tough travels


Back in 2014, Nathan Barnhart created a weekly feature called ‘Tough Travels’, which he hosted over on Fantasy Review Barn. Inspired by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones – a tongue-in-cheek parody of the fantasy genre – it would spotlight a different trope every week, and invite other bloggers to compile their own lists of examples. Despite being put to rest eighty-three (83!) weeks later, ‘Tough Travels’ was widely successful, with over fifty blogs participating at one time or another. On April 1, 2017, Fantasy-Faction received Nathan’s permission to revive Tough Travels once more…

This week the topic is mentors!

A Mentor will be at your service until around halfway through the tour of Fantasyland, when you will unaccountably lose him. Before that he will guide you, tell you what to do in the face of strange customs, and even sometimes instruct you in how to perform minor MAGICS. The Tough Guide suggests that the mentor will be several hundred years old, probably with a long white beard, which will give him the right to be bossy, smug, tiresomely philosophical and infuriatingly secretive about all-important facts.

As Archtypes go, a mentor to the main character is pretty old and they can be found in many, many movies, books, comics, and pretty much in every format stories are told.

Merlin
While Merlin didn’t teach magic to young Arthur, he does teach the boy a lot of things. And keeps secrets, as well.

Gandalf
He also doesn’t teach magic. Rather he gives moral guidance and steers the Fellowship to the right road.

Athena
She takes on various guises in different tales to lead the hero for a little while or tell him something important and then vanishes.

Granny Weatherwax
Another mentor who doesn’t teach magic, as such, but rather imparts headology.

Miss Havisham by Jasper Fford
In the Thursday Next, miss Havisham (yes, from Dickens) is an older and more experienced agent and she takes Thursday under her wing.

Comics have a lot of these types:
Professor Charles Xavier
Perhaps the most iconic of the comics mentor types, Xavier gathers young mutants and teaches them to use their powers. He also teaches them want peaceful co-existence with humans.

The Ancient One
A very powerful and old magician, mentor to Dr. Strange.

Wolverine
Perhaps surprisingly the former lone wolf Logan has been the teacher and guide for several younger mutants: Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Jubilee, and others.

Batman
Another character who is also a loner but who has taught a lot of people.

Stick
Daredevil’s mentor.

And I couldn’t end this list without one of my favorite mentors ever: Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Enterprise-D and E.

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Back in 2014, Nathan Barnhart created a weekly feature called ‘Tough Travels’, which he hosted over on Fantasy Review Barn. Inspired by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones – a tongue-in-cheek parody of the fantasy genre – it would spotlight a different trope every week, and invite other bloggers to compile their own lists of examples. Despite being put to rest eighty-three (83!) weeks later, ‘Tough Travels’ was widely successful, with over fifty blogs participating at one time or another. On April 1, 2017, Fantasy-Faction received Nathan’s permission to revive Tough Travels once more…

This week the topic is minions!

Minions of the DARK LORD can be male or female, though he tends to favour males (who seem to be more susceptible to the Evil One’s wiles). They can take many forms: BAD KINGS, ENCHANTRESSES, HIGH PRIESTS, EUNUCHS, DUKES, REGENTS or WITCHES. Additionally, there are the non-human minions, such as ORCS, TROLLS, GOBLINS and random OTHER PEOPLES . . . not to mention MUTANT NASTIES, carefully selected MONSTERS, UNDEAD, and DEMONS.

Minions are, indeed, a big part of sf&f books and comics so I’m listing only a few of my favorites:

Orcs by J.R.R. Tolkien
The first people who come to my mind when talking about minions are the orcs, servants of Sauron.

The Naturi by Jocelynne Drake
They are rather bloodthirsty creatures, the origin of the myths about elves and fairies. They need human organs to do magic, so they kill a lot of humans.

Dragons by Margaret Weiss and Tracey Hickman
That’s right, even dragons can be minions. In the Dragonlance world Takhisis, the goddess of evil, rules evil dragons and even corrupts some of the good ones.

