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Monday, October 8, 2007

Legendary Changes

Sometimes, it's hard to keep the blogs separated; there are a lot of issues, topics, and events that could fit on several of them and a handful that fit perfectly well on just about all of them. I often find myself wrestling over exactly which blog to post a certain entry on.

I discussed the book I am presently reading over to The Rundown a while back and intend to give a more replete review there once I am finished. I mentioned that I had first read it back in highschool and was absolutely blown away, so when I discovered that, over the years, I had collected the other two books in the trilogy without realizing it, I went on eBay and bought a new copy of Magic Kingdom for Sale - Sold! And I am loving it!

But that's not what this post is about:

Two of the main supporting characters (which may sound like a misnomer, but isn't) are kobolds. Now, those of you familiar with any flavor of Dungeons & Dragons probably know the creatures, but the rest of you probably do not.  In D&D, they are basically nothing, little critters (even though there was a fantastic article in Dragon magazine some years back in defense of the kobold, rife with fantastic tactical ideas) -- the equivalent of the Snotling from the Games Workshop's more true-to-legend Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play (WFRP) -- but in Magic Kingdom for Sale - Sold!, kobolds are a vicious, powerful breed of fighters.

This got me to thinking -- so much so that I was distracted from my reading -- about how legends are changed in their retelling.  Now, Magic Kingdom for Sale - Sold! is a fictitious work which not only doesn't hold to "fixed" legends and so forth, but actively seeks to redefine some of them in order to stand apart from the pack and be its own animal -- but that doesn't change the fact that the overall concept of the kobold was firmly set by the pop-culture phenomena known as D&D, and the players of that classic RPG are obviously the target audience for such a work.

Tolkien reinvented several legendary creatures in his works, and his changes have now become part of the "revised" legends surrounding those fantasy beasts.  For example, trolls don't turn to stone in the sunlight according to the original legends from which Tolkien drew.  The words "elves" and "dwarves" were invented by Tolkien; the proper plurality of these words are "elfs" and "dwarfs."  These may seem like minor changes -- irrelevant to anyone but nerds and pedants, like myself -- but the fact is that these changes were embraced by the general populace.  So much so that they have become the new standard, and made recapturing the original versions of these legends more difficult.

You are unlikely to read or hear anyone refer to the plural of "elf" as "elfs;" Tolkien's work completely changed the legend of the Fey Folk forevermore.  And this happens on a somewhat regular basis.

Just, you know, just thinking.  Just... putting it out there.

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