tough travels

Tough Travelling hosted by Fantasy Review Barn.

This week’s topic is Tricksters

A great prank is always amusing. Many an adventure start with a well placed trick. They are even more amusing when performed by those with god like powers.

Sadly, this will be the last Tough Travels post. I came to the meme late and I didn’t always manage to post but I really enjoyed this meme. Thanks, Nathan!

Tricksters are some of my favorite characters, so onwards:

Loki: of course I have to start with the main trickster in the Marvel Universe, both on screen and the comics. Loki is one of the major villains in the MU.

The Joker from DC Comics, of course.

Pretty much every pantheon of ancient gods have their tricksters: some Native American tribes have the Coyote, Roman gods have Mercury, and the Egyptians have Set. Greeks had more: clever Odysseus, Eris the Discord goddess, Hermes the messenger/ trickster god, along with Prometheus who stole the fire from gods to humans. Pretty much every Greek god was known for tricking humans one way or another, and each other, as well.

Robin Hood
plays often tricks on the Sheriff of Nottingham and his minions. Admittedly, the adult versions of Robin’s legends don’t always emphasize that side of him.

The Bastard god from Lois McMaster Bujold’s Curse of Chalion, Palading of Souls, and Hallowed Hunt.

Puck, from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream was Fairy King Oberon’s court trickster.

from fairy tales and to a degree in the Once Upon a Time TV-show.

Puss in Boots from fairy tales. One of my favorites. Loved him in the Shrek movies, too.

Jack from the comic book Fables was so good a trickster than few people want him to stick around long.

Bugs Bunny is a cartoon character always playing tricks on others and many cartoons are fantasy.

Q from Star Trek: the Next Generation. One of my favorite tricksters ever!

Tough Travelling hosted by Fantasy Review Barn.
This week’s topic is MILITARY GENIUS

Let’s face it. Fantasy life is often a life of war. One can only hope to serve under a commander who has some clue what they are doing.

Strangely enough, I could think of very few examples in fantasy even though I’ve read a lot of fantasy books which have a lot of fighting, and even some armies clashing. But generals in every genre tend to be ruthless, otherwise they wouldn’t win. So, I’m not so sure I’d like to serve under any of them, at least as a nameless trooper.

Prince Benedict of Amber: He’s the most martial minded of Oberon’s many sons and daughters. Even though he’s lost an arm in a duel (IIRC), he’s unmatched as a general.

King Arthur: depends on which writer’s version we’re talking about but Arthur is usually depicted as the general while his knights are individual fighters, no matter how formidable.

Superhero comics rarely deal with armies in the same way that epic fantasy tends to do but when leading large groups of superbeings Cyclops or Captain America are pretty much the people you want to lead your team.

In DC universe, Batman tends to be the expert tactician.

When I was thinking about this topic, science fiction characters came to mind more often, such as:

Aral Vorkosigan from Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Shards of Honor” and Barrayar”. He’s the acknowledged master general of his generation on his planet.

Piotr Vorkosigan, Aral’s dad is less acknowledged for his tactical skills in Bujold’s series. But just to point out how badass Piotr is: he had a horse cavalry when his planet was invaded by a huge and far more powerful nation which routinely use spacecraft. Piotr won. (okay, Piotr was one of the generals so it’s not just his victory. :))

Honor Harrington by David Weber. A rare female general.

Grand Admiral Thrawn by Timothy Zahn in the first Star Wars sequel books.

Captain John Sheridan in Babylon 5 is regarded as a master general.

Tough Travelling hosted by Fantasy Review Barn.


Fairy tales are real in fantasy land. They may seem like stories told to kids, but in fantasyland they are very, very real.

Indeed, some books and movies are based on retelling stories and then there are a few books where stories come true.

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett. The three witches go to a far-away land and along the way to find out that stories are coming to life. And not in a cute and cuddly way.

An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire. Blind Michael is a monster right out of a fairy tale. The book has also other fairy tale elements. It’s the third book in McGuire’s Toby Daye series.

The Princess books by Jim C. Hines, first book is “the Stepsister Scheme”. Princess Danielle, also known as Cinderella, has married her Prince Charming but the stepsisters want their revenge. Luckily, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White want to help Danielle.

Rose Daughter and Beauty by Robin McKinley are retellings of the Beauty and the Beast story.

One-Eyed Jack by Elizabeth Bear. Movies and TV-shows are modern day fairy tales and in this book the tropes used in them, more accurately in spy movies and shows, come to life.

Speaking of TV-shows, Once Upon a Time is an obvious choice. Snow White and Prince Charming and the whole other fairy tale gang in the mortal world. However, they seem to bring some of the fairy tale rules with them, namely “heroes always win” and “heroes get their happy endings”.

Fables the comic book also features fairy tale characters who have come to the mundane world. They’ve fled from the Enemy who has conquered their lands. Some of the main characters are Snow White and the Big Bad Wolf.

Tough Travelling hosted by Fantasy Review Barn.
This week’s topic is THE GOOD THIEF

Sure they may pocket things that don’t belong to them. And yes, anything that can be wiggled loose isn’t really locked down and may be fair game to them. And if they put half of their intelligence into legit trades instead of long cons they would probably be pillars of fantasyland’s community. But damn it, some thieves are still good people.

Lovable rogues are some of my favorite characters and I love read about them.

Robin Hood, Little John, Alan-a-Dale, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck, and the rest of the Merry Men. They are the original good thieves.

Autolycus the King of Thieves from Xena the Warrior Princess. Bruce Campbell brought to life this happy-go-lucky thief.

