In the second post in my six part series on The Top 5 Clichés in Fantasy Fiction, I’m discussing the first of my listed clichés: The Farm Boy with a Secret.
Since Frodo Baggins left the Shire in J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1954 novel The Fellowship of the Ring, we’ve seen a plethora of such characters in fantasy fiction, including Garion from David Eddings’ The Belgariad, Rand from Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World, and Shae Ohmsford from Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara. This character is always somewhat of an “everyman,” at least by all accounts, but often harbors some secret identity, power, or destiny that he or she only learns about later in the story.
The farm boy character may have been a response to the larger than life, super-heroic types that frequently served as protagonists in earlier works of fantasy fiction. I’m talking about Conan the Barbarian, Kull the Conqueror, John Carter of Mars, and even Elric of Melniboné (although he didn’t first appear until 1961). These characters were more like the heroes and demigods of Greek mythology than ordinary people. So perhaps the farm boy character seemed a more appealing alternative to writers because he was more identifiable to readers.
|Do you prefer Hercules or someone more like you?|
|Garion worked in his day!|
The Messiah archetype shows up frequently in film and fiction, often in forms other than the simple farm boy, but always appearing, at least initially, as an “everyman.” A few examples include Luke Skywalker from Star Wars, William Wallace from Braveheart, Neo from The Matrix, and Harry Potter (“You’re a wizard Harry!”). Even the heroes from classic comics often have “everyman” identities before donning their superhero disguises. Think Clark Kent and Peter Parker just to name a few.
|Harry Potter is just another variation of The Farm Boy with a Secret.|