I’ve been sick for the past twenty-four hours. And during this illness, I tried a number of things that I thought would make me feel better. One of these things was re-reading a few classic fantasy novels that I’d really enjoyed as a child. Now, I say ‘child,’ but the truth is that these books were ones that I was able to reread with enjoyment until I was about twenty years old, so we’re not talking about stuff that only an eight year old could love. Furthermore, none of these books were actual children’s books. They were all marketed and sold as adult literature (although, if we’re being honest, most of these authors’ readership was composed of children).
Even though I hadn’t reread any of these books in the last five years, they were so familiar to me that I had no trouble remembering pretty much what was going to happen in them.
At this point, some of you are wondering what books I am talking about. Well, I am not going to say. First of all, I’ve come to realize that almost all authors have web alerts set up for mentions of their name. Second of all, I don’t want to slag these authors specifically: they obviously appeal to millions of people (including 11-year-old me), and their work has stood the test of time.
But, wow, the writing was terrible. One book had every possible form of pseudo-medieval affection: dwarven brogue; druidic reversed syntax; ye olde elven speak; and the high-minded rhetoric of the most good and just paladinical sort. It was like a Terry Pratchett novel, but completely serious.
That’s one thing that stands out: how deathly serious these novels were. Especially about their themes and morals. I’d forgotten how of these fantasies tended to have very simplistic moral systems. What’s funny, though, is that the moral systems were always flavored with the ethos of the times (the 90s). The worst sin is always intolerance. Like, if someone’s racist against, I don’t know, dwarves or something, then you know they’re awful.
But the anti-racist message is only surface-deep, since one of the novels had a somewhat problematic portrayal of gypsies (they’re noble savage types who believe in free love and never experience jealousy and raise their kids communally and, etc, etc) that completely ignored the fact that ‘gypsies’ aren’t some sort of fantastical invention (akin to elves): the term refers to real groups of people who exist in the real world.
Anyways, I found them unreadable.
Which made me a bit sad.
I had always assumed that the experiences I got as a child when I first read these books were, in some way, still open to me if I wanted them. But I don’t think that’s true anymore.