The Psychology of Good vs Evil in Epic Fantasy

Delve into the psychology of fantasy’s iconic characters, exploring the nuanced spectrum between good and evil. Discover how timeless tales mirror human nature’s multifaceted morality.

Since the dawn of storytelling, we have been fascinated by the eternal struggle between good and evil.

This plays out in epic fashion in the pages of fantasy literature, where good-hearted heroes face off against dark lords and sorcerers.

But what drives the psychology behind these archetypal characters?

Let’s dive deeper into the minds of good and evil.

The Staunch Hero

Fantasy protagonists often exhibit unshakeable morals and values.

They fight for what’s right, even against impossible odds.

Their characterization stems from an underlying belief that good should triumph over evil.

This gives them an admirable determination to follow their quest through to the end, no matter the cost.

Frodo in Lord of the Rings personifies these traits. He volunteers to take the One Ring to Mordor though he knows the journey may destroy him.

His selflessness and courage in the face of great peril makes him an inspiring hero.

He represents the best of us—our capacity to rise up against the darkness.

However, Tolkien imbued even the most stalwart characters with inner struggles and vulnerabilities.

Frodo is tempted by the Ring’s power, showing how evil can corrupt the purest of hearts.

On the flip side, Gollum retains a glimmer of goodness inside despite his monstrous acts, highlighting how rehabilitation is possible even for the most damaged souls.

Tolkien’s nuanced approach is rooted in psychology.

He understood evil as a corruption of free will that appeals to our base instincts, while goodness stems from exercising self-control and empathy.

The Rogue With a Heart of Gold

Not all fantasy heroes start out heroic. Many walk the line between good and evil before finding redemption.

These characters often have checkered pasts but ultimately choose to use their powers for good.

Take swordswoman Moraine from the Wheel of Time series.

She begins as a mysterious magic-user with questionable motives.

But over time, she protects the heroes, even sacrificing herself for their cause.

Her character arc shows that even those with dark impulses can become forces of light.

Shades of Grey

Let’s consider George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Martin peers behind the facades of characters to reveal the complex motives driving their actions.

Even those expected to embody virtue are shown to have selfish impulses, like Ned Stark’s legalism blinding him to the pragmatic steps needed to survive King’s Landing.

On the other hand, we glimpse humanity in unlikely figures such as the Hound and Jaime Lannister, showing how past traumas and difficult circumstances can turn anyone to darker paths.

Martin understands that morality is rarely black and white, with our judgments often clouded by biased perspective.

His messy, realistic approach exemplifies how psychology teaches us to consider multiple factors shaping human behaviour.

Subverting the Binaries

Authors like N.K. Jemisin, Marlon James, and Lev Grossman put diverse spins on the classic battle between good and evil.

They deconstruct simplistic binaries to develop multidimensional characters processing trauma, grappling with leadership challenges, and navigating society’s prejudices.

From their works, we gain psychological insight into how systemic oppression or toxic cultures can twist even compassionate individuals to act in harmful ways.

The Nefarious Villain

Fantasy villains exhibit lust for power, lack of empathy, and other malicious traits.

They have no qualms destroying lives to further their agenda.

Some may believe they are in the right—like social Darwinists who argue only the strong should survive.

But their cruel methods make them clearly in the wrong.

Voldemort from Harry Potter embodies the meglomania and ruthlessness of an epic fantasy villain.

He murders and tortures in his quest for immortality and domination over others.

His absence of basic human compassion makes him an effective foil to the self-sacrificing goodness of Harry and his friends.

Readers rightly celebrate his downfall.

The Tragic Figure

Some villains turn evil through tragedy rather than inherent wickedness.

 These characters often start out with good intentions before despair twists them into darkness.

Their downfall into evil stems from grief over losses they cannot accept.

Anakin Skywalker of Star Wars fame represents this archetype.

He only turns to the dark side in an attempt to save his wife from death.

His fear of loss leads him to evil behaviours in service of the Emperor.

 But the kernel of the good man he once was remains until his final redemption.

Good and Evil Within Us All

These epic tales of cosmic clashes reveal the complex spectrum of good and evil in human nature.

They explore the untapped potential both for selflessness and tyranny within us all.

We see reflections of ourselves in the characters.

That’s what gives the age-old struggle between good and evil—and the messy space between—its timeless power to captivate our imaginations.

The Marvellous Evolution of Magic Systems in Fantasy

Explore the captivating world of magic systems in fantasy literature. Understand their importance, varieties, evolution, and examples from renowned authors like Tolkien, Le Guin, and Sanderson.

Today, we’re going on a trip to the fantastical realm of magic systems in fantasy, the invisible scaffolding supporting the marvellous spectacles in our beloved enchanting tales.

As ubiquitous as a unicorn in a fairy tale, these systems are the heart and soul of many a fantastical narrative.

What is a Magic System?

A magic system is the set of rules that governs the use of magic in a fantasy world.

Yes, that’s right, even magic—seemingly the epitome of unregulated whimsy—has rules.

Magic systems dictate who can use magic, what they can and cannot do with it, and what consequences follow when they twirl their wand, click their ruby slippers, or utter cryptic phrases (which, for some reason, are often in Latin).

Why are Magic Systems Necessary?

You might ask, “Why bother with all these rules? Isn’t magic meant to be, well, magical?”

Magic systems are not an elaborate scheme to sap the fun out of wizards’ lives.

On the contrary, they give structure and believability to a world.

Imagine watching a Quidditch match where players can score a million points with a wave of their wand.

That would make for a rather short and dull game, wouldn’t it?

Simply put, restrictions breed creativity and tension.

They allow for plot twists, character growth, and most importantly, they keep us, the readers, at the edge of our seats.

After all, where would be the excitement if our hero could simply wave away every dragon, riddling sphinx, or marauding orc army with the flick of a wrist?

The Magical Spectrum: From Mystical to Scientific

Magic systems come in all shapes and sizes, from those shrouded in the mists of mystery to those laid out like a physics textbook.

On the one end of the spectrum, we have Mystical Magic Systems.

These are the systems that maintain an aura of mystery and capriciousness.

They function more like an art than a science, relying heavily on intuition, emotions, or the whims of magical entities.

Rules? Pah! These systems scoff at rules. They are as unpredictable as a box of kittens, and just as likely to change direction without notice.

At the other end, we have Scientific Magic Systems.

These systems have detailed rules and clear limitations.

They’re logical, predictable, and follow consistent principles, much like the laws of physics (well, if physics included spells and potions, of course).

They can make magic feel as commonplace as making a cup of tea, but when done right, they give a sense of realism to the fantastical.

They are to magic what an Ikea manual is to flat-pack furniture— demystifying, useful, but sometimes downright baffling.

Of course, most magic systems fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

They maintain an air of enigma while also keeping a tight leash on magical escapades.

The magic may be mysterious, but its application and limitations are usually well-defined.

In the end, the choice of magic system depends on what serves the story best.

Some tales benefit from the ethereal nature of a mystical system, while others require the rigour of a scientific system.

Just like a good cuppa, it’s all about personal taste and the right blend.

The Evolution of Magic Systems

Magic systems in fantasy literature have evolved from the grand, ambiguous power of the likes of Gandalf to the intricately detailed and logical systems seen in novels like Brandon Sanderson’s “Mistborn” series.

Tolkien’s Influence

In the beginning, there was Tolkien. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not implying that J.R.R. was the first to pen fantasy. But let’s face it, his influence on the genre is as immeasurable as the length of a hobbit’s second breakfast.

In “The Lord of the Rings,” magic is as elusive as a straight answer from a politician.

It’s more about a sense of wonder, a mystical force that surrounds wizards, elves, and enchanted objects.

Gandalf, our favourite wizard (sorry, Rincewind), seldom explains his power, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Le Guin’s True Names

Then, we have our good friend Ursula K. Le Guin, who introduced us to the wizard Ged in “A Wizard of Earthsea.”

Le Guin’s magic is based on the “True Names” of things.

It’s a bit like having a secret nickname for your toaster that, once uttered, can make it dance the cha-cha.

It’s a more systematic approach than Tolkien’s, yet it still retains a certain enigmatic quality.

Pratchett’s Colourful Chaos

Terry Pratchett took us in a completely different direction in his “Discworld” series.

In this flat world carried on the back of four elephants standing on a giant turtle (yes, you read that correctly), magic is a common and chaotic force, rather like trying to herd cats during a full moon.

Pratchett’s wizards spend more time trying to avoid magic, for fear of the unpredictable effects.

It’s like dealing with a highly caffeinated toddler—you never know what will happen, but it’s certain to be loud and potentially destructive.

The Wheel Turns

Now, let’s take a leap across the pond to our American friends. Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series presents us with a distinct magic system with a strong gender divide.

Women channel the ‘One Power’ far more safely than men, who risk madness and death.

It’s a bit like asking your partner to control the TV remote—sometimes it’s safer to just do it yourself.

Magic as Science

In more recent times, Brandon Sanderson has become the darling of logical magic systems.

His novels, particularly those in the “Mistborn” series, present magic as a science, with clear rules and limitations.

Sanderson’s “Allomancy” involves ingesting and “burning” different types of metal to gain specific powers.

It’s like a high-stakes version of choosing your breakfast cereal—each one gives you a different kind of boost.

The evolution of magic systems mirror our own changing understanding of the world.

As our knowledge has grown, so too has the complexity and logic of the magic in our favourite novels.

Yet, the sense of wonder remains.

After all, as Arthur C. Clarke said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Recommended Reads

Below you’ll find some books with unique magic systems from a range of fantasy sub-genres.

Whether you’re a fan of epic fantasy, or prefer your stories with vampires and werewolves, this list has something for you.

