H. A. Byrd

Imaginative Stories Create Our Future 

My sister was a magical creature. If ever a human embodied the spirit of a unicorn, Crista did. A traditional unicorn is wild and fierce in spirit, fragile yet ultimately unconquerable. Crista had these qualities. I witnessed the sorrow which resulted from her pureness of heart.

As a young girl, Crista stumbled into the fantasy genre through her love of horses. Having read nearly every horse story in existence at the time, she brought home a copy of A Horse and His Boy, of the Chronicles of Narnia. This led to The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and on from there.

My sisters and I spent most of our childhood outdoors, with me, the little one, tagging along behind. We also read a lot. I tried to do everything they did, which meant that I found myself in the worlds of fantasy literature at quite a young age. I read all sorts of children’s classics, but fantasy novels stood out as my favorites.

As I grew older I became more and more aware of one troubling thing. Every flight of fancy featured knights or soldiers, and the culmination of the plot was almost always a battle. Even the Harry Potter series, when it came out, built up, after a few volumes, towards a final battle.

Warfare is the keystone of our history as a human species. We are a warlike animal. Armed combat is the basis of our world view and our economy. The hostilities of war invade our language. Of course we will feature battles in our stories, it only makes sense.

But if the glory of battle is the entertaining force in all our fiction, how are we ever to evolve beyond our barbaric shame? War is something to be ashamed of. Certainly those heroes who protect us deserve our gratitude. We have to defend our countries, because war does exist, and probably will in the foreseeable future. Yes, those who defend us against a true threat deserve our sincere gratitude and should be honored. But should they be glorified?

Having a sister who is a beautiful unicorn creature does something to you. I too, have always had a heart that longs a bit too much for a perfect world. When I was ready to write my own fantasy story, I knew it could not include war. I do read stories about knights. I enjoy films which feature warlike peoples. But I challenged myself to write a fantasy in which there is no concept of war. No cannons, no castles. No killing as problem-solving, no battles as excitement.

After I finished writing Aru’s Realm, I wanted to find similar stories because that’s what they say you should do. In searching for a fantasy without war, the classic story The Last Unicorn came up several times. Although millions of readers and film-goers love Mr. Beagle’s tale, I had never heard of it. I spent the eighties living in log cabins and what-have-you, usually without electricity. Somehow, I missed it.

The Last Unicorn is a story wild and fierce in spirit. Here is my review of this fantasy novel. The tale doesn’t feature any battles, largely because it has a short and simple storyline. I love the book so much I bought a copy. The Last Unicorn and my own Aru’s Realm represent the beginning of my personal collection of war-free SciFi/Fantasy. Both books are in a literary style. I’m sure there are heavily plot-driven fantasies without a war theme.

We think of life as a battle. We want our young girls to see themselves as warriors, strong and proud and ready to defeat all threats. This is a result of centuries of oppression. But I so look forward to when we can be strong and proud and don’t feel the need to display a threat to others in order to be cool. When we don’t need armor. When we don’t need war.

More posts...

Subscribe to blog

Copyright © 2020 Harriet Arden Byrd