I read two excellent blog posts recently. China Mieville’s one on Tolkien, and James Van Pelt’s one on George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.
And, as good posts always do, they got me thinking. And that usually means a long post here, so be warned…
(It also means I will probably end up stating the obvious, or things that everyone else thought of ages ago, so bear with me, smile and nod etc. You can talk about me behind my back later on, ‘k?)
What I ended up thinking about is tragedy.
And whether we shy away from tragedy in our stories. We like our happily ever afters. Our neatly wrapped up Hollywood endings. Our final kiss.
So many of the “bigger” stories, for want of a better word, don’t end up that way. Not better stories, I’ll hasten to add. But the sweeping tales, the ones which resonate with us and last. Many of them don’t have that pat ending, that neat wrap up where, as Miss Prism said, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.” Or if they do, they get there by means of great tragedy and personal sacrifice.
Is it the case that we’re not as geared up for those sort of endings anymore? I don’t think that’s the case, as the end of Game of Thrones and its phenomenal popularity attests.
I’m in a bit of a weird situation in that I write both fantasy and romance. A happy ending is kind of a pre-requisite for a romance. But that to me doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be trials and tribulations in order to get there. On the contrary, the happy ending is all the more sweet if it has taken effort to reach it, if there has been a real sense of “there is no way this can be resolved” before somehow, it is.
Perhaps its coming from Ireland. Tragedy is a major player in Celtic legends, no matter what the source or derivation. Cuchullain, Diarmuid and Grainne, Deirdre and the sons of Usna, Bran and Branwen, Blodeuwedd and Tristan and Isolde. Even Arthur himself. Not a hint of a happy every after among the lot of them.
I like a story that brings me to tears. I like a story that brings me to tears and then makes me feel good again, so that even if the loss is very great indeed there is a small comfort in that it has been for a purpose.
What do you think?