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 TRAVELLING FOLK:

TRAVELLING FOLK are quite common.  They are of two kinds: Land travellers and River travellers. These people are merry, colourfully dressed, dishonest, and knowledgeable…they will cheat you, cure your wounds, and hustle you off to the cart of their oldest lady who will tell you something about the future you need to know.

I actually found this topic a little tougher (hardy har) than I thought I would, so this week I’ve only got three picks!

The Golden CompassGyptians – The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Gyptians are a troublingly named group of people (clearly a riff on “Gyspsy” which is a slur for Romani people) who help Lyra in her quest. They are portrayed as brave, fair, and wise; it is the Gyptian wise man Farder Coram who first teaches Lyra how to read the Compass. Gyptians are famed for their annual gatherings of all the tribes in England where they discuss important matters of counsel and then celebrate by partying. Sounds pretty good to me!

Hemlock GroveRumancek Family – Hemlock Grove by Brian McGreevy

The Rumancek family are Romani in origin and represent many of the characteristics of the “traveling folk,” most notably Peter Rumancek. Peter and his mother are con artists travellers, moving from town to town across the continental U.S. using their knowledge of supernatural creatures and phenomenon to their advantage. Certain members of the Rumancek family can tell fortunes and predict the future.Just as an aside: this book was terrible and the portrayal of the Romani made me uncomfortable.

In the Hand of the GoddessTyrans – In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce

Wow, it was surprisingly difficult to find an example of “Traveling Folk” in a Tammy novel! But fret not, the Tyran people introduced in the Song of the Lioness series fit the bill. Tyrans are river folk who occupy territory just beyond Tortall, known for their willingness to trade…and their cunning ability to cheat their buyers.


  1. Hummmmmm, fair point about the Gyptians. I don’t think I ever considered that. Also, yay for picking the nicest possible cover of Alanna #2!

    Slightly off-topic… have you seen the Mark Reads reviews of the Tortall books? I discovered them the other day and they are like the perfect blend of critical and adoring. Made me want to do a big Tammy reread.

    1. I haven’t! Googling…Googling…oh, wow. Holy crap there are a lot of comments on those posts!!! I like the chapter by chapter format – something tells me I’m going to be needing to re-read the Circle of Magic books at the very least. Thanks for letting me know about them! Tammy info is always on-topic and more than welcome. 😉

    • Bob Milne

    • 8 years ago

    The Gyptians! That was their name. I remembered the travelers from Golden Compass, but not well enough to say much about them. Thanks for refreshing my memory. 🙂

    1. Hey no worries! If there’s one classic SFF series I know inside and out it’s His Dark Materials. 🙂

  2. Oh damn. I was looking at the second book and thinking ‘I may like that.’ Then you add an aside. Damn

    1. Sorry man…but I’m also kind of not. That aside saved you from a lot of weirdness and an inexplicable number of creepy/gross sex scenes.

    • Lynn Williams

    • 8 years ago

    Like Nathan – I was looking at the second book cover and frankly thinking ‘wow’! Such a shame. I got the Pullman books but couldn’t remember the name – well done. But, the bonus of the week yet again for getting Tamora. Mine is a fail again although I suspect I may be able to squeeze a LotR mention in next week!
    Lynn 😀

    1. Hahaha…y’all don’t even know. Apparently Netflix adapted it and I’ve heard that it’s only slightly more palatable as a tv show. It was a serious struggle trying to find a Tamora Pierce trope that would fit! Hopefully next week is a little easier.

  3. I found the name “Gyptians” problematic when I read the book as well. Weird that he chose it, right?
    This was a hard topic – I feel like we should discuss tropes like this one sometimes, not just list examples; it’s really hard to find a non-stereotypical portrayal of the nomadic peoples.

    1. My only thought about it was that maybe it was meant to reflect the prejudice towards the Roma in England during the 20th century, since it’s an alternate Oxford…but I still wasn’t a fan.
      We’re in complete agreement on that one, Kaja. Honestly when I was working on this it occurred to me that this trope is basically a thinly disguised list of the stereotypes attached to the Romani and other nomadic cultures.

  4. I think like the others I was drawn to the second book as well, just because I haven’t heard of it before and I’m always curious about something different. Terrible though? Oh dear.

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    1. Yeah…I wish I could say that it’s “just me” but it really isn’t. You should check out some of the reviews on Goodreads – I went there for solace and solidarity after I’d finished the book. I needed people to commiserate with over how icky the whole thing was. There were some very cool ideas in there but they got overwhelmed by poor writing, cultural insensitivity, and grossness.

  5. Unlike most of the commenters, I’ve actually heard of the second book, but haven’t read it yet. That being said, I’m coming up empty this week, however I have been sick for the past 3 days, so my brain isn’t working overly well. Happy Friday!

    Carmel @ Rabid Reads

    1. I thought you might’ve read it, since it’s werewolf-centric (sort of). You’ll have to let me know what you think of it when you get around to reading it because it’s definitely controversial.

      Oh no, feel better Carmel! Rest up, read, drink soup and all that goodness.

Leave a Reply to Restiva Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.