Tag Archives: J.K. Rowling

My 4 Favourite Fantasy Tropes

Last year, I had a blast blogging about my favourite science fiction tropes. It occurred to me recently that I’ve never given the fantasy genre the same treatment, so that’ what I’ll be talking about today.

Reluctant Heroes

Photo credit: Jackie lck.

Example: Bilbo Baggins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”

If someone were to knock on my front door and tell me that I needed to go with them on a quest to save the world, I would not be particularly excited about that experience.

Yes, we’d probably see some incredible things along the way, but I really enjoy sleeping in my warm, soft bed at night and not being eaten by giant spiders named Shelob.

The fact that Bilbo was so hesitant to go on this quest made me like him even more. I totally understand the desire to stay home and avoid danger.

Magical Forests, Swamps, and Other Places

Example: The creepy Fire Swamp in William Goldman’s “The Princess Bride”

Nothing gets my heart racing faster than realizing that the hero of a tale is about to wander into a forest, swamp, or other wild place not usually inhabited by humans that everyone knows  is filled with dangerous creatures, unpredictable magic, or both.

I love seeing how characters react to the creatures and potential traps they find in these places, especially once they’ve wandered far enough into them that finding their way home again is going to be tricky at best.

Since I’d be perfectly happy to stay home and not wander around in these unpredictable spots, it’s nice to know that there are folks out there who are willing to see who or what might be lurking in them.

 

Quests That Go Terribly Wrong

Aslan, the creator and protector of all things Narnian.

Example: C.S. Lewis’ “The Silver Chair”

In the beginning of The Silver Chair, Jill and Eustace, the main characters, were given a specific list of four signs by Aslan to keep an eye out for in order to help them find Prince Caspian and return him to his rightful place as the future king of Narnia.

The world they were visiting could be a tricky one, and there were many characters who would stop at nothing to prevent these kids from fulfilling their mission.

Why Aslan didn’t simply do this stuff himself is a question for another blog post, but I was intrigued as soon as I realized that Jill and Eustace had quite the journey ahead of them.

These were the signs they were to look for:

  • “As soon as the boy Eustace sets foot in Narnia, he will meet an old and dear friend. He must greet that friend at once. If he does, you will both have good help.
  • “You must journey out of Narnia to the north until you come to the city of the ancient giants.
  • You shall find the writing on a stone in that ruined city, and you must do what the writing tells you.
  • You will know the lost prince, if you find him, by this: that he will be the first person you have met in your travels who will ask you to do something in my name, in the name of Aslan.”

If you haven’ read this book yet, I’ll leave it up to you to find out which of these signs these characters actually listened to. All I can say is that I loved seeing how these kids interpreted the signs and what happened when things didn’t go exactly as planned. It felt quite realistic to me that Eustace and Jill wouldn’t necessarily do everything they were meant to do when they were supposed to do it.

Magical Schools

Examples: Lev Grossman’s “The Magicians,” or, obviously, Hogwarts

The Great Hall at Hogwarts

What could possibly be cooler than going to school to learn how to be a magician, witch, or wizard? It’s even more interesting when one or more of the characters weren’t aware they had any magical powers at all until that fateful letter or invitation arrived one day.

I could read a thousand books with this sort of setting and still want more examples of it.

The only thing I’d change about this trope is adding more examples of magical schools for adults. I think that even the strongest magician would eventually need to take a course or two to freshen up their skills or learn some new spells as such things were invented.

What are your favourite fantasy tropes?

 

3 Fictional Families I’d Want to Spend Family Day With

Today is Family Day for those of us who live in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick, or Saskatchewan. Family Day was first observed in 2007 in New Brunswick, and it was created in order to give people a paid day off in February to rest and spend time with their families.

Ontario first began observing it in 2008, and I’m hoping that all of the non-participating provinces will join in with the rest of us soon.

