Hi all, and welcome to a mildly intoxicated blog post brought to you by the power of family weddings, particularly the sort of family wedding where everyone’s related through an ever more complicated network of ties but just boil things down to family.
Family’s one of my favourite things in fantasy to begin with because
a) The fantasy genre’s tendency to kill off families to create better adventuring motivations makes family units seem more precious
b) I find families inherently fascinating. That comes from growing up in a small, quarrelsome immediate family, that connected into a sprawling mess of everything that were also good at quarreling. Families are one of the closest things we get to a universal thing, from those who love theirs to those who are very strained.
So here’s five fantasy families that really tickle me. Brought to you by the joy of being named Uncle Poo by your niece and being assured it’s a good thing (yeah right APH), to wondering with your sister-in-law whether your father-in-law has been replaced by an imposter because he took a water rather than a beer from a cooler, to having tears in your eyes when a couple that’s been together forever finally makes it official.
And a decent amount of alcohol.
1. The Oggs (Witches Sub-Series, Discworld, Sir Pterry)
Nanny Ogg is mostly known as a witch of formidable power and cunning, a friend and rival to the legendary Granny Weatherwax, but there’s another side shown to her and that is as matriarch of the Ogg clan, a sprawling affair including sixteen children (I think) and various offshoots. We only see hints of the rambuctiousness that must develop as part of this, although having Nanny in charge limits how far it’ll go. In favour relatives get their pictures put in good spots. Those in disgrace end up lining the cat litter. And when Nanny Ogg is really pushed, well, magic is great but there’s all sorts of other power…
‘You don’t organize a mob, Nanny,’ said Agnes. ‘A mob is something that happens spontaneously.’
Nanny Ogg’s eyes gleamed.
‘There’s seventy-nine Oggs in these parts,’ she said. ‘Spontaneous it is, then.’
2. Belgarath’s family (The Belgariad, The Eddings)
It will always be odd how a couple that got their kids taken away for being abusive wrote one of the families that stuck with me hardest. But they did. The elderly and disreputable Belgarath, his long-suffering and orderly daughter Polgara, and their many times removed great grandson/nephew Garion form a wonderful unit. I think what intrigued me most was how Belgarath and Polgara had formed a relationship long before Garion was ever born, and how Garion negotiated being a part of that and the changes it enacted. Which, you know, is like becoming an in-law was for me. Come to think of it, Belgarath and my father-in-law have some things in common, with just about every woman occasionally playing Polgara…
3. The Maelwaedds (The Deverry Cycle, Katherine Kerr)
A fine example in dysfunction and power politics, the Maelwaedds are the first on the list to feature two members who absolutely hate each other. Rhodry, one of our protagonists, gets on with older brother Rhys like fire and water. Their mother, Lovyan, tries to referee it but here’s the catch – Rhys is bother Rhodry and Lovyan’s overlord. Throw in the matter of children and it’s very volatile and very fascinating.
4. The Jamisons (The Riftwar Cycle, R.E. Feist)
You can tell this an off the whatever post because I’m going back to the well of what I’m super familiar with rather than hitting up some different stuff. But hey, it’s some good stuff here. In the Riftwar Cycle we meet the Jamisons, named after their founder, Jimmy the Hand, the boy who started a thief and became Duke of Krondor. The burden of Jimmy’s two legends and legacies gets to his children and grandchildren as Krondor and the Kingdom undergo hard times, with some pretty interesting results. Also, families full of the hard-edged, responsible, and sometimes soft-hearted always equals fun.
5. The Kauls (Green Bones, Fonda Lee)
You know when something’s compared to the Godfather it will contain a lot of family dynamics. That’s very true of Lee’s Hong Kong Wuxia meets The Godfather-esque trilogy, and the idea of hard-edged, responsible, and sometimes soft-hearted is very much on display here. I guess the big thing here is the sense of a family where to be born into it is to be born into a destiny, something that feels very much fantasy to most western readers but isn’t so much that to everybody. The balance of individual and collective is very well done here.
And really, that’s what family is about. I’d end on a cool note, but I’m tired and want to go to bed and am determined this will live on as a legacy of tonight. Raise a glass to the godsknowshowmany of us, tomorrow there’ll be more of us…