Characters in TV shows have a shelf life. Most main characters get to make it to the finale, but your average red-shirt or Cousin Joey might not make it to the end credits. By now we’ve grown so used to certain patterns in character death we’re starting to mock it.
Horror films – slashers especially – have become so predictable that even those few directors trying to hang a lampshade on the death-progression have started to be a cliché. Gone are the days of the black guy dying first, in fact he was the last man standing in Deep Blue Sea, a film famous for breaking kill-patterns by eating the biggest star early on… and actually that was Samuel L. Jackson so scrap the first point. Even the love interest ended up dead, which is becoming increasingly common these days, films like Drag me to Hell, and Cabin in the Woods often fatally separate partners.
The death of a character can… and really should be a pivotal moment in a show, a chance for the whole cast to explore depths of emotion, and for the entire dynamic to shift. Take 8 Simple Rules as an example, a very solid family-sitcom with enough drama to keep it interesting that sadly lots the main actor and father John Ritter, and not through choice. The show persevered with a couple of new cast members and an adjustment period which must be praised for its’ sensitivity of a difficult subject considering the genre. Afterwards, while 8 Simple Rules managed to stay funny and of decent quality, it was definitely changed, and still raised moments of dealing with grief, made all the more genuine for the actual loss of the actor.
Perhaps the worst death pattern is the immortal protagonist, the character who just can’t seem to stay dead, no matter how often their killed, like a boomerang with a theme tune… or a DC character. Lazarus pits, ancient mystics or perhaps some other cunning means, like implanting the personality of a character into the body of a shapeshifting murderer until the murderous personality is suppressed, and just pretending like everything’s normal. Points to anyone who gets that one. The problem with immortal protagonists is that people start to actually want them dead for good, and it never seems to happen.
Without question, the show that has managed/is managing to shock and harrow its audience with death the most must be Game of Thrones (accepting all arguments for other shows in the comments and Facebook). Main characters die more frequently than is entirely normal, and the deaths often come out of nowhere and are as dirty and ignoble as reality permits. Always worth making sure your character dies on screen though, if you didn’t see it then it’s only a maybe.
Death should be a big deal because death is a big deal! Game of Thrones was initially fantastic at presenting death in such a way that it was unpleasant, shocking, and pointless but now we sit on needles whenever we grow to like a character, becoming just as predictable as any slasher, but this time the man behind the mask is George R.R. Martin. Have we become numbed to death? Or are we still able to feel for the death of a character and not point and say “saw that one coming”?
“A candle the burns twice as bright burns half as long… Mmm hmm”
– Scruffy, The Janitor
The most precious things in life are those that last the briefest, a snowflake, a rose blossom, the career of Fred Savage. They twinkle in the darkness before being swallowed by it, reminding us of our mortality and marking the passage of time. Is it their brevity that makes them so wondrous? Or does the memory of their shortcomings fade before that of their successes? Who can say for sure, but it is these brightest of flashes in an otherwise dull and listless life of successful stars and beloved characters that endure for years that we celebrate in the first Top 10 of the New Year! (more…)
Only 174 more days to Christmas*! So this seems like the perfect time to continue our ongoing reviews of Terry Pratchett’s work with the Discworld’s most famous Winter Solstice tale, the Hogfather. (more…)
What happens when the grim reaper itself becomes emotionally invested in its own job, with its own personality? Well, the Auditors of Reality decide they need to replace Death with a New Death, logically. Join me as we look through the wondrous story of Reaper Man.
Featuring some of the weirdest character developments in Sir Terry Pratchett’s whole Discworld universe, Reaper Man features Death who has begun to develop a personality which concerns the Auditors of Reality. They require their Death to be emotionless and focused on the job at hand and nothing else, so they send Death to the Disc in order to assume the life of a farmhand: Bill Door.
The reason I’m such a fan of this book is that it’s full of witty quips. Death still talks in its trademark all capital lettered style and we also learn some things about how Death works in the Discworld in most amusing of ways. Death has to learn a lot about the Disc in a short space of time, which along with its rather quirky personality makes life a bit tricky. Of course, couple this with the fact that people really aren’t passing on, due to the fact that there’s no death, some strange things happen. Supernatural goings on, in fact!
