The sun is coming through the window at an odd angle and casting the shadow of the things in my desk-tidy onto the wall in a sharp relief. There are various pens at angles, a quill, two pairs of scissors, whose shadows are the curved handles, and a pewter paper-knife with a King Arthur handle. They make the oddest grouping, if they were from a shadow-play you’d have to wonder about the plot.
On Kate Nepveu’s LJ yesterday, she was musing about Tom Bombadil’s function in the plot of The Lord of the Rings and the effect of his immunity to the Ring.
(If you haven’t read LOTR, your life is unnecessarily impoverished. They probably have it in the library. And you’re not doing anything right now, you’re reading LJ. It’s a damn sight more interesting than the rest of this post. What are you waiting for?)
Among other functions of Bombadil, I went on to consider him as an unfallen Adam — which led me to an interesting thought. It’s possible to consider all modern fantasy as variations on a theme from Tolkien, but I don’t think anyone has ever done anything with Bombadil — and it’s fairly obvious why not, it’s because everyone who has ever written epic fantasy has actually been sufficiently sane.
But consider a universe with a Creator God who made, for some reason, a thousand pairs of Adams and Eves, all of them innocent, happy, hey-dol-merry-dol types and all of them with specific prohibitions on doing things to lose their innocence. (So, this idea is not only deriving a whole world from Tom Bombadil, it’s doing Adams-and-Eves? Look, no hands!)
And anyway, thousands of years ago, the first pair of them Fell, and acquired the knowledge of Good and Evil and became mortal. And with the knowledge of Good and Evil comes the choice of Good or Evil. Whichever they choose they have a long life and much power, which diminishes naturally in their descendants, who are more and more ordinary as generations pass.
And as time goes on more of them became mortal, and have descendants, who build a civilization. This is fantasy so they build a medieval feudal civilization, pretty much as you’d expect. So there are cities and castles and mountain passes, and weather, and remnants of old wars against Dark Lords and Dark Queens, and sometimes wars where one of the Falling couple chose Good and helped defeat the other who chose Evil, and Prometheus legends and shrines of being helped by couples who both chose Good.
But the world is also inhabited by cheerful derry-dol my darling unfallen couples, singing as they go about their merry way who can fall at any time and who, if they do, can choose Good or Evil, and if they choose Evil need to be Stopped Now, mostly by ordinary people.
And the way my mind works, thinking about this I came up with three characters. One of them is an Unfallen Adam, who is at constant risk of finding out about Good and Evil, doesn’t want to, and eventually and, as a sub-climax about two-thirds of the way through the story (in a mountain pass) does. Another is the powerful daughter of a last-generation Fallen couple. And the third is the POV character, a younger brother prince who knew all this stuff existed out there somewhere but didn’t actually expect to ever meet any of these people until he finds their company and an exciting journey forced upon him because there’s a scary new Dark Lord.
I know it starts in a castle and goes on with a Typical Fantasy Journey including the aforementioned revelatory mountain pass.
This Truly Epic Idea is getting stored at the bottom of the large bin of ideas at the back of my head, you’ll be glad to know.