Saturday, June 08, 2013

Touchstones of Fantasy


When reading fantasy, different readers get something from the books. Many books give a brief pleasure but soon are forgotten. Other books turn into classics read by many different people like Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Most books leave behind what I call touchstones.*

Touchstones are sentences or paragraphs that leave a lasting resonance for the reader. They touch something in us or say something to us that we want to remember. They influence our lives in subtle ways. Touchstones can consist of dialogue or any part of a book which evokes a vivid image in the reader’s thoughts and can be different for every reader.

In this article I’ll share some of the touchstones that mean something to me. Garnered from many years of readin, I haveve picked some of the ones that appealed the most to me and I hope will say something to you. Please be aware that these are only based on my personal choices.

The first touchstone is from Burning Water by Mercedes Lackey:

"There ain't no such thing as 'one true way', and the way you find is only good for you, not anybody else, because your interpretation of what you see and feel and understand as the truth is never going to be the same as anyone else's.
"The only answers worth having are the ones you find for yourself.
"Leave the world better than you found it.
"If it isn't true, going to do some good, or spread a little love around, don't say it, do it or think it.
"There are only three things worth living for; love in all its manifestations, freedom and the chance to keep humanity going a little while longer. They're the same things worth dying for. And if you aren't willing to die for the things worth living for, you might as well turn in your membership in the human race."

This touchstone has become sort of a philosophy about life for me. It says what I feel about religious tolerance and how one can live a happy life without doing much damage to others.

"Whose world was it, in God's eyes? Could man in his vanity and pride ride roughshod through space and time forever, forcing his will on all other living creatures, giving them life or death according to his sufferance? Must there not sometime be a day of reckoning also for man-when he must make an accounting for his custodianship of his brothers, who likewise breathed his air and trod his soil and knew sorrow, joy, and love?" This touchstone is from Merlin's Ring by H. Warner Munn, a fantasy book that tells the tale of Merlin's godson through an alternate history earth. As an animal lover this touchstone speaks to me about how we treat animals and our world.

Also from the same book mentioned in the last paragraph comes the following touchstone:

"This tale is not the end, for no story ever really comes to any definite end. There is only a pause in a life-a change, a blending, a transmutation into something new, which in itself is impermanent. It continues changing toward a development known only to God." Life is ever changing. People have trouble dealing with change. For me, this touchstone says that good things come from change.

"Mithras, Apollo, Arthur, Christ-call him what you will," I said. "What does it matter what men call the light? It is the same light, and men must live by it or die." comes from The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart. It is another touchstone that talks to me of religious tolerance and fighting for the good of the world.

“Please don’t tell me that was God’s will. It’s a damned dangerous business to assume you know the mind of God, however much what happens seems to agree with your own view of the world.” from Glenda Larke's  “Aware” series of books.

These are some of the touchstones I've been happy to share with you. I hope that I didn't offend anyone. Please let me know some of your favorite touchstones from fantasy books. Until next time.

*The term Touchstones is an idea that originally appeared in the defunct magazine Fantasy Review.

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