One of my favourite parts of this book is the easy back and forth banter between Death and Miss Flitworth, the lady whose farm Death works on. She’s an older lady, so she can’t see very well and when she first meets Death, who assumes the name Bill Door, they get into a dispute about what his name is. Here’s an excerpt from this amazing back and forth:
The stranger stared at her for a moment, and then looked around wildly.‘Come on,’ said Miss Flitworth.’l ain’t employing no-one without no name.Mr . . . ?’The figure stared upwards.MR SKY?‘No-one’s called Mr Sky.’MR . . . DOOR?She nodded.‘Could be. Could be Mr Door. There was a chap called Doors I knew once.Yeah. Mr Door. And your first name? Don’t tell me you haven’t got one of those,too. You’ve got to be a Bill or a Tom or a Bruce or one of those names.’YES.‘What?’ONE OF THOSE.‘Which one?’ER. THE FIRST ONE?‘You’re a Bill?’YES?Miss Flitworth rolled her eyes.‘All right, Bill Sky . . .’ she said.DOOR.‘Yeah. Sorry. All right, Bill Door . . .’CALL ME BILL.
This back and forth alone was enough to make a young me laugh along with Pratchett. It was probably the first time I had experienced an all powerful omnipresent being, such as Death, become such a blubbering, blathering buffoon. You can tell It is just saying what it has to in order to get by, and even though Miss Flitworth isn’t exactly fooled by the name, she just realises she’s getting an employee either way, so she’ll put up with the shenanigans. I disagree with her slightly, though – A Mr. Sky does indeed exist. Perhaps not on the Disc, though.
Reaper Man was such a well received book, it received a special adaptation called Welcome to the Discworld. I figure now is a good time to talk about the 90’s film, as it starred the recently deceased actor, Christopher Lee. He starred in many fantasy greats, such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy as Saruman and he was the original Dracula. So how did the Welcome to the Discworld short movie stand next to his others? Kind of bland, really… But nevertheless, it was just nice to see Discworld brought to life back then. It was a franchise that had been barely touched before, but heck, the Discworld MUD was going strong!
So this might not have been the “best” Discworld novel (from a general consensus point of view), but it might be my favourite. It’s a brilliant story, which you can’t help but laugh along with. You get the whole satirical view of Death and it has some of Death’s best banter to date… Not to say it doesn’t always have good banter. What do you think of Reaper Man? As always please leave your comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter.
What monsters emerge from the ancient nightmares of cultures long past? Well quite a few actually, but amidst the menagerie of assorted demons, half-humans, spectres, godspawn and all varieties of supernatural creatures are certain peerless legends, unequalled, unparalleled, un-third-thing that I didn’t think of.
Welcome back you lovely people, to our Top 10 Unique Mythological Monsters!
10) The Kraken
The mighty ship-sinker, the weapon of gods, the devourer of those who wander too long at sea! Of course we generally accept these days that the truth of the legend probably has more to do with colossal squid and the exaggerations of sailors, or it becomes a name attributed to any oceanic leviathan. Depictions vary, having any number of aquatic facets, like crab-claws, serpentine tails or a whale’s bulk.
The legends and writings surrounding the Norse monster generally depict it as unique, described by 18th century zoologist Carolus Linnaeus as a singulare monstrum. Now how often is it we get to go Latin in a top 10?
9) Typhon and Echidna
One is the most fearsome monster in the whole of Greek mythology, the other was his half-woman half-snake mate, Typhon and Echidna are two of the most well known monsters of their time. Starting with the man of this duo, Typhon was literally made as a destructive force to be reckoned with. Heck, this guy even ends up going toe to toe with Zeus and even manages to secure a victory over the god! Typhon is even mentioned in Dante Alighieri‘s Inferno, so clearly this destructive force is deserving of a nod, at the very least.
On the otherhand, Echidna was half of a beautiful maiden, though it was never explained which parts made her beautiful. People assume it’d be the upper half that made her beautiful and the lower half would be a terrifying, writhing snake. Well, I guess it takes all sorts to make the world go around. Echidna however played an important part in mythology: She was the mother of many of Greek mythologies famous monsters. Born in a cave, forever immortalised. But perhaps this duos biggest claim to fame comes now, as this oh so dreamy pair are on our Top 10 list. Yay..?!
Ah, everybody’s favourite alien-squid-cultist-priest-madness-driving-colossal-monstrosity.
Yes, C’Thulhu had to make our list of unique mythological creatures. He has quite the unique presence about him, able to drive even the sanest of mortals to a blubbering pile of flesh and bones. Insanity is what this creature delivers the best and he’s also been featured heavily outside of the C’Thulhu mythos of which he was derived. Indeed, he has even been seen on a few episodes of South Park.
