I is for inheritance

Many stories talk about what we get from our families. In epic fantasy, stories can hinge on things that characters have inherited — swords (Shannara), rings (LotR), a way with the Force, the ability to do magic (unless one is a Mudblood, of course). Or inheritances can be more subtle, helping characters face their challenges — Harry Potter, for example, has inherited both his father’s skill with a broomstick and his father’s invisibility cloak.

Inheritance is a way of making the present story the culmination of effects in the past, creating continuity, and increasing the scope of a tale. Of course, it’s not what the characters have, but what they do with what they have that matters. The person who leaves his grandfather’s sword hanging on the wall over the fireplace doesn’t make a good story.

What story has touched you with an heirloom or inheritance, something the main character has received from the past? What was special about it?

This is a post for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. My theme is epic fantasy, and blog posts will cover authors, books, tropes, themes, or anything else I can think of to fill the alphabet. Check out some of the other bloggers participating or follow my blog by e-mail if you like what you’ve read.

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  1. The Dragonriders of Pern represent that inheritance, or continuity, to me. I see it in the dragons, the riders, and the community itself.

    • I never thought of it like that, but I suppose tradition is a form of communal inheritance. Thanks for the thought!

  2. Great post. It gave me a good idea for a story.

  3. I am so going to write about that guy who leaves the sword 😀

  4. I am writing one of those stories. I am writing it with my children.

    I am violating the writer’s code and manufacturing fictional characters from my kids’ imagination, and modeling said characters after my pre-teen children.

    So far it is working, or so I believe. But I am doing as you imply, and starting the story not at the beginning, but at the middle. For instance, the Jedi already exist.

    Maybe a future tale will be at the beginning. You got the worms to digging with this post.

    – Eric

    • That’s against the writer’s code? I thought the writer’s code was “use everything around you (and then some).”

      Glad I sparked some thoughts for you.

      Thanks for dropping in and commenting.

  5. Well, there’s always the Ring that Frodo inherits from Bilbo. Lots of inheritance there.

    • True. Lord of the Rings has many examples of inheritance — in addition to the Ring, there are Aragorn’s sword, Boromir’s horn, the mines of Moria, and the Palantir as examples.

      Thanks for commenting.

  6. Oh, what an interesting point. Makes me want to look around at the items I’ve inherited and give them some deeper purpose!

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

  7. The first thing that came into my mind was the watch that the Christopher Walken character inherited in the film Pulp Fiction.

    Places I Remember
    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

    • Interesting. I’ve only seen the film once, and I don’t remember many of the details. If I watch it again, I’ll look for that.

      Thanks for commenting.

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