Dragons by Naomi Novik
In her fantasy series based on Napoleonic wars, but with dragons, Napoleon has huge armies of men and dragons.

Guardians by N. K. Jemisin
Guardians are the fist of the Empire who keep the orogenes in line and also train the orogenes to control their magical abilities.

Nazis
The ultimate minion group who are used in many books, comics, and movies. Especially those set during WWII (most recently the Wonder Woman movie) but also modern-day Nazis are used, especially in Marvel comics.

Comics:
Marauders
The servants of Mr. Sinister, Marauders are super-powered people usually hounding the X-Men. They include Scalphunter, Vertigo, and Malice.

Hand ninjas
Part of the mysterious Hand organization. They usually work in huge hordes, attacking a hero, such as Wolverine or Daredevil, as a group.

The Brood
Alien monsters who are hatched inside a human. When hatched from a mutant, they get that mutant’s powers.

Doombots
Victor von Doom rules a whole country of Latveria but he had also built an army of robots who look like him.

Parademons
Darkseid’s monstrous shock troopers who fly with rocket pack and have powerful weapons.

Back in 2014, Nathan Barnhart created a weekly feature called ‘Tough Travels’, which he hosted over on Fantasy Review Barn. Inspired by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones – a tongue-in-cheek parody of the fantasy genre – it would spotlight a different trope every week, and invite other bloggers to compile their own lists of examples. Despite being put to rest eighty-three (83!) weeks later, ‘Tough Travels’ was widely successful, with over fifty blogs participating at one time or another. On April 1, 2017, Fantasy-Faction received Nathan’s permission to revive Tough Travels once more…

This week the topic is dragons!

The Tough Guide advises that Dragons are ‘very large scaly beings with wings and long spiky tails, capable of breathing fire through their mouths. They can be almost any colour or combination of colours, though green, red and black are preferred. They are always very old. Most of them seem to have flown to Fantasyland aeons ago across the void. This migration was almost certainly to get away from our world, where people would insist that they were dangerous monsters that had to be exterminated. Dragons, as all Fantasyland knows, are no such thing.’ Or are they?

Dragons are some of my favorite fantastic creatures and I love reading about them, no matter if they’re evil or good, sentient or mindless monsters, or animals which need to be controlled. It would take far too long to list them all but here are some of my favorites:

Temeraire and his friends by Naomi Novik
The Temeraire books are set during the Napoleonic wars. Temeraire and his friends are huge dragons. They each have their own personality.

Smaug by J. R. R. Tolkien
The evil, gold hoarding dragon was wonderfully brought to life in the Hobbit movies.

Silvara from the Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman
One of the few good dragons in the series.

Mnementh by Anne McCaffrey
The bronze dragon which has bonded with F’lar. McCaffrey has lot of interesting dragons and their riders.

The Dragons of Order by Genevieve Cogman
There are quite a few dragons in Secret Library series. One of them is my favorite but I’m not going to spoil things for anyone who hasn’t read the series.

Swamp dragons in Discworld
Poor little swamp dragons are often in danger of exploding because of their fire producing anatomy.

Lockheed in the Marvel Universe
Kitty Pryde has a great pet dragon!

Back in 2014, Nathan Barnhart created a weekly feature called ‘Tough Travels’, which he hosted over on Fantasy Review Barn. Inspired by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones – a tongue-in-cheek parody of the fantasy genre – it would spotlight a different trope every week, and invite other bloggers to compile their own lists of examples. Despite being put to rest eighty-three (83!) weeks later, ‘Tough Travels’ was widely successful, with over fifty blogs participating at one time or another. On April 1, 2017, Fantasy-Faction received Nathan’s permission to revive Tough Travels once more…

This week the topic is strongholds:

The Tough Guide offers information on various kinds of fantasy strongholds. For example, you might be looking for CASTLES, complete with ‘frowning battlements, slit windows and multiple defensible spiral stairways inside’ and which ‘occasionally adorn the heights for pictorial effect’. Or perhaps TOWERS, which ‘stand alone in WASTE AREAS and almost always belong to wizards.’ Towers are often ‘several storeys high, round, doorless, virtually windowless, and composed of smooth blocks of masonry that make them very hard to climb. The Rule is that there is also a strong no-entry SPELL, often backed up by a guardian DEMON.’

