Perhaps epic fantasy deserves it, albeit in an indirect way. After all, epic fantasy lorded over all other sub-genres of fantasy for several decades, crowding out other forms like urban fantasy, steampunk, and the like.
Things are different now though. Urban fantasy. Grimdark. Steampunk. Paranormal romance. These are growing areas in the publishing industry. Yet many readers like myself grew up with stories told in the tradition of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, where Jungian archetypes infuse the stories. The everyman orphan discovers he is more than he seems. He is called into battle against a terrible foe, a dark lord, that will destroy the world if not stopped. To aid the orphan in his quest, a wise mentor/teacher steps to the fore, offering guidance until the orphan is prepared to rid the world of evil. Talismans may be involved. Quests are assured.
I grew up with these archetypes as many of you likely did. I read The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, Magician by Raymond E. Feist, The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams. Even newer writers like Patrick Rothfuss use these archetypes to infuse their stories.
These archetypes exist because, as Carl Jung put it, we have a “collective unconscious”, a kind of inherited pool of psychological experiences that influence us without our consciously being aware of them. We enjoy these archetypes because they are intrinsic to our nature.
But humans are more than their nature. We yearn for the “else” at times. Hence the rebutting need for grimdark fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk, etc.
For me, I yearn for and read all types of stories but I still venture back to that tried and true collective epic fantasy formula that has been around for millennia. But that does not mean that I like all of the archetypes. Some just downright annoy the hellfire out of me, to be honest!
So here are some examples of the archetypes:
- The OPPHAN
Arthur Pendragon. Shea Ohmsford. Frodo Baggins. Belgarion. Richard Cypher. Pug. Ged. Eragon. Lyra Belacqua. Harry Potter. Simon Snowlock. Kvothe.
- THE DARK LORD
Sauron. The Warlock Lord. Lord Voldemort. Torak. Darken Rahl. Taran. The Dark One. Galbatorix. Ineluki the Storm King. The Chandrian.
- THE MENTOR/TEACHER
Merlin. Allanon. Gandalf. Macros the Black. Belgarath & Polgara. Brom. Dumbledore. Dallben. Zedd. Elodin.
- GOOD VS. EVIL
The Jedi vs. the Sith. Richard Rahl vs. Darken Rahl. Garion vs. Torak. Harry vs. Voldemort. Simon Snowlock vs. Ineluki the Storm King. Frodo vs. Sauron. Kvothe vs. Cinder.
- THE QUEST
The search for the Holy Grail. The trek into Mordor to destroy a ring. The slog northward to end the Warlock Lord. The hunt for the Orb of Aldur. Seeking Dust. The pursuit for Sorrow, Memory, and Thorn. The rebirth of the Ellcrys.
- THE MEDIEVALISM SETTING
Middle-earth. The Four Lands. Osten Ard. Earthsea. Prydain. The Westland, Midlands, and D’hara. Four Corners.
Humans. Elves. Dwarves. Orcs. Trolls. Gnomes. Dragons. Fairies. Sithi. The Fey.
- MAGICAL TALISMANS
A magic ring that makes people invisible even as it corrupts their heart. A sword that confront’s people’s lies. A sword that acts like a drug. A magic tree that forbids demons from entering existence. Three swords that, when brought together, fulfill dark prophecy. A white gold ring filled with wild magic. An orb that can undo reality. A black cauldron able to bring back the dead.
My poll question today is:
Which epic fantasy trope do you dislike the most?