Every Thursday, Nathan over at Fantasy Review Barn hosts a weekly party where blogs get to follow along with Diana Wynne Jones’ hilarious book The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The Essential Guide to Fantasy Travel listing their favorite books with a particular fantasy trope. So sit back and enjoy the fun.
19th February, 2015 – KNIGHTS
Um. Noble rich people on horseback. Come on, you people know what knights are. (Topic provided by Miriam)
At first glance, this looks like a really, really easy list to make. Fantasy literature is filled with knights, right?
Hold up just a minute! That might not exactly be accurate, because who is a knight? I mean, every person wielding a sword in a fantasy adventure isn’t a knight.
Are we saying knights are only those people who wear shiny armor, ride proud steeds, and talk like they walked straight out of a King Arthur story?
That seems a bit too narrow a definition for me.
Well then, are we opening this up to all characters who wield a weapon in defense of their homeland or their family or their loves?
Much too broad, unfortunately.
So knights have to live up to that Arthurian caricature but still portray other “knightly” characteristics. God, that is still a pretty tough criteria to use to pick out some great knights, but I guess we just have to try, because its Tough Travelling Thursday. So here are my picks for my favorite KNIGHTS!
Sure, this pinnacle of the Mimbrate people might be a bit dense in the head, and he might believe every problem can be solved with his sword or lance, but he is loyal, dedicated, chivalrous to a fault, and epitomizes all that a “Arthurian” knight should be.
Now, does he appear at all realistic most of the time?
Hell, no. But then again, David Eddings was writing a YA fantasy series. Realism wasn’t the utmost on his mind probably.
But for what he was, Mandorallen was a great knight. In fact, this Baron of Vo Mandor and Knight Protector to Princess Ce’Nedra is not only the “Knight Protector” of the Mrin Codex but is the Most Paramount Knight in all the world!
KING KELSON HALDANE (DERYNI SERIES by KATHERINE KURTZ)
Kelson is a young man forced onto a throne before his time. Only through the help of his father’s most trusted friends and his own bravery (Well, he also has some magic, but we won’t focus on that so much.) is he able to stave off death time and again.
As it is easy to see, Kelson is also a knight of the classic European model. His kingdom and its surrounding being a fantasy version of medieval England, Whales, et cetera. But unlike Mandorallen, this young man isn’t a caricature of knighthood but a true embodiment of it. He might be a warrior in shiny armor with a might lance and shield, certainly bases his life around chivalry, but he is also an ordinary youth, who is trying to become a good king — something that all history lovers know is easier to aspire to than actually attain.
Sturm was born from a noble family who had been Knights of Solamnia for generations.
Though his life took an unexpected turn as a child, he was always determined to follow in his family’s footsteps and become a knight. He lived by a strict code of honor, viewed the world in terms of black and white based upon his morals, refused to even consider that some situations are actually gray, and thought all magic (no matter what color its wielder wore) as evil.
Sturm goes on to become a Hero of the Lance and is renowned across the world. But above being a hero, Sturm Brightblade was a Knights of Solamnia, who refused to ever except less than the very best of himself.
Carillon is a Prince of Homana. While he might be rich, pompous, and bit immature in book one, he turns into a battle-hardened and determined man by the time book two of the series takes its bow and proceeds off stage right.
The one thing that never changes about Carillon, though, is that he is a knight at heart. A man who feels most comfortable strapping on his armor, hefting his sword, and riding off into battle to smite his enemies. Naturally, he has a code of chivalry that he lives by, but as he grows and matures, Carillon sees that his juvenile viewpoint on things isn’t completely realistic, and so he modifies it, turning into a wonderful example of what experience and an open mind can do for someone — even a knight.
JOHN AVERSIN (DRAGONSBANE by BARBARA HAMBLY)
Sir John Aversin is a knight and ruler of a land and people abandoned by their kingdom. While he valiantly fights a losing battle to keep civilization alive in the north, he realizes that for all his noble intentions he is more a hedge knight than a shiny knight of yore.
But, you know what, that is okay, because John is one of those men who adapts to his situation, turns things on their heads. So when people mock him and label him a savage, he is more than happy to play the character for every laugh he can get, never letting their disdain deter him from his knightly calling.
