Every Thursday, Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn leads a group of fellow bloggers on “Tough Travels”, a trip through the tropes that populate the fantasy and sci-fi world, using Diane Wynne Jones’ hilarious The Tough Guide to Fantasyland as a guide.
Sounds like fun, so I thought I’d join the journey. This week’s subject is “Messiahs”:
Eriond — The “Belgariad” and the “Malloreon”
by David Eddings
As a kid I loved these series, as I grew older I recognized how cliché they were, but I still pull them out almost annually whenever I get burned out on Grimdark and heavy reading. Eddings knew how to write tropes, his books are almost the template for the Tough Guide. Eriond was introduced in the “Belgariad” as Errand, a near mute street urchin with an unknown history, a true innocent who was able to touch the mystical “Orb of Aldur”. In the “Malloreon” he really comes into his messianic own, quenching sacrificial fires in a scene reminiscent of Jesus and the moneylenders, and is ultimately transformed into the God of Light, destined to spread peace and love throughout the land. He even has to be reminded sometimes when he is glowing.
Connor MacLeod — Highlander
This isn’t a book, but I needed to include it, just to share the following story. When I was dating my ex-wife, she took me to a Bible study. One of the people in the group had just seen Highlander and was talking about the powerful Christian message it conveyed, especially the song, Who Wants to Live Forever. They had issues with the movie however, complaining “They shouldn’t have the Christ figure fornicating!” I hadn’t thought of it that way (probably because of the fornicating), but he’s immortal, defeating evil, destined to bring peace and tranquility to Earth, wields a badass sword, Iistens to Queen… Yeah, it’s a kind of magic.
Mihali — Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan
I’ve just started this series, (you can read my review here) but so far this master chef fits the bill. The so-called “Lord of the Golden Chefs” claims to be an incarnation of Adom, one of the nine Gods, and the patron of Adro. In order to serve the people of Adro, he escapes an insane asylum and enters service with Field Marshal Tamas, preparing meals for the troops. His chief power seems to be feeding thousands, making the finest food appear out of thin air, comforting the starving citizens of Adopest and proving the best way to earn a man’s loyalty is through his stomach. He also has a way with women, something that often gets overlooked when creating a messiah.
Severian — “The Book of the New Sun” by Gene Wolfe
Wolfe’s dense, difficult quartet the Book of the New Sun (available in two omnibuses, Shadow and Claw and Sword and Citadel) is filled with messianic touch points for the narrator, Severian. He is a member of the order Seekers for Truth and Penitence, a nice messianic name. Okay, he’s a torturer, but in his journeys we see him constantly showing mercy to those he encounters, eventually healing and resurrecting people as well. And while I have not finished this dense series yet, as I understand he ends up as a sort of king/God. An unreliable narrator, Severian can be caught in his lies by attentive readers, and he refers to himself as insane at the beginning of Shadow of the Torturer. This sort of reminds me of C.S. Lewis’s trilemma, that Jesus is either a lunatic, a liar, or the Lord. In Severian’s case, he’s all three.