Thursday, January 15, 2015

Tough Traveling - Messiahs

The Tough Traveling is a fun meme that aims to tour all the tropes big and small, abhorred and loved that are littered across the fantasy (and science fiction) landscape. It was conceived of and is hosted by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn and here's how it's explained on the blog: 

Each Thursday, our copy of ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week's trope of focus is Messiahs.  I immediately ran smack into the wall of what is a Messiah and how does it differ from your workaday epic fantasy hero? After doing some hardcore (hardcore I tell ya!) internet research I decided that for my purposes a Messiah character is someone who has a lot of the same attributes of an epic fantasy hero - frequently a chosen one, fulfilling a prophecy, saving the world - but who also has some overt religious imagery or trappings surrounding them. 

1) Aslan from Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis:  Probably the most blatant Messiah character for anyone raised in the Christian faith, Aslan was C.S. Lewis' stand in for Christ.  The denizens of Narnia revere him and in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe he is sacrificed in order to save Edmund Pevensie (who's been very bad indeed) and rises again.  He's also a lion which is bitchin'.

2) Alina Starkov from The Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo:  Alina is the only Sun Summoner in a world ruled by darkness.  She has her perfect opposite in the form of the Darkling and she comes very close to sacrificing herself in order to defeat him. [NOTE: I am actually in the middle of the final book in this series right now so my assessment of her is based on 2 and 1/2 books.]  She is also worshiped as a living saint and has many zealous followers. 

3) Paul Atreides from Dune and Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert:  It has been a long time since I read these books but Paul is definitely a Messiah figure meant to save the people of Dune (and the universe) who have been enslaved by the Spice.  He has special abilities as does his sister and children and he is worshiped as a prophesied Savior.

4) Daenarys Targaryen from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin: Lord knows what George R.R. has in mind but it seems like he is heading down a road where Danaerys Targaryen will be the savior and one who unites Westeros.  She is certainly revered in a religious way by many. Full disclosure I have not read the most recent installment as I decided after A Feast for Crows that I wasn't going to read any more until the series was finished so if Martin went in a different direction with Daenarys in A Dance with Dragons, I don't know about it (and don't tell me!).

5) King Arthur from numerous Arthurian Legends:  I'm cheating a little with this because there are many books and stories about King Arthur and they may not all contain the messianic traits of the character but lord if I remember which is which.  King Arthur saves England and when he dies it is prophesied that he will rise again when England needs him.

6) Arthur Penhaligon from the Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix:  There is some interesting religious imagery in these books with each of the seven keepers of the House representing one of the seven deadly sins.  Arthur is a twelve year old boy and he is chosen as the heir of the House but he must first free The House and its inhabitants from the corrupt overlords and in the end he does become something more than human.

7) The Avatar (Aang, Korra) from Avatar: The Last Airbender:  Cheating (a little bit) again because this is primarily a TV show but there are also a few comics.  The Avatar is a soul who is continually reborn generation after generation and who is the only person who can bend all four elements: Earth, Fire, Water and Air.  The Avatar is charged with using his or her abilities to bring peace and make sure all four elements are in balance. He is also the link to the spirit world and is very revered in a religious manner.

I am looking forward to see what books/characters everyone else has picked especially because I think the trope of a Messiah could be widely interpreted!  Head on over to the link post on Fantasy Review Barn to get connected to others' lists. 

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