A Precious Gift, or How David & Leigh Eddings’ Books Taught Me to Be A Decent Human Being

I’ve done lots of stupid things in my life. I think just about everyone has. Regardless, I try not to spend a whole lot of time on regrets because if even one thing in my past were changed, I think the whole domino pile of craziness would collapse — and, well. I kind of like where I’m at now.

So I only really ever had one big regret, and it has nothing to do with past loves or big mistakes or foolish choices.

It is simply this: I never got to meet David or Leigh Eddings. If you’re not familiar with this King and Queen of Epic Fantasy (and why aren’t you?), then you’ve probably never read the series known as The Belgariad. Or the ones titled: The Mallorean, The Elenium, The Tamuli or the stand-alone The Redemption of Althalus.

The Belgariad in particular is a universal, coming-of-age, farm boy becomes a King kind of epic fantasy. Yes, that’s become a familiar trope but dare I say (and yes, I do) that even if Eddings did not do it first, then at least he did it best. This is a truly world-encompassing tale with sorcerers, knights, both benevolent and evil gods, and a pair of dueling prophecies that could shatter the entire universe with their opposition.

I admit it – I read this series when I was very young. I read it, and loved every bit of it. From the illiterate kitchen scullion to the fiery-haired princess to the magic-wielding aunt to the curmudgeonly old story-teller/sorcerer. I didn’t love it in the same (lesser) way that I enjoyed Dragonlance, which I read at about the same time. That was adventure, but this was something else.

The Belgariad is carried not by its plot (which is, though entertaining, fairly predictable for anyone familiar with the fantasy genre), but on the backs of its characters. Garion, our hero, is very young when the story starts and is essentially “raised” during the course of the books. From his practical old friend, Durnik, he learns the value of hard work and that the best course is always honesty. From the old storyteller, Belgarath, he learns that many things can be accomplished based on the way others perceive you. From the burly Barak, he learned swordsmanship; from the knight Mandorallen, bravery; from the spy Silk, cunning and wit; from the horse-lord Hettar he learned a sort of stoic justice; from Her Imperial Highness the Princess Ce’Nedra, he learned passion; from his impulsive friend Lelldorin, he learned  devotion. And from his aunt, the sorceress Polgara, he learned the value of boundless love.

As Garion learned these things… So did I. As I read of serpent queens and mad gods, I was also taught the value of self-worth, honesty, the real meaning of courage, practicality, and much, much more.

When I am exhausted, defeated or lonely, I come back to this story, these books (and, to my great satisfaction, I am not the only person I know who does this). The characters are all the oldest of my friends. Each one has a voice of their own in my head, and I could probably quote long portions or at the very least tell the whole tale without reference. It was only recently that I started to wonder at the fact that it seems very apparent that The Belgariad taught me how to be a good person. I am grateful for that, more grateful than even I could know, I think.

So it was with a heavy heart that I heard of Leigh Eddings’ death – on my birthday, no less – in 2007. Later, I read with real devastation the announcement of David’s own death in 2009. Gone were my heroes, the most beloved of the hundreds (thousands?) of authors I have read. I think it took me another year or maybe even two before I realized the full tragedy: I would never meet either of them, would never hear them speak at a convention or book signing, and I would never possess a signed copy of any of these books.

Until now.

Slip case and cover

A dear, dear friend who has often spoiled me far more than I truly deserve has done it yet again. (There is a reason, my dear Reader, that she was the best “man” at my wedding. We could find no better person – woman OR man.)

#280!

This is a Signed, Numbered, Hard Cover, Slip-Cased, Limited, FIRST edition of The Redemption of Althalus. Althalus is, of course, my favorite of Eddings’ work now that I’m an adult. The Belgariad is an old childhood friend that taught me everything I know about growing up. Althalus is the devious, incredibly fun friend of dubious morality – a perfect grown-up companion. Garion’s world is where I retreat when I’m feeling beaten. Althalus’ realm is where I go when I’m feeling sort of naughty*. (*In a “short-sheeting the bed” prank-y kind of way, not the Adults Only kind of naughty.)

I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve friends like this, but boy am I grateful for them. And? Not only do I have the one thing I never thought I would (which is the second best option to actually meeting David and Leigh, which would be sort of difficult at the moment), but apparently the dough that was ponied up for this book also went to benefit the people of Japan after their recent disaster(s). That, I think, would make Durnik awfully proud.

I’m not ashamed to say I cried when I realized what I was holding. I don’t think that even after this entire post that I can really express to you what it means to me to be holding a tiny piece of the history of two people that, despite my never having met them, made a very large difference in my life. It is a gift beyond measure, and I am doubly blessed that not only can I hold it, but that I have a friend who would go to this distance to put this most significant gift into my hands.

The only way I could think to repay her (since she would not accept anything else) was to share this story with you.

4 responses to “A Precious Gift, or How David & Leigh Eddings’ Books Taught Me to Be A Decent Human Being

  1. What a beautiful post… thank you for sharing it. You truly honor me.

    And yeah, you totally got me back on the crying thing. *nod*

    You said, “I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve friends like this…” Srsly? I for one have long been impressed with you. You’re a good friend, a good wife, a good person all around and in my not so humble opinion, you deserve all that’s good in your life and much more. I’m inspired by you and I’m intensely proud to have you call me friend.

    While I knew that you would love to have this book, I don’t think I fully realized how much it would mean to you until I read this wonderful tribute. I’m humbled by the depth of your emotion for these authors and their works… and by how much this book means to you.

    I’m so very happy that I was able to get the book for you and that it’s so much appreciated. I’m delighted that Voyager UK donated it for the Genre For Japan auction and that it all worked out the way it did. I had planned to make a small donation toward the relief effort in Japan and this incredible auction gave me the opportunity to do so while also acquiring a much-deserved gift for a dear friend. Win-win for me, I say!

    By the by… if you ever want to hear the story of my furious yet delightfully fun bidding war via my slow-ass cell phone in the last minutes of the auction, let me know. ;o)

    • Yes, “srsly” I don’t know what I did to deserve a friend like you. I am much like Ce’Nedra, I think – or at least her BAD qualities. I am spoiled, selfish, quick to anger, and can be quite childish at times. I do hope I redeem myself occasionally, however. (And yes, if I hadn’t said so before – I want to hear the story!)

  2. I’m going to guess it has something to do with the fact you are a good friend? This was lovely.

    • Thank you, Mrs. Spit. Coming from someone with your grace, spirit, and command of the language, that is quite a compliment.

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