A to Z Challenge: Fictional Favorites, Day 7

G is for — Gandalf from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Who else but Gandalf, wandering wizard and guardian of Middle Earth? He is the epitome of a great spellcaster, the standard to which all other wizards are held, at least, by me. When I hear the word “wizard,” an image of Gandalf immediately comes to mind. His long gray hair and beard, gray robes, tall peaked hat, and crooked staff personify my ideal of a wizard. And not only does he wield powerful magic, he wields a sword equally well — a formidable opponent indeed. Yet wisdom and compassion rule his actions, and love for his fellow Men — and Hobbits — and all those who work for the good of Middle Earth. Actor Sir Ian McKellen plays him perfectly in the Peter Jackson films. He IS Gandalf.

When Gandalf arrives on Bilbo’s doorstep, Bilbo wants nothing to do with him or his adventurous quest. I, on the other hand, would have leaped at the chance to take part in such an adventure and, in my younger days, often imagined doing just that. What a thrill it would have been! And I suspect I’m not the only one to have had such imaginings. I’m sure there are many kindred spirits who would have loved to hear those words: “I am looking for someone to share in an adventure…”

Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf Photo Credit: LOTR Wikia

Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf
Photo Credit: LOTR Wikia

Gandalf and Bilbo from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Photo Credit: LOTR Wikia

Gandalf and Bilbo from
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Photo Credit: LOTR Wikia


A to Z Challenge: Fictional Favorites, Day 6

F is for — Fflewddur Fflam from Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain.

I love humorous characters, and Fflewddur Fflam definitely fits the bill. He is actually king of a very small kingdom, though in his heart, he is a bard and often wanders with his magical harp, noting that his kingdom seems to carry on just fine without him.

In The Book of Three, the first book of the Chronicles, Fflewddur is mistakenly rescued from a dungeon cell by Princess Eilonwy, another VERY humorous character. He joins the princess and Taran, the Assistant Pig-Keeper, on their dangerous journey to Caer Dathyl to warn of an imminent attack by the evil Horned King. Along the way, Fflewddur regales his companions with the brave and mighty deeds he’s done in battle, but whenever he lies or exaggerates, the strings on his magical harp snap resoundingly, causing him to hastily revise his stories in mid-breath.

Despite his many exaggerations, Fflewddur proves his mettle in countless battles throughout the five-book series, his courage and loyalty unquestionable. I’d welcome him on my team any day.

Fflewddur Fflam from Disney's Black Cauldron, 1985

Fflewddur Fflam from Disney’s Black Cauldron, 1985
Photo Credit: Disney Wikia

Chronicles of Prydain: The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron

Chronicles of Prydain: The Book of Three,
The Black Cauldron

Chronicles of Prydain: The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, The High King

Chronicles of Prydain: The Castle of Llyr,
Taran Wanderer,
The High King

A to Z Challenge: Fictional Favorites, Day 5

E is for — Elizabeth Bennett from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Eliza Bennett is my kind of heroine. She’s intelligent, witty, tart-tongued, and not brainlessly boy-crazy like some of her younger sisters. I enjoy her spirited banter with the haughty Mr. Darcy. I always wished that I could be so good with a repartee. I love the story, and the slow transformation of their opinions of each other never gets old.

Truth be told, I love all of Jane Austen’s major novels. (I haven’t read any of her shorter works.) Pride and Prejudice is my favorite, followed by Sense and Sensibility, the gothic Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, and Emma. I own four video versions of Pride and Prejudice, and, Colin Firth’s wet shirt notwithstanding, I like the BBC production with Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul the best. Maybe it’s because it was the first adaptation I saw, but whatever the reason, I thought the actresses/actors fit the characters the best, and Austen’s ironic humor really shone through.

Elizabeth Garvie as Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, BBC 1980

Elizabeth Garvie as
Elizabeth Bennett in
Pride and Prejudice,
BBC 1985
Photo Credit: Jane Austen Wikia


A to Z Challenge: Fictional Favorites, Day 4

D is for — Dustfinger and D’Artagnan — from the Inkheart series and The Three Musketeers.

Reading a character out of a book… or reading yourself into one… Who wouldn’t want to be able to do that? Such adventures to be had! I can’t count the books I’ve read myself into in my imagination. But it only works if you can put the characters and/or yourself back where they belong when you’re done. If you can’t, things get messy.