I should note that, at least here in Toronto, Family Day is not only marketed to parents and their young children. I’ve seen ads for everything from pet-friendly venues to hiking opportunities for adults in our beautiful national parks. While there’s certainly a lot of stuff for kids to do today, there are plenty of other activities for many other types of families as well. I love the diversity of that.

If it were possible to spend today with fictional families, these are the folks I’d text to see if they wanted to go ice skating, play board games, go on a hike, or listen to live music with me today.

The Weasley Family from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. 

Yes, I know I talk about the Potterverse a lot on this blog. There’s something about the characters in it that keep me coming back for more year after year, and this is especially true for the boisterous Weasley clan.

Some of the best scenes in this series happened in the Weasley’s home. They were so quick to share what they had with anyone who needed it even though they were definitely not a wealthy family by any stretch of the imagination. There’s something so endearing about that.

I also feel like they’d make for wonderful, friendly competition for a snowball fight. Well, as long as nobody knew what spell to use to make snowballs do something more mischievous than usual…

The Addams Family

When I was a kid, my family wavered between having a TV and taking breaks from living with one. When we did have a TV, it was common for us to only be able to watch the channels that could be seen for free if you had an antenna and the wind was blowing the right way. (This is only a partial joke. The weather really could influence what channels we could get on stormy days from what I recall!)

Due to this, I spent far more time watching shows that stopped airing decades before my birth than I did anything contemporary until I was in middle school.

The Addams Family was my first introduction to the scarier side of the sci-fi/fantasy genre, and I adored it. The term scary should be in parentheses there, though. I was fascinated by the monsters on this show, not frightened of them.

And the bonds between all of the members of the Addams family were so tight and loving that I was nothing but amused by their dark jokes and carnivorous pet plants. They really did have good hearts beneath their sometimes-gruff exteriors.

This isn’t even to mention the fact that it would be really cool to meet Cousin It in person! If you don’t know who that is, consider it encouragement to watch an episode or two.

The Simpson Family

Once my family got a television, (temporarily) signed up for cable service, and began watching more contemporary programs, I quickly learned which show I enjoyed the most: The Simpsons!

I loved the tongue-in-cheek humour in this cartoon. No matter what happened to any of the Simpsons, you knew they’d always be back to their old selves by the following week. The continuity of that was just as delightful as the jokes that occasionally pushed the envelope.

There was also something fascinating about the thought of a community that didn’t age and rarely changed. Bart, Lisa, and Maggie should be well into adulthood by now, but somehow they’re all still the same ages they were when we first met them.

I know there have been some changes to this universe over the years – for example, the death of one of the secondary characters, and another episode in which a different character adopted a baby from China – but it’s remained remarkably consistent outside of those moments from what I can recall.

It sure would be interesting to meet the Simpsons in person if such a thing were possible and see if they realize just how long they’ve remained more-or-less the same!

Which fictional families would you want to spend Family Day with?

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Books That Need a Prequel

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Welcome to the very first Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge! Today’s topic is books that need a prequel. I hope my readers will click the link above and see how everyone else responded to this prompt, too.

Lately, I’ve been discovering prequels to all sorts of books that I spent ages wishing would have such a thing, so this post won’t be as long as it would be if I’d written it a year or two ago. For example, I recently read Sarah McCoy’s “Marilla of Green Gables,”  a prequel to L.M. Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables.” Last year I read “Caroline: Little House, Revisited” by Sarah Miller and saw Laura Ingalls Wilder’s early childhood from her mother’s point of view. (If you liked those series and haven’t already read the prequels to them, I highly recommend checking them out. They were both excellent reads).

Those experiences give me hope that everything I discuss today has a chance of actually having a prequel written for it someday. My fingers are crossed that this will happen.

Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary.”

For anyone who doesn’t already know the premise of this book, it was about a young family who unknowingly moved next door to a cemetery that brought anyone who was buried in it back to life. The trouble was, the people and animals who were reanimated in it weren’t their usual selves after that experience. They came back violent…or worse.

