Literature: The Tough Guide to Fantasyland
This piece of Meta Fiction
by Diana Wynne Jones pretends that pretty much all of the fantasy stories ever told -- well, most modern genre fantasies
, anyway -- took place in a place called "Fantasyland"
, and that the creators of the stories are the "Management"
who arrange for the audience to go on "tours". With this setup, an extensive list of fantasy tropes is presented as if to a tourist visiting another country and thoroughly deconstructed
. It also pretends that the stories are statistically representative of "Fantasyland," and thus concludes that the most common type of meal is stew, that cities are composed mainly of alleyways, and that the ecology and economy of Fantasyland are severely screwed up.
Jones later wrote a novel called Dark Lord of Derkholm
set in the Fantasyland described in the Tough Guide
and deconstructing it further by revealing it's really nothing like the guidebook at all and it's all put on (very reluctantly) for the benefit of the tourists.
Tropes in this book.
As the whole point of the book is to list and deconstruct
as many fantasy tropes as the author could identify, it's a fair bet that any fantasy-related trope known to this wiki gets some kind of coverage. But the following tropes are definitely among those included — and, pretty much to a one, subverted
- Always Chaotic Evil: Jones pretty much comments on all the Unfortunate Implications found in "Tolkienesque" fantasy.
- Arabian Nights Days: The "Fanatic Caliphates" setting.
- Apothecary Alligator: Mummified alligators are a common feature of wizards' laboratories. Live alligators are much rarer, and believed to be extinct.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: A primary feature of the land of the Aristocratic Feudalists.
- Assassin Outclassin': This is the topic of the entry on Assassins - that the tourist is attacked in an inn by a supposedly expert Assassin but manages to overpower and kill them, and the Assassin goes to his death complaining about the Tourist breaking the rules.
- Automaton Horses: The Tough Guide speculates that in Fantasyland horses may be a type of vegetable.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Jones pretty much comments on all the Unfortunate Implications found in "Tolkienesque" fantasy.
- Better Than a Bare Bulb: The book was written to lampshade.
- Bishōnen: The "gay mage" tour companion.
- The Blacksmith: A good source of allies.
- Born in the Saddle: The Anglo-Saxon Cossack barbarians.
- Burn the Witch!: A common hazard (along with crucifixion) when dealing with Religious Feudalists.
- But Not Too White: A character's goodness can be judged by their tan.
- City of Canals
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Jones pretty much comments on all the Unfortunate Implications found in "Tolkienesque" fantasy.
- Corrupt Church: The land of the Religious Feudalists are ruled by one of these.
- Crystal Dragon Jesus: The One God variety of Religion, if a male god is used. Even if his worshipers see him as benign, they tend to hate women and magic users (and witches, who are frequently both), and fall into Knight Templar territory at their worst.
- Did You Just Have Sex?: The Guide tells you the signs to look for in one of your tour members and the correct etiquette for the situation.
- Distressed Damsel: Entry number one on Princesses consists of one word — "Wimps."
- Dragon Hoard: Wondering on why dragons hoard treasure, Jones conjectures that dragons absorb nutrients from gold by sleeping on it.
- Dragon Rider: Likely to show up.
- Droit du Seigneur: Mentioned by name as one of the things that bad Aristocratic Feudalists get up to when oppressing the peasantry.
- Evil Chancellor: Very likely to show up.
- Evil Smells Bad: The "Reek of Wrongness."
- Encyclopedia Exposita
- Evil Matriarch: The "bad mother" variety of bad queen.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: A whole bunch of them.
- Fantasy World Map: Take a look at the map upside down. Run the place-names through an anagram generator while you're at it.
- Forgotten Trope: The entries tend to draw from cliches of Strictly Formula commercial fantasy as well as some instances likely directed at particular works. So, while a lot of the tropes it cites are still frequently used, others aren't so much.
- Galley Slave: The only reason that galleys seem to exist in Fantasyland. If a male character is enslaved, chances are he'll probably wind up chained to an oar as one of these.
- Giant Flyer
- Gladiator Games: The other common fate of male characters who get enslaved.
- Gladiator Revolt: The inevitable consequence of a lead character being enslaved as a gladiator.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: The "old fashioned bad" variety of bad queen.
- Gods Need Prayer Badly: One of the two absolute Rules in regards to religion in Fantasyland.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Princesses who fall for the hero are often redheads in Fantasyland.
- I Know Your True Name: Using Punctuation Shaker names is used as a form of protection against this.
- Lampshade Hanging
- Left-Justified Fantasy Map
- Made a Slave
- A Man Is Not a Virgin
- More Predators Than Prey
- No Periods, Period
- Punctuation Shaker
- Rebellious Princess: Entry number two on Princesses.
- Red Shirt: The Serious Soldier, who lacks personality and whose role in the story consists mainly of helping out in the fight scenes and inevitably dying at a dramatically appropriate moment.
- Rescue Sex: The entry on slavery mentions beautiful female varieties of slave and how they are rescued from sexual slavery by a Conanesque male character, who is rewarded with no-holds-barred sex, and then abandons them in the middle of nowhere.
- Shout-Out: "[Cursed rings] must be returned from whence they came, preferably at over a thousand degrees Fahrenheit, and the curse means you won't want to do this." Among others.
- Tarot Motifs
- Turncoat: Which is only people who turn against you. People who come over to your side are only doing what is right. Notable in that coats do not exist in Fantasyland (cloaks, instead, are the preferred form of outerwear), but turncoats do.
- Vain Sorceress
- Vestigial Empire: The Trope Namer, even.
- Virgin Sacrifice: The preferred form of Sacrifice among evil religions, which features ritual rape as part of the ceremony.
- Virginity Makes You Stupid
- When Trees Attack
- Weird Trade Union: Jones wonders if the assassins' and thieves' guilds are the only ones existing in Fantasyland.
- You All Meet in an Inn: Of course you do.