Tough Travels – Missing Heirs

Every Thursday, Nathan (over at Fantasy Review Barn) leads the gang in touring the mystical countryside, looking for fun and adventure. His Tough Traveling feature picks one of the most common tropes in fantasy each week, as seen in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones, and invites us to join in the adventure. All are invited to take part, so if you're joining the journey late, no worries . . . we'll save you a spot in the caravan.

This week’s tour topic is: MISSING HEIRS

MISSING HEIRS occur with great frequency. At any given time, half the countries in Fantasyland will have mislaid their crown princess/prince.

I struggled a bit with this one, which is rather surprising given how common the theme of lost, hidden, or missing heirs is in the genre. Regardless, here are the sagas that came to mind for me:

While most people remember The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien as the story of a hobbit, a wizard, and a ring, a huge part of it revolves around the need to restore the rightful king of Gondor back to his throne. The identity of that heir is a driving force in the first half of the saga, but at this point I think we all know that it's Aragorn who is the hidden heir, a descendant of the Kings of the West.

The original Farseer Trilogy from Robin Hobb is a variation on this theme, with FitzChivalry being a hidden bastard and heir to the throne. He gives up his right to the throne, however, and agrees to serve the King as a trained assassin. His lineage becomes more and more important as the series goes on, and while there are hints or suggestions that the world would be better off were he to step up and claim the throne, this is that rare fantasy saga where the hidden heir remains just that - hidden.

The Memory Sorrow And Thorn series by Tad Williams features a young protagonist by the name of Simon (later Simeon) who was raised as an orphaned foundling, with a a gold ring that eventually reveals his true heritage as a descendant of the former Fisher King. It's this secret heritage that makes it possible for him to marry his true love at the end of the saga, a royal daughter of the current ruling lineage.

One of the key elements of the Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin is the story of Daenerys Targaryen, the last descendant of the historic rulers of Westeros, and the only surviving child of King Aerys II, who was deposed during Robert's Rebellion. Exiled far across the Narrow Sea to Dragonstone island, she is slowly gathering allies in a long-gestating plan to take back the throne of her ancestors - starting with the Dothraki. Oh, and she just happens to be the one responsible or bringing dragons back into the world, which is (of course) awesome. Jon Snow is suspected to be a hidden heir as well, but so far that's just a theory, without the full backstory being revealed.

Perhaps the best example of a hidden heir, however, is the Tamir Triad by Lynn Flewelling. Here we have a young man, the king's nephew, growing up far from the throne. As it turns out, however, Tobin is really a young woman by the name of Tamir, the true Queen. With the usurper king killing any girl child with even a minor claim to the throne, darkest magic was used to disguise her as a boy, raising her ignorant of not only her true heritage, but her true gender. This is an incredibly powerful work of fantasy, with a very dark sort of fairy tale feel to it, that did an amazing job of dealing with the difficulties of hiding, revealing, and restoring an heir.


  1. Great list, Bob. :) Totally forgot about Aragorn. Duh! :)

  2. while I was watching LOTR movies (I hadn't read the books) I wished Eomer would turn into the heir of Rohan :) I do love him so and his Eorlings!

  3. Oh, right, Fitz!! It's been so long since I've read that series that I forgot about him being the heir... I also have Aragorn and Daenerys on my list :)

  4. The Bone Doll's Twin has the honor of being one of the longest 'to-read' books on my Goodreads shelf; it has been there from basically the beginning.

  5. Great choices! A lot of them were staring me in the face, I don't know how I didn't think to add them - Fitz, Aragorn, etc.

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

  6. It pains me that I didn't include Aragorn on my list this week. What was I thinking?! There are some real classics on this list!


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