There are a few conventions authors seem to follow, archetypes, perhaps. I thought I’d jot down the ones that came to mind, so we can talk about people who break them. The good way and the bad way.
Who’s not going to die? William Goldman said it this way. “Well, since the book is called ‘The Princess Bride’ and since we’re barely into it, obviously the author is not about to make shark kibble of his leading lady.’ In the Sally Lockhart mysteries, by Phillip Pullman, I’m not that worried about Sally in Book Two, as there are at least two books to come that bear her name. The exception to this rule, of course is that the title character may die at the end of the book, if there is only one, or at the end of the series, if there are several. Hence all the hubbub around J.K. Rowling and the fate of Harry at the end of Book Seven. Will she, won’t she? That’s right, J.K. I’ve got more to say to you later.
Who CAN go? Well, there are a few obvious categories, aren’t there. There’s what Jean and I call “The Random Ensign” phenomenon. Based on Star Trek, and my ST of choice is TNG. So, if Riker, Troi, Data, Worf and some guy you’ve never heard of form an away team, you can lay money only four of them are coming back. It’s easy, I see why they do it. Gives Picard something to be incensed over, but doesn’t require much emotional drain on the audience.
The aged teacher is disposable as well, the Obi-Wan Kenobi, if you will. Really, once he’d taught Luke, what role was there for him? Again, his death provides a kick in the pants for Luke. Right, we were talking about books. Galapas, from the Hollow Hills. Brom, from Eragon. We could look to JK again, though of course that raises the question “Just how much like Gandalf is Dumbledore, really?” Verdicts still out.
An aged king with a healthy heir won’t survive. Else why is he old? Why have an heir? (In thinking this one through, I got sidetracked contemplating how bad things happen to Tolkien characters whose names start with a “th”….Theoden, Theodred, Thorin, Thingol, all though the last didn’t have it so bad…anyway, I’ve digressed.) Certainly Theoden fits here, and so does Denethor, if you want to consider him a self-styled King. Kay gives us Aillel, though more on Kay later as well, he’s the master, as far as I’m concerned.
Who else? Who do you know is doomed the minute you first run across them?
~ by meteowrite on February 16, 2007.
One Response to “fictional mortality — part two”
1.Then of course there is the fate of multiple heirs to the old Kings estate; some or one of them must go to allow the “rightful” king emerge. Ancient High Priestesses also seem to have a high mortality rate, for the same reason as ancient Kings.
The Greeks give us the whole hubris thing, which leads to the certain knowledge that any mortal who has gotten “protection” from death (a la Achilles) is going to be done in at some point.
The analog to the “unknown Ensign” in most war stories is the “ne Lieutenant”. At some point the “old Sergeant” will be taking his dog tags home. You can’t kill off the Captains, they are the veteran leaders, and you can’t kill off the Sergeants, because they keep the men together. But incoming, eager lieutenants are perfect. Mow ‘em down. The naval story equivalent is usually an overage midshipman. They seem to be cannonball magnets.
Goodyear said this on February 20th, 2007 at 9:33 am