Tough Traveling — Laborers


tough guideEvery 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.

Durnik — Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings

pawn of prophecyBrave 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.

Crocus — The Just City by Jo Walton

just cityWhen 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.

Darrow— Red Rising by Pierce Brown

red risingAt 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. 

Kreacher— Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix
by J.K. Rowling

order of phoenixHouse 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. 

Parshmen— Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

worHmm. 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 — Half a War by Joe Abercrombie

half a warBrand 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.”

—Michael Senft

About Michael Senft

I am a freelance writer and critic from Phoenix Arizona. I spent 10 years covering music, the arts and pop culture for the “Arizona Republic” before life circumstances took me away from newspaper. But I never lost my joy at writing. Or reading.
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2 Responses to Tough Traveling — Laborers

  1. lynnsbooks says:

    Wow, you did amazing! I was also going to include The Just City but I included Jax from the Mechanical so they felt a bit similar. I love that you got the house elves and Parshmen.
    Lynn 😀


  2. Bookwraiths says:

    All great choices. Especially loved the Brand and Rin one. I totally forgot their story. Really need to remember these things better. 🙂


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