Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Melody brought up a really good point yesterday in the comments about Eragon, and how the setup was such a close copy of Star Wars. Think farm boy (Luke vs. Eragon), lives with relatives who are soon killed, so he is taken under the wing of an old hermit (Ben Kenobi vs. Brom) who soon helps him discover that he has special powers (The Force vs. Magic/The Ancient Language). She's right of course, the beginning of these two tails is painfully similar. The thing is this story is even older than that. Think Frodo, Gandalf/Argorn, and The One Ring. The Ring is more of a burden, of course, but it does have powers.
The point is that this story is what is known as an archetypal tale. Nathan wrote a great post about this a few months ago and I won't be able to articulate this any better than him, so make sure to go here, before or after you read my contribution, either way is fine.
Nathan points out that David and Goliath could fall into this category, and I think he's right, but there are also Greek Myths such as Perseus, or even Homer's Odyssey, which are similar, and there is no question that Siegfried in Wagner's Ring Cycle (akin to Sigurd in Norse Mythology) goes through a similar transformation, having several mentors such as Mime, Alberich and even Odin, at times. There are probably older tales than these that fall into this category but do not spring to mind immediately.
The psychologist Carl Jung even went so far as to outline several major archetypal characters. He wasn't necessarily talking about literature, but they do apply. He named the Wise Old Man or Sage (think Obi-Wan, Gandalf or Brom), the Hero (Luke, Frodo, Eragon), and the Trickster (Loki, R2-D2 - sort of, Murtagh, Gollum/Smeagol) among others.
I for one don't think there is anything wrong with writing novels that fall into these archetypes, after all - all the stories have already been told, but just make sure you change something so that you tell the story in your own way. Melody made a really good point when comparing Eragon to Star Wars yesterday (some of our discussion was by email, so it may not be in the comments) but I for one still enjoyed Eragon, because it evolved into something of its own.
I had planned on discussing this topic further today, but I've been slammed at work and it has now taken me until 11:15 AM just to get this far so I am cutting it short.
Readers - thoughts?