I was reading Carrie Mac’s Droughtlandersthe other day, and I came to a moment where the main character finds out who he is, learns the truth about himself, begins to realize his purpose, and I started to cry.
And all of a sudden, I got it.
In that moment I understood better than I ever have before why I am so deeply moved by all those moments in all those fantasies where the hero realizes her or his true destiny and by all the journeys leading up to those moments, all those heroes’ journeys: Bilbo’s, Frodo’s, Taran’s, Lucy’s and Susan’s and Edmund’s and Peter’s, Harry’s, Katniss’s, and now, in Mac’s story, Eli’s. I’m not a hero, and no one is going to give me a dagger that shines in the presence of Orcs or a wand with a phoenix-feather core. I have never been asked to save the world from the forces of evil or to offer up my life to save another’s … But I do long to live more deeply, to align my life better with my “true purpose.” I cling to the belief that I have a true purpose, or if not a true purpose, better and worse ways of living. I gobble up self-help books like so many jujubes (and sometimes I gobble up jujubes too). And I long for the clarity of purpose that I find in classic fantasy. Yes, the characters struggle, yes, they resist, but in the end, the truth is so clear, so unequivocal.
I knew that I liked the feeling of destiny–of fate–that I found in those stories, even though I don’t believe in destiny. I don’t believe that our futures are laid out for us. I rarely read horoscopes, and have no interest in astrology, or in any form of religion that claims an all-knowing God, but fantasy stories? I’m all in. I feel nourished by the feeling of order, the “meant-to-be-ness” of it all. And I now realize that it is that meant-to-be-ness that draws me back to Middle Earth and Hogwarts and Prydain and Narnia and all the other worlds.
I’m into a new one now: I’m reading Seraphina by Vancouver writer Rachel Hartman, who is going to be speaking in my UBC class in a few weeks. I’m not far in, but this one has a hold on me too. I’ll write more when I’m done.