Thinking back on the three trilogies we have studied in class this semester, I’m really glad that each one is from a completely different time period. I would like to look at them comparatively in terms of time, and how these three trilogies may exemplify a genre that is rapidly changing and growing.
When we first started LOTR, we all mostly agreed that Tolkien certainly is a major writer, and also the “father of fantasy”. He was the first author to successfully create a world separate from our own, yet still very complete—introducing new races, languages, and settings that we had never known before.
Most of us agreed that Donaldson’s trilogy mimicked Tolkien’s in many ways. Both introduced new worlds with similar species, a quest involving a ring, an unlikely hero, etc. At the same time, though it didn’t always go over so well, Donaldson made changes and took risks that didn’t exist in Tolkien’s world. For one, Donaldson did not only introduce a new world, but he also included our own and made his protagonist a man from our world. He put an interesting twist on it by also making his character a leper—therefore sparking the reader’s sympathy and interest for Covenant. The biggest advancement Donaldson made within the genre though, at least between these three books, lies in the risky choices made with his main character, Thomas Covenant. Covenant is perhaps the most atypical hero, weakened and sickly from the start. Covenant is also purposely written not just to be an unlikely hero, but also to be completely unliked by readers. Donaldson took the biggest risk in actually having Covenant rape a young girl in the very beginning of his first book—something I don’t think was ever done in fantasy before and especially not before Donaldson’s time.
Finally, I think ‘His Dark Materials’ most fully exemplifies the advances happening in the ever-growing fantasy genre. Unlike the first two series, Pullman’s protagonist is a female, yet still a strong, witty, and convincing lead character. Then, in his second book, Pullman introduces another protagonist quite successfully, something not usually pulled off or even attempted in literature. Pullman’s idea of multiple worlds coincides with a true scientific theory of today, and his mixture of both magic and science supports the idea that the line between science fiction and fantasy is now blurring. Not only this, but Pullman makes religion a major theme of his work, inserting religious opinion in his books blatantly when before religious intent was merely hinted at.
It certainly is interesting to have taken this class in a time where fantasy is still a young and rapidly growing genre, to see firsthand the changes and advances being made through time from author to author.