Every Thursday, Nathan over at Fantasy Review Barn hosts a weekly party where blogs set out with Diana Wynne Jones’ hilarious book The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The Essential Guide to Fantasy Travel in hand to explore all the tropes from their favorite stories. So sit back and enjoy the fun.
23rd July, 2015 – MIDDLE AGED HEROES
This hero stuff is usually a young person’s game. And, occasionally, a grizzled old veteran can get involved. It is a true rarity for someone to join the good fight for Fantasyland living in that in between ground.
A topic near and dear to my heart, since I am now a middle aged man. So let’s give the old dudes some love, okay!
Yeah, I always seem to find a way to put a Glen Cook novel onto these weekly list, but this time I didn’t even have to make it work, because this topic is tailored made for one of my favorite fantasy characters of all times: Croaker!
The battle-scarred, salty, and world-weary man who spends as much time bitching and moaning about life as he does fighting is the perfect example of what all middle aged heroes sound like when they are forced to get out of their comfortable recliner and go save the world one mowed lawn at a time.
Buy The Black Company (Chronicles of The Black Company #1) at Amazon.
Okay forty is the new thirty, right? So that means sixty is the new fifty, which means this elderly northman with one hell of a right hook is on the list.
Brodar Kayne is a hero who desperately tries to avoid bloodshed, not because he can’t generally kill his opponents but because he is really hates all the aches and pains the next morning. Plus there is the swollen prostrate that makes taking a piss an absolute nightmare.
Honestly, it is hell to be a middle aged hero nowadays!
Buy The Grim Company at Amazon.
The exact age of this tall gunslinger with the blue bombardier eyes is never mentioned by Stephen King, but throughout the series, it becomes fairly apparent he is middle aged and probably looks older than he really is. So he has to be included on this list.
If Croaker is my favorite fantasy middle-aged character, then Roland is a close second. Everything about this guy reminds me of what a middle aged hero should be: mature, strong, confident, quiet, and able to take care of himself when the need arises.
Buy The Gunslinger: (The Dark Tower #1)(Revised Edition) at Amazon.
The middle aged man who is the center of attention in A Game of Thrones before becoming the first Stark sacrificed upon the SOIF altar by George R.R. Martin.
While Eddard doesn’t stick around long in the tale, he was the epitome of all that a middle aged fantasy hero should be: brave, loyal, merciful, a good father . . . but he was a tad bit too trusting. Everyone has their faults, I suppose.
Buy A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1)
What could be better than seeing (arguably) the most famous sword and sorcery hero of all times grown up with a wife, kids and as ruler of the most powerful nation in the world?
Not much. At least, I always found the middle aged Conan to be a fun character to read about, especially how he somehow kept his fierce zest for life even as his wild youth escaped him and the clutches of horrible responsibility surrounded him.
Buy King Conan at Amazon.
The wizard who would give old Gandalf a run for his money!
This guy can do it all: berate you, drink you under the table, slice-and-dice you with a sword, zap you with some magic, portal you to another world, and make you want to lay down your life for his grumpy ass. A wonderful middle aged mentor if ever there was one.
He is also someone not enough new fantasy readers have heard of, so go pick up Barbara Hambly’s horribly underappreciated portal fantasy and get to know him.
Nope, that isn’t Captain Dulver on the cover to the right, but rather one of the mysterious Sa’ba Taalor, whom the good captain discovers after traversing the inhospitable Blasted Lands and becoming the first person to reach the fiery mountains at their center.
So why is Dulver on here? Well, he is middle aged, retired, and finds himself thrown into the terrible situation of being anointed a hero before seeing something terribly happen due to his actions. All of which means he is pretty interesting to read about — though he doesn’t get enough page time.
Buy Seven Forges: Seven Forges, Book I at Amazon.
An oldie for you here. Camber is a Deryni noble, who finds himself in the unenviable position of serving a crazed king. Thus, he retires from court, allowing his son to take his place while he enjoys a welcome bit of peace and quiet.
Unfortunately, a middle aged heroes work is never done, and soon Camber finds himself embroiled in a tangled web of deceit to free his land from a tyrant and also spearhead a conspiracy to save his people, the Deryni, from inevitable massacre at the hands of normal humans.
Buy Camber of Culdi, Volume 1: In the Legends of Camber of Culdi at Amazon.
While Lord Mhoram is a fairly constant presence throughout the first chronicles, it is in the final volume that he comes into his own as the desperate, worn middle aged man who finds that the survival of the Land rests almost solely upon his shoulders. And in his despair, he discovers a way to not only aid his erstwhile friend Thomas Covenant in his quest but perhaps rediscover the power of the Lords of Old!
I really can’t emphasize enough how much I like Mhoram in this book. He was really the star as far as I am concerned.
This series follows Gerin from his youth until he is an emperor. All of which mean that by the end of the series, he is a middle aged man with kids, grandkids, and is dealing with all that on top of the other stresses of being a ruler.
What Turtledove does a good job of doing in this series is touching upon the real life issues Gerin obviously faces during his life: an adulterous wife, raising a son as a single parent, remarrying, having a mixed household, and other real life problems. Something that I really enjoyed, even if the story itself is a pretty standard Turtledove fantasy.
Buy Werenight (Gerin the Fox Book 1) at Amazon.
Oh yeah, I snuck two Glen Cook series on the list this week. High five for me!
Anyway, Varthlokkur is a wizard who is probably older than middle aged, but I’m throwing him in here because he is basically one of my favorite Cook characters. He has the power to cripple empires, shake the foundations of the world, but he is paralyzed by not having the love of one woman. What?
Yeah, I know it sounds a bit ridiculous, but Cook makes it work somehow with Varthlokkur sounding like a cranky middle aged guy most of the time.
Buy A Cruel Wind (Dread Empire) at Amazon.
So who did I miss?