“FELLOW TRAVELERS. These are people who join the Tour for a short while and then leave or get killed.

December 23, 2009

If they have NAMES and characters, then you will be sorry to lose them, otherwise not. See also COMPANIONS.”

~Diana Wynne Jones, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland

Shortly after happening upon The Tough Guide to Fantasyland in the Dewey stacks of my local library, I saw it referenced somewhere, as you see a thing everywhere once you’ve become aware of its existence. It was mentioned as being brilliant but hard to find. I found it, I swear, shelved in the travel section. Or maybe just near the travel section, which isn’t far from poetry in the Magnolia stacks. Were I a librarian I would misshelve it to have my little joke, but I suppose that would be breaking the librarian code of honor.  I do not mean to slander the Magnolia librarians. I’m sure they shelved it correctly. Once a book goes to the non-fiction stacks it is simply not likely to be seen again. The Guide is structured as a mock encyclopedia of all the elements found in your average fantasy adventure novel, pitched as if to a noob embarking on a Tour. Jones, herself an author of numerous fantasies for kids including the wonderful Howl’s Moving Castle, knows whereof she writes. Entries are alphabetical for easy reference, e.g.:

“DARK LORD (dread lord (OMT)). There is always one of these in the background of every Tour, attempting to ruin everything and take over the world. He will be so sinister that he will be seen by you only once or twice, probably near the end of the Tour. Generally he will attack you through MINIONS (forces of Terror, bound to his will (OMT)), of which he will have large numbers. When you do get to see him at last, you will not be surprised to find he is black (see COLOUR CODING) and shadowy and probably not wholly human. He will make you feel very cold and small. Actually, when it comes down to it, that is probably all he will do, having almost certainly exhausted his other resources earlier on. You should be able to defeat him, with a little help from your COMPANIONS, without too much effort. However, the Rules state that at this stage you will be exhaused yourself and possibly wounded by MAGIC. So be careful.”

It’s basically hilarious if you have read a significant volume of fantasy. Jones nails the classic side-kick types. The horses that never fidget, shy, mate, or require feeding. The way red-haired women are always Special, Talented or otherwise Magical (colour coding) and smells alert the traveler to evil afoot. The way sex works out to each sex’s fantasy- with satisfying emotional attachment for women, without attachments for men, and without any consequences for anyone. How no one gets inconvenient cases of the trots, or menstruates, or dies of festering gut wounds. The entry on Swords takes four pages and includes such subheadings as: with RUNES, with Souls, with Appetites, in stones, and incomplete.

CONCLUSION. For this you will have to undertake the third (or possibly the fifth) Tour of the trilogy. If you do not immediately book for the whole set, you may well find yourself stranded halfway across the continent without having completed your QUEST or discovered your BIRTHRIGHT. And the DARK LORD will still be a menace. A little extra money will soon dispel these inconveniences, and you may then have the pleasure of seeing the continent torn asunder in the FINAL CONFRONTATION. This is a spectacular sight and should not be missed.”

This is why the fans of George R. R. Martin accost him in the street, threatening to stalk him until he completes the next 800-page installment of Song of Ice and Fire. Prompting Neil Gaiman to declare “George R. R. Martin is not your bitch“. To which I say, if you are going to sequel-bait that blatantly, you deserve the harassment from your many loyal fans who wish to shower their dollars upon you. They just want to finish the adventure sometime, maybe in ten or twelve Tours. At least if he, God forbid, dies with all his plots dangling, his publisher/heirs will probably hire someone to wrap them all up nice.


2 Responses to ““FELLOW TRAVELERS. These are people who join the Tour for a short while and then leave or get killed.”

  1. bridgid Says:

    I was shocked and amused all at once. There is a formula to writing fantasy novels! Gasp! Say it isn’t so!

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