Tough Travelling: Apprentices


It’s another new month, and so it’s time for another new Tough Travelling.

If you’re new to my blog, around the first of each month we travel through fantasy tropes with The Fantasy Hive; listing our favourite examples of each trope as outlined by Diana Wynne Jones’ The Tough Guide to Fantasyland.

This month, we’re looking at Apprentices:

APPRENTICES are people who are training for a trade or skill, which means they are usually quite young and bad at what they do. They seem to have to do this for a good many years before they get to do anything more interesting, and it is therefore not surprising that some of them get restless and either try to do the interesting stuff themselves or simply run away and join the Tour. Surprisingly, very few Apprentices do run away. If you have one on your Tour, you are in for an eventful time.

The Fantasy Hive have, as always, created a wonderfully thorough list of apprentices, including everyone you would expect to find on a list such as this; Kvothe, Locke Lamora, Jonathan Strange, Pug and Tomas, and of course Arya.
So I’m going to try my best to come up with some other apprentices (whilst desperately trying to think how to work in my tradition of including Tolkien on the list)

Michael Fisher
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones


I do like to include Diana’s characters in these lists whenever I can. Michael is apprentice to the eponymous Howl; he manages the day-to-day running of Howl’s wizardry business whilst Howl is, ahem, otherwise occupied. He also happens to be in love with Sophie’s sister Martha, and so makes frequent visits to the bakery in Market Chipping.

In the Studio Ghibli adaptation, this character gets replaced with the much younger Merkl; the book has a great deal more plot threads that required simplifying for an adaptation.

Apprentices pop up frequently in Jones’ works; Charmaine and Peter in The House of Many Ways, Gwendolyn and Cat in Charmed Life,  Christopher Chant in The Lives of Christopher Chant,

Tiffany Aching
A Hat Full of Sky 
by Sir Terry Pratchett



We are first introduced to Tiffany Aching in The Wee Free Men; but it’s not until the next book, A Hat Full of Sky that Tiffany becomes apprenticed to Miss Level. She meets other apprentice witches, including the fantastically named Annagramma, and must partake in The Witch Trials; an event held every year where the apprentice witches show what they have learned.

The Witches series and the Tiffany Aching series are amongst my favourites within the Discworld.



Witches were a bit like cats. They didn’t much like one another’s company but they did like to know where all the other witches were, just in case they needed them. And what you might need them for was to tell you, as a friend, that you were beginning to cackle

The Redemption of Althalus by David and Leigh Eddings


Althalus is a thief who is hired to steal a book from ‘The House at the End of the World’. He becomes trapped there by a talking cat, Emmy, who teaches him (in an apprenticeship fashion… tenuous? possibly) about the book he was attempting to steal.

It has a talking cat in it, what more could you possibly want from a book?

There is also something of a master and apprentice relationship between Garion (Belgarion) and Belgarath in Edding’s series The Belgariad.



Shallan Davar
 The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

51yPW7kivvL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Shallan’s father has passed away and her family have fallen on hard times; she takes it upon herself to seek apprenticeship from the renowned scholar, and sister to the King, Jasnah Kholin.

As ever with Sanderson’s plots, things aren’t as simple as that. She’s also a sarcastic little sod.

“Ah, the outdoors,” Shallan said. “I visited that mythical place once. It was so very long ago, I’ve nearly forgotten it. Tell me, does the sun still shine, or is that just my dreamy recollection.”

“Surely your studies aren’t that bad.”


Malacus Quai
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie


Malacus Quai is apprenticed to the wizard Bayaz. He is sent to await the arrival of Logan Ninefingers and to bring him back to Bayaz, but almost dies in the process.

He is a much beleaguered apprentice, and halfway through this first book of Abercrombie’s incredible trilogy, he becomes quieter and more resentful towards Bayaz.

Let’s face it, you would be too with Bayaz as a master.



The Last Enchantment by Mary Stewart

qr3A2XC96+P9J0MyL6pfC1CbjcVDom1Ej8ik8VSXfmfcFaPfaCQ9Ap3n2+8AlMO5xerxOblTvefcl3RN+Cfs2gl!TWOB3Q!n10hL5j+S0OmKwc8UWbVG8cJ8QrmmTlhjIn the last book of Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy, Merlin takes on a female apprentice by the name of Niniane.

She is a character who appears in various versions of the Arthurian legends with different names, often being called Vivienne. She is a malicious and treacherous character, a seductress, The Lady of the Lake.

Stewart completely rewrites her as an apprentice; in his love for her Merlin teaches her everything he knows and she in turn falls in love with him.

She eventually takes his place in Arthur’s court, so that Merlin may retire and become a hermit, like his master before him.

The Noldor
 The Silmarillion and other works by J. R. R. Tolkien


Surprise! Did you really think I’d write a Tough Travelling post without Tolkien? Shame on you.

Now according to The Silmarillion (and, I confess, Google) the Noldor were the greatest craftsmen of the elves. They became apprentices to Aule the Smith, who taught them of the treasures that could be found deep within the earth. From this knowledge they became known as ‘The Wise Elves’.




I hope you enjoyed this month’s Tough Travels as much as I enjoyed revisiting some old favourites. I really must make time to re-read The Redemption of Althalus.

Who are your favourite Apprentices in fantasy?

Next month, in celebration of Mother’s Day, we’ll be looking at Mothers in fantasy!



Purchasing books through the Book Depository links on this post supports this blog

7 thoughts on “Tough Travelling: Apprentices

  1. Nice to see ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ make it onto your list again! I can’t believe I forgot about Michael, especially since he was important to the romance plot. And ‘A Hat Full of Sky’ is a great choice too – I absolutely loved Miss Level (and the mystery of her odd behaviour 🙂 ) – it made me so angry when the other apprentice witches said mean things about her, she was such a great character.

    I’ve been wanting to read The Way of Kings for ages – you’ve reminded me that I really need to prioritise it this year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Nicola! I like including her books when I can, feels apt using her own writing as examples of tropes outlined by her 🤣

      Looking forward to getting Oathbringer when it comes out in paperback; then I’ll be doing an epic way of kings reread!

      Liked by 1 person

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