A-Z of fantasy: G is for Grassland

Ambling through my A-Z of fantasy series, we come now to the letter ‘G’… which stands for several key fantasy elements — especially GRASSLAND.

Grassland – A large open area of country covered with grass, especially one used for grazing.
meadow – pasture – grass – pasturage – mead – prairie

A tallgrass prairie in the Flint Hills, northeastern Kansas.

A tallgrass prairie in the Flint Hills, northeastern Kansas. (Source: Wikimedia commons.)

Lots of fantasy novels take place on grasslands, otherwise often referred to as plains. The one that sticks most in my memory (and it’s actually SF) is Jaran and its sequels by Kate Elliott (and stupidly I can’t think of any others just at the moment! Except for the fairly well-known Grass by Sherri S. Tepper, although I haven’t actually read this.). I’m also rather partial to writing about grasslands myself ~ heh.

Natural grasslands are regions of low rainfall where the dominant vegetation comprises many different kinds of long or short grasses. There may be some trees (savannah), and there are usually many different kinds of wildlife. They are rather likely to go hand in hand with horses…

Other important G words in fantasy are:

  • Gods and Goddesses — Just about every fantasy novel you’ll ever read (but admittedly not all) features a unique GOD or GODDESS or pantheon of said deities playing a key role in defining the cultural identity of the characters. Sometimes the goddesses/gods are personified as individual characters (Eddings, Jemisin, Fallon have all done this), other times they are aloof and symbolic (as in Guy Gavriel Kay’s Lions of Al-Rassan and many others).
  • Guards — Often faceless, GUARDS are the ubiquitous law-keepers and soldiers, usually attached to whatever ruling entity is in power.
  • Guilds — A fantasy trope bordering on cliche, GUILDS are most often the province of thieves or artisans.
  • Giants, gnomes and goblins — High fantasy creatures that don’t seem to appear much in modern fantasy, but are prevalent in Tolkien and its imitators (and old faerie tales)… and Harry Potter.
  • Griffin — Another mythological creature with the head of an eagle and the body of a lion.

And then there’s

Good – That which is morally right; righteousness. (Traditionally the opposite of ‘evil’.)

As far as characters go, I can’t go past the lovable-yet-inept GERADEN from Stephen Donaldson’s Mordant’s Need duology, and the ‘pawn of prophecy’ himself GARION from David Eddings’ Belgariad and Mallorean series.

As for books, there is of course the popular Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (although I will point out that 1. it’s only the name of the first book and 2. I haven’t actually read it…).

And authors? Alison GOODMAN is an author I like and Neil GAIMAN is an author whose work I haven’t read, but probably should ~ heh.

So that’s a wrap for ‘G’. Let me know if there are some obvious fantasy G topics I’ve missed — I daresay there are many!

7 comments

  1. Giraffes! Because we’re dealing in fantasy fiction, I’ve just now invented a band of monstrous reavers that thunder across the land astride their mighty giraffes, laying waste to everything in their path 🙂

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    1. yeah… O-kaaay…
      I fear that might be reaching just a tad, but WTH not?

      On a related note, Australians are always tempted to put kangaroos in fantasy worlds, but generally refrain owing to the extreme strangeness of that idea…

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      1. I would think that in Australia, kangaroos would actually be a bit too ordinary to want to put into an exotic fantasy world. But maybe I’m overestimating how commonly they’re actually seen over there, since I’ve never been to Australia–which looks like a fabulous place, by the way.

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        1. heh – Kangaroos are not to be found in cities, only rural areas, so it’s still a small thrill to see one in the wild. Depends where you go as to how likely that is.

          When it comes to fantasy though, I think it’s more a case of not wanting to sound “too Australian” for international publishers/audiences, which are notoriously fickle. We’re a very small market, so as authors we look to appeal to the UK and USA. Obviously in an urban Australian fantasy, however, kangaroos would be perfectly acceptable!

          Similarly, giraffes (returning to the letter in question) would quite firmly place a fantasy in Africa – which would again be OK if it was set in Africa, but possibly not if it was an imagined world – unless it was supposed to be reminiscent of Africa.

          Some animals are just too synonymous with a place.

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          1. I’m pretty sure there’s been some fantasy set in a sort of Africa-analogue, but I don’t think I’ve heard of any that takes place in an alternate Australia. Something like that might be pretty cool.

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  2. Neil Gaiman is a MUST READ author, especially on audio book with him as the reader. I’ve recently listened to The Graveyard Book (ha! another unintended “g” book!) and Neverwhere, both with Neil as the narrator. FABULOUS. He has a new book out now (can’t remember the name off the top of my head – hold, please, while I skip over to amazon……. o.k., it’s called The Ocean at the End of the Lane) that I’m sure will be as fantastic as his others.

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