Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fantasy World Schools Part 2

In Fantasy World Schools and Education Part 1, we learned how to define culture in a developing fantasy world by looking at the educational system. We looked at the importance of determining how schools function, their purpose, and such cultural issues as who can attend. Now we'll move to what they learn, what it costs and how they get there.

What Do Fantasy Pupils Learn

Writing fantasy opens the opportunity to include elements of magic within the learning process. Pupils who learn magical chants, reading and writing of a mythical or ancient language, and rituals relevant to how the magic of the world works are provided with the knowledge and special training necessary to survive the emerging quest breaking forth in the plot of your story.

Other than subjects like grammar, history and numbers, students can study subjects like philosophy, magic, oratory and logic. In the fantasy story Sky High students learned to control their super powers and in the process they were tested and sectioned into two groups-Superhero or Sidekick. In fantasy, students enrolled in magical classes may be broken into categories for ability rather than age.

  • Apprentice Class - Those new to learning magic but ready to learn.
  • Novice Class - Students have some training magic but have never competed with others in the use of their powers.
  • Magician, Wizard, Sorcery (or whatever you title your magical people) Class - These pupils have proven their magical abilities through competition but are still learning magical abilities.
  • Order (Provide appropriate name for your fantasy culture) Class - Just like religions separate their clerics into different orders, magic does the same. Once characters join an order they have competed and proven they have a higher understanding and command of magic. If you don't want to use terms such as apprentice and novice, numbered levels also make distinctions readers understand without lengthy description. Just make it clear if level 1 is the expert level or a group for beginners.

    What Does It Cost?

    To keep the plot interesting, education in the fantasy world must have a cost. In your fantasy realm is tuition charged to attend school? Is running the school a profitable business? If so, who profits? Is it a corrupt business? If your fantasy world has poor villages, do the parents in these smaller towns have to scrimp and save to see their children receive an education? Is it even an option? Do farmers or craftsmen work extra hours so a son might attend school? Or do they have to give up their first born to allow the rest of their children to receive an education? If a son or daughter receives an education will they be able to rise in the world and have an easier life than their parents?

    Do the females in your fantasy world have the same opportunity for education? Long ago, girls received schooling at nunneries, but the teaching received was useful for religious life. For the most part, non-church schools didn't admit girls. Instead, girls' learned to manage the household, to sing, play an instrument, dance, and also learned crafts like needlework. Care of the sick was also included in household duties. In medieval times, a girl knew more than her brothers about healing and the medicinal powers of certain herbs. In Jo Hall's fantasy novel Hierath, even though she came from a lowly family Lydia learned to be a healer, a talent that came in handy as war tore the kingdom apart.

    How Do Fantasy Characters Get to School

    For fantasy writers, transportation to and from a magical school can be as mundane as a school bus ride, or as exciting as flying by some magical means to a secret location free from mortal intrusion. If magical methods transport fantasy students to school, be sure to keep abilities consistent with what has been established. Even when it's magic, it must make sense to the reader.
    In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, when Harry Potter heads straight for the brick wall at King's Cross Station to board the Hogwarts Express from platform 9 ¾, readers know he can pass through the wall. When the bus in Sky High picks students up, it's no surprise when it leaves the ground. Whatever mode of transportation you choose, make it relevant to the rest of the story.


    Erin said...

    I love your blog. I hope one day to be writer also and all your post are very helpful and interesting. Is it alright if I put a link to your blog in mine?

    Donna Sundblad said...

    Hi Erin, that would be fine. What's the name of your blog?