Fantasy novels often include a marriage somewhere along the way, typically at the end of the book, and one can cite many reasons why this might be the case. In fantasy romance, of course, the reader expects the characters to get together at the end, and few things say ‘together’ like marriage vows. But the wedding bells are a-ringing in other fantasy novels in which the romance is a very minor subplot. The Lord of the Rings, for example, could hardly be called a romance, but the long denouement includes both the wedding of Aragorn and Arwen and mentions the wedding of Sam and Rosie as well. (A lovely bit of parallelism between the high-born and the low, by the way, but that’s the subject for another blog.)
Another book that comes to mind is The Silver Sun by Nancy Springer, a fantasy written in the late seventies/early eighties that still has a small but loyal group of devotees. (I tried to look up the exact publication date, but could only find the date for the most recent imprint, and my copy is in storage somewhere.) The Silver Sun actually ends with a double wedding of two brother kings, after the healer-king (another archetype) wins his throne and brings peace to a troubled land. (I could write a whole separate blog on Nancy Springer’s pagan archetypes. This particular novel is chock-full of them, so if you, like me, just love that sort of fantasy you’ll enjoy it even though her prose is not as accomplished as it is in the brilliant contemporary fantasies of her later career.)
Now cynics might point out the grand finale wedding as a patriarchal cliché. The hero ‘gets the girl’ as a reward for his heroism. And yes, sometimes, the story is that shallow. But I think more often you will find a resonance, intended or not, with the sacred marriage that heals the land.
Let’s talk a bit about the concept of the sacred marriage, at its heart a pagan concept. It symbolizes the union of the male and the female, the sun and the moon, the wild god of the hunt and the gentle lady of the grain fields, the summer and the winter, the darkness and the light. When the opposites are harmoniously balanced, symbolized by the marriage of the two contrary forces, all is well for the people. In some traditions, the sacred marriage is equated with the marriage of the king and queen. If their union is joyous and fertile, the land will prosper. If it is not, it bodes ill for their kingdom. Compare the fate of Gondor under Aragorn and Arwen with that of Camelot after the star-crossed triangle of Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot.
(There is debate as to how literally the ancient people associated the sacred marriage with real-life kingship; but that is for more learned scholars than I to argue.)
Although in modern times June is the month for weddings, pagans associate the sacred marriage with Beltane, or May Day. (You can read more about this festival in my blog here.)This is why I chose Beltane as the night my protagonist and his love reunite after an absence Raven's Wing, the second book of my Ravensblood urban fantasy series. Though they have been lovers for a few years by this point, this is the first time the reader sees them together intimately, and so I wanted it to be a special moment.
My forthcoming novel, Where Light Meets Shadow, begins with two kindred elven races sundered by a broken engagement between the queen of the Scathlan (dark elves) and the king of the Leas (the elves of the light.), a sort of failed sacred marriage. In the uneasy détente, the Leas have prospered and the Scathlan begun to fail. The genre is male/male fantasy romance, and yet I manage to use the idea of a new sacred marriage healing the land in a way that readers may not expect!
Raven's Wing: (now available)
Raven struggled to escape the world of dark magic he’d committed to as a bitter young man. Now he must come to terms with both his past and his ancestry. What will be his place in the Three Communities? When he finds himself on the run, trying to find the stolen Ravensblood, the task grows much harder. He must protect the people he has come to care about from the danger of this powerful artifact in the wrong hands, and at the same time prove he is not the thief!
Where Light Meets Shadow (August 8, 2015)
The Scathlan elf Kieran journeys through mortal lands in search of new songs and tales to renew his people’s dying culture. His most cherished, most impossible hope is to rediscover the powers of bards from legend in order to wake the queen, in a stupor since the end of the war between his own people and the Leas elves.
Kieran accidentally wanders into Leas lands, and a fall from his horse leaves him injured and at the mercy of his enemies.
He discovers that the Leas are not entirely as he believed them to be. He develops a friendship with the Leas healer-prince, and the two work together to recreate an ancient technique for melding bardic and healing magic, a technique he secretly hopes will wake his queen.
As friendship deepens into love, will they find a way to heal the rift between Leas and Scathlan, or will the old enmity destroy them?