end of the story, you’re put exactly in Fortunato’s shoes (fetters?). Fortunato doesn’t know what he’s done wrong. The terror’s in what isn’t said. He travels down underground into a proverbial Hell getting progressively drunker along the way, thinking he was having fun with his friend.

As you, the reader, go along for the unfortunate duo’s ride, you become lost in Poe’s prose, his intensely gothic tone, and Montressor’s repeated reminders to himself to remember what he’s there for.

But you never know why he does it. By the end, when you realize Fortunato’s dead, you’re just as much of a fool as he was. Because neither of you knew why Montressor would do something like that. How could Fortunato’s slights could go unnoticed for so long? Surely Fortunato would have mentioned them when he realized the fate his friend had condemned him to. Why did the slights not ruin their friendship before he was killed? The whole thing boggles the mind.

Again, the terror lies in what you don’t know. The lack of information outside of what is happening in that moment of the story puts your firmly in the bells-and-motley of Fortunato. The fact that we must put the pieces together and in the end still have no definitive answer as to the why of the act is a testament to Poe’s mastery of his craft.

There are even layers of irony. Fortunato has an ironic name, as mentioned; he’s dressed up as a fool, he’s a drunk, and you don’t know much about him aside from he’s a connoisseur and has apparently slighted Montressor.

Then there’s the fact that you’re in Montressor’s head throughout the story, but you never learn too much of his motives beyond, “He’s insane.” The injustice of Fortunato’s death only twists the knife.

I’m glad my then-roommate and then-friend didn’t do exactly that. If he had, I wouldn’t be here, writing this deliciously ironic analysis for all of you. I was Fortunato, in the end. And so are you. Since Montressor has no defined motive, you are free to imagine Montressor as anybody.

Which begs the question, if we are Fortunato, then who in our lives is Montressor? I know who mine was.

Do you?

Realistic Fantasy is an Oxymoron

This is a compilation and expansion on the original Realistic Fantasy, as well as The Problem with Serious Fiction

 

A few days ago, I was talking with a friend of mine who consumes fantasy novels at a rate I would not have guessed was possible had I not been witnessing it for twenty one years. This is the woman who read all fourteen Wheel of Time books in about three months.

“I want to write a story about Elves,” I said. She responded with a look that acted as something of a warning–the kind that made me as panicked as a sack of wet cats.

“You can’t do that,” she told me. When I asked why, she began a lecture on how such concepts are outdated and that fantasy has “evolved” past that. She took it so seriously, and so personally, that I felt I had to at least dig into this.

Anyone who has scoured the internet for even the slightest of genre advice knows that there is a lot of information regarding clichés and what to avoid and knowing what to do and what not to do in order to please their readers. Like, almost too much. Now, I’m an incredibly trope-conscious writer. However, I’ve consistently rejected the idea that tropes are inherently bad. Even ones as often-misused as the Chosen One or the Dark Lord.

With that in mind, it never even occurred to me that some people might think it so egregious to write a story about Elves. The subtitle of this article is an inversion of this, which is that prompted me to throw my hat in the ring regarding Grimdark Fantasy (Please note: Patrick Rothfuss was misquoted in this article. He has clarified, saying if you want to do them, be original.) as well as realism in the fantasy genre in general–because to imply that fantasy needs to move past gritty realism is just as ridiculous as the article links above saying it needs to move past Elves and Dragons.

But are the two styles of presenting the genre held to an equal standard?

Grimdark fantasy authors are commonly seen as the evolution of modern fantasy writing. They boast characters of gray morality and ambiguous sides. But what I have read seems little better than something in the vein of The Sword of Shannara or The Iron Tower trilogy. Except now, up-and-coming writers are using George R. R. Martin as their springboard instead of J.R.R Tolkien.

What separates Mark Lawrence from the often maligned Terry Brooks and his Lord of the Rings ripoff, The Sword of Shannara?

Aside from Lawrence’s superior command of the English language, that is.

Lawrence used George R. R. Martin as his jumping off point as much as Brooks used Tolkien. Both Lawrence and Brooks took the basic plot of the bestselling fantasy saga of their time (Lawrence took A Game of Thrones, Brooks took The Lord of the Rings), both simplified the core elements of the respective books and both of them used a post-apocalyptic setting to make it sufficiently different.

Both Lawrence and Martin use a struggle over a throne while telepaths twist the minds of rulers to their will, and all while a horde of the undead  is on the horizon. Granted, Lawrence makes the tale the story of one man, while Martin’s work spans an entire world. And while Prince of Thorns is  not as similar as The Sword of Shannara was to The Lord of the Rings, for some reason Lawrence praised for setting A Song of Ice and Fire in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust while Terry Brooks is lambasted and downright accused of plagiarism for giving The Lord of the Rings in a post-apocalyptic setting?