“Mistborn” by Brandon Sanderson

Starting us off, we have Brandon Sanderson’s “Mistborn” series. In this world, magic comes from ingesting bits of metal, a practice known as Allomancy. Better yet, if you can stomach a mix of various metals, you become a Mistborn, capable of wielding extraordinary power. If that’s not a unique take on “You are what you eat,” I don’t know what is.

“The Fifth Season” by N.K. Jemisin

Next, we find ourselves in the world of “The Fifth Season” by N.K. Jemisin. Here, magic is a force of nature, quite literally! The magic system, orogeny, allows certain individuals to manipulate thermal, kinetic, and related forms of energy to prevent and cause earthquakes. It’s like being a living, breathing weather app with the added bonus of earthquake alerts.

“Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” by Susanna Clarke

Susanna Clarke’s “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” brings us a magic deeply rooted in British history and folklore, with a library’s worth of fictitious books about magic. It’s a beautifully intricate system where magic is more about knowledge, study, and the ability to argue with a straight face that the colour of your socks affects the potency of your spells.

“The Poppy War” by R.F. Kuang

With R.F. Kuang’s “The Poppy War,” we delve into a magic system inspired by Chinese history and myth. Shamanism allows individuals to access the power of gods, but it comes with a price. It’s a bit like renting your mind to a deity with questionable intentions. Remember to always read the terms and conditions before signing on the dotted line.

“A Darker Shade of Magic” by V.E. Schwab

In V.E. Schwab’s “A Darker Shade of Magic”, we find not one, but four Londons, each with a different relationship to magic. The catch? Only the rare Antari can travel between them. It’s like having a magical Oyster card with unlimited travel. Just mind the gap between Red London and White London!

“The Black Tides of Heaven” by JY Yang

JY Yang’s “The Black Tides of Heaven” presents us with the Tensorate series, where magic, or the Slack, is manipulated through a complex system of elemental sigils. It’s a world where gender fluidity is the norm and the magic system is about as simple as quantum physics.

“Storm Front” by Jim Butcher

If you prefer your magic with a side of detective work, Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” series, starting with “Storm Front,” is your cup of tea. Here, wizard Harry Dresden solves magical crimes in Chicago. Magic is as everyday as a cuppa, but with more fireballs. Just remember, don’t tick off the faeries!

“Who Fears Death” by Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor’s “Who Fears Death” gives us a post-apocalyptic Africa where magic is a deeply personal and transformative power. It’s a harrowing but captivating journey. Warning: this book may cause an existential crisis and a sudden urge to explore your own magical abilities.

“The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss

In “The Name of the Wind”, Patrick Rothfuss gives us Sympathy, a magic system steeped in scientific principles. It’s the kind of magic system that would make Newton proud, if he wasn’t too busy being miffed about that apple.

“Assassin’s Apprentice” by Robin Hobb

Journeying into the realm of Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy, we find the Wit, a deeply intimate and often stigmatised form of magic. It grants the user a telepathic link with animals, lending an altogether different perspective on the phrase ‘walkies’. It’s like being Dr. Dolittle, but with more political intrigue and fewer dancing pushmi-pullyus. Just remember, while talking to your dog about the state of the kingdom, don’t forget his regular scratch behind the ears.

How The Lord of the Rings Shaped Modern Fantasy

Explore Tolkien’s lasting impact on fantasy, from Middle-earth’s intricate lore to its ripple effect in pop culture. Dive into the legacy of a mastermind.

Ah, Middle-earth. A place where hobbits, elves, dwarves, and men coexist, and where one tiny gold ring can cause a ruckus that would put a Black Friday sale to shame.

This world has been etched into our collective consciousness ever since J.R.R. Tolkien first introduced it in “The Lord of the Rings.”

Published in the 1950s, the epic tale not only transformed how we view fantasy, but it has left an indelible mark on, well, almost everything else.

Now, Tolkien didn’t just wake up one morning and think, “Hmm, I fancy writing about an overambitious piece of jewellery today.”

His motivations were as profound as Gandalf’s wisdom (and that’s saying something!).

He desired to craft an epic mythology for England, driven by his dismay at the lack of native legends that weren’t tampered with by the French (Norman conquest, anyone?).

Fuelled by his love for ancient texts, philology, and probably a pint or two from The Eagle and Child pub, Tolkien gave us a world that is astonishingly detailed and breathtakingly vast.

When it comes to the release of the series, it was no less than a literary event.

Starting with “The Fellowship of the Ring” in 1954, followed by “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King”, the trilogy took readers by storm.

It’s worth noting that the term “trilogy” here is a bit of a misnomer—Tolkien saw his creation as a single novel but owing to practical reasons (like the sheer weight of the manuscript!), publishers divided it into three.

And while we’ll be diving deeper into the nitty-gritty of Middle-earth’s influence on world-building, the art of crafting languages, and the allure of epic quests that make our Monday mornings seem pretty mundane in comparison, this introduction is just to get your feet wet.

So, whether you’re an old fan who considers the Shire your second home, or a newbie just wondering what the fuss is all about, tighten your bootstraps, grab a lembas bread, and let’s embark on this enlightening journey together.

And remember, it’s the journey, not the destination, that matters—unless your destination is Mount Doom, in which case, you might want to reconsider.

Crafting Middle-earth

If you’ve ever tried to create a sandcastle without any plans, tools, or, frankly, a clue, you’ll know it usually ends up looking more like a misshapen potato than a regal fortress.

World-building in fantasy is somewhat similar, albeit on a slightly more, let’s say, epic scale.

It’s one thing to say, “Here be dragons”, and another to elucidate the lineage, favourite snack, and probable Tinder profiles of said dragons. And that, dear reader, is the genius of Tolkien.

Middle-earth isn’t just any old land plucked from the depths of imagination—it’s a grand tapestry woven with millennia of history, songs that are probably older than your granny’s china, and cultures so rich and varied they make our annual village fêtes look like a tepid cup of tea.

Now, Tolkien didn’t merely give us a map with some catchy names and say, “Here you go, have fun”.

No, no. He gave us genealogies (who knew hobbits were such avid record keepers?), intricate languages that would flummox even the most dedicated Duolingo user, and a calendar system which would make even the most ardent timekeeper’s head spin.

And then there’s the vast, sweeping landscapes—from the cosy confines of the Shire, to the ethereal beauty of Rivendell, to the doom and gloom (mostly doom) of Mordor.

His world-building was, in every sense, a game-changer.

Before Tolkien, we had fairy tales and fables, but post-Middle-earth, fantasy authors everywhere probably felt the weight of expectation.

A few elves and a magic sword wouldn’t cut it anymore.

They had to think about ecosystems, geopolitics, and the socioeconomic implications of dragon hoarding.

Thanks to Tolkien’s meticulous attention to detail, the bar was set sky-high (somewhere around the level of the Eagles, I’d wager).

This is not just world-building—it’s world-crafting.

It’s the equivalent of meticulously painting the Sistine Chapel and then deciding it needs just a tad more gold leaf.

The sheer expansiveness of Middle-earth has since become the gold standard (pun very much intended) in the realm of fantasy.

The next time you dive into a book and find yourself immersed in the nuances of fictional trade agreements or the correct pronunciation of a witch queen’s third name, tip your hat to Tolkien.

The man didn’t just set the stage—he built the entire theatre.

Created Languages

Ah, language. It’s that nifty little thing we use to order a coffee, complain about the weather, or explain why we’re three hours late to a meeting (dragons on the motorway again, I swear).

But for Tolkien, language wasn’t just a tool—it was an art, a passion, and quite possibly, a bit of an obsession.

Just as Picasso had his Blue Period, Tolkien had his Elvish Phase.

Now, if you thought learning French was tricky, spare a thought for anyone diving into Quenya or Sindarin.

Tolkien, ever the overachiever, didn’t stop at creating a few fancy names or curse words.

No, he went the full monty, crafting fully-fledged languages with their own grammar, vocabulary, and scripts. This wasn’t just a hobby; it was philology on steroids.

Why, you ask? Well, Tolkien believed that language was intrinsic to culture and identity. You can’t have a millennia-old race of ethereal, long-haired beings without giving them a suitably poetic language to sing about moonlight and, erm, trees.

And, boy, did the Elves love trees.

But it wasn’t just about the Elves.

Dwarvish, the Black Speech of Mordor, the Westron Common Tongue—each was a testament to Tolkien’s belief in the power and beauty of language.

With his philological prowess, he demonstrated that fictional cultures feel significantly richer, more real, and more alive when their linguistic roots are deep and well-forged.

Aspiring authors everywhere surely threw up their hands in exasperation, realising that they now had to think about verb conjugations for their fictional species.

Gone were the days when a few ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ would suffice for creating linguistic depth.

Now, there was a new benchmark, and it came with its own alphabet.

Since Tolkien’s time, the importance of constructed languages (or ‘conlangs’ for those in the know) has blossomed.

Whether it’s George R.R. Martin’s Dothraki in Game of Thrones, or the Na’vi language in James Cameron’s Avatar, authors and creators have come to embrace the enriching depth that a well-crafted language can bring to a fictional universe.

Races and Creatures

Let’s turn our attention to the residents of Middle-earth.

Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits.

They might sound like the line-up for a particularly eclectic village talent show, but Tolkien’s depiction of these races transformed them from mere mythological footnotes to headline acts in the fantasy realm.

First up, the Elves.

Before Tolkien, if you mentioned elves, many would picture mischievous little sprites dancing in moonlit glades or cobbling shoes after hours.

Tolkien’s Elves, however, are a whole different kettle of fish. Tall, ethereal, and perpetually looking as if they’ve just stepped out of a Pre-Raphaelite painting, his Elves became the archetype for many a fantasy narrative. #

Laden with history, tragedy, and an elegance that would put any catwalk model to shame, Tolkien’s Elves transcended their previous roles in folklore.

Then we have the Dwarves, stout and sturdy, known not only for their impressive beards (a hipster’s dream) but also for their craftsmanship and love of all things glittery.