Strongholds are indeed a staple of both sf and fantasy. Here a few my favorites:

Asgard
The home of the Norse deities and heroes in myths and Marvel universe.

Olympus mountain
The home of the Greek deities.

Camelot
The castle of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere.

Sherwood forest
The home of Robin Hood and his Merry Men.

The invisible, multi-dimensional Library by Genevieve Cogman
Only very specific people can get inside the Library and from very specific doors.

City and Castle of Amber by Roger Zelazny
Amber is the home for the royal family of Amber and it sits in one of the two real worlds. All other worlds are just reflections of the two true cities.

Lothlórien by J. R. R. Tolkien
The well-guarded forest which is the home of elves and their rulers Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn.

Menzoberranzan by R. A. Salvatore
One of the most forbidden, and exciting for some adventurers, is the underground dark elven city of Menzoberranzan where the first good dark elf Drizzt Do’Urden was born. He also managed to escape the clutches of his evil matriarch mother, Malice.

From comics:
Baxter Building from Marvel
The Fantastic Four have had a couple of other bases but the most familiar to me is the Baxter Building. Even though they had tenant living on the lower floors, the upper floors were heavily secured against intruders.

The Watchtower from DC
Justice League’s Moon base might seem impenetrable at first glance, especially that on, you know, the Moon. Or in some stories a floating space station.

Blue Mountain by Wendy and Ricard Pini
The ancient glider elves lived in the Blue Mountain for thousands of years until the Wolfriders came to unite them with the other elves. It’s a whole mountain and the elves live in caves near the peak.

Back in 2014, Nathan Barnhart created a weekly feature called ‘Tough Travels’, which he hosted over on Fantasy Review Barn. Inspired by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones – a tongue-in-cheek parody of the fantasy genre – it would spotlight a different trope every week, and invite other bloggers to compile their own lists of examples. Despite being put to rest eighty-three (83!) weeks later, ‘Tough Travels’ was widely successful, with over fifty blogs participating at one time or another. On April 1, 2017, Fantasy-Faction received Nathan’s permission to revive Tough Travels once more…

This week the topic is Adepts:
The Tough Guide defines an Adept as ‘one who has taken what amounts to a post-graduate course in Magic. If a Magic User is given this title, you can be sure he/she is fairly hot stuff. However, the title is neutral and does not imply that the Adept is either Good or Evil.’

Magic use through book learning is a classic. I became familiar with it through pen and paper role-playing games and the books set in those worlds. Of course, a magician can be great through inborn talent as well. But I don’t think they’re adepts so:

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
Harry and the others start at beginner level but advance quickly.

Raistlin Majere by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
He is a magician who grows significantly through the various series set in the Dragonlance gaming universe. He studied hard before the Dragons of Autumn Twilight and after it, too.

Dr. Strange
While he didn’t go to school exactly, he has mentors and was forced to study hard.

The Scarlet Witch
She also learned her magical craft through mentors even though she started her career with inborn talent. At first, she had the power to manipulate odds but some years back that was redefined as use of chaos magic.

From tv:
Willow Rosenberg from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
One of my favorite witches, she grows a lot during the series.

