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.
This week’s subject is “Laborers”:
After last weeks Gnomic adventures, it’s nice to return to something a little less unusual, the noble, hard-working laborer. Whether in the city, the field or the forge, the laborer is the glue that allows the noblemen and adventures to actually have some adventures.
Brave Durnik, the quiet blacksmith/jack of all trades. If it involves working with his hands, Durnik can do it, whether creating building a house, tilling a field or smithing armor. And he always does it right, making sure his work is perfect. And even though, as a sorcerer he could easily use his magic to accomplish his work, he will always do it by hand.
When Athene set up the Just City, based on Plato’s Republic, there was one snag — slave labor. She got around that issue by bringing robots from the future to do all the manual labor, the cooking, cleaning and other duties so that the teachers and students could devote themselves to excellence. Crocus was one such robot, who, unexpectedly became self-aware and desired to rise above his station as a simple laborer.
At the beginning of Pierce Brown’s stunning series, Darrow is a miner, working in harsh conditions to terraform Mars so that future generations may live on the surface. He doesn’t know, however, that Mars was colonized and terraformed long ago, and he and his fellow “Reds” have been unwitting slave labor for generations. When he learns the truth, he is given the opportunity to go undercover and overthrow the colored caste system that has kept him and his family down.
House elves are the engine that keeps the magical world running in Harry Potter. They are (almost) always eager to help with domestic work, despite being kept like slaves, bound to their masters until they are given clothes, like Dobby. Others, like Kreacher, will do the work, but look for loopholes to avoid their servitude. Of course, Kreacher has a reason to mistrust his new masters, especially after how he was treated by his previous master, Regulus Black.
Hmm. Laborers seems to be turning into “slave laborers”. And generally passive slave laborers at that. The Parshmen are the red-and-black skinned workers who quietly keep everything running in Roshar. Their passive nature makes the Roshari that much more surprised when they discover the warrior-like Parshendi, whom they assume are some sort of cousins to the docile Parshmen. Of course in Words of Radiance, we learn that the Parshmen are able to change forms, many of the docile Parshmen are actually spies, and they can all transform into killer Voidbringers.
Brand and Rin are brother and sister artisans in Gettland. Brand initially wanted to become a warrior, but soon learned he didn’t have the killer’s instinct. Or talent. He did, however, have talent at woodworking, which he put to use while his wife Thorn went to battle. Brand’s sister Rin was likewise gifted, the finest blacksmith in the Shattered Sea, forging arms and armor for the warriors of Gettland.
Come back next week when we take a look at “Magic Systems.”