I am back with another jumble of thoughts about something that is part of any violent story, not only limited to fantasy though it’s fantasy I read the most so my prevalent point of view will be for that genre.
Heroes and villains will both go through much and not everyone is lucky to emerge without at least a token of remembrance for the perils endured. And based on several factors, how the character and those around him perceive battle scars can vary.
There are pretty much two polar opposites (and several shades between those). In cultures that are about aesthetics, maybe even vainglorious, any kind of scar will most likely be treated with disdain. It’ll be a sign that the one bearing them is most likely uncivilized brute who solves matters with brute force and it sometimes comes around to hit him back. Scars would mean either lack of patience for a non-violent solution or being at the wrong place and time.
In warrior cultures, the situation is pretty much the opposite: battle scars can be seen as a measure of accomplishment because it’s not likely one would go through battles and wars without at least small injury. It can go quite far, all the way into quite sadistic cultures where their members are willing to cut themselves to show how much pain they can take and where scars can be viewed as decoration, so to say.
But how could the character in question view it, or his friends?
Well, that can vary as well. I’ll borrow a line from Brisingr where Angela shares her thoughts about that matter.
“The question is actually a rather philosophical one, predicated on whether when looking at a man who has lost a big toe, you say, ‘Oh, he’s a cripple’ or ‘Oh, he was smart or strong or lucky enough to escape worse injury.’”
Personally, I’d say it’s most likely perception of how the character sees the actual event. In the story I am working on, there are moments in the to-be second book that touch this subject. One of them is when the main characters get out of a very bad situation severely scratched and bruised and with a burned shoulder. Outnumbered as he was, a scar from that burn is definitely something that is about being lucky to escape worse.
Later in the book, another character suffers a nasty injury which leaves a scar on her side. Several weeks later, when she talks about the event with the main character, she clearly shows that she kind of considers it a proof of dedication – she was willing to fight mad warlocks with nothing but bow and arrows and despite her grievous injury, managed to make a difference.
And that probably influences how their closest will see it. If someone says that the injuries suffered in a conflict were a small price for what the conflict achieved, they are likely to believe it. If they are told the story in full scope and can see that it could definitely be worse, they’ll most likely share that opinion.
Good and bad guys
There’s also one big difference to mention. The villains barely care for their underlings. They are pieces on the chessboard to be used for their goals and, most of the time, what happens to them is irrelevant to the villain. Sometimes, it might be better to not return at all instead of returning beaten as the villain will most likely add countless words of disappointment.
The good guys, on the other hand, care about those willing to fight for them. I’ll again use a line from a book to show that.
“…one of the biggest distinctions between us and our enemies is our compassion and our love for our fellows. That may seem like a weakness at first glance, but I believe that, in the long run, it is one of our greatest strengths. You won’t sacrifice your friends needlessly or callously, but they will willingly sacrifice themselves for you if the need arises…”
While the villains are often lacking any kind of empathy, those fighting them do not and many will regret injuries those fighting with/for them suffered, especially if they were family or close friends.
Those are just some of the thoughts I had on this matter. Feel free to share yours.