The people shouted out prices quickly. Several argued over the worth and cost of the slave. Eventually, only one person was able to keep bidding higher. His love stepped away from the crowd, handing the slave trader a few gold coins. She grabbed the rope that was dangling on the stage and gently guided her new servant off. The beautiful girl seemed to feel Mikhal’s stare and turned to face him. Her wicked smile quickly fell from her face as she saw his disbelief, but only for a moment. The girl Mikhal knew to be the demon smiled again, pulling her slave behind her.
In his dream, Mikhal fell from the barrels as a tremor from the earth shook the city. People in the middle of the street cringed, unsure of what to do. A statue of a beautiful goddess fell from its pedestal crushing a man. The delicate glass torch that was held in the statue’s outstretched hand shattered on the paved street. A loud boom rocked the foundation of the tavern next to Mikhal even as the earth stopped shaking. He looked up from where he lay to see a column of dark smoke rise from somewhere deeper in the city.
Many stories, through out recorded history, have included allegories as a means of conveying an important message to readers. An allegory can be a story in which the apparent use of characters and events symbolizes a moral meaning; an allegory is a symbolic reference to something of importance to the reader. The opening paragraphs in this discussion are from Prince Kristian’s Honor, Book One of the Erinia Saga; I wrote them to point out issues of racism and depravity within a fictional society. The description of the falling statue with a delicate glass torch should help readers understand that I am alluding to issues within our own society. The earthquake and signs of disaster deeper in the city warn readers that there is something more troubling at the heart of the kingdom within the book, but I am also suggesting there may be issues within our modern society.
Stories of fantasy are nothing more than the retelling of our own triumphs and sad, sad tragedies.
I believe the fantasy fiction genre provides an outstanding vehicle for presenting moral and societal issues (through the use of allegories). In my first novel, Prince Kristian’s Honor (PKH), I use the allegorical convention to describe events and emotions I experienced over the last decade. This discussion will highlight three examples of allegory within my novel, with the intent of encouraging debate on writing conventions within modern Fantasy, as well as, inform readers interested in some of the more nuanced portions of PKH.
The king shook his head. “Religious fanatics don’t win wars, Ferral. I thought you would have learned at least that much from me. If you want to have a kingdom to rule after I am gone, you will follow my lead. Politics can be as threatening as any war and can do as much harm as any army. We shall defeat the Erandians through intrigue and sabotage, not by rushing them with a thousand suicidal zealots.”
“There are the loyal followers of Belatarn and then there are those that deserve to die. The Erandians especially deserve death. Those meddling fools have influenced our world for too long. It’s time they realize that we don’t want or need them. It’s Belatarn’s will that all non-believers die, and I’ll be his messenger.”
The previous passage from PKH was carefully constructed to reflect the conflict between two rivals struggling for control and influence over a larger kingdom. One of the characters, the King of Belarn, believes the way to control the world is through subtle changes and power plays while Ferral, the villain in the novel, believes the only way to dominate the world and force his brand of religion upon everyone is through fanaticism and violence.
In my books, Ferral and his father represent Osama bin Laden and his long time comrade, Abdullah Azzam. Both were founders of the Maktab al-Khadamat movement, but Azzam wanted to take a more unified, cautious, and subtle approach that would work through existing Middle East fighting forces rather than create a separate, militant force. Osama bin Laden did not agree; he felt the only way to change the world was through violent uprising against apostate regimes and the Americans that backed them. In the end, Azzam was murdered. It is not certain whether bin Laden was responsible for his comrade’s death, but it certainly was a catalyst for increased radicalization of people in many countries. In PKH, Ferral also gets his way and is responsible for the chaos that engulfs the land of Erinia. Additionally, Ferral’s quest to obtain magic so he can terrorize the other kingdoms directly relates to the very real threat of terrorists acquiring Weapons of Mass Destruction:
Ferral smiled. “These powers will help Belarn influence the rest of the world. Those that might have stronger armies will be afraid to use them out of fear of what I can and will do to their people. They will surrender to me or watch helplessly as their kingdoms are destroyed.”
In PKH, Ferral is able to control the population through intimidation, radicalization, and magic. His followers become nothing more than puppets that perform their duties blindly. The same could be said of people throughout history that have aided cruel leaders in their personal quests for power. Osama bin Laden is a master at understanding and twisting religion to suit his needs. People, desperate for change, cling to leaders like bin Laden, and Ferral, because they offer motivation and an alternative to the status quo. They may not even realize that they are being manipulated; they are simply doing what they believe has to be done for a greater good.
‘Those in the army that had not perished in the fires that erupted from several places at once, like a coordinated attack, fought to save their king. Several servants reported seeing a large fire ball slam into the side of tower that the king slept in . . .
From below the balcony, soldiers and servants tried one last time to rush through the flames and save their beloved king . . . Suddenly, a rumbling sound grew from inside the palace. The grand building collapsed, the ground underneath the rescuers trembling. The tower fell in on itself. First, the roof and battlements fell; their massive weight tearing through reinforced floors. As the added weight and momentum continued to fall down, floor upon floor, the outside walls simply sagged in and fell. Hundreds were still trapped inside. There was no way for them to escape the wreckage. Dozens of rescuers were crushed by the falling rock and smoke, and dust engulfed those that ran from the royal grounds.’
Hopefully, readers will immediately see this as a remembrance of the terrible events of 9/11. I did not incorporate it into my novel for any personal gain; I describe the event as a way to convey my own emotions (I was involved in the Global War on Terror for several years, and I volunteered for hazardous assignments because of what happened on 9/11).
The argument, and perhaps the challenge, that I am writing about is that the Fantasy genre has much more to offer. Stories that cause intense emotion or introduce us to new characters are the foundation of any good novel, but a story that can also remind us of the issues we face in our lives can be worth so much more. Stories of fantasy are nothing more than the retelling of our own triumphs and sad, sad tragedies. I made that argument at the beginning of this discussion; it’s a quote I wrote for the book back in the year 2000. The phrase took on much more significance for me after the events of 9/11 and the years I spent in various combat zones. The allegories within PKH are meant to be entertaining, but they are also intended to be thought-provoking. I used allegory to reflect the issues I personally faced over the last ten years and I intend to continue using the convention in future projects.
For those of you who have supported me by purchasing and reading PKH … thank you. I have room to grow as a writer, but I am also pleased by the amount of feedback I have received. I hope you can now better understand some of the things that I intentionally incorporated into the book. I hope it left you wanting to read more about Prince Kristian, Cairn, and Mikhal, but I also hope it made you think about some of the issues that we face as a society.