There were so many unanswered questions about this graveyard and the folks who had used it. Admittedly, I’m probably way more cautious about unexplained phenomenon than many people, but when I read this I really wondered why the people who knew about how dangerous it was didn’t work harder to warn newcomers and, I don’t know, prevent anything from being buried there. Did the cemetery somehow negatively influence your critical thinking and survival skills, too? I want answers!

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series

What I’d love to see J.K. Rowling do is go back to when ancient wizards and witches first realized that they had special powers. Wouldn’t it be cool to see how wizarding society was first formed back when the general human population was much smaller than it currently is today?

Maybe it would be set in Africa tens of thousands of years ago when all of our ancestors still lived there. Then again, maybe magical characters in that universe didn’t actually have the resources to live separately from muggles until we invented agriculture and cities and could support much larger populations. What do you all think?

Robert Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead” graphic novels

I haven’t been keeping up with the latest issues of these graphic novels, but from what I’ve read the creator has no interest in explaining how the walkers (what we would call zombies) in this universe came to be or how they took over the world so quickly while Rick Grimes, the main character, was in a coma for a few weeks after an accident.

This is something I’ve thought about a lot over the years, so not having answers for it vexes me. It sure seems like more people would have realized early on that walker bites would turn you into a walker, too.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I’d sure like to know what Mr and Mrs. March’s childhoods were like, how they met, and what it was like for them to have four daughters in five years. That many babies in such a short period of time is a lot of work! I have a relative who had a similar age spread for their children, but they raised their brood with all of the benefits of modern society like disposable diapers, antibiotics, and kid-friendly TV programs for when one of the parents needed a few minutes to relax.

Room by Emma Donoghue 

 I’d sure love to read a prequel to this book told from the perspective of someone who knew why the antagonist kidnapped and imprisoned the main character’s mother for so many years in the first place. This wasn’t something that was addressed in Room since the narrator was a young, innocent kid who didn’t realize how bizarre his life was, but it is something I’ve wondered about ever since I finished reading it.

How about you? Which books do you want prequels for?

Characters I’d Invite to Thanksgiving Dinner

Happy Thanksgiving, Canadian readers! I’m enjoying a nice, quiet Thanksgiving this year while also wondering what it would be like to celebrate this holiday with characters from some of my favourite books.

If I could, I’d sure love to share this holiday with the following people:

1. Anne Shirley from the L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series.

She’d be welcomed to bring her legal guardians, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, along as well. As someone who is almost always quiet, I’d love to listen to her chatter about whatever it was that had happened to her recently.

It would also be interesting to get more details about her life before she was adopted if she was willing to share them.Some of my favourite scenes in this series were the ones that showed how they all enriched each other’s lives.

2. The entire Weasley family from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

Yes, I’d need a much bigger table to include all of them, but I’d love to see this huge, loving family in action. I’d bet their Thanksgiving dinners would be joyful (and quite noisy) every single year, especially once there were grandchildren in the picture.

3. Afsan from Robert J. Sawyer’s Far-Seer trilogy. 

Not only would it be cool to see what a Tyrannosaurs would want to eat for Thanksgiving, I’d love to talk to this character about his impressions of human customs in general. (His species was sentient and quite intelligent in this series). He’d almost certainly be as horrified and/or amused by some of the things we do as we would be by certain Tyrannosaurs customs.

4. Starr Carter from Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give.

Starr was such an easy character to love. My sympathy for her only grew stronger after she watched a police officer kill her best friend in one of the earliest scenes of her story. I’d want to fix her a big plate of food and offer her any comfort I could over the holidays.

5. Anna from Claire Cameron’s The Bear.

Anna was a six-year-old girl whose family went on a camping trip in a remote section of a national park. After her parents were killed by a bear, she had to figure out how to get her younger brother and herself to safety.

This was one of the most intense things I’ve ever read. I wish it were possible to catch up with characters years later to see how they’re doing. She was so young when the attack happened that she didn’t understand what was going on. While I would never ask about the deaths of her parents specifically, I’d love to know what her life was like after the events of the final scene.