In Cornelia Funke’s trilogy: Inkheart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath, Meggie’s father Mo reads Dustfinger out of the story and into their world. The problem is, Mo can’t put him back, leaving the “fire dancer” stuck here in this world. For ten years, Dustfinger yearns to return to his family in the Inkworld. I empathized with his desperate need to go home and cheered when, in Inkspell, he finally made it back. To me, he is by far the most interesting character in the series, and I was immensely glad for the turn of events that allowed him a happy ending.

When I originally read Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, I never realized the story was based on a real person — Charles de Batz-Castelmore, Comte d’Artagnan. The real D’Artagnan lived from 1611-1673 and was Captain of the Musketeers under Louis XIV of France. Dumas’ D’Artagnan Romances, including the Musketeers, were based on the partly-fictionalized memoirs of D’Artagnan written by Gatien de Courtilz de Sandras.

I always loved the adventure, the swordplay, and the camaraderie of D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. Of the many movie versions of the Musketeers — and I confess I haven’t seen them all — my favorites are the Richard Lester productions: The Three Musketeers from 1973 and The Four Musketeers: Milady’s Revenge from 1974. The wonderful chemistry of the heroes, played by Michael York, Oliver Reed, Frank Finlay, and Richard Chamberlain drives the story. Add in plenty of sword fights, derring-do, and slapstick humor, and you’ve got one fun afternoon at the movies. By the end, I’m ready to add my voice to the rousing shout: “All for one, one for all!”

Paul Bettany - Dustfinger in Inkheart, 2008

Paul Bettany – Dustfinger
in Inkheart, 2008
Photo Credit: Inkheart Wikia

Inkheart series

Inkheart series

From Left to Right: Athos/OliverReed D'Artagnan/Michael York Porthos/Frank Finlay Aramis/Richard Chamberlain

From Left to Right:
D’Artagnan/Michael York
Porthos/Frank Finlay
Aramis/Richard Chamberlain


A to Z Challenge: Fictional Favorites, Day 3

C is for — Sidney Carton — from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.

I first read this story many years ago. Amidst the horror of the French Revolution, the characters sprang to life for me, their struggles so vivid they still haunt me. Lucie Manette, the loving innocent; her husband Charles Darnay, the French aristocrat who denies his birthright and tries to make good on his own; Madame Defarge, the Revolution personified; and Sydney Carton, the drunken lawyer who feels himself worthless. Carton falls in love with Lucie, and his noble feelings for her allow him to transcend what he considers a wasted life and give the ultimate sacrifice. The triumph and sorrow of the Tale’s ending stayed with me for days.

At the time, my own novel was still in its early stages, and I had no idea where my characters’ adventures would take them. There were a few characters I didn’t know very well, yet — one important character, in particular. But after reading A Tale of Two Cities, I had a sudden epiphany. I could see quite clearly in my mind the path this character was meant to follow. And as my story progressed through Book I : Lady, Thy Name Is Trouble, and later, Book II: Trouble By Any Other Name, he grew to be one of my favorites, and he did indeed follow the foreseen path to a hopeful and tragic and fitting end.

Ronald Colman as Sydney Carton A Tale of Two Cities, 1935

Ronald Colman as Sydney Carton
A Tale of Two Cities, 1935
Photo Credit: imdb.com


A to Z Challenge: Fictional Favorites, Day 2

B is for — Bilbo Baggins and Belle — from The Hobbit and Disney’s animated film, Beauty and the Beast.

Bilbo Baggins, the unlikely hero from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, has always been one of my all-time favorite characters. The way he goes from timid, complacent stick-in-the-mud to spider-slaying, dragon-braving adventurer inspires those (like me) who hesitate, and encourages us to go forth out our doors and into the wild.

Many times I watched the 1977 Rankin-Bass animated Hobbit, living Bilbo’s journey with him, persevering even though I’m arachnophobic and not nearly as good with riddles. One of my favorite moments from this movie is when the Dwarves are singing — “Far over misty mountains cold…” — and Gandalf and Bilbo speak:

Gandalf: “There’s a magic in that music.”

Bilbo: “And it moves through me.”

Gandalf: “You feel the love of beautiful things.”

Bilbo: “To go and see the great mountains and hear the pine trees and waterfalls.”