But that’s not why he makes our list. He’s got a special place in all of our hearts as geeks and fans of horror. Plus, have you ever seen the T-Shirt of Cute’Thulhu? It’s so cute and cuddly that you can kind of forgive the massively monstrous abomination that hides behind that cute exterior. Aww… Tentacles!
How far could this list go without the mighty winged serpent of the ancient Aztec religion? Though he could adopt the form of a human, the great angelic snake that bridges earth and sky is the most legendary depiction.
Quetzalcoatl is often attributed with the creation of mankind by mixing his blood with the bones of a race that came before with the death of the fourth sun. In some stories, he kills himself by setting himself on fire, and that his burning heart becomes the fifth sun in the dawning of the current age.
Odin rides into battle on his grandson. Well that about sums that up.
In a scheme to try and avoid paying a builder, Loki the trickster god turns himself into a mare, sleeps with the man’s horse, and later gives birth to an eight-legged foal, the greatest and fastest horse in existence. This particular story is unlikely to be featured in the upcoming film Thor: Ragnarok. I hope…
Odin once raced the Jotunn Hrungnir on his grandson. He’s also been to Hel and back. You know what? The Greek gods may be overtly messed up with a family tree that’s uprooting itself just to get away from them, but can we all agree that Odin riding his grandson around is a bit disquieting?
What a word, eh? Creepypasta. I mean is this like the Flying Spaghetti Monster if he were to turn into a Halloween icon? No, a Creepypasta is a story that was shared virally, usually via website such as Creepypasta. This was one of the earliest examples and do you want to know the funniest thing about it all? Since the Creepypasta was released, suddenly lots of people have reported having seen the real life Slenderman.
Say whatever you will of the cultural phenom of the modern era of horror, which may have been more recently overtaken by scarier Creepypastas, but this was the guy that truly started the scene off. Between him and Jeff the Killer, people were locking their doors tight out of paranoia. Ah thank you media, you take something, blow it out of context and help deliver mass hysteria. Also check out Marble Hornets!
Returning triumphant from our Top 10 Alternative Santas to actually place on the list this time. The festive child-snatcher of Germanic folklore is a sad loss to common-place mythology, somehow a lump of coal just isn’t snapping kids into shape through December, but I bet if we started bringing back the chain rattling demon we could get them on their best behaviour from Hallowe’en all the way to February!
If you notice, I mentioned I was researching Krampus. One day I’ll tell you all about the ongoing saga that is my Christmas themed D&D universe and the role the Krampus plays therein, but it may have to wait until this years epic continuation.
3) The Loch Ness Monster
It’s Nessie! The UK’s most famous monster of all, but if you want to disagree with me, go for it. I’d bet that more people, no matter what their walk of life is, know of the legend that is Nessie, or The Loch Ness Monster. But what exactly was this beast? Was it a friendly creature hanging around the Loch Ness? Or was it a terrifying monstrosity, waiting to consume all of humanity with its unbearably large jaws, worse than a snapping crocodile?
Well actually, it’s turned out so far to be a fruitless search for ol’ Nessie here. In fact, all sightings to date have been exposed as a fake. There have been reported incidents where someone said they found it and it turned out to be a log. Oh dear. Still, for those out there who believe Nessie is real, I hope that the legend lives on and stays in everyone’s hearts. I hope Nessie is never found. There’s something magical about the unknown… And that’s how Nessie should remain. Otherwise, we’ll have to update this article in the future and remove Nessie.
This God of Egyptian lore is one of the most famous, yet he didn’t feature too heavily in Egyptian Mythology. It doesn’t stop him being an impressive God of his people, overseeing a job that many would consider quite disgusting and also being the guardian as it were. Plus, he’s the only Egyptian god I know of that has a song dedicated to him (Metal).
But that’s not what has made Anubis such a prominent figure within Egyptian Mythology. He was the God of Mummification and the Afterlife. That’s no small feat, as the Egyptians were firm believers in the Afterlife. With the head of a Jackal, Anubis was more or less as the band Septic Flesh puts it: He was the guardian of the damned, appointed by the gods to be their final chance. With such an extravagant outfit and holding the Flail and the Fetish, this god was all about justice. He would weigh up the souls of the departed to see if they were fit for the afterlife. If you were bad, you’d better be ready to repent for your sins… Not like that’d help you by that point.
