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Mary Robinette Kowal – Fantasy Revolutions That Make for Fantastic Holidays


July 4 means different things to different people: Fireworks, barbecue, a day off from work. But the founders weren’t thinking about any of that in 1776. They were readying for war — an eight-year struggle of which we mark only a turning point. What turning points might some of our fantasy heroes celebrate, some 233 years after their revolutions?

Willow (1988)
With plans to kill every the baby in her country, Queen Bavmorda has given her people more than enough reason for an uprising. Yet folks make no apparent effort to save their children. The turning point? When Willow, a foreigner, shows up with an army of allies. In the end, the queen’s daughter marries the leader of the army.
Holiday: Eloramas. To celebrate the birth of the prophesied child, families release small boats and make a wish.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
This is more of a mini-revolution, as Robin and his band of Merry Men overthrow only one corrupt sheriff. But the guy has been taking advantage of the king’s absence to raise taxes, harass maids, and kill anyone who disagrees with him. The turning point comes when Robin returns from the Crusades and begins robbing from the rich to give to the poor. Revolution ensues.
Holiday: Everyday is Robin Hood Day. People celebrate by traveling to a camp in Sherwood Forest.

Eragon (2006)
Alagaësia is plagued by a tyrant king, Galbatorix, who’s into genocide. The rebel Varden hangs out in the mountains with some dwarfs planning an overthrow when, lo, a dragon comes to save the day. Huzzah for aerial assaults.
Holiday: Dragon’s Eve. Children fly dragon kites loaded with fireworks.

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Before the heroes you know and love enter the picture, Dark Lord Sauron conquers Middle-earth using the One Ring. The tide turns when Isildur cuts off Sauron’s ring finger. Five hundred years later, the ring is still a problem. How to solve? By biting off the ring finger of a Hobbit, natch.
Holiday: Baggins Day. Delicate almond cookies in the shape of a finger are served with tea. A ring is placed at the bottom of one of the cups. Whoever finds it is allowed no cookies.

A Bug’s Life (1998)
Oh, no! The grasshoppers are making the ants work and taking all their food. Thank God for actors. (The ants who manage to overthrow the evil overlords here are an acting troupe.) The turning point? When the critter thespians save someone from a giant bird. What can I say? A little success gives ants confidence.
Holiday: Bird Day. Wearing bird masks, young bugs go door-to-door with a riddle. If you can’t guess the answer, you have to give them candy.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
The White Witch has an unusual modus operandi for a tyrant: She likes it to always be winter (never Christmas). I guess for fashion reasons. Plus, she has a nasty habit of turning people into stone. At what point do the Narnians resolve to win the day? When Father Christmas arrives, heralding the White Witch’s waning power and the rise of Aslan, a Jesus figure.
Holiday: Christmas. (Duh.) People gather around a decorated tree and exchange gifts.

Dragonheart (1996)
These poor rebels go through two generations of evil leaders, first in the form of King Freyne and then his son, Einon. These folks have been trying all sorts of rebellions and insurrections, but a virgin’s death leads them to a dragon that’s able to bring about the downfall of Einon.
Holiday: Stake Day. To celebrate, people erect tall posts in their yards. (Virgin optional.)

V for Vendetta (2006)
The far-right Norsefire regime installs cameras in public spaces, whisks people off the street for questioning, and performs medical experiments on prisoners. It’s ripe for an overthrow, which comes about when a masked man blows up parliament. It’s amazing how one person can cause a total upheaval. Plus, it’s an amazing fireworks display.
Holiday: Guy Fawkes Day. People burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes. Afterward, everyone goes to a pub.

Who says fantasy fans get to have all the fun? Here are two unforgettable scifi insurrections:

Star Wars Trilogy (1977-1983) – Children celebrate the fall of the Empire on Medal Day by beating a large Death Star piñata with toy lightsabers while their parents drum on old Stormtrooper helmets.

Independence Day (1996) – July 4. An alien invasion renders the whole world part of the festivities. Don’t worry, you can still blow sh-t up.

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Mary Robinette Kowal is the winner of the 2008 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and a professional puppeteer. Her first novel, Shades of Milk and Honey, is being published by Tor in 2010.

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