CSFF Blog Tour – Corus The Champion By D. Barkley Briggs, Day 2

Borrowing versus creating — when is a work considered “derivative”? I’ve asked that question before in a short two-part series of posts, and yet the topic came up again in my article yesterday at Spec Faith. Consequently, as I read some of the tour posts about Corus The Champion by D. Barkley Briggs (AMG/Living Ink), the topic was fresh on my mind.

Clearly Dean (which is what the D in D. Barkley Briggs stands for) did his share of borrowing. His epic story includes Arthurian figures, but he doesn’t stop there as others on the tour noted:

Briggs deals heavily in the folk traditions of our own world. Arthurian legends are central to his story. His fairies are drawn more purely after the pattern in European fairytales than I have ever seen, and I saw a surprising number of gleanings from the Norse. (from Shannon McDermott‘s Day 1 post)

In addition, tour member Gillian Adams noted particular similarities to Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain:

Many aspects of the Legends of Karac Tor (the horned king, cauldron born, etc.) seem remarkably similar to the Chronicles of Prydain and there is a very simple reason: both Alexander and Briggs drew upon ancient Welsh mythology from the Mabinogen to form their tales. (from “The Peoples and Creatures of Karac Tor”)

At the same time the Legends of Karoc Tor has its own inventiveness — the Gorse, the Highlanders who strap on wings — as well as a new twist to familiar devices. Each of the brothers has a gift, for instance, but these have their own uniqueness. For example, one boy can “mind-speak” to birds — not to other humans or to the animal kingdom at large, but to birds.

The main illustration of this twist to the familiar is evident in the story structure. It is a portal fantasy, in which characters from the real world travel to a fantasy world, but it is more than that — Dean adds in a layer by having a few chosen characters travel between the worlds and back and forth through time. (I was immediately reminded of Stephen Lawhead’s current series with its use of ley lines — but Dean didn’t borrow from Lawhead since he wrote his book before The Skin Map was published).

Of course there are also elements familiar to our contemporary world — political in-fighting, greed and exploitation, corruption, religious squabbles, and more.

In short, I find Corus The Champion to be a wonderful blend of the familiar and the fantastic, the known and the unknown, the borrowed and the created. Dean has taken time to build his world, to give it depth, to allow the place to impact the story, to show the people shaped by the world. This is the kind of writing J. R. R. Tolkien referred to as sub-creation. And quite honestly, it’s the kind of fantasy I like best.

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