Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Fantasy Genre

Okay, okay, "fantasy" may be a bad stereotype. But that's what I want to deal with, stereotypes.

What stereotype? The fantasy one of course. To be more specific, the young hero that is taught by a wise old man before said old man leaves/dies so young hero can fulfill his fate/destiny/prophecy as a hero.

Where to about Kvothe, the young hero of Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I like Pat and his book, so I'll pick on him to start with. We see Kvothe as a young boy with a "wise old man," Abenthy, acting as his tutor. Ben teaches Kvothe, Ben leaves, Kvothe grows to be a hero. That's the stereotype right? How about we see where everyone measures up:

Name of the Wind
Young Hero - Kvothe
Wise Old Man - Abenthy (aka Ben)
Fate of Old Man - Leaves the troupe to resume living his own life
Fate of Hero - To be determined

Star Wars
Young Hero - Luke Skywalker
Wise Old Man - Obi-Wan Kenobi (aka Ben)
Fate of Old Man - Dies while fighting Luke's father, Darth Vader
Fate of Hero - Saves the galaxy from the evil clutches of the Empire

Wheel of Time
Young Hero - Rand al'Thor
Wise Old Man - Thom Merrilan or al'Lan Mandragoran
Fate of Old Man - I don't know, I haven't finished the series yet
Fate of Hero - I don't know, I haven't finished the series yet

Harry Potter
Young Hero - Harry Potter
Wise Old Man - Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore
Fate of Old Man - He dies in one book, but I still haven't read the last one to see if he comes back (shame on me, I know)
Fate of Hero - Yes, that's right, I haven't read the last book yet - just don't spoil it for me please

Feel free to chime in with your own - or to correct my errors.


Anonymous said...

This reminds me of somthing I heard as a kid, there are only a small number of plots and that all literature is a variation of those plots. Wish I could figure out who said that.

Anyway, back on point...

What about LOTR? Would you say that it falls into this sterotype? I was trying to think if it was a Samwise/Gandolf, Frodo/Gandolf, Frodo/Samwise, Frodo/Bilbo, etc... relationship.

Neil Richard said...

Yep. That's a good one.

Lord of the Rings
Young Hero - Frodo Baggins
Wise Old Man - Gandalf the Grey (or White)
Fate of Old Man - Help me out here, he helps Frodo save the world, right?
Fate of Hero - Saves the world from Sauron

Anonymous said...


Their are two books to look at regarding your comment. One is the Elements of Style series of How-To books on writing, this one called Theme and Strategy. This book consolidates the list but briefly goes over the different plots arcs that are possible. According to George Polti's book, The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations, there are thirty-six plot arcs that are possible, though several could be consider bleed over except that in specific instances they are actually valid in their own right.

Concepts that are easy, like Revenge, Vengeance, Crimes of Loves, are recognizable, but some weird ones pop in there that kind of make you wonder, like Kinsmen Kill Unrecognized Kinsmen, Mistaken Jealousy, Fatal Imprudence.

So, according to Polti, there are only thirty-six kinds of stories, it's up to the writer to figure out how to tell it in a way that is different or refreshing. Which, of course, is not the business of Hollywood, whose ideas is to work around two or three and regurgitated them as much as possible.

Epheros Aldor - Apostle of Cale