Halloween. Witches and goblins and ghouls, oh my! If any holiday attracts more attention to certain aspects of fantasy, or causes more confusion about fantasy, I certainly cannot think of it. The various scary and creepy things of Halloween are often lifted straight from the pages of fantasy works. There is also a tendency to twist what is lifted, to sex it up a bit or to give it horrifying qualities the original did not have. It is thanks largely to Halloween, however, that so many people across the United States can immediately conjure up images of those commonplace fantasy characters, witches and goblins and the like.
The problem is that those images are all too often nothing like the fantasy characters that they are generated from. Take for instance the goblin. What is a goblin? Chances are you gave one of two answers: a short, ugly bipedal creature that specializes in small mischief, or one of several tribes of orc that live in the mountains north of Mordor. There are other definitions, of course, but these two represent the Halloweenization of goblin and Tolkien?s own definition of goblin. Despite some physical similarities, the two are not really talking about the same creature at all. I have never heard of a Halloween goblin leading an organized army in an assault on a fortified mountain, let alone nearly capturing that mountain. I have never heard that goblins ride wolfs, save from Tolkien. Perhaps the Halloween legends of my region simply do not happen to cover these accomplishments. Perhaps it is only those rural goblins that confine their nefarious activities to stealing pumpkins and scaring animals. I doubt it though. I think it more likely that the goblin imagined by those who do not know fantasy would have a heart attack if it ever ran into one of the trained warriors that had Bilbo and company so neatly treed. Halloween has taken a race of small orcs, and made them into almost comical and mostly harmless annoyances.
And witches really have faired no better. But then, even within fantasy no one can agree on what is a witch. The general opinion, I think, would be that a witch is an old women that deals in potions and fortune telling. Halloween must make these ladies extremely ugly, but there is no real reason for them to be that way. In fact, there is no reason for a lady who deals in potions and fortune telling to be old. If we lose the warts and wrinkles, a witch and a druidess are really about the same thing. Adria is a witch, true, but I think we must classify Anya and Akara as such as well. Halloween makes witches out to be evil characters, or at least not the type you would want to meet on a dark and stormy night. Is Adria evil? Is there any reason that a woman dedicated to herbal knowledge must by nature me evil? Of course not. But Halloween likes witches to be evil and ugly, and so the tragically unread see them. It is unlikely that the typical customer of a Halloween store would know that Frank Herbert had witches in Dune, let alone recognize one of those proud and regal women as such.
It is not a bad thing that Halloween twists the characters of fantasy. It is nothing more than the market demands. The masses like cackling old ladies who stir foul smelling pots, and so commerce delivers ugly ladies and the evil pots. If kids tried to trick or treat armed as a Tolkien goblin, they would probably be picked up by the police and taken home. The mild mannered ugly critters are much more suited to house to house begging.
Halloween does, however, trigger the imagination in a way that few other holidays do. At no other time of year does the fantasy aficionado get to double-take as Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins, and The Terminator walk down the street together. Only on this one day can we see Saruman greet Dumbledore as an equal as they brave the streets in the company of Wolverine and an unfortunate restless spirit. Not just imagine, mind you, but see with our own eyes. There is much for the fantasy fan to look forward to in late October, even leaving the Matrix and LOTR aside.
And yet, there is so much unspent potential. Imagine if the WWF hooked up with Lucas Arts and a few publishing houses to produce the ultimate fight night of all time. We could open with a mild archery contest: Legolas against Robin Hood. Followed by The Battle of the Villains, Darth Vader versus Diablo in three rounds. We could have the Wizard versus the Wannabe in Gandalf against little Mr. Potter, or maybe Thrall against Thor in a variant on Hammertime. Imagine it, a combination live action special effects extravaganza on Fox featuring all the fantasy favorites in the ultimate contest to determine the Champion of Them All.
Then again, it would be a shame to lose Mr. Potter before he finishes his books. Perhaps Yoda would be willing to stand-in for him.
Disclaimer: Salem?s Fire was written by Luke Blaize during 2002-2004, and hosted by Diabloii.net. The opinions expressed in these columns are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Diii.net.