I looked up an old friend this week. His name is Garion. He comes with a slew of companions, from his vagabond sorcerer grandfather, to an intensely self involved Imperial Princess, a rather prim aunt (although you really don’t want to her mad), and his friend Silk–who knows how to get every place; and has been chased out of most of them.
When we moved to Maine in 1982, I was already addicted to reading. I blame my parents; I failed reading in second grade and they decided that was simply unacceptable. It blew up on them, however, as every time they wanted me to do something for the next 13 years, it was always “just one more page!”
My mother got a position working for some lawyers in a quaint town named Bath when we first arrived; and they generously allowed her to bring me to work for the day during my summer vacation in ’83. I wandered around town, but mostly hung out at the library. When the librarians got tired of me, I would gather my books and go back to the law firm to read quietly in the front waiting room til it was time to go home. That is the library where I found Garion. He was a young boy, just about my age, in fact, and I followed him and his companions on their six volume journey.
Being a responsible library patron, I gave the books to my mother to return to the library. Unfortunately, returning them was not high up on her priority list and after they bounced around her car for a couple of weeks (getting rather ratty in the process), I decided I might as well keep them.
And I did. I kept those specific books well into my 20s. Eventually my sister-in-law (whom I introduced to Garion) gifted me with a two-volume trade paperback set, which is what I am currently reading. She told me last year that my nephew is reading her copies of Garion’s adventures–he was right around Garion’s age too. I introduced a few of my other friends to Garion over the years. A recent friend said he liked it, but it was a bit formulaic.
I suppose in a way it is, as there is the group of people, each with their particular talents,who are trying to find a stolen magical object. The search takes them across the entire world, with all the prerequisite roadblocks thrown at them by the bad guys. Of course, I was terribly offended by my friend’s review. But I realized that, yes, it has a pace to it that is reflected in a lot of the fantasy genre. The difference is that the series was written in the early days of the genre, so that every series I read after seemed repetitive. My friend had spent 20 years reading fantasy books written after my series, so when he read the Belgariad, it was the one that seemed cliché.
I have been reading (and rereading) David Eddings’ Belgariad series for thirty-three years. The characters are extremely convoluted and their interactions are incredibly real. From the blacksmith who was horrified the first time he had to kill someone in battle (he later decided that chasing them into a quicksand pit was preferable to running them through with a blade) to the bantering about breakfast:
“The griddle is too hot,” Garion said. “You’re going to burn the bacon.”
“Belgarath,” Silk appealed.
“Garion, come away. Silk can burn breakfast all by himself.”
They all have their quirks and don’t always make the right decisions, but each character is a decent person who cares about the world they are in and what they can do to fix it. It is nice to dive into a world where evil roams, but is taken down through concerted teamwork and hard choices.
One friend says that when she finished the books she feels likes she is leaving friends behind. Which is probably why I keep re-reading the series 🙂