Under Tolkien’s touch, they became a fiercely proud race with a deep sense of honour and tradition.

Gone were the mere tunnel-digging stereotypes of Disney’s Snow White—these Dwarves had culture, history, and yes, a penchant for breaking into song every now and then.

And who could forget the Hobbits?

Tolkien’s unique creation, these unassuming little folk with their furry feet and insatiable appetite for second breakfasts, captured hearts worldwide.

They might not have the ethereal beauty of Elves or the might of Dwarves, but their courage, resilience, and love for the simple pleasures of life resonated deeply with readers.

Now, it’s true, Tolkien didn’t pluck these races out of thin air.

Mythology and folklore brim with references to elf-like creatures, dwarvish beings, and other fantastical species.

However, what he did was infuse them with a depth and richness previously unseen.

They weren’t just cardboard cut-outs used to further a plot; they had histories, legends, grievances, and dreams.

And it’s this depth that has cemented Tolkien’s races as touchstones in the fantasy genre.

Many a writer has (shamelessly or otherwise) borrowed, adapted, or been ‘inspired by’ Tolkien’s interpretations.

When we think of Elves or Dwarves in modern fantasy settings, the image is often tinted with a shade of Tolkien.

Archetypal Characters

Step onto the stage of Middle-earth and you’ll be greeted by a cast of characters so iconic, they’ve practically stamped their faces (or in some cases, their precious rings) onto the very essence of fantasy storytelling.

While Tolkien didn’t invent all of these archetypes, he certainly gave them a fresh coat of paint, a new lease of life, and an unshakeable place in our collective imaginations.

First in the spotlight, we have Frodo Baggins, the poster child for the “reluctant hero”.

Here’s a chap who’d rather be munching on crumpets in Bag End than traipsing across Middle-earth with the weight of the world (and a particularly heavy ring) on his shoulders.

Frodo’s journey from the comfort of the Shire to the fiery depths of Mount Doom is the quintessential transformation from ordinary to extraordinary.

Tolkien shows us that heroes aren’t just made on battlefields; they’re made in the quiet moments, the hard choices, and the persistence to keep going even when the nearest tavern is miles away.

Then there’s Gandalf, embodying the “wise old mentor” trope.

With his pointy hat, majestic beard, and penchant for puffing on a pipe, he might seem like your typical wizard at first glance.

But Gandalf is so much more than a spell-slinger. He’s the guiding hand, the voice of wisdom, and occasionally, the bringer of fireworks.

He’s the mentor who knows when to lead, when to step back, and when to, quite literally, send you on an unexpected journey.

Thanks to Tolkien, a whole generation of fantasy authors saw the merits of having a seasoned character who’s seen it all, done it all, and still has a few tricks up their billowing sleeves.

And, of course, we can’t forget Gollum, the corrupted creature torn between his better nature and his overwhelming desire for the One Ring.

Gollum is the epitome of the “corrupted being”, a living, rasping testament to the corrupting nature of power and obsession.

While he might be a far cry from the typical villain with a dastardly plan, he’s a chilling reminder that sometimes, the greatest battles are fought within.

While characters like these can be traced back to ancient myths, legends, and folktales, Tolkien’s portrayal of them set a benchmark. His characters weren’t just archetypes; they were layered, complex beings who laughed, cried, struggled, and triumphed.

Their journeys have since become the yardstick against which many a fantasy character is measured.

Epic Quests

Once upon a time, in the heart of Middle-earth, there was a ring. Not just any ring, mind you, but the One Ring, the sort of jewellery piece that could make entire kingdoms fall and rise.

And at the centre of “The Lord of the Rings” is the monumental quest to bid this little trinket adieu in the fiery chasms of Mount Doom.

 Sounds simple enough, right? Ah, but as with anything Tolkien touched, there’s more to it than meets the eye.

The concept of the “quest” is as old as storytelling itself.

From ancient myths where heroes sought golden fleeces or fire-breathing foes, to legends of knights chasing after elusive grails, the idea of embarking on a journey, facing insurmountable odds, and returning transformed is a tale as old as time.

However, Tolkien didn’t merely dabble in this time-honoured narrative; he supercharged it.

The quest to destroy the One Ring is not just a trek across scenic landscapes (though there are plenty of those).

It’s a multi-layered journey—physically gruelling, emotionally harrowing, and spiritually awakening.

Every step taken by Frodo and the Fellowship is laden with peril, moral dilemmas, and the ever-present shadow of the enemy. It’s a marathon of endurance, courage, and resisting the urge to simply wear the darn thing.

Tolkien’s take on the epic quest wasn’t just about getting from Point A to Point B. It was about the transformation of its participants, the forging and breaking of alliances, and the understanding that even the most epic of quests is, at its heart, a deeply personal journey.

Since the publication of “The Lord of the Rings”, the epic quest has become a cornerstone of fantasy literature.

Need to overthrow a dark lord? Quest! Misplaced a magical artefact? Quest! Got a prophecy about a chosen one? You guessed it, quest!

While the objectives vary, the essence remains the same: characters pushed to their limits, facing both external challenges and internal conflicts, all while navigating a world brimming with wonder and danger.

Moral Depth

Peel back the layers of orcs, elves, and a rather peculiar obsession with pipe-weed, and at the heart of Tolkien’s magnum opus lies a rich tapestry of moral themes.

These aren’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill dilemmas like whether to have a second helping of elevenses (though, that’s certainly a quandary many a hobbit has faced). No, these are the weighty, sit-up-straight-and-think-hard kind of themes, the sort that have been echoing down the corridors of fantasy literature ever since.

First and foremost, there’s the age-old tussle between good and evil. Middle-earth is rife with it.

From the lofty towers of Minas Tirith to the shadowy depths of Mordor, every nook and cranny seems to be choosing a side. But Tolkien, ever the maestro, doesn’t just paint this battle in broad strokes of black and white.

There’s nuance, ambiguity, and a fair bit of moral greyness (we’re looking at you, Boromir).

It’s a gentle reminder that even in a world bursting with magic, the lines between right and wrong can often be as blurry as a wizard’s vision after one too many ales.

Next up, we have the oh-so-seductive corrupting influence of power, best epitomised by that shiny bit of finger jewellery: the One Ring.

How many have been ensnared by its allure, whispering promises of grandeur and dominion?

From proud kings to a certain gangly creature who’s overly fond of referring to himself in third person, the One Ring’s grip shows that unchecked power can lead even the noblest souls astray.

In Tolkien’s world, the true measure of a hero isn’t their strength or cunning, but their ability to resist temptation and wield power responsibly.

And then, there’s perhaps the most heartwarming theme of all—the idea that even the tiniest individual, someone who might be overlooked in the bustling crowd of Middle-earth, can be the catalyst for monumental change.

You don’t need to be a seven-foot-tall warrior or a sorcerer with a flair for the dramatic. Sometimes, all it takes is a humble hobbit with a good heart (and possibly an appetite for adventure that matches his appetite for scones).

Since Tolkien laid down his pen, these moral threads have woven their way into the fabric of countless tales, sagas, and epics.

Authors across the globe have grappled with, expanded upon, and reimagined these themes in myriad ways.

Magic and Its Limitations

If you’ve ever dreamt of attending a school of witchcraft and wizardry in Middle-earth, best shelve those dreams.

Because magic in Tolkien’s world doesn’t come in handy, colour-coded textbooks or involve shouting Latin-ish phrases while brandishing a wand.

Middle-earth magic is a different beast altogether—subtle, ancient, and as elusive as a well-behaved oliphaunt.

In many fantasy tales, magic is the solution to all life’s little problems.

Need to light up a room? There’s a spell for that. Fancy turning your pesky neighbour into a toad? There’s probably a spell for that too (though, not endorsed for everyday use).

However, in Middle-earth, magic is less about dazzling displays of power and more about the intangible, the ineffable. It’s in the haunting songs of the Elves, the ancient wisdom of the Ents, or even in the resilience of a hobbit’s spirit.

And when overt magic does make an appearance – say, in the guise of a certain grey-clad wizard – it’s often shrouded in mystery and reverence.

But here’s the real kicker—magic in Tolkien’s realm often comes with strings attached. Or, to be more precise, consequences.

The One Ring grants invisibility, but wear it too often and you might just find yourself hosting a permanent Ringwraith party (spoiler: they’re not the fun kind).

Even mighty artefacts like the Palantíri or the Silmarils, for all their allure and power, are double-edged swords, bringing both great insight and potential doom.

This nuanced approach to magic—where it’s less about the spectacular and more about the significant, where every spell or magical act carries weight and consequence—has left an indelible mark on the fantasy genre.

Later authors, drawing inspiration from Tolkien, have woven intricate magical systems, ensuring that magic isn’t just a tool but an integral, living part of their world.

They’ve recognised that, sometimes, the most powerful magic lies not in the grand gestures but in the small moments, and that every action, magical or otherwise, ripples through their world in myriad ways.

History and Mythology

Imagine for a moment you’re a visitor in Tolkien’s study (tea and crumpets optional, but highly recommended).

One glance at his desk and you might wonder if he’s chronicling the rich tapestry of an ancient civilisation, given the sheer depth and intricacy of the papers strewn about.

 But no, this isn’t history homework gone awry—it’s the painstaking crafting of Middle-earth’s millennia-spanning backstory, complete with its heroes, villains, love stories, betrayals, and a good number of epic ballads to serenade the lot.

Before “The Lord of the Rings” even gets its boots muddy in the Shire, Tolkien had crafted entire ages of his world’s history.

This wasn’t just a cursory timeline scribbled on the back of an envelope.

We’re talking detailed accounts of creation myths, family trees more complicated than a soap opera, entire languages (with their evolving dialects, no less), and sagas that would make ancient bards nod in appreciation.

