Why do I love Sword and Sorcery? It’s a question I have mulled over inside my mind for some time as an adult. I am a black man yet I have read every single one of Terry Brooks’ Sword of Shannara series (over 12 books), I am a huge fan of The Lord of The Rings books, and I grew up reading The Savage Sword of Conan The Barbarian as a child. In my teenage years I was the token black kid rolling a 20-sided die on the table top of a Dungeons and Dragons adventure, even playing DM to a set of adventures in the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons realm.
Sword and Sorcery is fun, it depicts larger than life heroes overcoming the harshest of odds. In the table-top games you made up your own identity and lived through your character whether it be dodging fireballs, rescuing damsels in distress or cutting down creatures. One thing that was odd about being black and liking this stuff however was the lack of representation for heroes of my background. For example: My beloved Conan The Barbarian was penned by a man who lived in a time when being a nasty racist was the cool thing to be. He depicted the world in a realistic way but his descriptions and treatment of the darker races was very evident of his opinions even to my young brain.
If you have watched Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings trilogy you will see that it reflects this article in many ways. DO NOT mistake this for me wanting a Negro hobbit, or a chocolate elf or anything; I am just saying that the movie is whiter than a Jennifer Anniston romance comedy… just like most Fantasy Epics are. The original book series was written to be European white people’s mythology so it makes sense, and it was the mother of many other stories that followed. The fantasy realms ideas of race isn’t red, brown, white, black and yellow, it is white people in different forms: White people with ears are elves, white people with hairy feet are Halflings, bearded white people under 3 ft are Dwarves, and everyone else white is just “man”. Nothing wrong with that at all – being serious here, but I just wonder if I am odd for liking it? Greek mythology is beautiful, the stories are some of the best out there and it is Greek myth about Greeks for Greeks – yet I can recite just about every God’s theology to you from the top of my head. I would never argue that Greek mythology should include outsiders since… well it’s called Greek Mythology. Should Sword and Sorcery be called White European Sword and Sorcery then for clarification? I know it’s neither here nor there but it does bring up the question.
The thing I don’t understand is… why do I love these stories that offer me little to no representation? Even in video games where I make myself as the main character (tall and dark), I am one of a kind. Now this isn’t to slight the newer authors and creators that have gone above and beyond to make their worlds reflect ours in its diversity beyond height differentials and ears, it’s just an observation of the genre. In Sci-Fi the racial mix up has always been fair to non-whites and it is even geekier than Sword and Sorcery… and we all know how racist nerds can be.
What about you readers? Are you a huge fan of a genre that under-represents you in a major way? Are you confused by your love for it regardless? Or does it not matter at all that you are ignored within its confines?See some words or phrases that you don't understand? Check out The Dragon's Lexicon.