Moist von Lipwig by Terry Pratchett. “What kind of man would put a known criminal in charge of a major branch of government? Apart from, say, the average voter.”

Silk from Eddings’ Belgariad series: one of the first good thief characters I ever read about. And he turns out to be a prince.

Kelsier and his whole crew from Sanderson’s Mistborn series. In the first book they’re planning a heist, the biggest heist in their world.

Loch and her crew in Patrick Weekes’ Palace Job. This group was inspired by “Ocean’s Eleven” except that it has far more women in it (yay!).

Tasslehoff Burrfoot from Dragonlance is a kender, the equivalent of a Halfling in the Dragonlance world. They’re adventurous and talk a lot, rather the opposite of hobbits.

Bilbo Baggins, the burglar hobbit who went traveling with twelve dwarfs and a wizard in Tolkien’s Hobbit.

Regis the Halfling in R. A. Salvatore’s Forgotten Realms books. Regis is the requisite thief and he’s kidnapped quite often.

I can think of only one example from comics:
Marvel has Black Cat: a thief who has the power to bring bad fortune on her enemies.

Tough Travelling hosted by Fantasy Review Barn.
This week’s topic is PURE GOOD

No middle ground, no moral middle, no grey area at all. Some people are pure avatars of goodness. Fantasyland seems to be full of them.

I have to disagree: a startling amount of characters are grey. Also some characters are presented by the author as pure good and yet they go around killing people. Usually that happens in a war but a startling amount of fantasy books have good and evil races. And (pure) good is presented in Western setting with Western values.

Still, the first person who springs to my mind is:
Sir Galahad. He’s actually a very interesting case because he (and his dad Lancelot) is a later addition to the Arthurian saga. He’s the perfect knight and one of the three who found the Grail. Sir Percival is another, earlier pure knight.

Carrot Ironfoundersson by Terry Pratchett is another person who I think is also “pure” good – and an excellent foil to his boss who might be the biggest cynic in fantasy (although incorruptible), Sam Vimes.

Samwise Gamgee by Tolkien is never tempted to take the Ring for himself and he loyally follows Frodo on all the adventures.

Drizzt Do’Urden by R. A. Salvatore is a drow, a dark elf whose whole race is Evil. He’s the only good one, except of his dad. He’s an example of characters who are supposedly very good and yet kill a suprising amount of people. Indeed, his only real skill seem to be killing people.

Comics have a few characters who are supposed to be as pure good as people can be. Lots of readers seem to think that they’re boring, and they might be if their goodness is never tested but just taken as given.

Superman and Captain America are both the epitome of goodness in their respective universes. They also refuse to kill anyone. (Except in alternate universe stories)

Spider-Man: with great power comes great responsibility. He not only refuses to kill, he has saved his enemies.

Thor: his hammer can only be lifted by someone who is worthy of being Thor. By Asgard standards.

Tough Travelling hosted by Fantasy Review Barn.

Each Thursday, inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ we have in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week’s topic is A LADY AND HER SWORD

Fantasyland is full of threats. A lady and her sword can keep those threats at bay.

The two who immediately sprang to mind:

Xena the warrior princess: she has many skills, including superior swordswomanship.

Buffy the vampire slayer: Buffy uses often her bare hands or stakes but she does use a sword, too.

Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews: I’ve only read the first two books but even though Kate’s an urban fantasy heroine, who usually use guns, she has a sword.

Aliera e’Kieron by Steven Brust: she’s of the House of Dragon and currently she wields the Pathfinder which is one of the most powerful enchanted weapons in her world. It’s a sword.

Mira by Jocelynn Drake: Mira is a 600-year-old vampire and she has the natural ability to create and control fire. However, since her enemies, the naturi, use swords, she also often have to use them, too. And Mira does saves the world.

Eowvyn by J. R. R. Tolkien: she was instrumental in bringing down the Witch-King of Angmar.

Talia by Jim Hines: she’s also known as the Sleeping Beauty. She’s one of the three princesses starring in Hines’ Princess series. She’s an expert swordswoman with a dark past.

October Daye by Seanan McGuire: Toby is a changeling and at the start of the series she’s a private detective and a Knight. She uses a knife most often (easier to transport in modern San Francisco) but she also has been trained as a knight so she can use a sword and sometimes does.

by Robin McKinley: she’s the main character in the Hero and the Crown, a princess who is shunned because of her strange looks and lack of magical talent. She’s known as the Dragon-killer.

Tough Travelling hosted by Fantasy Review Barn.

Each Thursday, inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ we have in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week’s topic is PORTALS TO ANOTHER LAND

Fantasyland often has some unique entry points; not every traveler is born within its boundaries. It is a regular event for someone from a non-magical place to suddenly find themselves in this world of dragons, magic, and danger.
I haven’t read much portal fantasy and I associate it with children’s books.

Narnia: the first one which comes to mind is the wardrobe in “the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” which led to the world of eternal winter and talking animals where humans were just a legend.

Wonderland: Alice fell down the rabbit hole and ended up in a very strange world indeed.

Oz: Dorothy flew with a tornado into in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and found quite a magical world.

But a few books meant for adults also use an entry point to fantasy land:

The London Below: in “Neverwhere” Richard Mayhew is drawn into a side of London which is invisible for the ordinary people.

The Woerld: in “Miserere” teenagers are sometimes drawn into a rather harsh magical world through portal.

Fionavar: five ordinary students are drawn into a magical world. I’ve only the haziest of memories of this story because it’s been a very long time since I read “the Fionavar Tapestry”.

A case could be made for:

Barsoom: while Mars isn’t literally a magical place, in “A Princess of Mars” John Carter was the only Earthman to be able to fly through space to get there.

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