‘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 EVIL LAIRS.
The evil lair is where a great fantasy villain will spend the plurality of his or her time.
I’ve decided that my official tagline for this feature should be, “when in doubt, resort to Rowling and Tolkien.” And so, without further ado:
(Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling)
It’s just a legend, surely? An entire faculty of adult wizards would never allow a school of vulnerable children to conduct business as usual in the knowledge that there’s a secret chamber containing an ancient horror somewhere underneath it – would they? Apparently they would. The Chamber of Secrets was built by one of the founders of Hogwarts, and contains a monster ready for Slytherin's heir to unleash upon the students in order to ‘cleanse’ them of muggle-borns. This turns out about as well as you’d expect.
The Lonely Mountain
(The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien)
How could we have an article about evil lairs and not talk about this one? The Lonely Mountain is a presence for most of this story, despite the fact that our heroes don’t actually reach it until towards the end. Each one of the characters is so obsessed with what they’ll find there – the dwarves are excited about their lost treasure, while Bilbo is simply terrified at the prospect of facing down the mighty Smaug – that the Lonely Mountain almost feels like a character itself, albeit an absent one. Good thing it turns out to be everything they’d hoped (and feared).
(The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett)
Bel-Shamharoth is a horrific, Cthulhu-esque god also known as the Eater of Souls. His temple is built to the specifications of the magic number – which, incidentally, cannot be spoken aloud inside the temple without summoning Bel-Shamharoth himself. Suffice to say that the number is one more than 7 and one less than 9, and the temple’s décor is distinctly spider-like. It’s very rare indeed for someone to enter the temple, and rarer still for them to emerge alive and/or still possessing a soul.
(A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin)
Evil villains don’t get much worse than Ramsay Snow. The Bastard of Bolton is infamous for his depraved appetites, and the dungeons of the Dreadfort are where it all happens. Ramsay is a connoisseur of torture, and the dungeons of his father’s castle are built to accommodate his every sick, twisted whim. Furthermore, the Boltons are historically renowned for their love of flaying as a punishment, to the extent that the Flayed Man is the official sigil of their House. Did I even need to write a justification for this one? It’s called the ‘Dreadfort’, for god’s sake.
That's it for this week! Join us again next week, and be sure to check out the Tough Travelling tab above for links to my previous posts and fellow travellers!