Back in 2014, Nathan Barnhart created a weekly feature called ‘Tough Travels’, which he hosted over on Fantasy Review Barn. Inspired by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones – a tongue-in-cheek parody of the fantasy genre – it would spotlight a different trope every week, and invite other bloggers to compile their own lists of examples. Despite being put to rest eighty-three (83!) weeks later, ‘Tough Travels’ was widely successful, with over fifty blogs participating at one time or another. On April 1, 2017, Fantasy-Faction received Nathan’s permission to revive Tough Travels once more…

This week the topic is Non-human heroes:

The Tough Guide assures us that HEROES are ‘mythical beings, often selected at birth, who perform amazing deeds of courage, strength and magical mayhem, usually against all odds.’ Furthermore, ‘if you get to meet a so-called Hero, she/he always turns out to be just another human, with human failings, who has happened to be in the right place at the right time (or the wrong place at the wrong time, more likely)’.

HOWEVER. For good or for evil, some of fantasy’s most memorable Heroes are not human at all. Some look human, but aren’t. Others may look monstrous, but be ‘human’ on the inside. Others still never pretend to be anything other than what they are – and why should they? In nearly all cases, we are likely to Learn Something from them – usually that appearances can be deceiving, or that the concepts of both ‘Human’ and ‘Hero’ are entirely subjective.

I love non-human main characters. Some of my favorites are, of course, elves:
Shadow by Anne Logston
Logston wrote three very upbeat and delightful fantasy books where the MC is an elf thief who loves life and dangers. The books are “Shadow”, “Shadow Hunt”, and “Shadow Dance”.

October Daye by Seanan McGuirse
Toby is a half-fae who is turned into a fish for fourteen years. She deals with the fallout of that misadventure in the first book. In the human world she’s a private investigator and in the fae realm she’s a knight in the service of Count Sylvester Torquill. The first book: “Rosemary and Rue”.

Raine Benares by Lisa Shearin
Raine is the one honest person in her family full of criminals. She’s a Seeker who finds lost items. The first book: “Magic lost, trouble found”.

Drizzt Do’Urden by R. A. Salvatore
He’s the only good dark elf in the underground city of Menzonberranzan. Not surprisingly, he leaves the city and his evil family to escape to the world above.

A few MCs are actually gods:
Selene DiSilva by Jordanna Max Brodsky
Selene is Artemis, the Greek maiden goddess of hunt and the moon. She’s lived thousands of years from Ancient Greece to modern day USA. She’s a private investigator but mostly she protects women. The first book is “The Immortals” and the second book “Winter of the Gods” is out and I need to get it.

Loki by Joanna M. Harris (also by Marvel comics)
Harris’ “Gospel of Loki” tells the Norse tales from Loki’s point of view. He’s abrasive, insulting, and very funny.

Vampires are quite common these days as MCs:
Lestat by Anne Rice
Louis and Lestat are the iconic vampire MCs from Rice’s books.

Mira by Jocelynne Drake
Mira is a six hundred years old vampire. She’s very protective of her small circle of people and an oddity even among vampires because she can create and control fire. The first book is “Nightwalker”.

Last but not least:
Corwin (and his family) by Roger Zelazny
Amber’s ruling family are immortal and eternally bickering with each other. When the patriarch Oberon vanishes, his sons fight viciously for the throne. The first book: “Nine Princes in Amber”.

Superhero comics, a bit surpisingly, don’t seem to have many strickly non-humans. Many Marvel characters are mutants but they’re human just with a different gene set. However, there are many who started out humans but were later changed, one way or another such as Victor Stone (Cyborg) and Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel/Binary/Captain Marvel). A case could be made for Inhumans being non-humans and the original Captain Marvel was a Kree man. But there are a couple of very prominent non-humans:

Superman
is from Krypton, of course, and therefore alien.

Wonder Woman
is an immortal Amazon. The other Amazons started as humans (at least depending on the current origin story) but Diana was created an immortal.

the Vision
is an android, although his brain patterns come from a human, Simon Williams.

Edit: I managed to leave out two of my favorite comics!
Cutter by Wendy and Richard Pini
and the rest of the elves in the Elfquest comics.

