Everyone has her or his pet pevees, I have a few of mine, often language related.
Recently I started bumping into the expression Eurocentric fantasy
, it never fails to raise my hackles in 1 second flat. Why? Because it is shorthand for clicheed, sexist, ethnocentric, unimaginative, stale fantasy set in a world theoretically inspired by medieval Europe.
The fact is that there is very little of either medieval or European in those works. To me, an European weaned on mithology and sagas, they have the same relation to the real thing as a Mc Donald frankfurter has to the bratwurst I had in Koln last time I was there.
Let's see : women were oppressed and had no power at all (never mind that a woman's lot was far worse in the XIX century than it was, by and at large, in the XII), everybody was ignorant, only the clerics could read and they wanted to keep things as they were (never mind that universities were a medieval invention, where students
were in charge and chose their teachers, also, most universities were of ecclesiastical origin), also everybody within a kingdom seems to be of the same ethnicity, speaks the same language and has a rather homogeneous mindset, thing that totally ignores the influence of such modern elements as a unified school system and television in spreading the official language and the dominant culture.
Moreover, everybody seems to live in a kingdom, monarchy is the default for this sort of fantasy, what about oligarchies of different stripes, what about city-states, what about dictatorships, for instance (do you know that dictatorship is an ancient form of governement and didn't have a negative connotation per se, right?)
If there is any research done before those books are written, it is based on little more than divulgative books rehashing older texts and so called popular knowledge (
aka things that get passed down and nobody bothers to check
Let see for instance the case of the Norsemen: viking
is almost a byword for 'barbarian with a lot of muscle and not much brain wielding an axe and wearing an horned helm'.
Well, there's a saying in France referring to the Normans (the people of Normandy, descendants of the Norsemen who settled there), it goes Normand, renard
, Norman, fox. It was their cunning
together with their ruthlessness they were famed for, the same cunning and political acumen that allowed them to get Normandy and conquer England, besides they built incredible ships and were great merchants .
And of course any Eurocentric
fantasy has dwarves and elves. Folks, Europe has a lot of peoples in itself, each with their own traditions, legends and mythical creatures, from the domovoi to the anguana, from the lamia to the saliga and the salvani, and we have ancient history all around us, which in time turns to legend.
I live in a mid-sized town in a place that was inhabited since the Neolitic, our cavalry fought against Hannibal at Cannae. Later, roman buildings like our arena
became the matter of local legends.
The images of Charlemagne's paladins are sculpted on the portals of our churches and we still tell the legends of king Theoderic the Great
and sing of queen Rosamund .
A well known figure here is la Gran Contessa
(born just a few kilometers away) and near my home is the fortress where Adelaide of Italy
was held prisoner by her husband's murderer.
And this is just my small corner of Italy. In my country, besides a myriad dialects we have linguistic minorities speaking German, French, Occitan, Arbërisht
each group with different habits, traditions, history, legends, a trasure trove for any writer looking for fresh materials and doing serious research, this in just a single country of old Europe.
Personally, I think of that kind of stale, tired fantasy clichè with an expression I got from ysabetwordsmith
, to me it conveys the idea of stale, bland and second-hand without slamming my
background and cultural tradition, thank youLink
to a wonderful post I reached throughkateelliott
that articulates this better than I can and sparked this rant of mine.