Tag Archives: ninja

Fantasy Literature: The Role of the Assassin

They slip through shadows, hidden from view. Walking softly, to sneak up on you (Hey, that rhymes!). The silent killers of the fantasy world: Assassins, paid in gold to cut someone’s throat. They are a formidable foe both in rumor and in action. But do they have a proper place and function in a fantasy world?

 

The difficulty with assassins is the lack of moral clarity they engender. I read a book once (I think it was The Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb) about the life of an apprentice assassin. It was interesting enough, as far as it went; the assassins described were in the direct employ of a king, and that, I guess, gave them some legitimacy—or, at least, that was how the author intended to give them legitimacy. For myself, I would probably avoid making an assassin a protagonist in a novel. There is just something too cold in taking money for killing that prevents me from using them as such. Still, although Robin Hobb did a good job and everything, it was always in the back of my mind … yeah, this guy really isn’t a good guy (of course, maybe that’s the pot calling the kettle black considering how my novels are progressing … wink, nod), even though this is a fun read.

 

Anyway, I like using assassins as weapons of the antagonist. They’re great for developing political intrigue. The nobles are plotting against each, jockeying for power and position, one hires an assassin, the others respond in kind, and all hell breaks loose. People dropping dead left and right. Great stuff. My favorite type of assassin is, of course, the legendary ninja of Japan. Trained since birth as the ultimate killing machine. Woo hoo! I based my own super-assassins known as bloodseekers on the Japanese ninja. I intend to introduce one in the next book. It’ll be great. More chaos. More blood.

 

Anyway, those are my thoughts on assassins in fantasy literature for today.

Pressure Points in Fantasy Literature

One of the topics I’ve been interested in lately is pressure points. I purchased a couple books on the subject from Barnes and Noble and read up on it. What I wanted to find was a complete map listing all the pressure points in the body and how best to use them, so I could experiment on myself with this or that technique and see what happens. I’m still looking. I found a book on Shiatsu Massage and Acupressure and that listed a great many of them, but not all. A number of those listed were on the back of the body and, therefore, more difficult to access, particularly in a fight. I have a black belt in the martial arts, so I know a couple from that endeavor, but I would like to know more. As it happens, I stopped studying martial arts right when we were beginning to learn about such topics as chi and pressure points. I know enough to know both are real, but I lack all but the most rudimentary skill in either.

 

What is a pressure point? I’m not sure I know how to define it properly. It is a point on the human body where, when pressure is applied, the flow of chi can be interrupted. This can result in pain or relief from pain depending on the amount of pressure applied and the condition of the body prior to the application of pressure. Chi (or a person’s physical life force) is said to flow through meridians that exist throughout the body. Some have equated meridians to nerve pathways in the body. Again, I’m not sure if that is actually the case, or if meridians are something else entirely. I do know that chi can do a number of things that our current understanding of nerve energy does not allow.

 

Anyway, as far as fantasy literature is concerned, my interest in pressure points stems from my use of martial arts in my novels. I haven’t used martial arts in my novels a lot yet—other than as a general understanding as to how combat works—but I have a character on the horizon, who is essentially a ninja, although I don’t call him that. He has a thorough understanding of pressure points and how to use them; he has even mastered the dreaded “touch of death.” In any event, I wouldn’t expect the “touch of death” to be thoroughly discussed in a book I purchased at Barnes and Noble (if it, in fact, exists … which is a big if) but I did want to find a map of all the points known. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case.

 

The best way to learn about pressure points remains through a qualified teacher and instructor in martial arts, acupressure, or acupuncture. There’s only so much a book can tell you. But I lack the money for formal training. Besides, I’m not trying to become a master of the arts; I’m just curious. Anyway, they have a unique place in a fantasy world—and the advantage of using them in a fantasy world is that they can be altered and changed to the writer’s preference. The “touch of death” may not exist in the real world, but there is no reason why you can’t use it in a fantasy world. Likewise, other effects can be thrown in; and it will remain believable, because it is, in the end, a fantasy world.