How many times have you uploaded an article or song on the Internet and then got lost surfing through hundreds of comments underneath? Whether discussing politics, sports, or comparing the lead singers of Nightwish, it gets ugly very quickly. If you need to stock your insult arsenal, You Tube comments is the place to go – but a shot of JW or an anger management course might be more effective, long term…just saying, calm down.
Earlier this week, I played a Gothic music play list (that I can’t find now) while I wrote a new chapter for Book 4 of the Wycaan Master series. I made the mistake of perusing the comments and they were eye opening.
Tens of people (and I did not check all 2,000+ comments) wrote why they would love to be an elf. Just for the record, I believe people were imagining Legalos and not Will Ferrell or any of his fine companions.
But there they were: some frivolous, but many, well, I believe laced with a genuine desire. They seemed to resonate with something deep inside, something lost.
Some spoke of the physical attributes – tall and thin, healthy (have you ever seen an elf sneeze? – they even die beautifully – yes I’m talking about you, Haldir, at Helm’s Deep, I’m sure you remember), long living, nimble, coordinated…
Others mentioned emotional attributes – decisive, confident, calm, intelligent, loyal mates (I plan to research this – I did a quick search for the Rivendale Daily Enquirer but they only distribute in the Western Isles).
And there was also an interesting assortment of comments such as: they could trust their leaders; they were in touch with nature…
When I began writing the Wycaan Master series, it was clear to my sons and me that we didn’t want to make the elves (most of our protagonists) perfect. They get angry, make wrong decisions, feel abashed at that first kiss, and seem more…well human (ouch!).
In fact, one of the comments that surfaced as I read At The Walls Of Galbrieth to my writer’s group wass that I failed to distinguish them as elves. I struggled to do this without stepping into the familiar stereotypes. As I write Book 4, things have become somewhat darker, with the protagonists facing greater personal challenges. I continue to find it difficult to strike a cord between making my elves special without them losing their genuine, vulnerable side.
Finally, as I write this, I am listening to The Hobbit soundtrack. There is a long thread of comments, disagreements, and debate. But this is the comment that caught my eye:
RobbieBjork17 wrote: “Holy Crap that was one_ of the most educated conversations I’ve ever read on youtube…. shoulda known it was going to be Tolkien Fans ;).”
It made me absurdly proud to feel a part of the Epic Fantasy nation.
Alon Shalev is the author of At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).
Absurdly proud 🙂 I like that. Back in my RPG and MMO days, I often played elf characters, but I find that I wouldn’t so much want to be an elf these days as to have one as a good friend (spouse is already taken by my soul-mate, sorry). I still admire elf characters, but I think they may be better inspiration (my opinion only) than something I’d want to be or become. Wouldn’t give up who I am, cause I kind of like her, ya know?
I’ll be honest, I’ve never been very fond of elves. A lot of writers just settle for recycling the perfect Tolkein model, and that just does nothing for me. The Dragon Age video games at least did something different (their elves WERE perfect and immortal, but were corrupted and subjegated by humans and are now either second-class citizens or resentful nomads clinging to what what scraps are left of their old culture), but even that wasn’t super interesting to me because they basically said, “Well, let’s just do the opposite of the cliche!” A good start, but I’ve seen it used in a lot of other places since the first DA game came out. There seems to be something about elves that people love so much that they don’t seem to want to change anything, and I don’t get it.