Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Discourse Analysis of English Fantasy Novels

Well, its good to be back. Back from a long journey with Richard Cyfer and his lover Kahlan Amnell. Winking smile  You know, it’s hard for me to be away for long from such stories. In last few years I’ve found these English high fantasy novels quite attractive, more precisely kind of seductive for me. I can’t stop reading stories like Harry Potter, Wheel of Time, Codex Alera, and now it is Sword of Truth. I was away from internet, actually coming online just to complete translation that I’ve to deliver to Khawar on daily basis, otherwise I was in winter sleep with handsfree in my ears listening SoT 1: Wizard’s First Rule.
Wizard's First Rule
The Sword of Truth
Richard Cyfer and Kahlan Amnell
SoT Series
The story is quite pleasant. It has all the elements I need in a story. It is mysterious and full of weird things. The author has made his imagination wild, as wild as he could and grabbed the things which get attention of a reader like me, bind me to the book and urge to complete it. The story is full of suspense, breath taking suspense that you dare not stop listening. It is full of magic, strange worlds, strange powers, a sizeable villain and of course, the hero and heroin. You see, everything is in place, the story is a master piece of author’s imagination, a full fledged fantasy novel (series actually) with all the ingredients a fantasy novel can have.
The hero is a rare person, a unique character who is descendent of an ancient wizard family, he is meant to rule, born with power i.e. the gift. The heroin is unique of her kind, she is a confessor, from an ancient magic bearing lot of women who could use their power to capture the mind of anyone with a touch only. She is last left of her kind, others are killed. Ohh yeah, there is a reasonably good villain as well. As all villains do mostly, his father was villain so he is raised to be a villain, two steps ahead of his father in cruelty. And there are good supporting characters. The hero’s old friend, the great old wizard, the boundary warden, a warrior, and other minor characters. The hero and heroin can never be one because of the power she possess, she if she touches him he will loose his personality and become a pet to her. This really creates a sympathy for them. Well, they manage to be together at last, after all heroes are meant to find ways to meet their beloveds (it’s a universal truth Open-mouthed smile).
I really like such novels but after listening (not reading but listening, I like audiobooks for English) at least 3 series and over 20 books, I think I can figure out a common pattern under each such story. They might have a technical name for them, but I’ve observed and then formed a theory to explain the structure of these stories (the fantasy ones I read so far). Apart from the strange and weird worlds they create, they have lots of things common. Perhaps that’s needed because story needs something to move on, a motive, so the motive is provided through a certain pattern. Well we are going to discuss that pattern, or in more precise terms lets have a look on the overall Discourse of such novels (Harry Potter, Codex Alera, Wheel of Time, Sword of Truth).
  • The names e.g. Wheel of Time, Sword of Truth an like, they seem to follow same pattern (although not true for all).
  • The story starts with the world being tore apart by evil forces. They are getting strong, the end of time is near.
  • The world of the story is totally strange and weird. In cases like Harry Potter, it’s built upon ordinary familiar world as a hidden part, otherwise its totally unearthly with commonality of basics of life (characters are humans, there are trees and animals etc.) but other things are different, additions by the wild imagination of the author. All main characters are human (as far are these 4 series are concerned) with addition of other magical, unearthly creatures.
  • The world has a Creator, but he doesn’t interfere with the matters of humans. So they have to save the world on their own. But he usually provides the the ingredients , to be precise the hero of the story.
  • The hero is—as said earlier in the discussion of SoT—a person who is gifted with special powers. He is ordinary person in the beginning. He doesn’t know how to use the powers, mostly he denies to be the world saver, he runs away but the evil forces give him hard time, try to kill him, they tease him so much that he finally becomes an angry cat from a running mouse. Winking smile So he fights back, he learns to use his powers, and becomes lion from angry cat and plans for the final fight. ( I am tired of these final fights, but as you can see this is the discourse structure of such novels, they cannot deviate, so final fights are must for a hero).
  • The heroin, how can a novel be without a heroin Smile. So there is always at least 1 heroin or otherwise as much as the hero thinks he should have Open-mouthed smile (refer to Wheel of Time, the hero has 3 heroines and he loves them all simultaneously). I am quite a jealous of all heroes Winking smile. The heroines are not ordinary females, they’ve an important part in the novel, they possess a unique power which aid the hero several times in the story. They fight side by side with the hero in battle with the evil. One might say they share battle and bed simultaneously, and this adds to the soft side of story, the urge to read on. Well, that’s a debatable thing whether heroines should have such liberties Smile.
  • The villain is a wicked person or thing (non-human entity) who want to rule the world. So he taps the thousands of years old dark powers, he try to get the powers, to be a ruler and to become immortal. During his struggle he fears the hero and tries to kill him or lure him to his side, and thus the story starts, the old conflict of good and bad starts which will end at the end.
  • The story goes on for several books. Each book is a new struggle for the hero and heroine. The hero especially has a hard time, but he develops and gets mature, he becomes wiser and masters more powers, prepares for the final fight with the villain. During the progress of story he might loose some people (minor characters) but heroine should be with him till end (otherwise at least I would not read such a story, that’s why if there is a suspicion of any kind I have a habit to confirm that the royal pair is alright, safe and sound at the end of novel, hope so you understood how do I do this Winking smile).
  • The last novel of the series is the climax. The hero and villain are in hand to hand combat. They fight, use powers of that world, try to kill each other. As you know hero is a person with not so complete knowledge, the villain is master of powers but hero is rather raw as compared to him. But the hero manages to defeat him because villain is a damn fool full of pride who misses trivial things. Thus the hero wins and the world, which is usually a mess now, starts recovering under the holy command of the hero and, of course, the heroine.
  • Another commonality is the presence of one or more supporting characters which help the hero learn to use powers. They may be permanent or temporary, friends or foes, they help him learn somehow. As he is unique and rare, so he manages to learn quickly enough which can save his guts and the world.
Well, perhaps this is not a Discourse Analysis. But it is an analysis, the purpose was to seek a common structure of such stories. I don’t know if I was able to get the goal, but this much is sure that you would enjoy this post. And if you have something to add, most welcome, comments are always welcome.


NoumaanYaqoob said...

Wish I had more time to read :( 

fareeha farooq said...

boring novels ,I never read such novels even never saw Harry potter films 

Muhammad Shakir Aziz said...

Noumaan; Time has to be snatched, be unsocial, leave everything on weekends, use every bit of time eating, face washing, and "rest rooms" for this purpose. And do not read, listen. ;-)
Fareeha: Everyone has a taste. What kind of stories you like?

Sherazbano said...

though i enjoyed the post but couldn't learn anything from linguistics perspective!!!!

Muhammad Shakir Aziz said...

Well it was not intended to teach Discourse Analysis :-). It was an informal way to describe similarities of these stories, somehow which can be called the discourse of fantasy stories.

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