After having such great success with Sir Mandorallen, David Eddings set out to tell the story of another knight who is a bit more wise and crafty. This knight is Sparhawk.
Sir Sparhawk is a knight of the Pandion Order, who becomes the champion to Queen Ehlana of the kingdom of Elenia. More importantly than that, he is also the “Anakha” – the “One Whose Fate the Gods Do Not Know.” Like any good knight he has a famous weapon, Bhelliom, a rugged handsomeness, a foul-tempered war horse named Faran, and a knightly nemesis in one Martel, a former knight who was expelled from the Pandion order. And his adventures are pure knightly fun.
WALLY SMITH (SEVENTH SWORD by DAVE DUNCAN)
Wally is an Earthman transported to another world where he wakes up to find himself a seventh ranked swordsman, which basically means he can kick anyone’s ass that he wants to!
Only one problem: he has to live up to a moral code that is very similar to the Bushido of the samuri on Earth, which means — he is basically an oriental knight.
Yeah, you had to see that one coming, right? I mean, we have to have some non-European knights on this list.
Anyway, Wally is a great example of a fantasy version of a samuri — even if he doesn’t exhibit all the usual samuri characteristics. But it is still great fun.
This half-human, half-elven bastard son of King Henry is a medieval knight all right. He is the first Dragon, which means he is the leader of the King’s elite force of knights. His armor is bright and shiny, his lance is strong, his horse is fiery, and his colors are a challenge to all that oppose him. The only problem is that Sanglant can be a bit whiny and terribly boring a lot of the time.
Those who have actually finished this epic series can back me up on that last statement, I feel sure.
Still, I call them like I see them, and Sanglant is definitely a knight.
Well, we really don’t have time for that.
But when I think of “knights” Jaime always comes to mind.
Can’t we all agree that he has the pedigree, the look, the money, and the swagger that fits the role of knight?
Hell, he can even be chivalrous in his Lannister sort of way . . . though he is a bit too close to his sister for my tastes.
But even if he is the ultimate Westeros knight, I still have to say . . . I really hate you Jaime.
Deacon Shader is a cross between a knight and a monk. In the book, he is labeled a warrior-monk I seem to recall, but be that as it may, he is a warrior who fights like a knight even as he upholds a moral code of conduct.
In this post-apocalyptic world, the warrior-monk does not measure his actions against a code of chivalry as much as the teaching of a worldwide church that is a mixture of all the modern religions. And so while Shader is a man of honor, he is a picture of paradox, strictly adhering to a vow of abstinence but also sworn to kill as many of the church’s enemies as possible.
Yeah, Shader is a strange one but still an interesting take of knights.
CAPTAIN BRAYLAR KILLCOIN (BLOODSOUNDER’S ARC by JEFF SALYARDS)
Here is another person who might or might not be a knight. I mean, Killcoin is armored like one, fights like one, but he definitely doesn’t worry about any of that chivalry nonsense or any particular code of honor other than staying alive. Nor is he rich or powerful alone. Rather he is a slave turned warrior who is only strong politically through his affiliation with a certain sect of warriors.
No matter all that though, Killcoin is one of the most realistic portrayals of a battle-hardened knight I’ve come upon. No, he isn’t a Jaime Lannister or other Westeros knight, but what he is is pure realism — even down to how he struggles to kill more than one enemy at a time. I mean, really? The nerve of that Salyards, acting like a knight can’t kill four or five assailants at once.
My favorite knight of the moment is the most unlikely one: Roland Deschain.
Roland (known as The Gunslinger) is a 30th generation descendant of Arthur Eld, who was this universe’s King Arthur. Not only is Roland of that knightly bloodline but the guns that he proudly uses were created from the metal of Excalibur itself, serving as both a sign of his authority as one of the lands “Gunslingers” and as a token of his descent from Arthur Eld himself.
While Roland isn’t a knight in shining armor, he conducts himself as one and is treated by most people as if he were one. Plus, he is my favorite “knight” of the moment.
TAKE A LOOK AT MORE OF MY FANTASY LISTS.