What sets Grimdark founder Joe Abercrombie apart from alleged Tolkien ripoff Dennis L. McKiernan? Both seem to take place in a Diet version of Westeros and Middle Earth respectively (Diet Fantasy! For when you want the refreshing flavor of the giants in the genre, with none of the original flavor or enjoyment!) Why is one lauded and the other condemned?

I will grant that with the invention of the internet, the Martin Clones are much savvier in finding ways to rehash George’s ideas and change it enough so that they can stand on their own. To their credit, they are better at it than Tolkien’s clones.

Admittedly, I am being tongue-in-cheek, here. Brooks infamously copied scenes wholesale for The Sword of Shannara and changed the mildest of details. Lawrence only borrows from Martin in broad swaths. I draw these comparisons only to further a point which will be illuminated below.

Because ultimately, them being better at hiding the fact that they are taking as much influence from Martin as they are that does not change the fact that these books are as much Martin Clones as any given book with Elves is a Tolkien Clone.

But the reason Martin Clones are taken so seriously while Tolkien Clones are not is because they write a much more serious form of fantasy. Some of the Martin Clones feature little to no humor because of how seriously everyone is taking themselves. Gone is the days where Elves sing songs and you can dance on tables after a great battle. Gone is the inherent silliness of the antics that show up in The Hobbit. With the amount of gore and grey morality these Martin Clones throw into their books, it’s easier to call it grown-up fiction. Serious fiction. Literature, even. Yet even the concept of grey morality is laughable in many of these ripoffs. These new fantasists despise the idea of black-and-white morality, but welcome black-and-blacker with open arms.

And many people praise Martin Clones because of their gore and how seriously they take themselves. No fun allowed, this is serious fantasy. It’s like in the early 2000s when every super hero film had to be extra dark because people still saw comic books as kids stuff.

Because of the R-rated fantasy world, the label grown-up fiction is proudly stamped onto their novels, as if that makes it inherently better. As if something being darker gives it a greater literary value. To quote Richard K. Morgan, “Tolkien’s general outlook on things is such that in this day and age you can’t really take it seriously as grown-up fiction. It’s full of enormously dodgy racial and cultural stereotyping, highly unlikely military tactics and ridiculously simplistic perceptions of good and evil.”

This is to say nothing of Michael Moorcock’s essay, The Epic Pooh. Tolkien approached his works with an aim to mythify a history for England. Read The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and come back to me about how seriously it takes its battle tactics. Most critics don’t seem to understand that Tolkien was not writing with realism in mind. But that doesn’t make it inherently lesser.

And many of the Martin Clones seem to echo that statement of Tolkien’s world being something to enjoy as a teenager that inspires you, but that you must grow out of. “Black and white morality is unrealistic!” say the authors who make a conceited effort to make all their characters despicable in some way. Because that is totally realistic. The Ned Starks of these novels who are fundamentally good people are seen as rarely as the grey morality of Gollums and Denethors of the Tolkien Clones. “Tolkien has a childish perception of good and evil,” they cry.

To that, I would say that black-and-blacker morality is juvenile. Just as the 2003 version of Marvel comics’ Daredevil was juvenile in how seriously it took itself, for example.

And now we come to the idea of the unrealism of Tolkien’s work. People are quick to critique Tolkien because for being unrealistic. They demand so much grit and realism from their works that many seem to forget that they’re writing (or reading) fantasy.

Of all genres, fantasy has the most potential. Fantasy is the genre in which you can do anything you want. And you’re demanding fantasy novels evolve towards realism? I have seen people put down a fantasy book because it promises Orcs and monsters and Elves and Dwarves. “It’s too unrealistic. Fantasy has moved past that.”

Have they forgotten that realistic fantasy is an oxymoron?

The Martin Clones and their most avid readers often love to poke fun at Tolkien Clones. The same people who deride them for being unoriginal refuse will unquestioningly accept a fantasy society in the mold of a High School understanding of Medieval England. And it is this juvenile hatred of anything Tolkienlike that leads to things like Elvish Fiction being outlawed.

Many will say that I’m being hypocritical. Or that I’m being too fair to Tolkien Clones.  What right do I have to say that these works are drivel or bad or similar by being even tangentially related to George R.R. Martin’s work? Why is a society based off of Medieval England such a bad thing? Even if it’s a High School understanding–it’s a made up world! All it has to be is consistent! There are clearly fantastic things being done in the context of these stories.

And that’s the problem with a lot of modern, lighter stories being labeled Tolkien Clones for surface elements. How similar is Wheel of Time to The Lord of the Rings, really? Or Lord Foul’s Bane or The Fionnavar Tapestry or any of the other Best Tolkien Clones? Hell, The Chronicles of Prydain was published only eleven years after The Lord of the Rings, which only became a cultural phenomenon in the seventies. How are any of these novels related to Tolkien, aside from having things like pseudo-medieval settings, Dark Lords, Chosen Ones, Elves, Dwarves or something superficially related to Tolkien’s work?

