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The Bard

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"The bards were feared. They were respected, but more than that they were feared. ...If you'd pissed off some witch, then what's she gonna do, she's gonna put a curse on you... no big deal. You piss off a bard, and forget about putting a curse on you, he might put a satire on you.
"And if he was a skilful bard, he puts a satire on you, it destroys you in the eyes of your community... and if it's a particularly good bard, and he's written a particularly good satire, then three hundred years after you're dead, people are still gonna be laughing, at what a twat you were.

Older Than Feudalism, the bard is a character within a story that acts as a poet, Wandering Minstrel, storyteller, and/or source of morale for people around them.

"The Bard" is also commonly used to refer to William Shakespeare. In England, anyway. In Scotland, The Bard is Robert Burns.

In medieval Gaelic and British culture (Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, Brittany and Cornwall) a bard was a professional poet, employed by a patron, such as a monarch or nobleman, to commemorate the patron's ancestors and to praise the patron's own activities. The word itself is loaned from Scottish Gaelic, deriving from the Proto-Celtic bardos, ultimately from Proto-Indo-European, which roughly translates as "to raise the voice; praise."

In game cultures such as Dungeons & Dragons, the Bard is a versatile character able to both fight strategically and cast magic through the power of their songs, suggesting them to be magicians who use the power of emotion and creativity to conjure miracles into the world.

Spoony Bard is a subtrope of this, while The Storyteller is a supertrope. See also Wandering Minstrel.


Examples:

Fan Fic

Film

Literature
  • In the Harry Potter series, Beedle the Bard was known for his collection of magical fables.
  • A couple of these in the Deryni works:
    • Kinkellyan, chief bard to the court of Transha, plays a part in the diplomatic welcome Kelson receives in The Bishop's Heir. Kelson's response (joining in a traditional dance) to what Kinkellyan and Dhugal begin seals the deal.
    • Gwydion ap Plenneth, troubadour attached to Duke Alaric Morgan's court, featured in Deryni Checkmate. Aside from providing entertainment, he's quite useful in providing Morgan with public opinion feedback.
  • Hraik from Loyal Enemies is a half-elf bard in one of the pubs in the city of Displacing. He's also a Badass and fiendishly intelligent, being the only person who worked out that Shelena is a werewolf with no explicit clues.
  • Mercedes Lackey has an entire series, Bardic Voices, set around the conflict between the Free Bards and the Bardic Guild. Several have Magic Music.
  • The Edema Ruh from The Kingkiller Chronicles seem to be a society of travelling entertainers including many bards.
  • Bards feature in Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series, though much less prominently than the Heralds.
  • A bard shows up in The Odyssey. He might even be Homer's Author Avatar.
  • Norna-Gest, the protagonist of "Tale of Norna-Gest", is an accomplished harp-player and singer who knows many ancient songs.
  • It can be argued that Tom Bombadil from Lord of the Rings is indeed a bard, the figure known for singing songs that hold power over not only people, but the more ancient denizens of Middle Earth.
  • In The Riddle Master Trilogy, Deth serves this function as the High One's harpist. Yrth seems to have as well, given that he was known as the Harpist of Lungold. It really shouldn't come as a surprise that they're the same person, but, well. There are mentions of other harpists as well, such as Tirundeth, from whom Deth got his name, but they aren't as relevant.
  • In The Dinosaur Lords, Rob makes living this way whenever he's not "officially" hired as Dinosaur Master. He even composes some songs, and they seem to be somewhat popular with people.

Live-Action TV
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: For a while Gabrielle wanted to be a traveling bard. She also met Homer, who it turns out is called "blind" because he closes his eyes when he recites.

Real Life
  • Historically, William Shakespeare was known for his title as "The Bard of Avon."
  • Skalds were poetic members of a group associated with Viking tradition, and were highly revered for their stories, since individual vikings desired their glory to be remembered through tale and song.
  • Homer of The Iliad and The Odyssey has been portrayed as a blind bard. The classical era certainly had an extensive oral poetic tradition.
    • Numerous Greek and Roman poets and writers were portrayed this way, especially as they were romanticized in the early modern era. True to the page quote, the tales they told fed into later high culture, art, music, occultism, pop culture, fantasy, and sci-fi, coloring the opinion of later peoples because of how the something was portrayed by classic writers. For a (simplified) example, Ba'al and Beelzebub started as terms for a punic deity, but Rome won the war and now Ba'al almost certainly represents something wicked when used in fiction.

Tabletop Games
  • The Bard is one of the main playable classes in Dungeons & Dragons.
    • The Bard is joined by the very similar Skald in Pathfinder, though the Skald is more combative and their songs cause berserk rage rather than the bonuses a bard provides.
    • Several different variations of skald (see the real-life entry) as a class or variant have cropped up over the editions of Dungeons & Dragons. Usually they are better at a stand-up fight than an ordinary bard but lose out on the broad skillbase, magic or both.
  • Changeling: The Dreaming makes Bard a court position. There are no classes in Changeling, so it's not a class, though some kiths are more likely to fit the role.
    • The Fianna tribe in Werewolf: The Apocalypse are often the bards of their race, as are werewolves born under the "galliard auspice," meaning under a gibbous moon.

Video Games
  • Leliana from the Dragon Age series used to be a traveling Bard (or rather, a spy/assassin who disguised herself as a traveling Bard -Apparently that's pretty common in Orlais). She comes with the Bard specialization and will teach it to other Rogues if her approval rating is high enough. Additionally, much of her dialogue includes stories and songs she learned during her time as a Bard. The Inquisitor can ask, and Leliana will offer, to give training on being a bard: it basically amounts to Do Not Do This Cool Thing because of how dirty and conniving bard work is.
  • The Bard's Tale Trilogy has a few with the Magic Music power.
  • The Bard from Shovel Knight will play any song from the game's soundtrack for you if you get him the music sheets. He'll also pay you 500 gold for each music sheet you bring him, which is another incentive to collect them.
  • Jimmy from South Park: The Stick of Truth is a bard who uses Magic Music.
  • One party member in Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear, Voghiln the Vast, is a "skald from the north who inspires his allies with epic tales".
  • A Bard College existed in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, while you can join it and train your speech, you cannot learn how to play musical instruments whatsoever.
  • in Dwarf Fortress Bards can visit your fortress, play music (and create their own songs) dance (and choreograph their own dance forms) , tell poems (and write new ones) , and you can even play as one in Adventure Mode (and do everything the fort mode bards can do), DF also takes this Up to Eleven because in DF there is also a different skill for every style of song, every single style of dancing, every single type of poem, and every single instrument, and every single style of music as well.
  • Sunset Overdrive has them as part of one of the quests. Yeah you heard right, quest, as in LARP.
Web Comics
  • In Fey Winds, when Prince Sidney Theodorus Cassian Merriweather Findain VIII... Just call him Sid, reveals to the main characters whose group he just joined that he's trained as a bard, they smash his lute and shove a sword into his hands.
  • Elan from The Order of the Stick, as seen in this scene from early in the comic.
  • In Far Out, Chapter 1 ends with one singing about the events in it.
  • In Homestuck, Sburb/Sgrub has 12 different classes for players that set their character arc, one of them being the bard, a counterpart to the prince class that serves to passively destroy or corrupt, while a prince actively destroys. What a bard destroys depends on it's aspect, such as Gamzee Makara, a bard of rage.

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