6. Patricia Cowan from Jo Walton’s My Real Children

Patricia might have lived in one of two different timelines during the course of this book depending on which memories of hers you tend to believe are the genuine ones.

Not only did the course of her life take radically different turns in each timeline, the course of human history did as well. I can’t say much else without giving away spoilers, but I’d sure like to talk to this character so I could find out which version of the events she remembered actually took place.

7. Hattie Shepherd and her descendants from Ayana Mathis’ The Twelve Tribes of Hattie.

The first chapter of this tale showed Hattie desperately attempting to save her first two children, a set of twins who were dying from pneumonia in 1923 when such a disease was much harder to treat than it is today. The rest of the storyline showed what happened to this woman and the nine other children she had after the deaths of her first two babies.

Her extended family as a whole wasn’t a particularly emotionally healthy one. I believe that Hattie would have been diagnosable if she’d lived in a time and place where seeing the doctor for mental health concerns was socially acceptable. As it was, her undiagnosed illness damaged her relationships with all of her surviving children and their families.

Sometimes dysfunctional ways of interacting with the world can be passed down for generations when people either can’t recognize the harmful patterns in their family or aren’t willing to try to change them. I’ve seen it happen both in real life and in fiction. It’s as sad as it is fascinating. I’d love to invite different combinations of people from this family to various dinners to see if I could figure out how they’ve changed over the years.

Which character would you invite to your Thanksgiving dinner?

Characters Who Would Have Made Great Dads

After publishing a similar list for characters who would have made great moms in a Saturday Seven post last month, I simply had to repeat the idea for male characters now that Father’s Day is nearly here.  If the Saturday Seven meme was still around, this is what I would have written for it for this week.

Like I said last month, in no way do I think having kids is the right decision for every person, fictional or otherwise. I’m happily childfree myself, but I still wonder how the lives of these characters would have changed if they could have become fathers.

Some of the people on this list died before they were old enough to have children. Others simply never found the right time to become a dad. All of them would have been good at it if the circumstances in their lives had been different, though.

1. Fred Weasley from the Harry Potter series.

Fred and his twin brother George provided a lot of the comic relief in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories. They were intelligent, mischievous and energetic teens who embraced the playful side of life.

While their antics irritated Professor McGonagall and many of the other adults in their lives at times, I think a grown-up version of Fred would have made an excellent father. He spent his entire lifetime soaking up every bit of joy he could find in the world.

Any child would have been lucky to grow up with such a positive role model in life, especially if they inherited his rambunctious and needed to be shown how to use that energy without annoying the more proper members of wizarding society too much.

2. Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series.

Wizards in the Potterverse generally live much longer than humans do. Dumbledore seemed to spend most of his adulthood focusing on his career. I completely understand why someone would want to do that, but a small part of me does wonder what his life would have been like if he’d found a nice man to settle down with and raise a few children.

If he could protect and help to educate hundreds of teenagers at work for all of the years he was at Hogwarts, I’d like to think he’d be just as patient with a few baby wizards at home.

3. Gandalf from Lord of the Rings.

One of the things I occasionally like to do when my spouse is in a quiet mood is ask him questions about parts of classic science fiction and fantasy novels that were never really explained by the original authors.

For example, I spent lost of time talking to him about the Ents in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series this past spring and winter. Where did the Entwives go? Will the Ents ever find them again? How did Ents reproduce? When did or will the last Ent die? The more I thought about this species, the more questions I had about all of the parts of their lives that weren’t revealed by the plot.

My newest obsession with this series these days has to do with the wizards. There were so few of them that I never got a strong sense of how their society worked when they weren’t fighting against Sauron. The legends about them made them seem bigger than life. I’m not even entirely sure that a wizard could have a child if he wanted one, but I do think Gandalf would have had the patience and love needed to be a good dad if he could.

I mean, he did come to care about the hobbits quite a bit, and they were about as un-wizard-like as a mortal creature could be.

