Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Two heads are better than one

and of course three heads are better still!
There's a nice little synergy going on the past couple days thanks to N. Wright and Talysman.  Our ideas about heroes and anti-heroes, saving the world or just getting along in it, and high fantasy, low fantasy, and epic fantasy have resulted in Talysman coming up with a great way to view fantasy works relative to the heroes contrasted by the world in which they live.

Pretty cool.

But what's it all supposed to mean?  In the immortal words of Pee Wee Herman, "Supposed to mean?  Supposed to mean?  I...DON'T...KNOW!!!"

Anyway, check out The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms and Lawful Indifferent.  I've been getting a lot of great comments to my posts.  These guys deserve some good comments, too.  "Tell 'em Large Marge sent ya!"


  1. There's actually seeds for some higher literary criticism in Talysman's rumination. I mean, it got me thinking. We can dig deeper on this one, too.

    I guess it all depends on your preferred campaign style. Some campaign settings work better with certain outlooks. This begs the question as to whether your using a homebrew setting or a prefabricated one.

    Also, what is a small or big hero? Are they determined by their impact on their world? In that case, the heroes of Middle-Earth are definitely big heroes because they saved and redeemed their world. I'd say Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser are small because they didn't topple kingdoms or alter the course of history. Conan did, so he's big. The Knights of the Round Table did, but mostly for a mythical England and not really beyond, so I'd say they're moderate-sized heroes.

  2. Well, in Malory Arthur does topple the Roman emperor and his army of giants to be crowned emperor himself. That's fairly big, dude!

    Of course, there's room for debate of this stuff. ;) But it is a novel way of evaluating fantasy fiction, isn't it?

  3. I was using "small" and "big" in a very loose sense of "size" of personality and dedication to heroism. "Small" heroes are concerned mostly with small things, like staying alive or helping friends, although they can grow into larger goals; LotR is explicitly about small people rising to the occasion in times of need, although there's a couple "big" people with "big picture" drives and higher standards (Aragorn, Gandalf and Elrond.)

    Conan achieves a lot, but starts with small goals and no big picture "I've got to behave a certain way for the good of humanity" goals. He's more of an ambitious guy who trains hard and earns a lot of life experience, so he's almost "within reach" of the reader.

    Galahad or Lancelot are "big picture" guys, with high ideals they try to live up to. Lancelot falls when he sets aside his lofty ideals for more down-to-earth desires (shacking up with Guinevere,) but in the end he's drawn back to Arthur's side out of loyalty to his friend (small picture) and the good of England (big picture.)

  4. I see where you're going with this, Talysman, regarding small and big. Makes sense.

    It's an incredibly cool concept you've got, because it basically codifies something everybody's known all along, but only viscerally. Now that we have terminology, we can have discourse. (And I can put my damn otherwise useless MA degree to use and sound all kinds of smart!)