‘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 PETS.
Everybody needs somebody to love. And the best companionship doesn’t always come from the same sentient group, does it? Be it furry or scaled, large or small, sometimes an animal companion is the best thing a person can have.
I struggled this week. I really did. I only managed four entries, and two of these are from the same series. Shame on me! In my defence, there were a few candidates that I considered but ultimately rejected – such as Nighteyes the wolf from Robin Hobb’s Farseer, and the wolf from Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song, and the wolf from John Gwynne’s The Faithful and the Fallen, and- you get the picture. It seems that, in fantasy, animals are often elevated to a status far above that of ‘pet’, and I’d like to use this as my official excuse for the following paltry list.
(Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling)
Technically they’re ‘familiars’ rather than pets, but in the Potterverse you can’t call yourself a proper wizard without one. School rules limit the familiars to owls, toads or cats, which is why Harry has a snowy owl named Hedwig, Hermione has a huge ginger monstrosity of a cat named Crookshanks, Ron has a little fluffball owl called Pigwidgeon, and Neville has an escape artist toad named Trevor. However, everyone knows owls are the most useful, since they hunt their own food as well as carrying your mail.
(House of Chains by Steven Erikson)
In the fourth book of my favourite series of all time (have I ever mentioned that?), Sergeant Strings and a few others in the Malazan army decide to relieve the boredom of a desert campaign by arranging a scorpion-fighting contest. Three squads participate, each squad choosing a different breed of scorpion and ‘training’ it for the fight. There’s the In-Out Scorpion, which the soldiers nickname Clawmaster; the Red-Backed Bastard, nicknamed Mangonel; and the underdog of the bunch, the tiny Birdshit scorpion named Joyful Union. Suffice to say that this doesn’t end well for any of the scorpions, nor for the animal-loving soldier named Bottle.
(Tales of the Ketty Jay by Chris Wooding)
A few people mentioned Slag a couple of weeks ago in the Snarky Sidekicks week, and so I’m glad to be able to borrow their idea and include her here. Slag is, of course, the Ketty Jay’s resident feline. She’s ruthless, independent and largely indifferent to the plight of her human shipmates . . . as most cats generally are.
(The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson)
Bhok’arala are small, intelligent monkey-like creatures, and largely feature in the presence of the High Priest of Shadow, Iskaral Pust, who they worship like a god. As the Malazan Encyclopaedia explains, “They follow him about, mimic his actions and leave him offerings often consisting of scrounged materials or bodily wastes. Pust is severely annoyed by the creatures and frequently is driven to bouts of madness by their attempts to please or mimic him. In a comical satire of the relationship between gods and their worshippers, the bhok'aral are, of course, unable to fathom the disdain Pust shows for them, nor understand any of the commands or insults he delivers to them.”
That’s it for this week! Join us again next week for the topic of LAW ENFORCEMENT, and be sure to check out the Tough Travelling tab above for links to my previous posts and fellow travellers!