This is WAR! Tropes in Fantastical Conflicts

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Skyler Boudreau
Editorial Contributor

The month of March was named after the Roman god Mars. Mars is a god of war and was the most important god to the Ancient Roman military. To the Ancient Romans, Mars and the military represented a way to secure peace between them and their neighbors.

This month, I want to take a look at three of the tropes that appear in wars within fantasy novels. For the sake of clarity, and since a lot of these are called by various names, I used the names from TV Tropes, a website with a ton of information on the topic. If you want more information about any of the ones I mention, you can search them on that website. It can be fun to scroll through their lists and think of novels that match the different tropes described.

The Magic Versus Technology War

A lot of fantasy novels take place in a medieval setting, making the technology available to characters fairly primitive. Sometimes, however, there are stories where magic and more advanced technology exist at the same time. This is almost always a source of conflict. For example, Gaiman’s novel American Gods is centered around a war being fought by ancient gods like Odin and Anansi against new gods of modern technology.

The Forever War

This is a war that has been going on for so long that neither side remembers the initial reason for why they began fighting. It’s not so much the reason behind the conflict that matters, but more the fact that it is happening. Often, though not always, it is the role of the protagonist to reconcile the situation. Sometimes the Forever War is more of a backdrop to a bigger story. Whatever the reason for its inclusion, it is a conflict that has been going on for, well, ever.

Fantasy Conflict Counterpart

I find this trope particularly interesting. The Fantasy Conflict Counterpart creates a war that reflects a historical event, such as the way Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is an allegory for the Cold War. It creates a way for authorsto discuss major conflict in situations where they might not be able to in a historical or modern context. Perhaps there is the fear of being blacklisted, as there was during the Cold War. Perhaps the author disagrees with the role their own country played in a war and is unable to say anything otherwise. There are easily hundreds if not thousands of examples of this trope in action.

What are some fantasy war tropes that you’re intrigued by?

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