Dream by Neil Gaiman
The immortal Endless siblings are embodiments of some idea: Dream, Death, Destiny, Destruction, Desire Delight/Delirium, and Despair each have their own spheres of influence.

Back in 2014, Nathan Barnhart created a weekly feature called ‘Tough Travels’, which he hosted over on Fantasy Review Barn. Inspired by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones – a tongue-in-cheek parody of the fantasy genre – it would spotlight a different trope every week, and invite other bloggers to compile their own lists of examples. Despite being put to rest eighty-three (83!) weeks later, ‘Tough Travels’ was widely successful, with over fifty blogs participating at one time or another. On April 1, 2017, Fantasy-Faction received Nathan’s permission to revive Tough Travels once more…

This time the topic is:
Assassins are ubiquitous throughout fantasyland. Sharp-eyed readers (or even dull-eyed ones) will notice that their hooded forms often adorn book covers, and that they frequently appear – rather improbably – not to mind being the sole focus of our attention. Whether they’re spotlight hogs or camera-shy and brooding, most assassins will have trained for years and are very, VERY good at their job (i.e. killing people for money).

Assassins! One of the troupes of fantasy (and comics: Marvel especially has several heroes who have been trained by ninjas and often fight hordes of ninjas. But DC also has the League of Assassins which has featured a lot in the TV-show Arrow as well as comics.) who are often just minions for the major bad guy. But sometimes, they have more important roles:

Fitz by Robin Hobb
He was the first assassin main character I read about. Fitz in an orphan but he’s also related to king Shrewd. He’s too much a potential danger, so king Shrewd decides to train him as the royal assassin, keeping Fitz working for Shrewd rather than for the king’s enemies. This causes Fitz a world of pain.

Vlad Taltos by Steven Brust
Vlad is a human who lives is a world ruled by elves, or Dragaerans as they’re called in this world. The humans are considered a much lower class than Dragaerans but fortunately, Vlad’s father was able to get enough money to buy his way into the Jhereg, the Dragaeran criminal house. When the series starts, with “Jhereg”, Vlad is an assassin and a minor crime boss. He’s a smartass and so is his familiar, Loiosh. Their banter is one of the things that really endeared me to the books, not to mention the wonderful cast of characters around Vlad.

Elektra from Marvel comics
Elektra started out as Daredevil’s girlfriend and later enemy. She’s been a hero for a short time but, as far as I know, she’s currently a villain again. She was trained by the Hand, a deadly ninja organization.

Psylocke from Marvel comics
She started out as a British telepath (she’s actually Captain Britain’s twin sister). But thanks to a trip through Siege Perilous, she ended up in the hands of Hand (heh) and in a body which wasn’t hers but which belonged to a Japanese woman. She never got her original body back and her powers have changed through the years, as well. But she was trained as an assassin by the Hand and is one of the most reliable X-Men.

Storm Shadow by Larry Hama in the G.I. Joe comics and movies
G.I. Joe comics have a lot of assassins, as well. Storm Shadow (who started out as a villain but then turned into a hero but, IIRC, was brainwashed into a villain again by the time the comics ended) was the most prominent ninja assassin in the series for years (yes, Snake-Eyes is also a ninja but since he’s a good guy he doesn’t actually assassinate anyone) but there are several ninja clans running around with various masters and apprentices, including Snake-Eyes and Jinx. Storm Shadow was a villain because of an incident in his past and when that was cleared up, he became a hero.

Lord Vetinari by Terry Pratchett
The Patriarch of Ankh-Morpok was trained as an assassin. Most likely that influenced his ruling style which is very subtle. Discworld has a number of other assassins, as well.

Ehiru by N. K. Jemisin
He’s a Gatherer. His job is to give peaceful death to the suffering, or the corrupt. In order to do that, he must enter his victim’s dream and make is a peaceful, blissful dream. He also gathers the victim’s dreamblood which is very addictive. He and his apprentice Nijri are followers of goddess of dreams, death and the afterlife. Their organization is completely legal.

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