It takes a library to raise a reader. Like many of us, books played a big role in developing me as a person. I picked up so many bits of wisdom over the years, especially from Fantasy books. These lessons made me a kinder person, more forgiving, and expanded my mind so much…I will be forever grateful.
1. No such thing as hopeless.
To me, The Lord of the Rings has one of the best “all is lost” moments in literature. In the midst of enemy territory with strength fading, it seems Frodo and Sam could never get the Ring into Mt. Doom. But because Sam keeps fighting to keep his promise and because Frodo followed his conscience to spare Gollum, they succeed.
In the end, the Ring is destroyed and Sauron defeated not so much because of great feats, but the actions of a few determined individuals who stick to their beliefs. And in the end, what are we without belief?
2. Sometimes parents/mentors/role models fail us…and that’s okay.
In The Jackal of Nar by John Marco, Prince Richius is on a campaign ordered by the empire when he is cut off by his father in enemy territory. While it is a horrible thing to abandon your only child and his soldiers, we find out why later on.
Richius’s country couldn’t support the war. The only way his father could stop the war was to have Richius lose through no fault of his own, else the empire would kill them both.
Sometimes our parents do things or make fantastic blunders that screw us over, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t trying to do what was best. While that doesn’t invalidate the hurt or damage caused, I try to remember that.
3. You never know what someone’s going through.
From the perspective of the Wizarding World, Harry Potter seemed to have it all, didn’t he? Fame, a fat inheritance, a Hogwarts headmaster convinced he could do no wrong.
But his close friends and we the readers know the truth. His abusive muggle childhood, possible PTSD after Cedric Diggory’s death, and the huge weight of expectations that came with being the Chosen One…that’s a lot to throw at a kid. Knowing that, I don’t really blame him for being an occasional jerk, but most people in the story had no clue.
4. You WILL find love again.
While I am extremely salty about the sinking of my Throne of Glass ship, I do like that Sarah J. Maas does away with the “one true love” trope. While I absolutely believe there is a special someone for everyone, it doesn’t have to be the first person you fall in love with.
This took so much pressure out of dating and I’m glad I finally realized it.
5. Animals’ lives are important, too.
In The Inheritance Cycle, the elves are vegetarians because they can read the minds of animals and can’t stomach the thought of killing them. At the time, I was sort of ambivalent to this, but it stayed in my mind. Animals experience pain and fear, too.
Nine years and lots of internal debates later, I can’t stomach it, either.
DISCLAIMER: Vegetarianism was a decision I made based off my own feelings. I don’t want people to think I’m trying to impose that on anyone else. “You do you,” as they say.
6. Power is complicated.
It’s really easy to look at politicians, CEO’s, principles, or anyone in power and wonder how stupid they must be. In Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, the evil dictator is overthrown. In the sequel, the starry-eyed revolutionaries now have to run the world they liberated. Equality and safety for all citizens sounds easy, but it’s really not.
The main characters soon learn there are rules for power that limit the good even the best leader can do. The rules bind every person who holds any position of power. This does not excuse rulers for unethical or immoral behavior, certainly. I do, however, try to remember that they are all just humans attempting to balance a wide array of interests, needs, and wants of many others.
7. The environment is important.
In the world of Armania in King’s Folly by Jill Williamson, the witches have mined ahvenrood, the source of their power, for centuries. The mining has left the land riddled with holes, prone to spontaneous sinkholes. Fossil fuels, anyone? Because the witches weren’t concerned with the health of the land, the entire freaking continent sinks and is flooded.
We have to take care of the world we have. We only get one.
8. Your enemies are people, too.
I am mad at George R.R. Martin for many things. One of his worst grievances was humanizing Cirsei. Cirsei, the murdering, lying, peasant-slaughtering bastard that she is.
In A Clash of Kings, when she receives word that Jaime has been captured, she cries. Cirsei cries. That made me feel terrible. I mean, this evil woman has a heart! And she loves her children! How am I supposed to handle a bad person with wholly justifiable and relatable feelings???
The lesson I learned was that even people I hate have souls.
9. Hate is usually born from pain.
Shadowmarch by Tad Williams was a series that got me through that first year of my parents’ divorce. In it, the country of Southmarch is invaded by fairies from the north. Highly racist fairies who hate humanity with a passion. I tore through the first two books eagerly, waiting to see the fairies get their comeuppance.
We then come to learn that the fairies are dying off because a Southmarch ruler couldn’t keep his pants on. They’re also technically fighting the same world-ending power, expecting to die, and I can’t really blame them for hating the humans so much. Even if the humans alive now had nothing to do with it. This taught me to think maybe I should ask more questions when people are bitter. You never know what they’ve been through.
10. If a romance doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean either person is a bad person.
Queen Cassandra and King Akeela in The Eyes of God by John Marco are both splendid people. They’re both kind, loving, and want what’s best for their countries. Unfortunately, Cassandra falls in love with Akeela’s best friend and then the world ends. (I’m only partly joking.)
The thing is, it wasn’t really because either of them was the villain (in the beginning, at least). There can be two amazing people who just don’t work. It happens. And that’s okay. Seriously, this whole book is about the consequences of trying to force a relationship.
What are some life lessons you’ve learned from books?