There are some critics who claim that fantasy literature is in some way a soft option; that in choosing to write in a more fantastical world, telling emotional character truths can take second place to worldbuilding. This post is my attempt to debunk that myth. There have been several scenes in fantasy literature which had me bawling like a baby. These aren’t necessarily death scenes, but simply beautiful writing illustrating the deep impact the situation has had on the character.
Olver’s story in A Memory of Light, the last book of the Wheel of Time. This particular section was just so powerfully emotive. For those of you unfamiliar, Olver is a young orphan – around eight years old – in the Wheel of Time universe who was adopted by Mat Cauthon and his warband. Being brought up in a war camp, he exhibits a lot of his “uncle”’s enthusiasm for battle and the band has a hard time keeping him away from battle. In the particular scene that had me sobbing, Olver has become separated from his friends and is being attacked by bestial Trollocs as he desperately tried to hide. All of his bravado is stripped away and you see him for what he is; a young child confronted with the reality of war and of his own impending death. But the beautiful thing about this scene is that, despite the horror and apocalyptic situation – the world is seriously turning to custard by this point – help does come to Olver and in the most awesome way.
The Grey Havens, The Lord of the Rings. Yeah, this one had me a blubbering mess. By this time we’ve spent around 900 odd pages (or nearly 10 hours of extended Peter Jackson movie time) and we’re down to the core hobbits and Gandalf who started the whole adventure. We have had more than enough time to understand the depth of the love these four little hobbits share. The realisation that the Shire has been saved but that Frodo can no longer be at peace to enjoy it and that the Fellowship is truly dissolving is hard.
The Prince’s Tale, The Deathly Hallows. In this particular scene, Rowling finally reveals Snape’s true motivations. The whole emotional beat of the chapter is encapsulated in the revelation of Snape’s Patronus and his response to Dumbledore’s query about his love and loyalty “Always”. <sniff>
The Walk to the Forbidden Forest, The Deathly Hallows. Basically that whole section of Deathly Hallows is pure weep territory. Coming as it does after the first great Battle of Hogwarts and its casualties and the Prince’s tale, Harry’s walk to his fate is so moving with the ghosts of his parents and the Marauders. The words he shares with them are just so moving, especially his query about whether death hurts. Poor, brave Harry.
The ziplining epilogue, Allegiant. For me, this epilogue was far more moving than a certain earlier scene which I personally felt was robbed of its impact by the way it was written. This epilogue however was beautiful. The group’s decision to honour fallen comrades in this way was a lovely throwback to an earlier time where they were all relatively carefree. It shows how much the deaths meant to Four in particular in that he would face this fear of his one more time in their honour.
Epilogue, Clockwork Princess. This was simply gorgeous. The Infernal Devices contained one of the most moving love triangles I have read and this epilogue brings it all to a perfect resolution.
Ending, Emperor of Thorns. This ending hit me emotionally like a ton of bricks. The character development of Jorg Ancrath is so wonderfully written. The fact that he makes the choices he makes at the end shows just how far he has come from the little prince trapped in the thorns of the first book.
What most of these scenes have in common is that they have real resonance for the characters involved, and for me at least, the author has done his or her work well to have me care for these characters.
Which scenes do you find most moving in fantasy literature?
Let me know in the comments.