‘Tough Travelling’ is a weekly feature. Every Thursday 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 THE WEASEL.
Weasels are usually very useful, obtaining information from unlikely sources and the like. For that matter they may be fun to be around. But can they ever really be trusted? Usually about as far as they can be thrown, but no one ever knows.
This list is somewhat rushed this week, due to the fact that I’m spending all my spare time trying to finish reading Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell before the TV series starts on Sunday. So here’s my rather brief summary of all the weasels, good and bad, I could think of. (SPOILER warning, as usual.)
Jimmy the Hand
(The Riftwar Cycle by Raymond E. Feist)
Jimmy is the most talented thief in Krondor. When he betrays his guild he finds himself miraculously sworn instead to the service of the Prince of Krondor, Arutha. Jimmy henceforth serves as a Squire, but he never really leaves his old sneaking ways behind . . .
(Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence)
When Jalan and Snorri are cursed with powerful and mysterious magic, both start hearing voices inside their heads. For Jalan it’s the voice of Baraqel, self-professed angel and servant of light; for Snorri it’s Aslaug, daughter of Loki and spider of the dark. Both provide them with information they couldn’t possibly have known otherwise . . . but whose side are they really on?
(Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke)
I’m not quite finished with this book yet, but Childermass definitely seems a shifty sort. Though professing to be the devoted servant of Mr Norrell, he occasionally appears to not only disagree with the man but also to be subtly undermining him. But I guess I’ll find out soon enough . . .
(The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson)
Crone is a Great Raven, but she’s also pretty weaselly. She and her kin were born from the corrupted flesh of a fallen god, and are now spread across the lands of Genabackis, forming a perfect aerial information network. But who does Crone really serve? She’s popularly known as the companion of Anomander Rake, but she often deliberately withholds information from Rake on the orders of his ally Caladan Brood. Which other ascendants might she be working for, and do their interests coincide or conflict?
(The Powder Mage trilogy by Brian McClellan)
Okay, so physically Mihali is the least weasellish character you can imagine. He’s fat, friendly and funny. He’s also a chef (who apparently makes the most divine squash soup you’ve ever tasted), but he’s also an escapee from a madhouse. How does he know so much about the god Kresimir? Can Tamas trust him? And where does he get all his ingredients?
(The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien)
Credit goes to my husband for suggesting this one; I never would have thought of it for myself. Looking at this from the dwarves’ point of view, Bilbo is a somewhat slippery ally: he’s a self-professed burglar. He escaped from the goblins’ cave by mysterious means. He infiltrated the elves’ stronghold and helped the dwarves escape through similarly mysterious means. He woke up the dragon which went on to destroy Laketown. He stole the Arkenstone and betrayed Thorin by abandoning the dwarves and siding with the elves. Yep, Bilbo’s a weasel alright!
(Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling)
I couldn’t decide on any one character so decided to list a few. Firstly there’s Kreacher, a cranky old house elf whose misplaced loyalty to his dead mistress leads to the death of a major character in the series (damn you, Kreacher!!). Then there’s Mundungus Fletcher, a notorious crook who provides the Order of the Phoenix with information – but is it reliable? And can they trust him not to give away their secret location? And of course there’s Snape, Dumbledore’s trusted double-double-double agent, who seems to switch sides as often as a tennis ball and probably can’t be trusted AT ALL. Or can he?
That’s it for this week! Join us again next week for the topic of DEAD GODS and be sure to check out the Tough Travelling tab above for links to my previous posts and fellow travellers!