A Vertiginous Moment

Fantasy author David Eddings has died.  News stories here and here.  I’m not so usually on the ball but I caught a tweet from Readings Books (fantastic independent bookstore in Melbourne).

It’s been a long time since I’ve thought about David Eddings.  I had no idea he was 77 or that his wife, Leigh Eddings, with whom he had written his later series, had died a  number of years ago. I always find it stranged when I am hit with a vague sense of loss when someone I do not know at all has died.  I felt similarly about the news of Kurt Vonnegut’s death.  A kind of deflated ‘oh’ feeling.

Aside from all the fairytales, myths, Tolkien and some Victor Kelleher I devoured as a child, David Eddings was the start (and in some ways, the end, too) of my fantasy reading.  (Although perhaps the end really belongs to authors like Terry Goodkind and Stephen Donaldson, who just got on my goat about all the things that are so wrong about the fantasy genre (depiction of women, mostly). ) I remember clearly how I first started reading David Eddings, and that’s partially why his death caused a vertiginous moment for me as I was cast back to my high school years.

In late primary school, one of my sisters was in her final year of high school.  The guy she took to the Formal (equivalent of a Prom) – or who took her, I suppose – happened to be reading David Eddings and had loaned her a copy of Pawn of Prophecy.  I was bored and had run out of reading material and took it from her room.  I finished it that evening and snuck it back into her room the next day.  However, I wanted the next book in the series and could not get it from my school library.  The next time my sister’s friend came around, I asked him about it and he agreed to loan me the rest.  I finished the whole Belgariad series quite quickly and then moved onto the Malloreon series – the follow up to the Belgariad.  I re-read the Belgariad and Mallorean series many times as comfort reading.  With the Belgariad series, I made good friends in high school.  The Elenium (a different world and different set of charaters) came later and I read some of it but not all, and I have read none of the Tamuli (same world as Elenium), because I was fed up with fantasy by then.  I don’t think I read Belgarath the Sorcerer or Polgara the Sorceress at all.

I loved the world of the Belgariad and to a lesser degree, the Mallorean – it follows the tropes of fantasy: farm-boy destined to rule the world (or a patch of it, anyway) and with great talents on a quest with wizards, sorceresses and a miscellany of heroes: thieves, muscle-men, wily and attractive young women and jokers.  I discovered that I had an affinity for nomadic people of the plains – in the Belgariad, these were the Algars and that the same affinity carried across to other fantasy series.

From David Eddings, I started devouring fantasy series and did so more or less without much discrimination all throughout high school.  Belgarion – but more often the thief, Silk – was a companion throughout most of high school and the subject of many conversations of my closest friends, who were all thoroughly familiar with the Belgariad and the Malloreon.

I drifted away from David Eddings when my re-readings no longer held me enthralled.  The Elenium felt like the Belgariad, with different, less likeable characters.  Reading the Elenium was when I had the epiphany that the Belgariad was really not very original at all and, though I still thought it was good, its sheen was lost to me.  I drifted away from fantasy in general because I got bored of the tropes and agitated by the depiction of women.  I have drifted back, since – but without the obsession of my early years – and usually by reading recommendations from other people.

So, good night Mr Eddings.  Thank you for introducing me to fantasy.  I had fun.

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7 Comments

  1. So interesting how you outgrew that whole fantasy phase. I smiled when I read this: “I discovered that I had an affinity for nomadic people of the plains…” How very specific!

    Reply

  2. I didn’t realise DE was gone either! But I’m so out of the loop about things in general these days, this isn’t surprising… The Belgariad was my first fantasy series love – my sister read it and I leeched off her book collection for the longest time. I also loved the Algars – maybe it was because I related to a bunch of folks who had dark hair, were reticent and seemingly humourless…? 😉

    I was suckered into the Weyrs of Pern series (mad old Anne McCafferey) for a good whack of time, but the writing for that quickly deteriorated, too.

    I went off fantasy scifi ages ago, when there were too many crowding the shelves with nothing more than badly rearranged cliched plots that sported a typical line-up of elves, dwarves, dragons, etc. I have dipped in occasionally, trying to find something that might excite me but…no. Any recs you have would be great!

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  3. oh no….that is tragic. i actually have every single book of his except high hunt!! i loved his writing. i discovered Eddings at the beginning of HS…

    and yes…i do feel like i have outgrown his writings but they still hold a place in my heart because it was his stuff that got me hooked onto fantasy also…

    hmmm…that means his latest series will never finish…that would explain why nothing has been released for awhile….

    having a sad moment now….

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  4. nikkipolani

    I just found I unfailingly felt part of people like the Algars in the Belgariad or the Rohirrim in Lord of the Rings and though I liked other ‘races’ (elves, dwarves, dryads, magicians), they just never tugged on my heart the way the ‘nomadic people of the plains’ did.

    Is it daggy to quote oneself?

    🙂

    tseen

    It’s amazing for how many DE was the first fantsay series. I’m finding round the blog world that this is a very common thing to say about DE. That’s quite an achievement.

    tee hee re the Algars and humourlessness. I have to think a bit harder about why I relate to them. Their nomadic ways and aloofness are key factors.

    I shall write a post with recs, I think.

    Offhand, Diana Wynne Jones and M John Harrison, highly recommended.

    In the meantime, though, you should keep an eye on Circulating Library, who is currently doing a great series re strong girl characters in fantasy. First one here:
    http://circulatinglibrary.net/archives/strong-girls-for-girl-readers-part-one

    purple orchid

    I read High Hunt. Thought it was okay.

    You, too, hooked through Mr Eddings. I’m astounded by the numbers who have commented thus (obviously not on this blog but elsewhere).

    Ha – one of the things that made me stop reading fantasy was incomplete series, e.g. The Wheel of Time series. I had a rule never pick to start a book (part one in series of …) without knowing that the final book in the series was written. I broke this rule with Harry Potter because I got sick of my housemates talking about it. And I’m not sure I’m glad I broke the rule for HP…

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  5. i too usually have that rule as well..but because i love DE i just started the new series without even thinking about it….

    and hence now i will never know the ending…

    thats why i have not started the wheel of time series either…usually for me to start reading a series, i will actually get the full series borrowed out before commencing because once i get into something i devour it like there is no tomorrow and hate having to go find the next book….i read the whole ‘twilight’ saga in like a week….because i had to actually work harhahrhahr

    high hunt, the losers and reginas song just didnt do it for me…i think to me DE was at home the most with fantasy….

    Reply

  6. Pawn of Prophecy was my introduction to David Eddings as well. Alas, it came to me by way of a college boyfriend who broke my heart so I never finished the series and so Eddings never really found a place in this fantasy lover’s heart. (Ged from the Earthsea series will always be my true love.) That said, I do remember liking that first taste of the Belgariad. My hubby was the one who told me he had passed and I felt a pang to pick up the series again. Thanks David Eddings, for the summer reading.

    Reply

  7. Oh that’s sad. My first fantasy series was Lord of the Rings, followed by The Chronicles of Prydain, The Earthsea Trilogy, Diana Wynne Jones, the Narnia series etc. But I also got into the Belgariad as a teenager. My friend and I loved to talk about it, and our favourite was Silk too.

    I never really enjoyed the Tamuli, or read any of the spin-off books from the Belgariad and Mallorean. But I did enjoy them, and occasionally still have a read every now and then.

    I find fantasy immensely variable. There’s a lot which is really badly written or just tosses in the “stock standard” fantasy characters. Some starts out well, but then gets too unwieldy (eg, Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). I’ll have to go through my books and think of some good ones.

    Reply

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