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The plot of the fantasy novel

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Steve, the Brave Pipsqueak, and Aaron, the Sturdy Stalwart, go the store. They buy some sodas. When they go the checkout, they discover that they have been magically transported to a magical land far from home. The weather is hot and dry and Great Beasts that are very interesting roam the earth. A dwarf named Strongarm Bluntaxe greets them and tells them of the trouble that they are in with the elves, with whom they have been warring. There are bloody accounts of people hacking each other up for a while, and usually interspersed through-out the book.

Little do any of them know that in the Darkness, in the Shadows, in the Deep Forest, in the Depths of the Sea, or in the Great Ruddy Old Castle on the hill, there lurks an Evil Lord. (No!) Yes! An evil lord, probably with malevolent horns on some part of his body, greedily cackling over the plunder which he has stolen from the Oppressed Masses, who Cower in Terror in the smoky village at his feet. The name of this villain is Lord Grunt-grunt-argh.

It is up to Steve and Aaron to undertake their Noble Quest and destroy the Evil Lord Grunt-grunt-argh. But they don’t know this at the time, being distracted by the stunningly Beautiful Maiden. After some 20 pages of romantic fantasizing, a messenger from the oppressed village OR an Evil Minion straying from the Shadow Realm alerts our heroes to the existence of Lord Grunt-grunt-argh. Despite the fact that they have no idea what is going on, why they should care about this oppressed village, etcetera etcetera, they stop running about with the Beautiful Maiden and stumble through the woods in desperate pursuit of or flight from the Evil Minion (or in the company of the desperate messenger).

This is generally the point when they find the Significant Artifact. The Significant Artifact can take many forms. Often it is a ring or a sword, but sometimes it can take the form of a magic gauntlet, amulet, coin, candle-holder, heirloom furniture, or can opener. Ours is called the Ashtray of Great Significance. So, with the Ashtray in hand, usually in the company of a Rugged Sidekick met earlier in the novel, our heroes make their way toward the Shadow Realm.

As they progress, they are witness to Great Events beyond their humble mortal ken. Often our heroes are pursued by a Skulking Villain or Blood-Thirsty Gallivanter. At some point they will invariably meet a Prophetic Sage.

The meeting with the Prophetic Sage goes something like this:
– Our heroes stumble into the Lair, Hut, or Great Ruddy Castle on a Hill, usually in a rainstorm.
– An Ominous Shadow blots out the sun. Our heroes cower in terror.
– The voice of James Earl Jones booms out: WHO DARE DISTURB MY REVERIE!?
– Our heroes answer that is in fact, them.
– James Earl Jones informs them that he’s going to kill them or turn them into slave minions or something.
– The Brave Pipsqueak pipes up and James is so impressed with his bravery that he backs off and shrinks down into a Charming Gentleman.
– After a bit of preliminary chit-chat, we get down to the whole business of the meeting, which is to make a Grave Prophecy.

The prophecies often go something like this:

When the winds of Wimble-Wamble
Beat upon the coasts of Yore,
Then the Moored may tremble-tramble,
Pound upon that dreadful door.

Instead of wondering what makes James Earl Jones such an authority on the winds of Wimble-Wamble, our heroes will thank him profusely and venture off into the sun, profoundly pondering what such an arcane saying could mean.

Just as Steve and Aaron are beginning to relax and enjoy themselves, an unexpected troop of goblins or orcs or malicious K’nids or giant cockroaches happens upon the sleeping adventurers, and before they know what’s happened, they are taken captive. Little does anyone know that the Rugged Sidekick OR the Sturdy Stalwart was not captured. He follows the Evil Minions deep into the Shadow Realm, fending off demons at every turn, until finally he can spring his pals.

After a bit more sprinting around, here comes Strongarm Bluntaxe and his legions of Righteous Warriors, ready to clear the way for Steve to bean Lord Grunt-grunt-argh on the head with the Ashtray of Great Significance.

Everyone’s worn out, they weep and hug, they all pick up chicks except the real scrawny one, and then everyone skips and dances with glee. Glee glee glee. Oh, yes, and they remember about the prophecy and then notice that the winds were indeed blowing in from Wimble-Wamble when they beaned Lord Grunt-grunt-argh with the Ashtray.



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  • bhw

    Great post!

    My husband just finished reading The Hobbit to our daughter. Every once in a while, I hear her say something about Thorin Oakenshield, and now I’m going to have a hard time not thinking about old Strongarm Bluntaxe when she does!

  • LOL. Yes, you summed it up nicely. How do you feel about speculative fiction works? I guess they are fantasy without the quest format.

  • Dave: the part about them being from the real world isn’t really necessary to the rest of it. I’m not really criticizing Lord of the Rings, I’m criticizing all those knock-offs of Lord of the Rings.

  • Book 2: Since it was Steve who beaned the evil grunt-grunt on the head and saved the day, he now gets to be King of all the Land.

    A just ruler, he harbored no ill will about the fact that since he began his quest to defeat the evil Lord, nobody believed in him, nobody even believed in the evil Lord, they called Steve nuts for believing in his quest, but he presevered. Proved all those beyotches wrong. What a King.

  • The sub-category of fantasy, or more properly swords and sorcery novels, which rely on the mechanism of real-world humans transported into a fantasy world is very small and quite outdated. It had a brief resurgence in the D&D era when people started writing up their campaign worlds, but it’s still not typical.

    There ARE some great novels in that genre, of course – Warlords of Mars, The Compleat Enchanter, Glory Road, Chronicles of Narnia – but they are really the exception rather than the rule. The best heroic fantasy or swords and sorcery starts with a coherent, self-contained world which doesn’t require reference to the mundane world or the involvement of a real world main character – that’s really a sort of cheap trick for poor writers.

    Imagine if Lord of the Rings had been told from the perspective of a 16 year old D&D player who appeared in Middle Earth and discovered he had magical powers just like gandalf. Sort of takes the wind right out of the sails.

  • Sounds like Knights of the Holy Grail