Tough Travels is a monthly meme hosted by Fantasy Faction, which, inspired by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones, spotlights each month a different fantasy trope for us to compile lists and have fun with. Last month we discussed ADEPTS. This month’s topic is:
‘The Tough Guide offers information on various kinds of fantasy strongholds. For example, you might be looking for CASTLES, complete with ‘frowning battlements, slit windows and multiple defensible spiral stairways inside’ and which ‘occasionally adorn the heights for pictorial effect’. Or perhaps TOWERS, which ‘stand alone in WASTE AREAS and almost always belong to wizards.’ Towers are often ‘several storeys high, round, doorless, virtually windowless, and composed of smooth blocks of masonry that make them very hard to climb. The Rule is that there is also a strong no-entry SPELL, often backed up by a guardian DEMON.’
Diana Wynne Jones, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland
This is another topic that I missed the first time round, therefore it is great to have another chance to have a go at it. It was a lot of fun but also quite hard to narrow this list down, because what self-respecting fantasy book/series doesn’t have a well fortified stronghold … or two?! However here are a few of my favourites (as I said this is by no means an exhaustive list – in some cases I have had to limit myself to just one choice per book/series):
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
From Tolkien’s expansive Middle-Earth, I have had to limit myself to just one and that one is Minas Tirith: the heavily fortified capital city of Gondor. Constructed up the side of a large, steep hill on seven levels, each level 100ft higher than the one before, and all levels have thick, white walls and gates that face in different directions. Which makes this place pretty darn impregnable!
The Dark Tower
The Dark Tower by Stephen King
The elusive Dark Tower is the longed for end goal for Roland Deschain of Gilead, the last gunslinger, and his ka-tet. Its best defence is how almost impossible it is to find! Then if you do find it; survive the powerful magic surrounding it and manage to climb to the very top, there is a cruel twist waiting for you.
A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin
From Martin’s equally expansive Westeros, I have also had to limit myself to just one and that one is The Eyrie: the principle stronghold of House Arryn. While other strongholds could boast of equally strong fortifications, none could best its situation – built literally straddling the top of a mountain peak, meaning a treacherous climb for any would-be-attackers before the fighting even begins.
Harry Potter series by J K Rowling
A school is not an obvious choice for a stronghold, however we are told there is no places safer than Hogwarts and Gringotts (the wizarding bank). And with strong walls; surrounding lake; stone guardians and powerful protecting enchantments it makes for a formidable stronghold against the dark lord, Voldermort and his Death Eaters in the final showdown.
What fictional strongholds can you think of? Please link in the comments below if you have taken part in this month’s topic too.
Come back next month for: DRAGONS!