Tough Travelling“Tough Traveling” is a weekly Thursday feature created by Nathan at Review Barn where participants make a new list each week based on The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones. This hilarious little book cheerfully pokes fun at the most prevalent tropes in fantasy. All are welcome to take part, and there is a link up over at his site. Join in any time!

This week’s trope is BARDS:

BARDS often join questing parties and provide entertainment around the campfire.  Sometimes their music even holds a little bit of magic.  Or a clue to an ancient mystery.  Or…

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this here before, but I’m actually a pretty serious musician. My principal instrument is the flute, which I tried to sneak on this list! I chose a group of musicians ranging from exceptionally skilled to exceptionally bad, and threw in a few with…unusual gifts.

SeraphinaSeraphina – Seraphina by Rachel Hartman 

Seraphina is a young musician recently come to the court of Goredd, impressing many with her virtuosic talent on the flute. While technically precise, she is admired because beauty of her music moves many in the court to tears. Seraphina is also the music tutor for the Princess Glisselda.
 CastleFflewddur Fflam – The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander  

For most of the series Fflewddur serves as comedic relief: he is an embarrassingly poor musician whose lute strings snap whenever he tells a lie…which is often. Probably why his music is so awful. But near the end of the series he redeems himself, using his lute in an altogether different fashion to much better success.

The Pied Piper Pied Piper – The Pied Piper of Hamelin 

Based on a German legend from the Middle Ages, this folktale was popularized by the Brothers Grimm and the English poet Robert Browning. Man lures young children away from their beds with magical music? Hella creepy. Despite wracking my brain, the Pied Piper was the only bard/musician I could think of whose aims were evil. Am I missing anyone?

 Wee Free Men by Terry PratchettThe Gonnagle – Discworld series by Terry Pratchett 

Each Nac Mac Feegle clan (fairy folk) has a gonnagle, a title given to a poet-bard. This bard’s task is to compose poetry so terrible it will bewilder and demoralize their enemies in battle…and some gonnagles can make their enemies’ ears explode by playing their mousepipes (bagpipes made out of mouse skin).RIP Terry Pratchett.


  1. Whaat? I did not know you’re a musician! Do you do concerts or is it more of a private thing?
    I also chose Seraphina and Flam 🙂 Yes the Pied Piper is terrible – I only read the fairytale version but still. Anyone with powers that take away free will is on my blacklist!

    1. Yep! More than a decade of lessons and performances have made me a grade A orchestra geek, haha. Before university I performed a lot more regularly, but these days I just perform with my school’s orchestra (about twice a year). I’m hoping to make more time for it this summer, though.

      YES I completely agree! There’s nothing I hate more than someone trying to control my decisions irl, so I can’t imagine how bad it would be if magic took my autonomy away completely.

    • Windsprite

    • 8 years ago

    I didn’t thought of the Pied Piper for even a single moment… but I think people forget, that he was a talented man who helped the people in Hamelin, who, after their problem was solved, didn’t thank the man a single time. So, I somehow don’t think it’s creepy or terrible. It’s just medieval behaviour…
    I’m a musician (kind of) too, but I just sing in the school choir and play piano with negiligible succes, not in a way I’d relate to bards 😀
    Hah, I’m telling myself already to read something by Terry Pratchett. I wanted to do so the whole year and now he’s dead… so now it’s actually high time to do it…

    1. Hmmm, interesting point about the Pied Piper! It’s really cool to hear that so many people participating in this meme are musical! I loved choir when I was in high school! I have a feeling a lot of people will be reading more Pratchett this year.

    • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    • 8 years ago

    Great picks! Pied Piper is perfect and totally not expected. Perhaps I should have selected the King Rat version for a bit of Mieville! But I never would have remembered! 🙂

    1. Whoa, Mieville does a reinterpretation of the Pied Piper? This I’ve gotta see!

    • bookwraiths

    • 8 years ago

    Wow, a list of books that I need to try. Thanks for introducing me to them.

    1. You’re welcome! Learning about new books is the #1 benefit to this meme. 🙂

  2. Well, I thought I was being clever this week including Seraphina, but it seems to be the most popular one among bloggers, right behind the Kingkiller Chronicle! XD


    1. Right?! I had no idea so many people had read it. Such a great book!

  3. Oh damn. I knew there was a Pratchett one i missed and now I really hate myself for that. War music.

    1. Don’t worry, you’re still the reigning Pratchett expert in Tough Traveling. You can’t win ’em all!

  4. I used to play the flute ages ago! Flutists of America Unite! This is a really great well-rounded list! It’s the second list where I’ve seen Fflewddur Fflam and I definitely think I need to check those books out – they sound adorable! The Pied Piper is also a great as should-be-obvious-but-totally-isn’t!

    1. Flutists of North America, anyway! Gotta represent the Great White North. 😉 YES the Chronicles of Prydain are seriously so great, definitely classic children’s lit for sure.

    • Lynn Williams

    • 8 years ago

    The Gonnagle – well done. And the Pied Piper – I remembered and then instantly forgot. And you could be on your own list.
    Lynn 😀

    1. Hahaha, that’s awesome! Maybe I should’ve included myself in the snark sidekick list too. 😉

  5. I’m just kicking myself that I missed doing this topic! Good choices, all of them (well, I’m not familiar with the Pratchett book, but I’ll get around to it eventually.) Seraphina is wonderful; I’m reading Shadow Scale now.

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