As a teenager I was obsessed with David Eddings’ Belgariad. This fantasy epic introduced us to a ragtag band of thieves, assassins, a grumpy old man and a confused farm boy bouncing across continents in turnip wagons in search of stolen treasure. The knitting together of their various bad habits, obsessions and sense of right into a questing fellowship stayed with me long after I finished the series.
The notion of a fellowship is a long-standing fantasy trope, spanning through literature and film adaptations across the years. It crosses into gaming, into online conversations and networking. It is representative of a force for good, of the doughty small people and the Scooby Gang standing up against the Big Bad, whether it be Sauron or the Master.
The best fellowships draw you in with their interlocking characterisations playing off one another. Here’s the warrior, here’s the supernatural, along comes a wizard, and now you have a wise-cracking trio ready to extinguish the threat of extinction of all of mankind. I’m thinking of Netflix’s Castlevania right now, with its lashings of blood, swearing and odd companionship.
It’s part of the attraction of the genre. When the odds are long, it can be the oddball, the nerd, the slightly quirky person with the sideways take on life that can save the day with a diffident suggestion. It can be inclusive, welcoming even.
One definition of fellowship is that of friendly association, particularly with people who share similar interests. Think of cosplay, of conventions, the bringing of like-minded souls together to forge new friendships and to riff off one another with new ideas. The best fellowships can be challenging, thought provoking and, on occasion, testing. They push you to be a better you.
Not in competitive way. Rather, in an appreciative way. I realised this week that I am part of a fellowship. The Fellowship of the Pen. Four of us who get together to talk, plan, challenge, encourage and support each other’s creative endeavours. To be that hand on the elbow when the going gets tough, to provide a sympathetic ear when the writing road gets bumpy. I’m blessed to be part of this group; I doubt I would have had the courage to self-publish my short stories had they not nagged on at me for months to HIT THE PUBLISH BUTTON!
Fellowships can be friendship groups, but they have a slightly different dynamic in that you are working towards a common goal. The epitome of fellowship has to be The Fellowship Of The Ring, as envisaged in Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and brought beautifully to life in Pater Jackson’s film in 2001. There is a glorious moment in Rivendell when Aragorn kneels to Frodo and gives him his sword, followed by Legolas and Gimli, which leads to the formation of the ultimate fellowship that takes down Sauron. Yes, it diverges and fractures, and loyalties are tested along the way. But ultimately all are working to a common goal, and their companionship drives them on to achieve the impossible.
I’m not saying that we of The Pen are going to save the world. Perhaps boost stationery and prosecco sales somewhat. But that swapping of ideas, that knowing that whatever you throw in the ring will not be considered daft, or unachievable – that is priceless.
Sometimes we overlook the worth of what we have, because it’s just there. It’s grown organically through time and we take it for granted. Perhaps as we move towards a new year, we could take a step back and think of the fellowships we’ve built in our lives and how they’ve helped us. Maybe you are looking for fellowship, to find that group that knits about you in mutual support and good humour. Even if they do persuade you to watch the Christmas Macarena against your better judgement!
Finally, not all fellowships are built for ever. They achieve their aim, celebrate, scatter and then reconvene at intervals to reminisce and toast their past achievements. There’s something a little splendid in that. It doesn’t always help to dwell in the past, but it can become a stepping stone into the future.
I wonder if you’ve found your own fellowship? Or if any fictional fellowship out there has caught your imagination more so than others? Maybe consider a meet up over the festive period, drop a group email to ask how everyone is, or raise a glass to absent friends. Sometimes the pen, with a good thought, is mightier than the sword. Even Aragorn’s.
It takes all of us to make the world go around. Thanks, as always, for reading.