Tough Travels: Minions

It’s tough travelling time again! This feature was originally created and run by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn and is now hosted by Laura Hughes at Fantasy Faction. Inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’s humorous classic The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, every month it puts the spotlight on a particular fantasy trope, theme or cliché, and invites bloggers to list stand-out books related to that week’s theme.

This month’s theme is minions:

Minions of the DARK LORD can be male or female, though he tends to favour males (who seem to be more susceptible to the Evil One’s wiles). They can take many forms: BAD KINGS, ENCHANTRESSES, HIGH PRIESTS, EUNUCHS, DUKES, REGENTS or WITCHES. Additionally, there are the non-human minions, such as ORCS, TROLLS, GOBLINS and random OTHER PEOPLES . . . not to mention MUTANT NASTIES, carefully selected MONSTERS, UNDEAD, and DEMONS.

I like this topic, because I feel Dark Lords and Ladies can be a little distant and lacking in personality (especially if they are inhuman sources of pure evil), so the minions that serve them are often more interesting, prominent, repulsive and devious. I’m sometimes more satisfied to see a loathsome minion meet their end than to see their evil master follow suit!

So here are four fantasy books which I thought featured some particularly memorable minions:

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Book Cover: The Chronicles of NarniaFor me one of the most classic minions is the wolf Maugrim in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. As the captain of the White Witch’s Secret Police, he does the queen’s dirty work and directs her other minions, striking terror into the hearts of Narnians everywhere. Unlike fantasy minions who’ve been corrupted by evil magic, or who simply flock to power while it lasts, Maugrim is the kind of minion who seems to innately believe in his mistress’s cause, enjoys his violent role, and remains loyal until the very end.

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4)

Book Cover: WinterWinter is the fourth book in the The Lunar Chronicles, a YA science fantasy series that draws heavily on fairy tales. The many minions of the evil Queen of Luna are particularly prominent in this book, though are present throughout the series. They include genetically modified mind-controlling thaumaturgeswolf soldiers, brainwashed royal guards, and simpering nobles. Perhaps the most powerful minion of all is Thaumaturge Aimery Park, a twisted individual who enjoys using mind control to force others to do his bidding, and is unfailingly loyal to his queen.

The Lord of the Rings

Book Cover: The Lord of the RingsI had to include The Lord of the Rings for this one, simply because there are so many minions that come to mind when I think of Middle Earth. First, there are the Orcs, Trolls and Nazgûl – all monsters that have been created or controlled so they can do Sauron’s bidding. Then you have men who’ve had their minds corrupted by his dark power, like Saruman and the Steward of Gondor (Denethor). The minion I most love to hate, however, is royal advisor Gríma Wormtongue, who is secretly working for Saruman to corrupt King Theoden. He is the epitome of a slimy, sleazy, obsequious manipulator.

The Final Empire (Mistborn #1)

Book Cover: The Final EmpireI think the evil Lord Ruler in the Mistborn series has some of the scariest minions out there. His Steel Inquisitors – a kind of elite police force, are humans that have had metal spikes hammered through their eyes and other parts of their bodies. The spikes give them hemalurgy magic, and also mean the Lord Ruler can control them if the need be. Their skills in combat are near unmatchable, and they are also scarily good at surveillance.

The Lord Ruler also uses Koloss – powerful brutish giants with baggy, ill-fitting skin and rampant bloodlust – to fight wars for him. These are possibly the most gruesome, repulsive minions I’ve ever come across. Worse than orcs!

___________

Of course, there are some undead armies and ghostly minions I could have given a mention here, but I thought I’d stick to living – or seemingly living – agents of evil rulers to avoid making this list too long.

For links to more Tough Travelling posts, or to join in yourself and see next month’s theme, check out the host page on Fantasy Faction.

And if you have your own favourite minion, feel free to mention them in the comments!

< Last Month’s Tough Travels: ‘Dragons’

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18 thoughts on “Tough Travels: Minions

  1. ooh yes love this topic! Especially since I agree that minions can make evil dark lords a bit more personal. Maugrim and the secret police are the perfect examples!! And you’re so right about Thaumaturge Aimery Park- great choice!! I’d completely forgotten about that until now, but it was really well done. And YES a million times over to orcs and nazgul- they’re totally *it* when it comes to picturing minions for me. Wormtongue is an awesome pick too!!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is a great list! It’s been YEARS since I’ve read The Lion, the Witch, and the Waredrobe. But who could forget Maugrim? I have to add Wormtail from Harry Potter to this list, obviously. He’s such a stereotypical minion. I also love adorable evil minions. Like, well, the Minions from Despicable Me. Do they count?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah yes, Wormtail is a great choice too! Actually now you mention it, Voldemort had so many minions… but I think Wormtail was indeed the most stereotypical – very pathetically subservient, not to mention responsible for the crucial betrayal! Funnily enough, I haven’t even seen the Despicable Me films but those little yellow guys are now so synonymous with the word ‘minions’ that when I saw this topic, they were the first thing I thought of! And there’s no rule that says you can’t mention fantasy movie minions, so I guess they have to count 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good choices. Since I’m currently reading Orwell’s Animal Farm to my kids, my first thought was of Napoleon’s dogs. Taken away as pups for ‘education,’ they reappear as the essential muscle when he asserts his power over the farm. I also had an interesting thought about Crabbe and Goyle from Harry Potter: they are essentially the minions of a minion. I tried to think of other examples of this, but couldn’t. There are a few in Elantris, but their roles are too minor to be interesting. Rowling uses Crabbe and Goyle in interesting ways with the potion I’m forgetting the name of which lets Ron and Harry look like them for spying purposes, and then as pawns in a later scene in the Requirement Room fire.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t read Animal Farm yet, but I intend to! Good point – minions of minions are interesting too. Harry Potter definitely had those with Crabbe and Goyle (I think later in the series when the Malfoy’s family lost favour they became more direct minions – but they were mostly sub-minions… if that’s even a word). The potion you’re thinking of is Polyjuice – I loved that part!

      I’m trying to think of other interesting sub-minions. I suppose Saruman was a minion to Sauron, and Wormtongue was Saruman’s minion… and as J.M mentioned in the comments above, Sauron himself was originally a minion! I suppose powerful villains will often have big hierarchies and armies underneath them, which creates rife territory for minions of minions.

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