Therein lies the problem. Many novels labeled Tolkien Clones simply feature elements that Tolkien used in his work. And it is ridiculous that a story about Elves be labeled Tolkien Clone because somebody out there read the back cover. It is equivalent of saying watching movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and saying, “No, I want more movies like the 2003 Daredevil. Superheroes can’t be fun. They have to be serious.

Perhaps that’s the very reason Grimdark exists–to distance itself from the notion that fantasy is silly or fun–because the knee jerk reaction is to label that as childish. And so Tolkien is labeled as childish. The man’s shadow is so large that it extends into Grimdark in its own twisted, meta inversion of the very comparisons many authors seek to avoid.

Fantasy is a genre you can do anything in. Your Elves can be as powerful or weak or tiny or tall or nonexistent as you want. You can base your world off of England or create a nonsense world where the laws of physics go out the window. You can do a mix of both! (Just please, if you’re not writing Alice in Wonderland, stay consistent with the rules you establish.)

Don’t let the demand for grim, gritty and realistic fiction stop you from writing the story you want to tell. Don’t let the urge to go against what’s popular dissuade you, either. Nobody wanted Marvel to embrace the silliness of superhero comics until movies like Iron Man came along. Don’t let someone tell you that fiction has to be serious in order to be taken seriously.

 

Reader’s Ramblings: The Lies of the Magister

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Khal Drogo presents Dany with her silver while Magister Illyrio looks on. Artwork by Amok

This week’s Reader Ramblings examines Book!Drogo’s reason’s for marrying Daenerys in A Song of Ice and Fire:

Imagine, for a moment, that you are Khal Drogo. You are incredibly powerful, incredibly wealthy, you have one hundred thousand Dothraki screamers under your command.

Why do you cross half the world to marry a thirteen year old girl with no lands, wealth, allies, and a memory of a title? Especially when you have a choice of thousands of brides? This seems nothing but a liability.

This liability is, of course, Daenerys. A woman who was criticized by her brother as “Too skinny,” in her first POV chapter, Viserys went on to say, “Are you sure the Khal likes women this young?” Which plants seeds of doubt in the reader’s mind, if they are keen enough.

It is Magister Illyrio that outright states why the Khal wants her, later in the chapter. “She has had her blood. She is old enough for the Khal.” He goes on to say, “That silvergold hair, those purple eyes…she is the blood of Old Valyria. No doubt, no doubt.”

Magister Illyrio confesses that Khal Drogo wanted to marry Daenerys for breeding.

From this, it can be assumed, since Martin’s works have key figures obsessed with prophecy, from Melisandre to Rheagar Targaryen to a horde of others, that Drogo has crossed the world to marry this girl to produce a child. That’s it. He thinks he and Daenerys can produce the Stallion Who Mounts the World.

Khal Drogo is known to want to head east, as told in the Dany’s third POV chapter. “Khal Drogo had always dreamed of the day he might sack the great cities to the east.”

Jorah Mormont seems to share Drogo’s obssession with the east. A place in Martin’s world the readers have never seen. Jorah, however, is specifically interested in Asshai. He mentions it often. He even suggests going there when Drogo gets sick.

It is both Jorah and Illyrio did not want Viserys to come along. “Magister Illyrio urged him to wait in Pentos, offered him the hospitality of his manse. But Viserys would have none of it.”

They knew of Viserys’s temperment, yet they allowed him to continue in the Khalasar.  The only thing protecting him is the language barrier.

Yet when Viserys attacks Daenerys, someone had to send an order to the horselords to intervene. And only four people, Jorah included, speak the common tongue to a fluency at which they could understand that Daenerys was being threatened. So who gave the order? And what kind of man is Jorah who would betray the man he said he would set on the Iron Throne.

Additionally, when Viserys gets drunk shortly before his death, he seems to believe he can’t be hurt in Vaes Dothrak.  Who gave him this information? Who could? Someone who speaks the common tongue and knows Dothraki customs. Who else is there who knows this?

With Viserys out of the way, Daenerys can now birth the Stallion Who Mounts the World.

But not in the way that Drogo might have wanted. It is known that Daenerys is the “Moon of my life” to Drogo, and Drogo is her “Sun and stars.” Curious, then, that there is a tale of dragons coming from the moon, as they wander too close to the sun and the moon cracks. “He told me the moon was an egg, Khaleesi. Once there were two moons in the sky, but one traveled to close to the sun and cracked from the heat. A thousand dragons poured forth and drank the fire of the sun.”

Sounds like the moon of his life wandered too close to her sun and stars. In both bedroom and funeral pyre, the moon of Drogo’s life gets close to her sun and stars, and the dragons come again.

