Speculative Fiction Tropes: Lords and Ladies
Today continues the April A-Z Challenge. This month, I'll be blogging (almost) daily about a different speculative fiction trope, one for each letter of the alphabet. Today's entry is on Lords and Ladies. In other words, we'll be talking about medievalism in speculative fiction.
This trope calls to mind the clanging of steel and the pounding of hooves, battle standards flying and war horns sounding. In fact, if it wasn't for the presence of fantastical elements like magic and monsters, you might think you were reading a story set in medieval Europe.
Medievalism in fantasy can be traced back to some of the earliest examples of the fantasy genre, such as The Well at the World's End by William Morris. This 1896 novel introduced the reader to Ralph of Upmeads, who sets out on an adventure to find a magical well that grants strength and destiny to anyone who can drink from it. Morris' story was directly influenced by medieval tales and legends, and along with other early works like Lord Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter, it would help to lay the foundations of fantasy as a literary genre, particularly high fantasy and sword & sorcery.
Lord of the Rings set the type for high fantasy, portraying a world clearly born of medieval culture and folklore. You'd be hard pressed to find a fantasy author that has been emulated more than Tolkien.
Since I was a child, I've been absolutely in love with the medieval setting in epic fantasy. As a writer, I've produced more science fiction than fantasy, but most of the fantasy works I've written are dripping with unabashed influence from the likes of Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, and George R.R. Martin. Several short stories of mine have taken place in a world dominated by feudal kingdoms wrapped up in religious conflict, including a couple that may be seeing publication soon.
I don't know what it is that compels me so, but as a reader I just can't get enough of it. Give me wicked tyrants and scrappy rebel armies. Give me epic sword duels and brave dragon slayers. Give me wizards and paladins. You can even give me Orcs, Elves, and Dwarves. As long as it's imaginative and written well, I'll consume just about any story in this mold with a smile on my face.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Game of Thrones
The Princess Bride
Dragon Age: Origins
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion