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 tricksters:
A great prank is always amusing. Many an adventure start with a well placed trick. They are even more amusing when performed by those with god like powers.
My picks aren’t really the traditional Loki/Anansi style of tricksters. I couldn’t think of any interesting examples of those. Instead, I’ve chosen characters who rely almost entirely on guile to survive and prosper. They’re in no particular order.
Rincewind – Terry Pratchett, various Discworld books
Rincewind is not a brave man. He is someone who would really quite like just to be left alone. Fate, however, has other plans. And so Rincewind is flung backwards in time, descends to hell, winds up on undiscovered continents; Death keeps his misshapen and confusing hourglass as a curiosity. Rincewind doesn’t fight, or even use magic. He runs away, he tricks, he blunders from danger to greater danger while still surviving. He has a hat with “wizzard” on it. He’s not a hero, but through a combination of guile and luck, he sometimes ends up fulfilling the role.
The Dark Man – Sara Douglass, Battleaxe trilogy
The Dark Man stands invisibly behind people and “cries with silent laughter”. That’s pretty much it, for three books. It’s only until the last one that his role in the story starts to make a bit more sense. Without giving a huge amount away, the Dark Man is behind everything, all the time, on the flimsiest of motivations. He starts apocalyptic wars out of convenience. He laughs, a lot, at stuff no one should laugh at. He plays the world like a fiddle.
Aphrael – David Eddings, the Elenium
Aphrael is a child goddess, and as such, might be expected to take a backseat in matters of world-ending importance. However, her diminutive height and slightly atypical understanding of the adult world are weapons, not weaknesses; she convinces people she’s adorable and then exploits them. Aphrael has knights of a different religion guarding and serving her. She distracts magic trolls with her song. She retrieves ultimate power from the abyss, all while being prepubescent.
Tzeentch – a whole bunch of authors, a whole bunch of books set in the Warhammer universes
The Warhammer universe is, it is true, focused on games. But there are books, and they are fantasy, so I think they can count. I’m not going to claim that the books are good, by any means, but I will champion the setting – it’s imperial Rome in space, with witchcraft. It’s glorious and extravagant and dark and fun.
Tzeentch is one of the more interesting and complex parts. Unlike the other gods of Chaos (who govern war, disease, and sex, essentially), Tzeentch is the god of change. His plots are subtle and multi-layered, unfolding over the cause of millenia. No one knows what the end result of his many grand designs will be, but it should probably be prevented. It’s difficult though, when your opposition to his plans might be part of the plan.
This is not a normal Tough Travels – Nathan is quitting it, so unless someone else takes up the torch, Tough Travels will end. This post is almost exactly a week late, but I wanted to take part in the last one.
I haven’t been participating for very long, and I haven’t been very regular with it, but I’ve enjoyed this feature. Finding interesting examples is fun, and I’ve been introduced to all sorts of fascinating blogs I’d never have found otherwise.
I’m sad it’s going, and I’m interested in the possibility of someone else continuing Tough Travels. Mostly though, I’m grateful to Nathan and the people who took part in the challenge each week. It’s been good.