The best fantasies have the same premise: good versus evil. Lord of the Rings. The Chronicles of Narnia. The Dark is Rising Sequence. Grimm’s fairy tales. The Inkheart Trilogy. The Redwall series. Rangers Apprentice. Leven Thumps. I’m listing off my favorite fantasy series’ here, and all of them are the same. The Kane Chronicles, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. The Beyonders, Fablehaven. Star Wars, even.
All of the authors of the series’ listed have different ways of showing right as opposed to wrong. Brian Jacques, in the Redwall series, has all the villains a part of the same race of creature. Good people are some harmless thing like a mouse or a squirrel, and evil people are rats, foxes and the like. In Inkheart, it’s rather easy to see who’s who. Since the Inkworld, where most of the adventures take place, is a fairy-tale sort of land, bad guys are generally ugly and good guys are generally good-looking. The same with Grimm. The green-skinned, shriveled old hag is always the antagonist, whereas the handsome prince is infallibly good. In Rick Riordan’s books such as Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the bad guy is usually the one trying to take over the world and destroy human civilization. QED. Rangers Apprentice, the same thing. The bad guy is the person going against the king of the realm. Lord of the Rings, the good guys are good-looking and have the unique ability to ride through rivers without drowning. The bad guys are usually giant eyes in the middle of nowhere, shriveled kleptomaniacs, and large hideous beasts. Chronicles of Narnia. Aslan, the embodiment of righteousness, is quite obviously good. The White Witch, the oppressive tyrant who likes hypothermia and petrification, is definitely bad. Star Wars baddies have red lightsabers and evil blue lightning, and run on fuel such as hate. Good guys are wise, peace-loving, and wear constricting robes. It’s obvious which side to choose.
My favorite way to show good versus bad, however, is in Leven Thumps. There’s a specific character named Azure who is on the side leaning toward world domination and the destruction of all we hold dear. He used to be a thoroughly good guy, who was all for the exact opposite of the above. Unfortunately, he turned 180 degrees and is now working diligently for evil. The cool thing, however, is that all the good that was left in him after he turned was concentrated into his right ear. That sounds really funny, but it’s quite profound. That ear itches constantly and he can’t stop scratching it, making it swollen and bleeding. It’s a perfect metaphor, saying that no one bad is completely bad. They all have their conscience nagging at them like an itchy ear, which they try to scratch away, but keeps coming back. This is brilliant.
Now, to end the post on an unrelated note, I’d like to rant for a little while on the fact that when you’re looking for something, you never find it. When you stop looking, it pops up everywhere. For instance, when I first read Percy Jackson and the Olympians, I got through the third book without a hitch, then went to the library for the fourth. It had disappeared. Eventually I had to request it from another library just to read it, wasting a month and a half in the meantime. When I went to the bookstore to buy this fourth book, I found the third and fifth, but not the fourth. I went about a year with a large hole on my bookshelf, where I knew that the fourth book would fit perfectly. Each time I went to buy it, it wasn’t there. I gave the series to my younger sister to read, and she was fine until book three. Then I went to the library to look for the fourth book for her, and found a large space on the shelf.
Just about a month ago, I bought that fourth book at Barnes & Noble. The next time I went to the library, what do I see, but there are two copies of that fourth book sitting there on the shelf. Those two books have not left their positions from that day to this. Now I can look at my completed set of PJ+O on my bookshelf, never to search in vain for the elusive fourth book again, but I can hear their derisive laughter following me wherever I go. I’ve never kicked a book across the room before, but I could honestly do it to those two library copies right about now.
Good thing I won’t.