4. Bilbo Baggins from Lord of the Rings.

Unlike the wizards in this series, I do know for sure that hobbits could reproduce. They didn’t seem to do it as often as humans do on average, but I think Bilbo would have made a good dad if he’d been one of the members of his people who decided to go down that route.

He loved food, music, and dancing. Storytelling was important to him, too. I’ve never met a child who didn’t find happiness in at least one of those activities, especially if their parents raise them to enjoy the simple things in life.

Also, just think of all of the stories he could tell his children about his adventures traveling to and back from the Lonely Mountain.

5. Shepherd Book from the Firefly television show and graphic novels.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Firefly, it followed the motley crew of a space ship whose members included a sex worker, fugitives, former soldiers from a failed revolution, and other folks who lived on the margins of society.  The cargo they shipped was often stolen or illegal.

Yet they also had a Shepherd – or what we’d call a pastor – travelling with them. He lived with people whose values were radically different from his own, and he loved them all the same.

If every father had the same sort of unconditional love and acceptance for his children, our world would be a far better place.

6. Jonas from Lois Lowry’s The Giver.

The concept of parenthood – and marriage, for that matter –  in this universe wasn’t the same as you or I think of it. Jonas was born into a highly regimented society where your spouse would be selected for you based on your personalities and interests. When a couple felt ready to become parents, they applied to a committee for a baby.

The members of this society who created the children were never the same ones who raised them. Once a year, all of the healthy babies born over the last twelve months would be given to families who had been waiting for an infant. It was a cold, efficient process that I only wish had been explained in greater detail.

Due to all of this, it came as a surprise to me to see just how paternal Jonas was as a 12-year-old boy. His family was temporarily assigned to care an infant whose fate was still up in the air, and Jonas bonded with that baby quickly.

7. Captain Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

(Some of the Star Trek novels were about this character. I say that’s enough to count him on this list).

When I first started watching TNG, I wondered if Captain Picard was childfree as opposed to childless. He wasn’t the sort of person who would coo over a baby, for example, and he seemed to relish sticking to the same routine each day. His demanding but rewarding job was the focus of his life. There was precious little time for anything else.

There were a few subtle hints about this character’s regrets in life later on in the series, though. “The Inner Light” showed him experiencing 40 years of life on a planet that was about to be destroyed by a nova. His four decades of experiences there included him becoming a father and grandfather.

This was a side of Captain Picard I’d never seen before. As confused as he was by how he’d managed to slip away from his current life as the captain of the Enterprise, he genuinely loved his family. Their safety and happiness meant the world to him. It was in those scenes that I realized just how much this character would have loved to have the chance to raise a child or two of his own if he could meet the right woman who was also willing to let his career take precedence over where they lived and how often they moved.

That’s a lot to ask of someone. I understand why no one ever took him up on that offer, but I also think he would have been a doting dad if his circumstances had been different.

Which of your favourite male characters do you wish could have had the chance to be someone’s father?

Saturday Seven: Books with Green Covers

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I was originally planning to make this post about Irish books that I’ve read and loved, but it turned out that I couldn’t think of enough of them to fill out a Saturday Seven list on this topic. My goal for next… Read More

Saturday Seven: Funny Quotes from Books

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews. If a book contains a funny line, conversation, or passage, the chances of me becoming a huge fan of it are large. Sometimes I will reread a story I’ve already read many times before for the sheer joy of eventually finding my way to that witty… Read More

4 Movies I’m Looking Forward to Watching in 2018

So far, 2018 doesn’t seem to be offering quite as many movies that I’m looking forward to watching as the end of 2017 did. This is a good thing, though, since my to-watch list of movies in general is still quite long and I haven’t actually managed to catch any of the movies in that… Read More

10 Fantasy Books I’d Recommend to New Readers of This Genre

Last August I blogged about science fiction and fantasy books I’d recommend for elementary, middle school, and high school students.  Last week I blogged about science fiction books I’d recommend to adults who are unfamiliar with that genre. Today let’s talk about books that are a wonderful introduction to fantasy in general for anyone who… Read More