“The Silmarillion”, often dubbed Middle-earth’s own Bible, is just the tip of this monumental iceberg.

Now, while creating exhaustive backstories might sound like an author’s way of ensuring they never run out of procrastination material, it’s far more than that.

By grounding Middle-earth in such rich history and mythology, Tolkien gave it weight, depth, and a tangible sense of timelessness.

Every hill, every forest, every ancient ruin in Middle-earth whispers tales of yore, imbuing the landscape with a poignant sense of both wonder and melancholy.

It’s this depth that makes us feel, when stepping into Middle-earth, that we’re delving into a realm as ancient and storied as our own.

Tolkien’s dedication to crafting Middle-earth’s deep past wasn’t just a hobby run amok; it set a gold standard for the fantasy genre.

Authors who followed in his footsteps realised that to truly immerse readers, their worlds needed history, legends, and the occasional epic ballad.

It’s no longer enough to simply introduce a mystical city; readers now yearn to know who built it, which star-crossed lovers met beneath its silvered arches, and, naturally, which legendary figures might have sung a melancholic tune about it all.


Pop open a copy of “The Lord of the Rings” and before you even reach a word of the tale, you’re greeted by an elaborate tapestry of coastlines, mountain ranges, forests, and the winding roads of Middle-earth.

It’s not just any map; it’s a visual feast, a cartographic love letter to the world Tolkien so meticulously crafted.

You see, Tolkien understood something vital: A good map does more than just show you the way from the Shire to Mordor (though it’s rather handy for that, too)—it plunges you, heart and soul, into the very landscape of the tale.

Now, you might wonder, why such fuss over a bunch of lines and names on paper?

Well, beyond the obvious delight of tracing Frodo’s perilous journey with a finger, or getting a bird’s-eye view of Gondor’s strategic location, there’s something deeply immersive about a well-crafted map.

It beckons the reader to wander, to explore, to daydream about adventures in the vast swathes of land labelled with tantalising terms like “Here Be Dragons” or “Mirkwood” (adventures that hopefully don’t involve too many spiders).

And here’s where Tolkien, the astute pioneer he was, sparked a cartographic revolution in fantasy literature.

Realising that a map could serve as a reader’s anchor, allowing them to ground themselves in a tale’s sprawling geography, he not only provided a reference tool but also an artefact that enriched the very essence of his story.

Emboldened by this, many a fantasy author soon followed suit.

Gone were the days when readers had to blindly navigate through the treacherous terrains and sprawling cities of fantastical realms.

Now, they could embark on their literary adventures equipped with detailed maps, ready to explore every nook and cranny, from the highest mountain peak to the tiniest hamlet.

Songs and Poetry

Ever found yourself wandering through the lush fields of the Shire, wishing you had a jaunty tune to express your delight? Or perhaps, while skulking in the depths of a dark cave, you’ve felt an inexplicable urge to unravel a riddle?

Well, you’re in good company, for Tolkien too realised that sometimes, the heart’s yearnings and the world’s wonders can’t simply be contained within the bounds of regular sentences. Enter: songs, poems, and riddles.

Now, Tolkien didn’t merely toss these into his tales for a bit of flamboyant flair.

Each song, each poem, each cryptic riddle is a thread woven into the rich tapestry of Middle-earth.

They breathe life into bygone eras, serenade heroes of old, and capture the essence of various races, from the lofty laments of the Elves to the earthy ballads of the Dwarves.

They’re like snapshots, preserving moments and emotions from Middle-earth’s vast chronicles.

Take, for instance, the mournful song of the Ents, lamenting lost Entwives.

In its haunting verses, readers don’t just see the sorrow of ancient tree-herders but also feel the weight of ages gone by.

Or consider Bilbo’s cheeky riddle-game with Gollum; it’s not just a battle of wits but a cultural exchange, giving glimpses into their respective worlds.

Tolkien’s genius lay in recognising that such literary devices could be more than just decorative flourishes.

They could deepen the reader’s immersion, making the world feel ancient and lived-in.

After all, what better way to understand a culture or a people than through their art, their folklore, their songs?

And, as with many of Tolkien’s innovations, this symphony of words didn’t go unnoticed.

Subsequent fantasy authors, inspired by the maestro, began to weave their own anthems, ballads, and enigmas into their narratives.

Realising that these could be conduits to the very soul of their worlds, they embraced this harmonious approach with gusto.

Standard for Trilogies

Picture this: Tolkien, after years of painstaking work, finally hands over his magnum opus, expecting it to be embraced as the singular epic it was intended to be.

Instead, the publishers, probably after a dramatic gulp and a long stare at the sheer bulk of the manuscript, decide, “Let’s slice it into three parts.”

And just like that, instead of one colossal volume of “The Lord of the Rings”, we got a triad: “The Fellowship of the Ring”, “The Two Towers”, and “The Return of the King”.

Now, this wasn’t just a whimsical decision to test the strength of bookshelves worldwide.

In the post-war era, with economic considerations like paper shortages, publishing such a monolithic tome wasn’t just challenging; it was near-impossible.

Splitting the narrative into three distinct parts was a practical solution, and it turned out to be a stroke of unforeseen genius.

This unintentional trilogy inadvertently laid down a blueprint for fantasy literature.

The three-act structure, inherent in most great narratives, found a perfect fit in the trilogy format.

The setup, the confrontation, and the resolution naturally flowed into three separate volumes, each with its own peaks and troughs, yet contributing to a larger, cohesive narrative.

Other fantasy authors took note. Suddenly, trilogies became the order of the day.

They allowed for expansive world-building, intricate character development, and plots that could twist and turn over hundreds of pages before reaching a satisfying climax.

Think about it: how many times have you picked up a promising fantasy book, only to realise it’s the first in a trilogy? That’s Tolkien’s (and his publisher’s) legacy at work.

The split not only benefited Tolkien’s tale, giving readers natural breaks to catch their breaths from all the hobbit-hopping and orc-chopping, but it also reshaped the very structure of epic fantasy.

 Authors and publishers alike recognised the merits of the trilogy format, both in terms of storytelling and, let’s face it, sales.

In the end, “The Lord of the Rings” being carved into thirds was serendipity at its finest.

And the fantasy realm? It found its golden standard in the trilogy.

Influence on Popular Culture

It began with a ring, a rather unassuming bit of gold that unexpectedly embarked on an epic journey. And as that journey unfolded, it didn’t just stay confined to the inked pages of Tolkien’s world.

Like a particularly ambitious hobbit, “The Lord of the Rings” stepped out of its cosy literary Shire and ventured into every nook and cranny of popular culture.

Let’s begin with the most luminous of these footprints: the film adaptations.

Peter Jackson’s cinematic rendition didn’t just give faces to beloved characters—it painted Middle-earth in vivid, breathtaking strokes.

From the serene vistas of Rivendell to the looming menace of Mount Doom, the films captured imaginations and box offices alike.

What’s more, they heralded an era where epic fantasy, once reserved for bookish types whispering about wizards in dimly lit corners, was suddenly front and centre, dazzling audiences in IMAX.

But the silver screen was merely one stop in Middle-earth’s pop culture conquest.

The enchanting realms of Tolkien’s creation morphed into pixelated landscapes in video games, allowing fans to personally duel with Balrogs or, at the very least, engage in a spot of orc-bothering.

Board games saw players strategically navigating the perils of Middle-earth, and if you’ve ever played a tabletop RPG, you’ve Tolkien to thank for those elves, dwarves, and halflings on your character sheets.

Beyond the realms of entertainment, Middle-earth even carved a niche in the very fabric of our real world.

Case in point: New Zealand.

Those once-quiet islands, known for their sheep and rugby, now also stand as the living, breathing embodiment of Tolkien’s landscape.

Tourists, in their droves, descend upon its shores, eager to tread the very ground that Frodo and Sam did (cinematically, at least).

The nation embraced its Middle-earthen identity with arms wide open, showcasing to the world the sheer transformative power of a well-told tale.

“The Lord of the Rings” demonstrated that epic fantasy wasn’t just a niche genre, destined to gather dust on high library shelves.

It could be a cultural powerhouse, influencing entire industries, from cinema to tourism.

It proved that tales of heroism, magic, and Middle-earthen mischief weren’t just for a select few but had a universal appeal, resonating with hearts across the globe.

Tolkien’s Timeless Tapestry

Piecing together threads from ancient myths, age-old legends, and rich literary traditions, Tolkien didn’t merely write a story—he spun a masterpiece.

Each thread, meticulously selected, became part of a grander tapestry, depicting a world as detailed and tangible as our own.

Yes, the myths he drew from were not his invention.

Elves had sung their songs and dwarves had swung their axes long before Bilbo decided adventures weren’t so bad after all.

Yet, Tolkien’s genius lay not in the invention of entirely new threads, but in the way he wove them together.

By infusing his academic expertise with a boundless imagination, he gave these tales a fresh lustre, making them shine in ways they hadn’t before.

The landscapes of Middle-earth, the languages of its races, the trials of its heroes and the depths of its lore are, in themselves, wonders to behold.

But their sum?

It’s magical in the truest sense of the word.

“The Lord of the Rings” is not just a narrative—it’s an experience.

One that invites readers to lose themselves in its pages and then compels them to see the world with renewed wonder.

Fast forward to today, and the echoes of Tolkien’s impact are evident in every corner of popular culture.

Whether it’s an author meticulously crafting their fantasy world, a filmmaker attempting to capture the same lightning in a bottle, or a game designer sculpting realms of adventure—all bear traces of Tolkien’s influence, knowingly or otherwise.

In wrapping up this exploration of Tolkien’s influence, one thing is abundantly clear—his vision of Middle-earth, though rooted in the past, is timeless.

As generations of readers have found, and future generations will surely discover, in the heart of Tolkien’s work lies a universal truth—the power of storytelling to captivate, inspire, and bring a touch of magic to the everyday.