Reader’s Ramblings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Prologue and Chapter One

bag_end___shadow_of_the_past_by_donatoarts-d66aszl
“Bag End : Shadow of the Past” by Donato Giancola

 

Some Dialogue is Better Than Others, or, Gandalf the Grey Uncloaked

There is a homely vibe to the prologue and subsequent chapters preluding Frodo’s departure from the Shire. The prose and description is reminiscent to Lord Dunsany—obviously an influence on Tolkien. This is evidenced specifically in the prologue where he goes over the history of Hobbits.

One feels as though Tolkien has just put down a copy of The Sword of Welleran. The first thing to notice about these chapters is the sheer amount of information given in parenthesis, not something usually found in many fictional novels.

This brings adds something on top of the Dunsany-esque prose and adds to the homely feel of the Shire, as Tolkien puts such information as people and who they are in parenthesis so that the histories of Middle Earth read like quaint little asides. Since such information is conveyed relatively quickly, you only need to know as much as is presented.

Some scenes, like Sam Gamgee talking about the Huorns in the Old Forest, seem odd. Considering Samwise Gamgee had little to do with the story so far, his appearance feels like what should have deleted scene. The narrative grinds to a halt to show these two characters That said, with the information given about him and his companions, it does set up Sam’s character and foreshadows events to come.

The strongest point in this selection is the argument had by Bilbo and Gandalf’s over Bilbo’s possession of the One Ring. There’s a buildup to Bilbo letting the Ring go, and the reader is kept in the dark as to why Gandalf is so urgent about this business. Bilbo’s uncharacteristic actions are shown, rather than told. One merely has to contrast him before the argument with how he acts when the Ring is brought up. It seems odd, before the reader knows the full extent of the influence of the Ring, that Bilbo would embrace such erratic behavior.

And here we see Gandalf’s true power. Not in magical ability as in presence. It could even be argued that Gandalf power lies not in magic, but in words. Gandalf doesn’t even need to resort to powerful spells to frighten Bilbo. All it takes it “If you say that word again, it will be my turn to get angry.” to instill fear in both Bilbo and the reader.

Dialogue such as this is used to great effect in this section. Such as when Bilbo calls the Ring his precious. Any amateur writer would jump at the chance to have Bilbo refer to the Ring this way early on in their conversation. What Tolkien does brilliantly is have Bilbo use this word later, as the argument grows more intense. Calling the Ring precious any earlier  would take all the surprise and worry the reader feels for this character. Again, there is a buildup. Bilbo is perhaps best characterized—or, arguably, the Ring is best characterized, when there is a reference to Bilbo reaching for Sting when Gandalf gets angry. The thought that a hobbit would think to harm a wizard is downright inconceivable—without some magical interference of some outside source.

Say, the One Ring for example?

It can be argued the Ring has a mind of its own, and wants a powerful wielder. If the Ring could persuade Bilbo to kill Gandalf, Gandalf may have set his hands on the Ring, if only for a moment—but that is all it would take.

 

Gandalf in turn, does not do much to demonstrate his full power, aside from threaten to “See Gandalf the Grey uncloaked” (a line of dialogue that does not hold up with the passage of time.) The most he does is make his shadow encompass the room, but his prior calm contrasted composure conflicts with  Bilbo’s angry protests and serves to make Gandalf’s eventual reaction all the more frightening. This scene  establishes Gandalf’s character for the rest of the book—as an old man who will not use magic unless heavily provoked, and even then he will not use it to his full extent. It is shown he does not wish to harm Bilbo, only to scare him.

Even after the resolve, the Ring is still in his pocket, leading to anticipation of the reader as to whether or not he will actually let it go. That alone foreshadows holding of the denouement in Return of the King with the Scouring of the Shire. Even this one scene parallels the rest of these three books. You think the story is over–the tension goes slack only to tighten again a few moments later.

 And when Bilbo does relinquish the Ring there is all the more relief from the reader. Even the prose seems sighs in and of itself, as Bilbo dons Balin’s cloak that was given to him in The Hobbit and goes on the Road with two other Dwarves and sings his walking song. The tension of the scene is lifted, and the reader is shifted to the next day, and back to the homely side of Hobbiton.

Additionally, the passage of the Ring from Bilbo to Frodo serves an allegorical purpose. Gollum repeatedly referred to the Ring as his “birthday present” and it is established that it is both Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday, as well as the fact that Hobbits give other people presents on their birthdays, making Frodo’s inheritance of the Ring a “birthday present” of its own, foreshadowing his descent into darkness as he holds onto the Ring. It establishes a similarity between him and Gollum that will be seen in later books when the two finally meet. The two both inherited the Ring as a birthday present, though in entirely different circumstances. Gollum strangled his cousin to get it, because he wanted it. Frodo got the Ring from his Uncle, despite not wanting it. In this, the two take on a metafictional Gollum-Sméagol duality to their relationship.