Saturday, October 31, 2009

OK I admit it.

Don’t tell anyone this… but when I was a teenager I was very VERY into reading fantasy-genre-ed books. You know, the kind of books with incredible pictures on the cover (often including shiny stuff and semi-popup people), maps on the first 14 pages and of course every second character having an unpronounceable name, with bonus points for weird accents on letters.

I don’t know why I liked them so much. I got an early start when I was seven and I was presented with a copy of The Lord of the Rings. I could barely lift it with one hand. After using it to press flowers and keep the door open and block the space under my bed to avoid evil clowns from crawling in there, I read it about a year later and kind of enjoyed it. I liked the Hobbit better, and it was years before I figured out that my main problem with it was that I’d tried to read all 550 pages of the introduction. I was eight, I wanted swords and weird spells and people falling down cliffs*.  I also figured out the handy trick to reading it – if you see something formatted as song lyrics or poetry, skip three pages and you’ll be at the re-commencement of the actual storyline. Works like a charm!

Thinking back on it as I sat on a rock today, waiting for the drizzle to stop in the hope of a cold and miserable reptile emerging, I thought about al of the things that I like about it. I mean logically, living somewhere with no technology (as we would define it) has to be horrible. I can’t go for more than half an hour without checking my email (and that’s on a good day), plus people didn’t really do the whole showering thing often before the introduction of indoor plumbing. Speaking of indoor plumbing – I remember being in the world’s smallest town one December while hunting mole-rats and i needed a bathroom and there was a longdrop at the church and… I’m shuddering at the memory**. Imagine doing that all the time!

Not to mention my inner feminist freaking out at the way women were treated back in the day (although you can always pick a book where the girl saves the day – although she invariably had to dress up as a guy to get away with saving the world).

On the plus side there’s usually magic – a more substantial than the pick-a-card magic we get in the real world. Although that’s a bit unfair because there’s never a case where everyone has it – I guess otherwise it would be mundane and not worth writing a multi-part series on.

Would you like to live in a fantasy world? I get the feeling that it’s a good idea, but might be a little less fun in practise.

*kind of like my life now, but with added magic.

**in the desert there are no sizeable trees or bushes (unless you count the ones at the cemetery. Kind of disturbing how well the trees grow around the graves…).


po said...

I read the Lord of the rings when I was far too young to appreciate it, far older than you though, I think I was 11. I too loved the Hobbit more and skipped out all the songs. I have since read it many times and have come to realise that I don't quite get it, it is good, but, not amazing. I also delved into other fantasy books, but it is difficult to avoid genre cliches I think.

I don't want to live in a fantasy world because the forces of evil are around every corner and constantly at your heels chasing you across the world, and what if you are one of the magickless ones?

Kath Lockett said...

"I also figured out the handy trick to reading it – if you see something formatted as song lyrics or poetry, skip three pages and you’ll be at the re-commencement of the actual storyline." YES! I still do that - and the same goes for Victor Hugo's 'Les Miserables' - any chapter with waffle about the revolution gets flipped over until the story start again (with the exception of the brilliant one about the history of Paris' underground sewers).

Agree too about personal hygiene, technology and feminism in LOTR. Even as a kid I used to wonder if they'd stink to high heaven having slept in the same clothes for days on end... No deodorant or Elven magic was ever mentioned by Tolkien to banish BO, so how come they wouldn't have been as rancid at the orcs?

EEbEE said...

We can enjoy our lives in the real world and the fantasy world these days.

Simply create a character in a role playing computer game (Diablo, dongeon siege, titan many titles). then when you need to eat/shower/dump... just exit back to reality and make use of our awesome modern facilities.

Luke said...

LOL! EEbEE has a brilliant solution!

As for that fantasy stuffs...I've always wished that I could live now, but be the only person to possess magical abilities! I mean imagine the possibilities! You're stuck in traffic...No problem! Simply start launching large balls of fire at the taxis and the traffic miraculously clears itself up! Ta-DAH!

Tamara said...

Ursula Leguin, Tamora Pierce, Tanith Lee, Brian Jacques (I count talking animals as fantasy), Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett... just some of the authors I loved.

Fantasy is a great escape. So long as the alternate world is actually believable enough to transport myself into, if that makes any sense?

Skinny Bitches in the Making said...

I was so excited when I started reading this post cos i was a fantasy book girl too. then I realised my fantasy books were more about the magic faraway tree. i heart enid blyton!
i would love to live in the fantasy world as long as there are no scary peeps. i am a complete wuss.

Helen said...

Po: you make a good point. mAgic o no magic, it's not much fun when you can't even have a cup of tea and a chocolate digestive without some annoying minion of darkness trying to assassinate you...

Kath: I think elves just didn't have sweat glands. Maybe they stayed in the forests because it was cooler and thus less smelly?

EEbEE: it's a small step from Diablo II to buying those Magic - the gathering trading cards and learning klingon. Be careful.

Luke: I will have to visualise blastiing he taxis around me next time I'm in traffic. Might be a good calming technique!

Tamara: I loved all of those authors actually! We should start a bookclub!

Skinny bitches: Enid Blyton rocks! When Iw as a kid my ultimate goal (besides getting my dog to behave like one of her animals) was to find the faraway Tree or live in a hollow tree somewhere! Although I was muc older when i saw heather somewhere and wondered how on earth people could sleep on it!