To put it simply, while others have penned tales, Tolkien cast spells.

And the enchantment of Middle-earth? Well, it’s far from wearing off.

10 Modern Fantasy Novels Inspired by The Lord of the Rings

Tolkien’s influence on modern fantasy literature remains unmatched.

Many authors cite Tolkien’s epic tale of hobbits, elves, dwarves and men as a major inspiration for their own fantasy worlds and stories.

Here are 10 modern fantasy novels that show traces of Tolkien’s imaginative genius:

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

 Martin’s gritty, morally ambiguous fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire owes a debt to Tolkien in its sprawling worldbuilding and epic scope.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle centres around Kvothe, a legendary figure with mysterious powers. Echoes of Tolkien’s depiction of wizards like Gandalf can be seen in this fan-favourite fantasy series.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

 This action-packed tale follows elite thief Locke Lamora in a city that evokes comparisons to Tolkien’s Minas Tirith. The unlikely hero and meticulous world-building are reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings.

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

Abercrombie’s gritty First Law trilogy subverts many common fantasy tropes, but its emphasis on flawed heroes and anti-heroes is somewhat Tolkien-esque.

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

Pullman’s acclaimed His Dark Materials trilogy contains many overt references to The Lord of the Rings. From colleges of wizards to speaking animal companions, the influences are clear.

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett

This debut novel kicked off Brett’s Demon Cycle series about humans battling demonic forces. The unlikely hero trope and focus on apocalyptic stakes are very Tolkien-inspired.

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson’s Mistborn books centre around a dark lord ruling over the world, which many view as inspired by Sauron and Mordor from The Lord of the Rings.

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

Jordan’s mammoth Wheel of Time saga features Tolkien-style worldbuilding, with similarly sprawling geography and epic magical systems.

Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind

Goodkind’s Sword of Truth novels depict an epic struggle to overthrow an evil emperor, not unlike the Dark Lord Sauron. The unlikely hero trope also makes an appearance.

The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams

This opening novel in Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn employs many Lord of the Rings elements, from elves and dwarves to a mysterious magical sword.

Behind Every Hero: Notable Sidekicks in Epic Fantasy

Explore fantasy literature’s unsung heroes—the steadfast sidekicks. From hobbits to wolves, they shape narratives with loyalty, humour, and courage.

Sidekicks & Sundry: Memorable Aides-de-Camp in Fantasy Literature

Fantasy literature, with its entrancing realms and bewitching narratives, has forever been the refuge for those who crave a bit of magical escapism.

But let’s take a moment to tip our proverbial hats to the unsung heroes of these tales—the trusty sidekicks.

They may not always bask in the limelight, but we’d be hard-pressed to imagine our heroes traversing treacherous terrains or vanquishing dastardly villains without them.

Samwise Gamgee (The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien)

We’d be as forgetful as a goldfish to not mention our dear old Sam. This hobbit doesn’t just carry Frodo’s luggage, but on occasion, Frodo himself.

Who needs a GPS when you’ve got Samwise?

Armed with his unyielding loyalty, pot of potatoes (boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew), and the odd heroic monologue, Samwise truly encapsulates the spirit of a fantasy sidekick.

Nighteyes (Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb)

Who wouldn’t want a wolf as a sidekick? Nighteyes, with his ancient wisdom and candid observations, steals the show in Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy.

While Fitz might be the royal bastard with assassin skills, it’s Nighteyes who provides the emotional support, humour, and even philosophy.

Fancy a good telepathic chat? Look no further.

Jean Tannen (Gentleman Bastard Sequence by Scott Lynch)

Every con artist needs a reliable partner, and Jean Tannen fits the bill perfectly for Locke Lamora.

Jean isn’t just your token big guy with an axe but a scholar, strategist, and a dab hand at intricate swearing.

He’s the meticulous planner to Locke’s hasty schemes.

His loyalty is as unwavering as his love for fine brandy.

Without Jean, Locke would be as lost as a pirate in a desert.

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm Series by Kristin Cashore)

Introduced as a minor character in ‘Graceling,’ Bitterblue blooms into a steadfast sidekick in ‘Fire’ before seizing the main stage in her titular book.

She might be a queen, but her relentless quest for truth and justice, combined with her pragmatic approach, make her a superb sidekick.

Also, she manages to retain her royal dignity while dealing with mystical nonsense, which is quite a feat, isn’t it?

Tia (Aru Shah Series by Roshani Chokshi)

Tia, the pigeon who’s really a vahana (vehicle of a deity), adds a dash of plucky charm and sass to the Aru Shah Series.

Sure, Aru Shah’s reincarnation as a Pandava is pretty cool, but who can overlook a pigeon who can transmogrify into a flashy car and dispense sage advice, all while looking impeccably stylish?

Asha (The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon)

An epic fantasy by Samantha Shannon, ‘The Priory of the Orange Tree’ introduces us to Asha, a dragon slayer of repute and a steadfast ally.

 Asha provides an invigorating contrast to the courtly intrigues with her bluntness, courage, and a healthy dose of dragon-related badassery.

Wayne (Mistborn Series: Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson)

Wayne, an expert shapeshifter and quick-witted con artist, adds a dash of levity to the intense world of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series.

 Armed with an impressive array of accents, a love for hats, and a bizarre sense of humour, Wayne serves as the perfect foil to the more serious Waxillium.

They’re the dynamic duo of the rough-and-tumble world of the Roughs.

Loial (The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan)

Loial, the Ogier scholar from Robert Jordan’s sprawling ‘Wheel of Time’ series, is as endearing as sidekicks come.

This giant, book-loving, somewhat naïve character offers a softer and often humorous contrast to the tumultuous world around him.

Despite his peaceful nature, Loial is stalwart in his loyalty, proving time and again that there’s more to this gentle giant than meets the eye.

Gurton (The Axe and the Throne by M. D. Ireman)

‘Gruff yet tender-hearted’ could be the motto of Gurton, the loyal sidekick from M. D. Ireman’s ‘The Axe and the Throne.’

With his masterful skills in tracking and survival, Gurton is more than just a supporting player.

His unyielding loyalty and unexpected depths keep the readers engaged and rooting for him.

Sophronia (The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin)

Sophronia, a godling in a child’s form in N.K. Jemisin’s ‘The Inheritance Trilogy’ provides comic relief, poignant moments, and powerful insight.

While she might appear as a playful child, her wisdom and ability to see through deception add layers to her character, making her an unforgettable sidekick.

Syl (The Legacy Chronicle by T.J. Garrett)

The Legacy Chronicle gives us Syl, an impish sprite who accompanies the main character, Alex.

Witty, fun-loving, and full of surprises, Syl is the perfect counterpoint to the series’ darker elements.

We’ve heard of a light at the end of the tunnel, but a light leading you through a magical world? Now that’s special!

Finn (The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung)

In Michael McClung’s Amra Thetys series, Finn is the steadfast companion of the titular thief, Amra.

A wizard with a mysterious past, Finn brings a balanced mix of wisdom and levity to the adventure-filled narrative.

His faithfulness to Amra, despite her criminal lifestyle, adds a touching depth to his character.

Minalan’s Familiars (Spellmonger Series by Terry Mancour)

The Spellmonger series introduces us to an unconventional sort of sidekick—a group of magical familiars who assist Minalan the Spellmonger.

These familiars, including a feisty fay, a resourceful raven, and a motherly hawk, each contribute their unique magic and perspective, making Minalan’s adventures a magical delight.

Kestrel (Kings or Pawns by J.J. Sherwood)

Kestrel, a cheeky yet highly skilled thief from the Steps of Power series, serves as an engaging counterpoint to the seriousness of the royal intrigue surrounding him.

His unorthodox methods and quick wit bring a refreshing touch of humour to the narrative, making him a memorable sidekick in this epic tale.

Snickers (Legends of Dimmingwood series by C. Greenwood)

In C. Greenwood’s ‘Legends of Dimmingwood’ series, Snickers might be a squirrel, but he’s a loyal friend and companion to the series’ protagonist, Ilan.

Don’t underestimate this furry little chap—his keen senses and quick reactions often help Ilan out of sticky situations.

 Just goes to show, you don’t need to be big to make a big impact.

Bayaz (The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie)

Bayaz, the First of the Magi in Joe Abercrombie’s ‘The First Law’ Trilogy, may seem like a typical wise old wizard at first glance.

However, his mysterious past, hidden motives, and a decidedly manipulative streak add layers of complexity to his character.

He serves as a guiding light and occasional puppet master to the trilogy’s protagonists, ensuring that the narrative is anything but dull.

Falcio’s Greatcoats (The Greatcoats series by Sebastien de Castell)

Falcio’s companions, Kest and Brasti, in Sebastien de Castell’s ‘The Greatcoats’ series, form a trio that is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

They provide much-needed camaraderie, banter, and support for their leader, Falcio, making their adventures a delightful ride.

Their unwavering loyalty to each other and their shared cause makes them more than sidekicks—they are brothers in arms.

Kip’s Squad (Lightbringer Series by Brent Weeks)

In Brent Weeks’ ‘Lightbringer’ series, Kip’s squad of talented misfits serves as an engaging ensemble of sidekicks.

From the wise-cracking Gunner to the brave and resolute Teia, each member brings unique strengths to the table.

The dynamics within this diverse group are humorous, heartwarming, and at times, heart-wrenching, making them an unforgettable part of Kip’s journey.

Bronn (A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin)

Let’s turn to George R. R. Martin’s sprawling saga, ‘A Song of Ice and Fire.’

Bronn, the sellsword who becomes an unlikely sidekick to Tyrion Lannister, is a fan favourite.

His pragmatism, dry humour, and surprising loyalty to Tyrion provide a refreshing contrast to the intrigue-laden world of Westeros.

