Thornspell and The Wall Of Night
series and one of its more important aspects is that of portent, with
fulfillment locked into whether—or how—the foretold doom or destiny will
This aspect of dream and fulfillment is an essential element of both
the Greek and Norse myths, as well as folklore. We all recognize, after
all, that if our hero or heroine is told something three times,
especially by an oracle of some kind, then the foretelling is likely to
prove true …
(This is not just in Fantasy, by the way. In the now-classic SFF television series, Babylon 5, I believe careful perusal will show that the captain, John Sheridan, is warned three times that, “If you go to Z’ha’dum, you will die.” Just sayin’)
any exploration of dreams and their “fated” fulfillment in Fantasy also
gives rise to the alternative consideration: the extent to which
characters have free will. Can they, like Will Thatcher (the mourned
Heath Ledger) in the film, A Knight’s Tale,
change their stars?
The Greek and Norse myths would answer that question
with a resounding “no”—in fact it is usually the protagonist’s
endeavours to avoid his or her prophesied fate that brings about the
In The Wall of Night series I keep the fate vs
free will aspect open by having the prophetic dreams occur very much in
the “jumbled workings” of the subconscious. There is truth in them, but
they may only imperfectly reflect events that occur in the daylight
world. Nothing is certain … and every action a protagonist takes acts on
the dream, creating alternative possibilities of fulfillment.
exploring the prophetic dream tradition, both through reading other
writers and in my own work, I suspect that we are also talking about
aspiration—the innate human desire to affect our fate and exert control
over destiny. The myths, of course, would say that any such aspiration
is doomed, its fulfillment stillborn before it has taken the first
breath of life.
But what do you think? Do you have a view on the use of dreams and
portents in contemporary Fantasy, or a favorite book or series you feel uses them well?
Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, interviewer and blogger whose first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. Her second, The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012. The sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Daughter Of Blood, (The Wall Of Night, Book Three) was published this year.
Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we