Gandalf: “To wear a sword instead of a walking stick.”

Bilbo: “Just once…”

Another favorite moment is when Bilbo climbs the tall tree in the middle of Mirkwood and sees all the butterflies fluttering in the sunshine and feels the breeze on his face. He doesn’t speak, but shares his thoughts: “There are moments which can change a person for all time, and I suddenly wondered if I would ever see my snug hobbit hole again. I wondered if I actually wanted to.”

Those moments always stir in me a yearning to take that step out my door and go.

Belle, from Walt Disney’s animated classic, Beauty and the Beast, is another such inspiration. The “odd” girl with her nose in a book could so be me. I admire her spunk, her courage, and her cleverness. She’s not afraid to stand against the crowd.

When I first saw this movie when it came out in 1991, I was entranced. Everything about it was magical — the exquisite colors in the opening sequence, the engaging heroine, the wonderfully quirky denizens of the enchanted castle, the rousing and romantic songs, and the Beast — a cursed prince who needed someone to find enough good in him to love. Add to that the scary scenes with the wolves, a frighteningly charismatic antagonist in Gaston, and the hilarious battle between the ensorcelled castle servants and the villagers and you get a movie that immediately became my #1 favorite Disney movie, ever. It still reigns today. Not even the excellent Tangled or Frozen could knock Beauty and the Beast from its pedestal.

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's Hobbit Photo Credit: LOTR Wikia

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in
Peter Jackson’s Hobbit
Photo Credit: LOTR Wikia

The Hobbit!

The Hobbit!

Belle from Disney's Beauty and the Beast, 1991 Photo Credit: Disney Wikia

Belle from Disney’s
Beauty and the Beast, 1991
Photo Credit: Disney Wikia


A to Z Challenge: Fictional Favorites, Day 1

A is for — Aragorn and Allanon — from my two favorite book series, The Lord of the Rings and The Sword of Shannara.

Aragorn, the reluctant heir to the throne of Gondor in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Rings series, embodies honor, integrity, and courage. He may not look like much, but he is a true hero in every sense of the word. One of my favorite quotes regarding Aragorn comes from The Fellowship of the Ring, where Frodo, Sam, and Pippin are deciding whether or not to trust Aragorn.
Frodo says to Aragorn:
“You have frightened me several times tonight, but never in the way that servants of the Enemy would, or so I imagine. I think one of his spies would — well, seem fairer and feel fouler, if you understand.”
And Aragorn replies:
“I see. … I look foul and feel fair. Is that it? All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.”
Whatever his looks, the gold of Aragorn’s character shines through as he declares, “I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, and if by life or death I can save you, I will.”

Allanon, the mysterious Druid of Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, is more the Gandalf type — a guardian of the Four Lands, who uses magic to help the descendants of Jerle Shannara fight the evil that threatens the Lands. He is the last of the Druids, tasked with, among other things, safeguarding the remnants of the written histories and destroying an evil spellbook called the Ildatch. He is a darker character, though — grim, secretive, and forbidding. None of Gandalf’s folksy charm, here.

I can still remember reading these stories — being glued to a chair for hours, living the adventures of Shea, Wil, and Brin Ohmsford and of Frodo Baggins and Sam and the Fellowship. These inspiring tales propelled me into stories of my own, much more humble, but equally thrilling to me. They will always be my favorites.

Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn from Peter Jackson's LOTR Photo Credit: LOTR Wikia

Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn
from Peter Jackson’s LOTR
Photo Credit: LOTR Wikia

The Editions I Read

The Editions I Read

Original Shannara Trilogy

Original Shannara Trilogy

The A to Z April Blogging Challenge!

I’m excited and a little nervous. This will be my first A to Z Challenge, and for someone who only started blogging less than a month ago, it seems like a huge undertaking. To blog every day for a month. I think I can do it, though. I’m going to give it my best try.

I know I missed the official “Theme Reveal” day, so I’m going to do it today instead. My theme for the Challenge will be “Fictional Favorites.” Each day, I’ll choose a fictional character or two, from books, movies, TV, etc., that start with the appropriate letter and write about why I like them and/or what makes them special to me. It’s been fun coming up with a list, though that in itself has been a bit of a challenge, too — there are just too many characters from which to choose!

Only three more days to go. I’ve got to get writing!