And who can forget his notable mantra, “I’ll stand for the dwarf?”

Iorek Byrnison (His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman)

In Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’, Lyra’s journey wouldn’t be quite the same without the mighty Iorek Byrnison.

The Panserbjørne (armoured bear) adds muscle and an unusual wisdom to Lyra’s quest.

Also, he’s a giant talking bear who can make and mend armour, so he’s ticking quite a few boxes on the cool sidekick checklist.

Tasslehoff Burrfoot (Dragonlance Series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman)

The Dragonlance series introduces us to Tasslehoff Burrfoot, a kender (a race akin to hobbits) whose curiosity and kleptomania often lead to humorous and unexpected situations.

Tasslehoff’s sense of adventure and knack for getting out of sticky situations make him a sidekick to remember.

He’s the kind of fellow who’d ‘borrow’ your keys, wallet, and possibly your socks, but you’d still want him around for his unwavering optimism and courage.

Calcifer (Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones)

In Diana Wynne Jones’ ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’, the fire demon Calcifer plays a key role as a sidekick.

Calcifer powers the titular castle and aids the young protagonist, Sophie, in her quest to break her curse.

With his sarcastic humour and hints of a deeper, more complex past, Calcifer lights up the narrative—and not just because he’s a literal flame.

Jimmy the Hand (The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist)

From Raymond E. Feist’s ‘Riftwar Saga’, we have the charming and resourceful Jimmy the Hand.

This master thief may start as a minor character, but his courage, quick-thinking, and knack for getting in and out of trouble make him an unforgettable sidekick.

Whether he’s navigating the dangerous alleys of Krondor or the intrigues of court, Jimmy proves time and again that a clever mind can be as potent as any sword.

The Luggage (Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett)

Finally, where would a list of sidekicks be without The Luggage from Terry Pratchett’s brilliant Discworld series?

This sentient, multi-legged travel case made of Sapient Pearwood has been a loyal and, shall we say, ‘forceful’ companion to Rincewind the inept wizard.

Unflinchingly loyal, literally eating up foes, and offering an infinite amount of storage, The Luggage redefines the term ‘travel buddy.’

Each of these sidekicks, in their unique ways, enhances the epic narratives they are part of, providing support, camaraderie, humour, and occasionally, a reality check for our heroes. They may not be the ones wearing the crown or sitting on the throne, but their role in shaping the story is just as important, if not more so.

Who are your favourites? Share yours in the comments.

Friends in Fantasy: Unveiling the 10 Best Fictional Friendships

Explore the top friendships in fantasy literature! Uncover the bonds that define characters in Middle Earth, Hogwarts, and beyond.

Who doesn’t love friendship? Today we’re going to delve into the top-flight friendships in fantastical literature.

So, grab a cuppa, make yourself cosy (preferably with a dragon-sized pile of biscuits) and let’s explore ten of the best mates in fantasy books.

Frodo Baggins & Samwise Gamgee – The Lord of The Rings

Are you really surprised? It’s the fellowship that defines the word itself.

 Here we have Frodo, a hobbit with the weight of the world (or a rather heavy ring) on his shoulders, and Samwise, the gardener turned warrior, who probably didn’t even know what he was signing up for when he eavesdropped on Gandalf that fateful night.

Their friendship is the epitome of loyalty, the kind that lasts through a long, wearisome journey to Mount Doom.

Quite frankly, if your mate isn’t willing to carry you up a volcanic mountain while being hunted by a creepy, ring-obsessed creature, are they really your friend?

Harry Potter & Hermione Granger & Ronald Weasley – Harry Potter Series

It’s the magical trio that faced down You-Know-Who and lived to tell the tale.

Harry, Hermione, and Ron showed us the power of friendship, courage, and the importance of a well-placed “Expelliarmus!”

Sure, there were squabbles, moments of jealousy, and that one time Ron left in a huff (we’re still not over that, Ronald), but in the end, they always stuck together.

They faced trolls, death eaters, and even the occasional murderous teacher, proving that the power of friendship truly can conquer all – even an angst-ridden, snake-loving dark wizard.

 Lyra Belacqua & Pantalaimon – His Dark Materials

A girl and her daemon—Lyra and Pan are not just friends, they’re literally part of each other.

If that’s not a deep bond, I don’t know what is.

Pantalaimon, the shape-shifting animal embodiment of Lyra’s soul, is with her through thick and thin.

Their friendship shows us that sometimes, our best mate is our own true self (or our talking ermine, pine marten, moth, bird, whatever Pan fancies at the moment).

Locke Lamora & Jean Tannen – The Gentleman Bastard Series

A pair of thieves who would willingly die for each other, Locke and Jean are the definition of a bromance.

They lie, cheat, and steal, but they do it with such flair, you can’t help but find yourself cheering them on.

Their bond is as sturdy as Jean’s beloved hatchets and as intricate as one of Locke’s grand schemes.

If your idea of friendship involves elaborate heists, constant banter, and the occasional life-saving, this pair is for you.

Arya Stark & Sandor Clegane – A Song of Ice and Fire

An unconventional friendship, to say the least.

Arya, the fierce Stark girl, and Sandor, the gruff, scarred knight known as ‘The Hound.’

They teach each other lessons of survival and humanity.

Sure, they’re not popping over for tea and scones every Sunday, but they’ve got each other’s backs when it counts.

And really, isn’t that what friendship is all about?

FitzChivalry Farseer & The Fool – The Farseer Trilogy

This is a friendship that transcends the usual boundaries of camaraderie and ventures into the realm of the spiritual.

Fitz, the royal bastard, and The Fool, the court jester with a mysterious past, are as different as night and day, yet their bond is unbreakable.

They journey together through heartbreak, prophecy, and the occasional assassination attempt.

This is a friendship that shows us the power of understanding and acceptance, proving that our differences can often be our greatest strengths.

Vin & Elend Venture – Mistborn Trilogy

Initially, an alliance of convenience between a street thief and a nobleman, Vin and Elend’s relationship soon develops into a deep friendship and later a romantic relationship.

They challenge each other, learn from each other, and ultimately change each other in profound ways.

Their relationship is a testament to the power of trust and mutual respect.

It’s a reminder that sometimes, the most unexpected friendships are the ones that shape us the most.

Kvothe & Auri – The Kingkiller Chronicle

In a world full of magic, mystery, and music, the friendship between Kvothe, the gifted bard, and Auri, the enigmatic girl living beneath the University, stands out.

Their bond is gentle, respectful, and deeply touching.

Kvothe shows kindness and patience towards Auri’s peculiar ways, while Auri provides Kvothe a safe haven from his troubles.

Their friendship serves as a beacon of kindness in a world that often seems dark and unforgiving.

Geralt of Rivia & Dandelion – The Witcher Series

A witcher and a bard—an unlikely, yet captivating pair.

Geralt, the stoic monster-hunter, and Dandelion, the flamboyant troubadour, couldn’t be more different, yet their friendship endures through countless adventures and dangers.

While Geralt saves Dandelion from various physical threats, Dandelion often saves Geralt from his own cynicism, reminding him of the beauty and joy in the world.

Their friendship is a testament to the balance that opposites can bring to each other’s lives.

Sabriel & Mogget – The Old Kingdom Series

Last, but certainly not least, is the curious partnership between Sabriel, the Abhorsen-in-waiting, and Mogget, the mysterious cat-like being.

Their relationship is one of mutual respect and necessity more than affection, but it’s their banter and shared determination that really cement their friendship.

Mogget’s cryptic advice and quick wit often aid Sabriel in her dangerous quest, and while Mogget might not admit it, Sabriel’s steadfast courage and compassion likely save him just as often.

It’s a friendship that shows us sometimes, the best partnerships come from the most unexpected places.

So, whether it’s sharing an adventure, a laugh, or just a really good book, these friendships remind us that even in the midst of dragons, dark lords, or dystopias, having a mate by your side makes it all a bit more bearable.

Remember, a good friend will always pass you the next book in the series. But a best friend will buy you your own copy.

What are your favourite friendships in fantasy? Share yours in the comments.

From Game of Thrones to Skyrim: Are We in a Golden Age of Epic Fantasy?

Explore the rise of epic fantasy across literature, TV, film, video games, and music. Discover how this genre has revolutionized popular culture.

We’re about to embark on a thrilling ride through the expansive realms of epic fantasy.

It’s been said that we’re living in a golden age of this grand genre, and as we venture from literature and video games, to television and film, it’s hard to disagree.

The past decade or so has brought with it a resurgence of epic fantasy that would make even the most hardened orc shed a tear of joy.

This period, brimming with magical creatures, intricate world-building, and complex characters, has heralded a revolution in how we consume and perceive this genre.

No longer confined to dusty tomes enjoyed in candle-lit, wizard-themed bedrooms, epic fantasy has soared on dragon wings, spreading its influence far and wide across popular culture.

Today, it’s as common to hear chatter about the latest dragon-slaying escapade on the commute as it is to discuss the weather.

In this thrilling expedition, we’ll delve into the staggering impact of epic fantasy on our books, TV shows, films, video games, and music.

So, pull up a chair, summon your beverage of choice, and join us as we embark on this fantastical journey.

An Explosion of Fantasy on the Bookshelves

First, let’s pay a visit to the realm of literature. It’s hard to talk about epic fantasy without tipping our hats to the unstoppable force that is Brandon Sanderson.

Sanderson churns out novels with the same speed that a poorly trained wizard casts fireballs (and with far less collateral damage). His “Stormlight Archive” series has given us a world so epic it makes the Himalayas look like a minor inconvenience.

Then we have the fantastical work of N.K. Jemisin and her ‘Broken Earth’ trilogy. Her powerful prose and intricate plotting rocked the literary world. Not only did she bag the prestigious Hugo Award for each book in the trilogy, a first for any author, but she also managed to subtly weave poignant social commentary into her lore. She has, quite literally, redefined the landscape of fantasy.

