E is for Enemy


One of the key tropes of epic, heroic and most other kinds of fantasy is the presence of the ‘big bad’ (in Buffy speak) — otherwise known as the ENEMY.

Enemy: A person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something; A hostile nation or its armed forces or citizens, esp. in time of war; Foe, adversary, opponent, antagonist.

OK, so by that definition, most fiction involves an enemy of some description. But in fantasy it’s often very black and white, especially when the enemy is downright EVIL.

Evil: (Adjective) Profoundly immoral and malevolent; (Noun) Profound immorality, wickedness, and depravity, esp. when regarded as a supernatural force.

Classic ‘evil enemies’ in fantasy include: Sauron, Lord Voldemort, the evil god Torak, Lord Foul, Lord Mardus (Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series) . . . but actually the popularity of the evil overlord has declined in recent years. I am pleased to observe that fantasy has evolved to embrace more complex antagonists with more believable motivations. Certainly not all enemies are downright ‘evil’.

Such as Melisande Shahrizai in Jacqueline Carey’s wonderful ‘Kushiel’s Legacy’ series . . . or Captain Kennit in Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders trilogy . . .Β  or Master EREMIS in Stephen Donaldson’s Mordant’s Need books.

And then there are all the books where the enemy is an invading army (Magician), a bickering group of immortals (Jennifer Fallon’s Timelord series), a pantheon of conniving demons (Kylie Chan’s Dark Heavens series) . . . and many more. Sometimes the enemy is not so clear-cut — all parties are enemies to each other (George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series/Game of Thrones).

Other notable fantasy icons beginning with E include

Elf: A supernatural creature of folk tales, typically represented as a small, elusive figure in human form with pointed ears, magical powers . . .

Or, a la Tolkien, represented as tall and willowy, with long glossy hair and extreme beauty . . . Many authors followed Tolkien’s example in the years following. (Sometimes such beings are called something other than ‘elf’ but it’s splitting hairs.)

Elements: In fantasy this most often refers to ‘the four elements’ of Earth, Fire, Water and Air.

And finally I come to favoured authors and books beginning with E:

  • Kate Elliott — one of my favourite authors of the moment. Her most well-known series are Crown of Stars, Spirit Walker and Crossroads, but she also wrote an earlier series that began with Jaran, which is probably my favourite to date. (Although I haven’t read any of the Spirit Walker series yet, which people rave about.)
  • David (and Leigh) Eddings — I grew up on Eddings’ classic Belgariad and Mallorean series. Adventure romps with lashings of humour and cameraderie, they’ll always hold a place in my heart.
  • Eon and Eona — Alison Goodman’s best-selling series about a young woman forced to make tough choices in her efforts to do the right thing by her emperor. Modern Fantasy with an Asian flavour. (Also known in the UK as The two pearls of wisdom and The necklace of the gods.)

That’s all I can think of for the moment. I should point out this is the fifth in my A-Z of fantasy series and is not part of the April A-Z challenge. (Sorry it’s actually a week late — oops!)

Does anyone have any suggestions for E words I might have missed out on? I’m particularly interested in examples of authors and books, since a pattern I’m seeing in these posts is the dearth of recently published fantasy in my examples. My heart keeps diving back to old favourites and I’m not precisely sure why. It could be simply because I remember them best, having read them more than once . . .


Image courtesy of Icon Archive, licensed via Creative Commons.

9 thoughts on “E is for Enemy

    1. Excalibur is a good one, although I think of it more as an iconic sword — which definitely qualifies! I did think of Eragon actually, which I have read, but decided that since I didn’t ‘love’ it I wouldn’t include it… Thanks, Kim!


    1. Of all those I’m most impressed by ’empath’ — definitely much found in fantasy. ‘Ethereal’ and ‘enchanted’ also fit the bill… I’m thinking maybe ‘eyes’ are found in most fiction? But certainly one can have some weird colour eyes in fantasy (heh). Thanks, Liv!


  1. Ooh! Liv took my suggestion: enchanted. I was also thinking about elegant because in my mind everyone in fantasy books is dressed in some kind of elegant looking frock. Or at least the royals are. πŸ™‚


    1. Heh ~ yes, Liv did well with a bunch of stuff I missed! Enchanted/enchantment I considered actually, but obviously should have included! Elegant is a good one too. I love fantasy garb, elegant or otherwise. πŸ™‚


  2. Enemy is a great choice. Mine would’ve been Evil, especially if one stretches out the ‘e’ sound and making steeple fingers while saying it, like this:

    “Eeeeeeevil” *makes steeple fingers*



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