Outlining A Destiny
What do Farm Boys, Wizardly Old Mentors, and Spunky Princesses have in common? They appear in the most hackneyed plot line of all time. I call it The Farm Boy Story, although my title for it may be unfamiliar, I guarantee you won't find the story so. By now it's pretty much a subgenre of fantasy. Or is it the original fantasy genre?
Popular fantasy authors have written Farm Boy Stories. Robert Jordan, David Eddings and Terry Brooks, used plots like this one. Even the estimable J.R.R. Tolkien had strong Farm Boy Story elements in The Lord of The Rings. And let's not forget Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle. Simply put, the Farm Boy Story is all over fantasy literature, and today I am going tell you how to recognize one.
But rather than list off the contents of a perfect Farm Boy Story, I will just tell you the tale, and put all the clichés in one spot. (Important themes and people are in bold font.) Hang on to your hats – or deep hoods of your cloaks, as the case may be – we are off on an epic adventure!
At the beginning of this epic tale, Farm Boy can be found leading a simple idyllic life on a farm, which is tucked in some remote corner of the realm far from the unrest and darkness experienced by the rest of the country.
Farm Boy lives with his uncle because he is an orphan. His uneventful childhood forms him into a likable, smart, brave, loyal and unassuming fellow. One day, when Farm Boy is on the verge of manhood, Uncle dies in a house fire.
Although Farm Boy has plenty of guts and gumption, it is impossible for him to fulfill his destiny without a mentor. This mysterious wizardly old man has lived on the fringes of Farm Boy's tiny hamlet as long as anyone can remember. Unbeknownst to Farm Boy, Mentor has been watching over him from afar. Mentor appears soon after the tragedy, and informs Farm Boy they are going on a quest and his destiny awaits. Farm Boy agrees to go; there is nothing left for him at the farm, and Mentor has mentioned his destiny involves something concerning a Dark Lord that needs to be conquered. Farm Boy's best friend, Sidekick insists on coming along.
But no great quest is complete without a group of questers. Farm Boy has already a found a dragon egg, which hatches in due course. Dragon becomes a good friend of Farm Boy's, but she is also very talkative for a reptile, and she tries Mentor's patience by asking so many questions.
Soon others join the quest. A Wandering Warrior makes his appearance. He is a king without a kingdom, but he is working on getting his reign sorted out; in the meantime why not help oust Dark Lord? It's good PR, if nothing else. Not long after that an Elf Archer shows up. He is very good with a bow and adds a bit of class to the quest – even if he doesn't have much to say.
And then a Barbarian Warrior kind of guy decides to join the venture. He is not very refined, and eats a lot but the crew is glad to have him along because he is pretty handy with his club. Finally, a seeress condescends to take part in the expedition. Seeress has magical ability (but it is not as powerful as Mentor's). She often warns the questers of perils and makes everybody useful, if disgusting, herbal potions and remedies. She also gives Farm Boy a few vague and unhelpful hints concerning his destiny.
By this time Mentor has started Farm Boy on an accelerated training course. He is working hard on perfecting his skill with magic and swordplay. Also, he is learning how to fight while riding on Dragon when she flies about during tactical maneuvers. Farm Boy has a natural aptitude for these arts, and it is not long before he can best the world class experts in these areas. But Farm Boy is very motivated, not only does he want to conquer Dark Lord, he is trying to impress a Spunky Elf Princess he met during the quest.
She is smart, talented and still looks beautiful while holding her own in hand-to-hand combat with Dark Lord's hordes. She makes it a point to be snarky to Farm Boy. However, Spunky Princess gets excessively emotional sometimes, and that is when she realizes she really loves Farm Boy, although she will keep him guessing about their relationship until the end of the book.
Now that Farm Boy is an expert magician and warrior, Mentor can give him a magical amulet to help him in the quest. But the troupe is endangered when a raiding party of Dark Lord's Urgles or Wargles, or Orcs or whatever (take your pick) attack the Questing Party. Mentor is killed, taking pertinent information about Farm Boy's past to the grave. Farm Boy has an emotional breakdown after Mentor's death.
To make things worse, Farm Boy has a brush with Dark Lord's second in command, who tries to get him to betray his friends and join the bad guys. Moreover, he tells Farm Boy that he is really a relation of Dark Lord's, and that Mentor knew this, but never told him. Farm Boy refuses to join Dark Lord, and things get violent, but his newly acquired powers are not quite enough to defeat Second In Command, and he escapes.
By now Farm Boy is a known rebel, and he can't dither about anymore – it's time to take on Dark Lord. (Although he manages to squeeze in another emotional breakdown along with resentment directed at Mentor. But Spunky Princess tells him embrace his destiny so he stops moping.)
The Questing Party and several kings and their armies rally around Farm Boy, who decides it's time for Dark Lord to be taken down. Farm Boy devises an ambitious but incomplete battle plan for the good guys. They storm Dark Lord's stronghold but the commonplace siege is simply not enough to defeat Dark Lord. While the several kings' armies do all the hard work of battling the hordes, Farm Boy leads an elite force comprised of the original Questing Party to the heart of Dark Lord's domain – a dark tower.
Once there, Farm Boy and Dragon find Dark Lord, who is atop his own dragon, and single combat commences! The titanic struggle for the realm could have ended badly except that Sidekick, Wandering Warrior, Barbarian and Elf Archer were there to keep Dark Lord's hordes from interfering in the single combat. So Dark Lord was slain. (Farm Boy and Dragon don't escape without a few wounds. But Seeress is around to doctor them up, and Spunky Princess fusses over Farm Boy, who has lost quite a bit of blood. Nevertheless he feebly insists, “It's just a scratch.”)
The realm is free and Farm Boy's destiny has been fulfilled!
And there you have it, the classic Farm Boy plot fully outlined. But I must add that Farm Boy Stories aren't always hackneyed or boring, some of them are pretty good. I have enjoyed reading several books like this, and I'm not trying to run down Farm Boy Story authors, but I do think it's time we started indexing all this so we can keep it straight!