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.