Honour, Duty and Chivalry in Fantasy

2012-Feb-24 -> from the 29-days-of-fantasy department Tags:

Today, fantasy author Glenn Skinner brings 29 days a post about Honour, Duty and Chivalry in Fantasy.

Again, sorry for the late post, I'm having a rough week, but here it is, and thank you Glenn!

I would like to Thank Thomas for inviting me today to share my thoughts on honor, duty and chivalry in fantasy. As a writer of epic fantasy, I could not imagine any fantasy where these traits do not prevail. I will not bore you with the definitions or terms of the words, any dictionary, or Wikipedia will provide you that information. I would rather talk of the mysticism which surrounds them. I think it's fair to say that when a person thinks of the medieval ages, visions of knights in shining armor, fair maidens, and acts of chivalry abound. Over the centuries the basic principles, fueled by imagination, have created a romanticism of sorts around the era. We visualize a code of honor, of ethics which in all reality, is a fantasy greater than any one author could hope to create.

This vision of the period plays into most fantasies as we know them. We find a mixture of nobles and peasants struggling with a sense of duty and honor. They struggle to triumph over adversity and life, to do what must be done for a nobler cause, even if it means their own death. The concept of good versus evil abounds, but the lines are not always clearly defined. While chivalry is a code of ethics to be upheld, the reality of human (or other being's) behavior allows for a flawed character trait in an otherwise noble person. It is this flaw that allows them to rise above. It allows a reader to connect, and rally them on, pulling them into the story. It doesn't matter if the characters are human, elves, aliens or toads. The principles are still easily applied. Look at Star Wars: a young farmer receives a distress call from a princess in need. His honor and duty drives him to save her. In the Lord of the Rings, destiny has chosen Frodo to be the ring bearer. He could have turned the ring over to Gollum and run away, but his sense of duty and honor drove him on. We see this behavior over and over again in fantasy and science fiction. Deep down, we long for that romanticism that has been deeply instilled in us all over time.

If anyone is interested in the reality versus the fantasy of the medieval period, I would highly recommend you read "The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England" written by Ian Mortimer. This book does an excellent job of separating fact from fantasy. Below I have included a eulogy from a yet unpublished novel I am working on. It is a bit crude still, but I think it does a fair job summing up duty and honor in fantasy:

"Good people of Shivenridge. I thank you for your warm reception, but today is not about the living. It is about those who without hesitation; took arms at a moment's notice. Some were armed with nothing more than a rock in hand, to protect their family and friends in their time of need. These heroes, outnumbered at times twenty to one, never faltered. They fought with all the strength within them, and when there was nothing more. They dug deeper still, and fought on till the end. Till death or defeat. A cry I have used in battle. Four simple words that contain great meaning, there is no dishonor in death or defeat, only in quitting. Whether it is facing an enemy in battle, or pulling a rock from your garden, until you or your enemy is dead or defeated, you must fight on. Those we honor today did just that. They fought on for our freedom, and the safety of our people. They could have turned, and run to live another day, but they didn't. They fought on. Would you all please rise." asks Keya. She hesitates until all are standing. "Look around you for a moment. Each and every one of us standing here today including myself, does so because of the bravery and sacrifice of Dyfed Meilir, Euryn Tudorn, Heilyn Villiam..." continues Keya calling out the name of each and every person killed in the battle by memory. The crowd is stunned. Family members cry and console each other as the name of their love one is spoken. She continues on until she reaches the last of their names. "...Pryderi Idwall, and last, but by no means least Emrys Brynd. We stand here together on a journey of hope thanks to them all. I pray when future generations look back upon my reign. They say my greatest legacy was; I lived up to their example. May they all rest in peace, blessed be." Finishes Keya wiping a tear from her eye, she lowers her head in respect.

I have had the good fortune to both visit and work at a renaissance faire. For those who have been to one, they all carry a common theme, one of honor and duty. Good and evil abound, and someone rises to the cause. If you look closely at those who visit for the first time, you can easily see their faces as they become engulfed in the fantasy. I have watched many a person walk into one in plain clothes, and leave in costume, their deep-seated desire for days gone by and the hint of chivalry they promise.

Thank you for taking a moment to visit today's part of the 29 days of fantasy. Following behind 23 talented writers, was a challenging task. One I hope I presented with honor.

This month has been great, hasn't it? We've seen some wonderful writing. The next three days we have Dr. Shay Fabbro bringing us reports from GalaxyFest that is going on right now. I hope to have lots of pictures and fun from this fantastic scifi/fantasy event.

Thanks for reading!

I'm always interested in hearing what you have to say. Contact Me, I'd love to hear from you.

Don't forget to join in on the conversation in the comments section below.

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