I’ve been on a bit of a fantasy kick lately, and some of the hard stuff can really bring you down. Plus it takes itself so seriously. Really, I feel like every author who’s tried their hand at fantasy over the last 50 years or so, really expects to be the next Tolkien. Is it a law, that all new fantasy novels have to be the beginning of “an epic tale of high adventure” which spans twelve or fifteen books? In any case, I’m always very interested to find a story or a series that doesn’t take itself too seriously. At this point I wanted to mention Terry Pratchett, but Discworld is so satirical and funny, that it goes all the way around and back to serious from the other side. “The Color of Magic” is Profound (I meant to capitalize that).
OK, enough of that, I sort of stumbled across a new series. It’s generally referred to as the Myth Series, by Robert Asprin. They generally center around a young magician’s apprentice named Skeeve, his mentor Aahz (a scaly green fella from the dimension of Perv who is now powerless due to a practical joke), and their various adventures. I’m not going to go into plot summary or character development here, if you want you can read them yourself. What I am trying to get at here, is how humor seems to be a take it or leave it option nowadays. If you’re reading high fantasy, something about a quest to stop a Dark Lord or something, then there’s probably not a single joke or smile in the book. Many author’s tend to get so involved in the epic nature of their story, that they tend to leave out the humanizing bit (or elfizing, or hobbitizing, or whatever). My personal opinion as a reader, is that even dark myths must have their counterpoints, there has to be at least some mood lightening occasionally, else the story becomes oppressive.
Tolkien, himself, interjects entire characters who exist mainly to lighten the mood, or to show us the innocence that his heroes are fighting to save. If you look at Merry and Pippin, they tend to represent a childlike quality that is gone from the lands that Sauron threatens. So in essence, their humor tends to reinforce the story, and to heighten the danger, rather than to minimize it. If more authors recognized this, then we might have a few more stories that are deeply dimensioned and rich, rather than single layered. Oh well, if everyone listened to me then the world would be a better place.