I think that many people out there underestimate the power fiction can have on the world. I know for me, I am who I am because of a few stories that have played large roles in my life. I have no idea who I would have turned out to be had I not encountered these stories when I did (or if I even encountered them at all.
After considering this, I decided to write out some of the lessons I have learned from fictional stories. Actually, I have chosen lessons from the stories I think have had the largest impact on who I am as a person: Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Torchwood, and The Lord of the Rings. Some of these lessons have connections with more than one of these stories, or even all of them. So, in no particular order or importance, I give you the list of lessons I have learned from fiction.
Even The Smallest Person Can Change The World
This one you might recognize, as it appears almost word for word in The Lord of the Rings. Galadriel is the one who says it outright. I think in the context of the book it referred specifically to hobbits, but I also think it means more than that. Sure, in the book many underestimate hobbits, and it does apply to them…but what I got out of it is that even the voices most people would ignore initially, the ones who might initially believe they have no impact, can have lots of power and enact change.
In The Lord of the Rings, beyond the story lines surrounding Frodo, Merry, Pippin, and Sam…I think we see this lesson with Éowyn. People underestimate her simply because she is a woman, and yet I think things would have been very different after The Battle of Pelennor Fields without her strength.
In the grand scheme of things, I think I would count as a small person. My voice probably does not have the same starting power, and yet I could still enact change. I think we all could, if we tried.
Break The Mold
The standout characters in these works, like Neville and Luna in Harry Potter, are the ones that break the mold. If we were all the same, the world would not be that amazing of a place, would it? The ones who do not follow every move the majority makes add the colour into the world. They are just as smart, creative, et cetera. Breaking the mold makes things interesting. Besides, who wants to be a cookie cutter normal person?
You Are Important
I think the Doctor is great at showing people their brilliance and importance in the world. Just look at what he did for Donna! I do agree with him as well, everyone is important in one way or another. Everyone has their strengths. He actually says it in his 11th form: “in nine hundred years of time and space and I’ve never met anybody who wasn’t important before,” but I think it was clear long before then.
Everyone Needs Support
I am not sure which story this stems from originally. In all cases, the main “hero” has people surrounding them who help in some ways, both large and small, throughout the journey. I think it is clear that some play an essential role.
There is no way that Frodo would have destroyed the Ring in the end, were it not for Sam’s presence. Even though the ultimate destruction was a bit of an accident, I am sure that Frodo would have failed much earlier had it not been for Sam.
Do you think that Harry would have been successful without Ron and Hermione? What about all the others who fought in the war, like Lupin, Tonks, the Weasleys, and Neville? One of Harry’s biggest strengths was how he had support and was not alone in his fight. If he had done things alone (though they would not have let him), I doubt he would have succeeded.
I also want to bring Up Captain Jack and Gwen in Torchwood: Miracle Day here, as I re-watched all of Torchwood shortly before writing this post. There is a moment near the end where Jack knows what has to happen, though he does not want to do it. I know he would have done it, that is just who he is, but Gwen also knows his reluctance and says she will shoulder that part so he does not have to. I do not want to share more than that in the event you have not seen it, but if you have I know you know what I am talking about.
Time Doesn’t Matter As Much As You Think
There is a moment where the 10th Doctor where he says “Some people live more in twenty years than others do in eighty. It’s not the time that matters, it’s the person.”
You can choose to do nothing and live for a long time. Or, you can do something, and live for a short time and yet still have done more. Some people pack their lives full with projects, family, et cetera, and accomplish so much in a single week or even just a day. Knowing that it is the person that matters reminds me that I need to live my life as full as possible.
The Bad Doesn’t Out Weigh The Good
I know when the Doctor regenerates, many fans have difficulties adjusting, especially when it is their Doctor that just left. I know this was definitely the case for me when the 10th Doctor, played by David Tennant, regenerated into the 11th Doctor, played by Matt Smith. It took me a little while to adjust to the idea, but then Matt’s Doctor taught me something:
“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”
Sometimes it is tough to remember this when bad things happen, but of course, it is still the truth. One of the good and comforting truths.
Love Is Powerful
I think this is one lesson that has overlap in more than one of the works I told you about, however I think its roots lie in Harry Potter. To me, Harry Potter shows that love is the most powerful force there is. I do not even mean romantic love here either (although sure, this can be powerful too), but rather different forms. In Harry’s case, I think it is the power of a mother’s love. You can also see the power of a friendship love in Harry Potter, and frankly in Torchwood too. Romantic love is not the most important. Love in all forms is important. All forms of it are powerful.
The Right Choice Isn’t Always Easy
In every story, the hero will face a choice. The easy thing to do, of course, would be to run away. But that is also not always the right choice to make. Consider the choice the Hufflepuffs made in the Battle of Hogwarts. Just about every single person decides to stay and fight, for no other reason than it was the right thing to do. They could have saved themselves and taken the easy way out, but they did not.
I could pull an example from every one of the stories on the list, but the story that really taught me this lesson was Torchwood. The specific moment was when Jack makes a choice in the final episode of Children of Earth. He makes a significant and heartbreaking sacrifice in order to save people. He knows what it will cost him if he does it, and yet he does it anyways because he knows the cost of not doing it.
I know people had strong opinions about it. I know what I think about it, though I am not wholly comfortable with the choice itself. You can make an argument both for and against it being the right choice.
I do not know if I could have done what Jack did, but I do think he did the right thing, though as I said I am not comfortable with the choice at the same time. Mostly, this is because of the weight and seriousness of the choice and its consequences weighed against the consequences of not making it. I am trying to talk around it, given that if you have not seen the show I really think you should give it a shot, and who wants spoilers? In the end though, Jack’s choice showed me that the right choice can be a difficult one. It can be heartbreaking, but some choices just need to be made.
There are many other lessons I could tell you about, but I figured I would stop it for now. I want to open it to you! What lessons have fictional stories (books, television, et cetera) taught you? How have they changed your outlook? I would love to hear all about it!