Youngest, and most famous sister of Stheno and Euryale, children of ocean gods Phorcys and Ceto, Medusa is alone amongst her siblings for being mortal. Does that make her any less awesome and terrifying? Not even a little. Even after Perseus decapitates her, he still uses her petrifying gaze as a weapon. Indeed the only thing seemingly able to kill Medusa, was herself! What weapon is effective against a woman who can kill with a glance?
Despite what many games would have you believe (Dungeons & Dragons being the most profoundly sinful) there are not multiple Medusae. No matter that the name lends itself to pluralization rather elegantly, she is one of many serpent haired Gorgons. She’s also a legend amongst legends, leaving behind her gods, titans, and elder things, statuesque as she claims our number one slot!
Of course we’re not through. “Encore” we fantasize you shouting as we toil away at our keyboards to lavish our opinions upon you.
Legends, stories, myths and monsters are as old as humanity itself. Since we could make marks on a wall we’ve passed our knowledge and our thoughts from person to person, generation to generation. We could never narrow down our list to merely Ten, but only the deserving make the list. Here are few that we debated and decided against, but that we um’d and ah’d too long to simply pass them by without continuing their story.
Oh, Death. You and your many disguises. Who or what are you now? Here’s a small gallery of Death, the Ultimate Cosplayer.
The World Turtle
Great A’Tuin is based on some very real mythology. India, China and North America all have some variation on the visual spectacle that is the great turtle that swims the world on its’ endless journey through the cosmos. The phrase “turtles all the way down” is a sentiment used to disregard the mythology, as the idea that the turtle is supported by another turtle, which itself sits on the back of another turtle, which has another turtle between it and the one under… where was I going with this?
What other unique monsters have we missed? Who else is deserving of our esteemed list? As always, vote for next weeks Top 10 and let us know what you think we’ve done right and what you think we’ve done wrong. Is our order right? Let us know – tell us off! We’d love the discussion! Give us the business in the comments section, or on Facebook and Twitter.
Ah yes, it’s time for another look at one of the classic novels written by Terry Pratchett, the father of Discworld and all around awesome sci-fi/fantasy legend. In case you missed the last one, we had a look through the first in the Discworld series, The Colour of Magic, go check it out! We’ll wait right here whilst you go look… Are they gone? Good, let’s get on with this look at The Light Fantastic!
So this is the second book in the Discworld series and is a continuation from The Colour of Magic. As you may recall, that book finished on a cliffhanger. The Light Fantastic is the continuation and conclusion of this adventure featuring Rincewind the Wizzard and Twoflower the Tourist, along with their faithful companion, Luggage… the Luggage. Written in 1986, this was the only Discworld book to be a continuation of another Discworld book. No, seriously – I want you to go and find any other Discworld book that ends on a cliffhanger and is continued in another book. You won’t find one.
The plot of The Light Fantastic is about the journey of Rincewind and Twoflower coming to an end, but along the way, there’s still some unresolved business. Rincewind manages to fall over the edge of the Discworld and is brought back by the Octavo, thus saving him. Without their knowledge, Death goes and tells the leading wizards of the impending fate of the world… Unless all of the spells are read from the Octavo. Typical, isn’t it that it’d have to be with the inept wizard Rincewind?
Of course, this means that Rincewind is now a wanted man… So a damn lot of wizards go out to capture Rincewind and the Octavo. After a while, Rincewind meets back up with lovable tourist Twoflower, before they are accompanied by the aging Cohen the Barbarian.
Through the rest of this story, we see luggage become a hero that saves Rincewind (Which is amusing to think a little box with legs could be a hero)! We also see more of the Great A’Tuin, who has decided to change the path the Discworld is on. We also see Twoflower go toe to toe with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse… In a game of Contract Bridge. There are people who are heading to mountains after hearing about the impending apocalypse, because they want a better view.
The whole premise of The Light Fantastic is there to close off the events of The Colour of Magic and to bring resolution to this journey. It’s an amazing fantasy story filled with a lot of light hearted humour and wacky characters. Much like The Colour of Magic, there was a television show for this, which happened along side The Colour of Magic. Once more, David Jason retains his role as Rincewind.
Overall, The Light Fantastic is definitely worth the read. It’s got great pacing and it’s really satisfying seeing the end of the journey that Twoflower and Rincewind set out on. I won’t spoil the ending for you all, as I reckon you’d enjoy experiencing the story for yourselves. But that’s all for now, so what do you think? Have you read The Light Fantastic? What Discworld book should we have a look at next? As always, comments below, over on Facebook or Twitter. Keep the fantasy spirit strong!