Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Have you got room for an elf?

Arafail Brightflame is an elf whose best years are now behind him. In his day he appeared in many fantasy novels as an elven tracker, bard or warrior. Perhaps his finest moment came when he appeared in Tolkien's 'Fellowship of the Ring' as the elf Glorfindel. With such a distinguished resume, Arafail assumed that he would have no problem finding work until he retired. Unfortunately, changing fashions in fantasy literature meant that this was not to be. Very few writers include elves in their fantasy worlds anymore and those that do had no room for an old elf like Arafail, he couldn't even get a job as 'second member of the Elven Council'. These days Arafail can be found begging on Los Angeles' Sunset Strip, he has a lifetime of memories but these will not stop his hunger or put a roof over his head….

Gunthor Axeblade is a dwarf with an uncertain future. Gunthor made his mark in the D&D boom of the 70s and 80s, if there was an irascible dwarf in a book then you could be certain that Gunthor was playing the crowd in a way that only he could. Times change though and Gunthor couldn't keep up. Today's reader doesn't want a dwarf with an enormous beard and an appetite for mead; today's dwarf must be Machiavellian, have a hidden heart of gold and a line in sarcastic quips. Gunthor was never going to be able to compete but luckily for him anti-discrimination laws meant he was able to get a job as a bouncer at a New York nightclub. Every night though, Gunthor wistfully reminisces about his amazing exploits and wishes those times would come again.

Marius (of the Dark Order) used to make oceans boil and mountains burst into flame with the merest of gestures from his wizard’s staff. Fuelled by thousands of years of arcane knowledge, Marius strode through fantasy literature in many guises. The more powerful the Dark Lord was, the more likely it would be that Marius was the man behind the dark helm/mask/ominous hood. Unfortunately though, even the greatest wizard of his time was no match for the changing perceptions of readers who preferred their fantasy to be heavy on the cut and thrust of politics and light on the magic (if there was any magic at all). Marius had to sell ‘The Castle of Terror’ and can now be found performing magic tricks on Southend Pier; he also takes bookings for children’s parties.

Now everyone deserves a little dignity in their twilight years and stereo-typical fantasy characters are no exception. They served you well in the past (when you first picked up a fantasy book), surely you must be wondering how you can pay them back? Go online and you will discover hundreds of charities that exist to help these forgotten staples of literature. Did you know that for £5 a month, an elf like Arafail could be kept in lembas bread and taught vital new life skills? $15 a month will help support special shelters for ‘Evil Overlords’ who just cannot adjust to living in suburbia, a worthwhile cause indeed!
There is one other thing you can do and you can do it right now. There’s a frustrated writer in all of us; the next time you start writing the next best selling fantasy novel why don’t you make a little room for that elven tracker or irascible dwarf? They don’t care if you want to do something original in fantasy; they just want to work. Heck, most of them will be happy just being extras in a bar scene!
Think about it, just one paragraph will make an old elf very happy…


Joe Abercrombie said...

Tee hee hee.

I hate those revisionist, trope-redefining, cliche-undermining, post-modernist self-referential fantasy works.

Load of pretentious arse if you ask me.

Chris, The Book Swede said...

LOL, good post, Graeme! This made me laugh. On a day when it was needed (that broken finger of mine... I've gone and fractured it again!).


Tia Nevitt said...

That was funny! Although -- and you may want to wallop me when you read this -- Eragon had both haughty elves and irascible dwarves in it, so they are at least getting a send-off. And we can always hope that they will resurface twenty years from now, when someone writes a nostalgic novel.

Graeme Flory said...

Darn it! I keep forgetting about 'Eragon'. Although there may be a very good reason for that... ;o)