And, of course, there’s George R. R. Martin. His ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series, a veritable ‘War and Peace’ of Westeros, continues to delight and horrify us in equal measure. (Of course, this mention is contingent upon the long-awaited sixth book ‘The Winds of Winter’ ever seeing the light of day. No pressure, George, but the kettle’s been on for a while now).

And Sarah J. Maas burst onto the scene like a unicorn on roller-skates with her ‘Throne of Glass’ and ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ series. (I always want to see what A Court of Guns and Roses might look like, but after this year’s Glastonbury performance it might not be the best idea). Maas’s enticing mix of fantasy, romance, and strong female leads has inspired a new generation of readers to pick up the mantle and read past their bedtime.

A New Chapter: Indie Heroes of the Epic Fantasy Realm

If the corporate publishing landscape is akin to a neatly trimmed English garden, then indie publishing is the wild, untamed forest just beyond, rife with the unknown and bursting with possibilities.

With the rise of the digital age, an ever-growing crop of talented wordsmiths have bravely ventured into this wilderness, bestowing upon us a treasure trove of self-published epic fantasies.

Leading the charge is none other than Michael J. Sullivan with his ‘Riyria Revelations’. If you’ve not had the pleasure, Sullivan’s series offers a refreshing brew of classic high fantasy with a generous dash of modern sensibility. His dynamic duo, Royce and Hadrian, steal more than just gold.

Then there’s Anthony Ryan, who exploded onto the scene with ‘Blood Song,’ the first book in the ‘Raven’s Shadow’ series. Ryan’s tale, as gritty as a winter’s day in Grimsby, is proof positive that you don’t need corporate backing to win over fans. His success caught the attention of Penguin Books, who re-published his work, thus transforming this self-published gem into a mainstream marvel.

We mustn’t overlook Will Wight’s ‘Cradle’ series, an ingenious blend of epic fantasy and xianxia (a Chinese genre focusing on cultivation of moral and spiritual virtues). As innovative as a solar-powered teapot, Wight demonstrates the creative liberties of indie publishing, delivering tales unfettered by conventional genre expectations and marketing executives.

Amanda Hocking, the queen of paranormal romance, took a leap into the epic fantasy genre with her ‘Trylle Trilogy.’ Hocking proves that when it comes to indie publishing, not even the sky’s the limit. Why stop at the sky when there are entirely new worlds to explore?

Of course, indie publishing isn’t as easy as a Sunday morning lie-in. It requires the tenacity of a determined terrier and the entrepreneurial spirit of Richard Branson.

These authors aren’t just writing, they’re also acting as their marketers, and, on occasion, therapists.

 It’s a challenging path, but as our highlighted authors prove, it can lead to rewards as satisfying as the perfect biscuit dunk.

A Feast for Our Telly Boxes

Shifting our gaze from ink and paper, let’s flick on the telly and cast our eyes towards the fantasy genre’s successful infiltration of the small screen.

Let’s start with the behemoth in the room, or rather, the dragon on the screen. ‘Game of Thrones’ gave fantasy television a jolt stronger than a double espresso on a Monday morning. George R. R. Martin’s deliciously intricate storylines, coupled with HBO’s willingness to shell out more gold coins than Smaug’s treasure hoard, resulted in a series that captivated a global audience and redefined fantasy on television.

Not to be outdone, Netflix threw its hat in the ring with ‘The Witcher,’ based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s series of novels. Henry Cavill’s portrayal of the grizzled Geralt of Rivia became an overnight sensation, as did his catchy tune, ‘Toss a Coin to Your Witcher.’ Who knew monster hunting could have such a rousing soundtrack? The series adeptly balanced monster-of-the-week plots with a grand overarching narrative, and the production value was higher than a gentleman’s top hat.

Amazon, too, is keen on joining this magical melee with its ‘Lord of the Rings’ prequel series and the adaptation of Robert Jordan’s ‘The Wheel of Time’. Between you, me, and the lamppost, these ambitious projects are about as secretive as the Queen’s pudding recipe. Yet, the mere whiff of these beloved epics getting the screen treatment has fans twitching with excitement.

Fantasy TV has indeed proven itself as popular as a dog in a park full of squirrels, much to the delight of book lovers everywhere. The magic of these sprawling epics, replete with dragons, witches, and an alarming number of medieval political squabbles, has found a comfortable new home in our living rooms. Just be sure to keep your remote handy – there are endless worlds to explore, all from the comfort of your favourite armchair. What an age to be a fantasy lover, indeed!

A Silver Screen Spectacle

Just as the heartiest English breakfast isn’t complete without a slather of HP sauce, our tour of the golden age of epic fantasy wouldn’t be whole without a tip of the hat to its cinematic counterparts.

With bated breath, we’ve watched our favourite realms spring to life, one painstakingly rendered CGI dragon at a time.

First off, we must pay our respects to the grand-daddy of them all – ‘The Lord of the Rings’. Peter Jackson’s masterful adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic saga broke records, hearts, and the established notion that “those fantasy tomes are unfilmable, old chap.”

Following in Bilbo’s furry footsteps, the ‘Harry Potter’ series proved that fantasy wasn’t just for us old-timers. J.K. Rowling’s charming blend of magic and quintessentially British boarding school life bewitched a generation, and the movies broadened that spell. Hogwarts, with its shifting staircases and genial ghosts, became as real as Buckingham Palace, just with fewer corgis and more house-elves.

Of course, not every cinematic expedition into fantasy is a skip through the Shire. Take the ‘Eragon’ film, for instance. As the saying goes, “the book was better,” and never have truer words been spoken. The film was about as well-received as a fox in a henhouse, proving that bringing an epic fantasy to life requires more than a few spells and a CGI dragon.

In recent years, Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Hellboy’ films and Duncan Jones’s ‘Warcraft’ have shown us that fantasy films can wear many hats, from dark comedy to high-stakes action. ‘Warcraft,’ though it didn’t charm critics, nevertheless proved a hit with the fans. After all, who could resist the lure of oversized armour and epic griffin flights?

These days, we fantasy buffs are spoilt for choice. Between the magic-infused majesty of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ and the whimsical journey of ‘Stardust,’ it’s clear that epic fantasy is alive and well in the cineplex.

Video Games: An Interactive Epic

As we continue our magical mystery tour of the golden age of epic fantasy, it’s only proper we take a side quest into the vibrant realm of video games.

First, we must traverse the snowy landscapes of Bethesda’s ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’. With its stunning open-world design and dragon-shouting (Fus Ro Dah, anyone?), it’s been as big a hit as the Beatles. Players find themselves immersed in a world teeming with lore, dragons, and an alarming number of cheese wheels. Whether you’re bashing trolls or simply enjoying a breathtaking aurora over the mountains, ‘Skyrim’ offers an epic fantasy adventure as expansive as the London Underground, but with fewer delays.

Then there’s ‘The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’, CD Projekt Red’s gloriously gritty adaptation of Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels. As Geralt of Rivia, players navigate a beautifully crafted world, grappling with beasties and moral conundrums in equal measure. The game’s rich narrative, engaging side quests, and dynamic combat system have been lauded as more satisfying than a perfectly brewed cup of English tea. A tip for the uninitiated: Beware the drowners and always – always – play Gwent.

Let’s not overlook ‘World of Warcraft’, an online universe so compelling, it’s been the cause of many a missed social engagement. Even after several years, its allure remains as potent as a nicely matured Stilton. The intricate lore, the sprawling world, the sense of community — it’s as thrilling as a surprise holiday, but with dragons.

For those with a penchant for intricate strategy, there’s ‘Dragon Age: Inquisition’. BioWare’s gem presents a world where player choices shape the narrative. Do you save the village from a marauding horde, or let it burn? It’s like being in your very own epic fantasy novel but without the risk of paper cuts.

Indeed, the appeal of these games extends beyond their fantastic visuals and engaging gameplay. They offer an immersive, interactive experience that’s as close as one can get to actually living in a fantasy realm, without the inconvenience of having to polish one’s own armour.

A Song of Ice and Fire: Epic Fantasy’s Influence on Popular Music

No grand journey through the golden age of epic fantasy would be complete without an exploration of its influence on the music scene.

The modern metal scene has been particularly bewitched by epic fantasy. Bands like Blind Guardian have entire albums dedicated to Tolkien’s Middle-earth, while others, like Burzum and Summoning, delve into the darker aspects of the genre. Their music is as grandiose and dramatic as the tales that inspired them, perfect for those moments when life calls for a bit more oomph.

And, of course, who could forget the hit TV show soundtracks? Ramin Djawadi’s ‘Game of Thrones’ score, haunting and heroic in equal measure, not only enhances the on-screen action but has found a life of its own in popular culture. You can’t swing a direwolf these days without hearing someone humming ‘The Rains of Castamere’ or ‘Light of the Seven.’

Music artists, just like authors, have seized upon the imagery, themes and mythology of epic fantasy to infuse their work with a sense of grandeur and adventure. Be it through lyrics, album artwork, or sonically through the music itself, the influence of epic fantasy reverberates throughout today’s music landscape.

And let’s face it, there’s something utterly epic about belting out a power ballad infused with references to dragon-fire and elven lore.

Beyond the Realms of Fantasy: Epic Fantasy’s Impact on Popular Culture

As our journey through the golden age of epic fantasy draws to a close, it’s time to take a step back and admire the spectacular view.

From the bound pages of a well-worn tome to the digital reaches of a role-playing game, it’s clear that epic fantasy has permeated more than just our bookshelves, TV screens, cinemas, and consoles. It has, in fact, seeped into the very fabric of our popular culture.

The surge of interest in epic fantasy has had a profound impact, like a truly magnificent cup of tea on a rainy afternoon.

