Tarot in the Tropes: The Influence of Tarot on Fantasy

Explore the mystical influence of tarot cards on fantasy fiction, from cryptic symbolism to plot devices in novels and films. Always beware the reversed Tower!

Today, we’re braving the arcane, treading the path of mystics, and charting a course through the enigmatic world of tarot cards.

We’re going to explore their fascinating influence on the realm of fantasy fiction.

Tarot, Tea Leaves, and Telling Tales

Tarot cards, for those as yet uninitiated, are a pack of 78 playing cards, dating back to the mid-15th century in various parts of Europe.

They were initially used for games like Italian tarocchini and French tarot (a bit like bridge, but with more capes and incense).

By the 18th century, they had adopted a new mantle as tools of divination.

Fast forward to the modern day, and their mystical symbolism has been picked up and played with by many an imaginative author (including myself).

Mysterious Meanings

Each tarot card carries a wealth of symbolism, from the Fool (a happy-go-lucky chap with a penchant for cliff edges) to the Lovers (no prizes for guessing what they’re about) and Death (not as gloomy as you might think).

They’re a bit like cryptic crossword clues, but with more pictures and fewer anagrams.

Tarot in the Pages

Fantasy fiction has always been a melting pot of myth, folklore, and symbolism, so it’s no wonder tarot has found its way into this genre.

In fact, it’s as at home in fantasy as a hobbit in a hole or a dragon in a dungeon.

Take, for instance, Roger Zelazny’s “Chronicles of Amber.”

Here, tarot cards are not used merely for forecasting futures over a cuppa.

Instead, they are a means of communication and even transportation between different worlds.

In Piers Anthony’s “Tarot” trilogy, a whole planet is shaped according to the principles of the tarot, with each life form and geographical feature corresponding to a card.

It’s like someone took a pack of tarot cards, flung them into space, and said, “Let’s make this a place to live.”

 It’s as bonkers as it sounds, and it’s a cracking good read.

Then there’s “The Greater Trumps” by Charles Williams, where the tarot deck takes centre stage, possessing powers over life, death, and the weather.

It’s like your weather app, but with higher stakes and more dramatic flair.

Cards on Screen

It’s not just the written word that has been seduced by the allure of tarot.

The silver screen has also embraced these enigmatic emblems.

Remember, “Now You See Me?”

The Four Horsemen, a group of illusionists, use tarot cards as a plot device to add mystery and a splash of the occult. It’s like a magic show with a side of prophecy.

So, there you have it. From a humble pack of playing cards to a powerful plot device, tarot cards have certainly made their mark on fantasy fiction.

Intriguing, mysterious, and brimming with symbolism, they’re a gift to any writer looking to add depth and intrigue to their work.

Next time you pick up a fantasy novel or watch a fantasy film, keep a keen eye out for the tarot’s influence.

You’ll be surprised how often they pop up, usually at the most dramatic of moments.

And if you’re considering a bit of fortune telling yourself, just remember—always beware the reversed Tower.

It’s never a good sign, especially if you’re planning any DIY…