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 “A Well-Traveled Road”:
Why go overland when you can follow a road? There are several reasons, like hiding from Ringwraiths or avoiding mutant insects, but following a road is still the quickest way from one place to another, no matter what the fantasy world. And who cares if you run into a pack of cannibals or some flying monkeys, that’s the sort of drama that makes a story exciting. I didn’t say that the well-traveled road was the easiest way, just the quickest. This is TOUGH traveling after all.
The Tolnedrans are the Romans of Eddings’ world, with all that entails. Emperors, legions, intrigue, conquest and roads. They built a network of roads across the continent, linking all the countries for travel and trade, especially trade. They even were so thoughtful as to place hostels along the route, located a days’ travel apart from each other. So the prudent traveler won’t have to tough it out under the stars. Provided you can afford the cost of lodging, of course.
Is there a more famous road than the Yellow Brick Road? It was the subject of an infectious tune sung by Munchkins and inspired a song about howling dogs of society by Elton John. Dorothy and her companions follow the Yellow Brick Road (follow follow follow follow) through the magical forest and fields of poppies, harried by flying monkeys and wicked witches before reaching the gates of the Emerald City. According to legend, Baum was inspired by a real yellow brick road located in CITY
Leave it to Cormac McCarthy to make the road novel into a harrowing, existential examination of life and family. It’s also a masterpiece. If you are up to it, The Road follows a father and son as they travel an abandoned highway across a post-apocalyptic landscape. Along the way they encounter sickness, death, starvation and cannibalism. If things get too tough, however, the unnamed father has a gun at the ready, with two bullets loaded. Yeah, it doesn’t get any more cheerful.
Another post-apocalyptic classic, this time with more action. The United States is a wasteland divided into police states and vast stretches of wilderness filled with mutant creatures. Hell Tanner, a convicted criminal, must undertake a suicide mission and drive the iconic Landmaster from Los Angeles to Boston, carrying a needed vaccine through the ruined landscape of America. The 1977 film starring George Peppard may not have met Zelazny’s approval, but it is a certain influence on George Miller and his later films, like…
There’s no way I couldn’t include this. The latest Mad Max entry features the former lawman and his Ford Interceptor in the best movie I’ve seen this year. But really the star is Charlize Theron. She shines as Imperator Furiosa, helping Immortan Joe’s wives escape his clutches as car wars ensue along the Fury Road to Valhalla. Indeed, Max is almost unnecessary, as Furiosa and the dying war boy Nux steal the film, at least as much as they can when cars are exploding all around them.