Suddenly, it’s no longer the preserve of the niche and the nerdy. The age-old stereotypes associated with fantasy enthusiasts—you know, the image of a bespectacled recluse in a dragon-emblazoned T-shirt—have been banished to the shadowy corners of ignorance.

Nowadays, confessing your love for fantastical realms is as normal as complaining about the weather.

TV series like ‘Game of Thrones’ have transformed fantasy into a hot topic at the water cooler, with office chat just as likely to revolve around the latest dragon sighting as last night’s football match.

 Harry Potter, that bespectacled wizard boy, has charmed our language, adding phrases like ‘Muggle’ and ‘Quidditch’ to our lexicon as easily as a ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.

On the fashion front, elven jewellery and wizarding robes have sashayed from the realms of cosplay into everyday street wear.

Don’t be surprised if your next date shows up sporting a T-shirt emblazoned with a witty Game of Thrones pun or if your local fast-fashion store showcases a line of Witcher-inspired accessories.

Even our food hasn’t escaped the fantasy influence. From Butterbeer to lembas bread, we’ve developed a taste for fictional fare.

Suddenly, hosting a ‘Hobbit’-themed dinner party seems as reasonable as a Sunday roast.

And who among us hasn’t yearned to sample a flagon of ale at The Prancing Pony or indulge in a Witcher-style feast?

What this all boils down to is this: epic fantasy has transformed from a secluded genre into a cultural powerhouse.

It has become a shared language, a social glue that binds us together in our quest for the magical, the mythical, the marvellous.

The golden age of epic fantasy has spun tales that entertain, yes, but it has also fostered communities, sparking connections across borders and cultures. It’s made the world a touch more magical and a whole lot more fun.

So, whether you’re a reader, a viewer, a gamer, a self-published author or simply someone who enjoys wearing a Gandalf-inspired hat, let’s raise a glass (or rather, a goblet) to the golden age of epic fantasy.

Its influence has made our reality a little more fantastical.

Seven Epic Battles That Shook the Foundations of Fantasy

Dive into epic battles from fantasy literature that changed the landscape of storytelling, from Middle Earth to Capustan. Prepare for thrill and awe.

There are few things in epic fantasy as, well, epic, as a bloody great battle.

You know the ones—those grand clashes of good and evil that make you want to lift your homemade sword aloft and shout “Charge!” into the silence of your living room.

Here, then, is our tribute to the most legendary, awe-inspiring, and tea-spilling battles in epic fantasy.

The Battle of Pelennor Fields (The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien)

Middle Earth’s most dramatic set-piece, complete with thundering oliphaunts, a witch-king, and a thoroughly cheesed-off hobbit. Seeing Theoden’s Riders of Rohan break upon the enemy like a furious sea still sends shivers down our spines.

The Battle of the Bastards (A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin)

 This was a gnarly tug of war, a gruesome playground fight on a grand scale. With Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton squaring off amidst a sea of mud, blood and twisted bodies, Martin reminded us that chivalry is truly dead. And we loved every grimy second.

The Battle of Capustan (Memories of Ice, Steven Erikson)

 In the city of Capustan, Erikson demonstrated that when gods interfere in battles, things tend to get messy. It was a clash of philosophies, a dance of death, a profound lesson in the human spirit’s tenacity. Who knew carnage could be so philosophical?

The Battle of the Tower (Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan)

Aes Sedai, Asha’man, and a farm boy turned messiah – it’s a classic recipe for an epic battle. And the siege of the White Tower didn’t disappoint. When Rand al’Thor declared, “It’s time to roll the dice”, he wasn’t referring to a friendly game of Monopoly.

The Battle of the Bloody Rose (The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin)

Imagine manipulating geology to your advantage in a battle. In Jemisin’s broken world, the Battle of the Bloody Rose was a seismic event in every sense, a cataclysmic clash where Earth was both a weapon and a casualty. Talk about groundbreaking.

The Battle of Adrilankha (The Viscount of Adrilankha, Steven Brust)

It’s one thing to take part in a massive battle; it’s another to try to outmanoeuvre your arch-nemesis while doing so. The climactic conflict in Brust’s Adrilankha was as much a mental duel as a physical one. Chess, eat your heart out.

The Battle of Sorrow’s End (Elfquest, Wendy and Richard Pini)

In a tale about the power of unity and understanding, the Battle of Sorrow’s End served a heart-rending climax. When Cutter’s Wolfrider clan clashed with the Sun Folk, it was not just about survival, but about the clash of ways, ideas, and the painful birth of a new world.

So, there you have it. Seven epic battles that defined and redefined the landscape of fantasy literature.

Moments of triumph, desperation, bravery, and the odd existential crisis, all rolled into one.

Now, if you’ll excuse us, we need to reforge our shattered nerves and refill our tea.

It’s exhausting work, watching all that carnage.

Let me know in the comments which fantasy battles are your favourites.

Understanding the Trope of the Hero’s Journey in Epic Fantasy: A Whirlwind Tour

Explore the legendary Hero’s Journey as we delve into its usage in epic fantasy. From Frodo Baggins to Harry Potter, learn how this timeless narrative structure shapes our favourite tales.

Today we’re going to explore the legendary Hero’s Journey in the world of epic fantasy.

The Hero’s Journey, or as some like to say, the Monomyth, is a storytelling template made famous by Joseph Campbell, an American scholar (here’s not the place to delve into the other story forms that exist).

It has been used by story-tellers for millennia, both consciously and unconsciously, as a way to craft a satisfying narrative.

If you’ve never heard of it, don’t worry—you’ll recognise its structure no doubt from some of your favourite books or movies.

So, grab yourself a cuppa, and let’s delve into the Hero’s Journey.

The Unexpected Invitation

The Hero’s Journey kicks off with our main character living a humdrum life. For instance, Frodo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. One day he’s munching on second breakfast, the next, he’s burdened with the most feared piece of bling in all Middle-Earth.

Declining the Invite

Initially, our hero doesn’t find the idea of a dangerous journey as tempting as a troll’s tea party. Harry Potter, from J.K. Rowling’s famous series, spends quite some time denying his wizardry status. But a Hogwarts invite isn’t a letter you just ignore.

A Magical Helping Hand

Right when our hero’s in a dilemma, a mysterious mentor often pops up. Cue Gandalf, Merlin, and Albus Dumbledore, the all-knowing dudes with beards with a taste for obscure advice and quirky attire. They offer guidance, magical gifts, or at least some mystifying wisdom that makes sense only three books down the line.

Leaping into the Unknown

This is where our hero steps into a brave new world, owning their fate, probably with some dramatic theme music. Daenerys Targaryen from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, strides into a blaze, coming out with three newly born dragons.And with that, her path is changed forever.

Adventures, Allies, and Adversaries

Next, our hero has to get through a maze of trials, win over unlikely allies, and dodge possible foes. They might even have to rough it in a spooky forest or two. In Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind, our hero Kvothe juggles all this and a magical university.

The Epic Showdown and the Spoils

In the tale’s peak, our hero faces their worst fear. They may even “die” metaphorically (or sometimes, literally) only to be reborn. Like Vin, in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, who *spoiler alert* topples the indestructible Lord Ruler. The prize? Usually a ton of power and a dollop of self-realization.

The Homeward Journey

At last, our hero comes back to their old life, bearing the gains of their journey. They’ve evolved, mastered a legendary weapon, realised they’re royalty in disguise, or perhaps, discovered the joy of home sweet home.

The Hero’s Journey has its fair share of fans for a reason.

It appeals to our innate desire to conquer, to explore, to evolve. Yes, it’s a popular route, but isn’t that part of its appeal? Each turn has its surprises.

And, of course, when author subvert this trope, it can surprise and delight…and sometimes leave us scratching our heads.

So, next time you delve into a fantasy epic, think of our brave hero. They’re doing all the heavy lifting.

Seven Fantasy Series to Satisfy Your Royal Cravings

Indulge your royal cravings with these captivating fantasy series featuring complex characters, epic battles, and political intrigue. From Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” to Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire,” immerse yourself in the world of royalty and leadership.

The Ravenglass Chronicles by Jon Cronshaw

Fantasy literature is filled with a wide variety of royal characters, each with their own unique strengths, weaknesses, and stories.

In this blog post, you’ll find seven memorable fantasy novels featuring royal characters.

From epic battles to political intrigues, these books showcase the best of what fantasy literature has to offer.

1. “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Aragorn’s journey from Ranger to King of Gondor is one of the most iconic fantasy stories of all time. The novel explores the themes of leadership, sacrifice, and love, making it a must-read for fans of all literature.

2. “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin.

Martin’s series is filled with a wide variety of royal characters, each vying for supremacy in the game of thrones. From the honourable Eddard Stark to the cunning Cersei Lannister, the characters in this series are some of the most complex and interesting in fantasy.

3. “The Wheel of Time” by Robert Jordan.

Matrim Cauthon is the heir to the throne of Andor, but he has no interest in ruling. However, as the last battle between the Dark One and the forces of light approaches, Mat must take on the responsibility of leading his people.

4. “The Kingkiller Chronicle” by Patrick Rothfuss.

Rothfuss’ unfinished series follows the story of Kvothe, a musician and arcanist who becomes embroiled in the politics of the royal court.

5. “The Malazan Book of the Fallen” by Steven Erikson.

The series follows the story of the Malazan Empire and the various characters who are embroiled in its politics.

6. “The First Law Trilogy” by Joe Abercrombie.

The trilogy follows the story of several characters, including the ruling class of the Union and the Northmen.

7. “The Farseer Trilogy” by Robin Hobb.

The series follows the story of Fitz, a royal bastard who is trained as an assassin by his uncle. Fitz’s journey from an orphan to a leader of the kingdom is one of the most compelling in fantasy.

%d bloggers like this: