‘Tough Travelling’ is a weekly feature: every Thursday (hopefully!) I’ll be rummaging around in my memory to come up with various examples of commonly used fantasy tropes. Full credit goes to Nathan of Fantasy Review Barn for coming up with the idea: be sure to check out his blog!
This week’s topic is HOLIDAYS.
Never too late to celebrate . . . holidays! Because fantasy festivals and feasts are always fun. Let’s start with . . .
(Hogfather by Terry Pratchett)
An easy one to start with; it would have been difficult to leave this one off the list. As the TV adaptation of Pratchett’s book explains, Hogswatch is a holiday bearing a remarkable similarity to Christmas. Each year a jolly fat man known as the Hogfather travels the Disc and delivers presents to children everywhere. However, in Hogfather, Hogswatch is jeopardised when the Hogfather mysteriously disappears, and someone must volunteer to take his place . . . or else the sun might never come up again. I really enjoy the story of Hogfather, and find Death’s little quest completely adorable and heartwarming.
The Winterbirth Festival
(Winterbirth by Brian Ruckley)
It’s been a really long time since I read this book, but from what I remember the eponymous festival occurs every year and celebrates the end of winter and the beginning of spring. In the book, the celebrations of Winterbirth also offer a great backdrop for a bloody plot against the reigning monarch in his own castle. How festive!
The Hand’s Tourney
(A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin)
Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is full of holidays: feasts and celebrations, weddings and name-days, dances and executions and never-ending descriptions of FOOD. The one holiday I always remember is the Hand’s Tourney in the first book, which the king orders on behalf of Ned Stark. Ned hates the whole celebration – he knows the kingdom can ill afford such extravagance – and is even more appalled that it’s been named after him. Knights, jousting, horse decapitation – the Hand’s Tourney has it all!
(Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson)
The list wouldn’t be complete without a Malazan entry! The spectacular climax of the first book in the series, Gardens of the Moon, occurs in Darujhistan during a city-wide seasonal holiday known as the Gedderone Fete. One aspect of the Fete involves wearing elaborate masks, which is a fun way for several important characters to appear in varying degrees of disguise. The Fete starts off fairly tame – a duel, an assassination, an illicit affair – and then really picks up the pace, particularly when a demon and a dragon face off and an ancient tyrant monster attacks the city. Those Daru really know how to celebrate.