Tonight is the Epic High Fantasy Faction Fantasy High Epic Night at Blackwells (which even sounds a bit like an epic fantasy location, doesn't it?). As dedicated stalkers of Joe Abercrombie, Anne and I will be there with bells on (I'm cosplaying Glotka - ask me about my pliers!), and we both look forward to picking up a few signed trinkets from overseas visitors Peter V. Brett and Myke Cole.
Naturally, this got me thinking about what makes epic high fantasy so epic and high. There are all sorts of aesthetic qualifiers: Are there dragons? Are there stable-boys with royal bloodlines? How dictatorial are the prophecies? Are the women improbably dressed? Does Strange Horizons hate it? [Zing!]
But really, the epicness comes from great moments of the impossible: Bilbo outwitting Smaug. You Shall Not Pass! Belgarion fighting Torak, kaiju-style. Daenerys Targaryen beheading Jon Snow claiming the Iron Throne [oops, spoiler!].
But, for every great moment, there is the underbelly. The moments of the impossibly stupid. Because, as Dark Helmet says: "Good is dumb."
Here are five of my favourite moments:
1. Frodo fumbling the hand-off in The Return of the King. Frodo - throughout - is a whinging goofball, who abandons his high-level bodyguards and goes meandering into Mordor with only his butler for company. Of course, as we all see, Sam's a lot better at the actual 'bearing-of-the-One-Ring' thing than Frodo is. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the final moments - the moment of unRinging at the precipice of Mount Doom. Frodo, after crawling halfway across the world, whining the entire way, is incapable of doing the one thing he had to do.
Next time? Let Boromir have it.
2. The Red Wedding in A Storm of Swords. So, this has been out for 12 years, but I guess I can't spoil it because it will be on television soon, which makes it, you know, 'new'. Or something. Either way, what the hell? Really? Did [that character] really think it was going to be ok to do [that thing] and think that [that other character] was going to be fine with [that happening]? In a series of incredibly stupid decisions made by [that character], [that] has to be the most ridiculous.
3. The entire plot of Wizard's First Rule. Just to summarise, and I really don't care about spoiling this one. The bad guy has opened Apocalypse Boxes Part 1 and 2. If he doesn't open Apocalypse Box 3 within the next few months, he will die. Bad guy has no idea where the box is. This would be failworthy, except the good guys are somehow even more dumb.
What do our heroes do? Go looking for Box 3, of course! SHOCK/HORROR, they wind up getting captured by the bad guy who is all like, "Fnahahahaha. Thanks for doing my work for me, nerds." Just to be clear, if the good guys had never left their home - if they had done absolutely nothing at all - they would have won. Their entire quest was a fail.
[Fun fact: this is my same problem with the Dungeons & Dragons movie. At the start of the film, the Epic Boomstick of Evil is hidden at the bottom of the inaccessible dungeon of doom behind impassable traps. But, for some reason, the heroes think that it would be less accessible to the big bad if they had it. It has been safe in that location for thousands of years, you know the bad guy can't get it there. Why are you moving it?! And why is Marlon Wayans in this movie?!]
4. Garion not realising his lineage in The Belgariad. It takes the better part of a book for Garion to realise that 'Aunt Pol' is Polgara the Sorceress. This is despite Polgara being established as a rare name, the distinctive white lock in her hair (mentioned in every single story about her), her agelessness and, you know, the occasional use of magic.
If Garion couldn't get it from those subtle clues, you'd think the behaviour of other people would've given it away: the bowing, the royal treatment, the mysterious chatter about quests, the occasional reference to her as 'Eternal Polgara', the magical duels... Nope! Our hero, brave but dim, doesn't just waddle through Pawn of Prophecy without putting the pieces together, he actually has to have it explained to him.
5. Anyone that reads any ancient book, ever. Just don't do it. No matter who dares you or who you're trying to impress. And, if you are stupid or ambitious or horny enough to sneak into the forbidden section of the magical university's library at midnight and take down Ye Olde Booke of Thyngs Obvyously Eville, don't read the damn thing out loud.
So, what are your favorite moments of epic fail?
See you tonight!