Classic stories are considered classic because they present a universal moral that can be applicable in a wide array of different media. They can be retold in several different ways, and often are. I want to investigate how literature can inspire the narrative of role playing games.
Thomas Hardy is one of the more notable names in Victorian era literature. His last two novels, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure are particularly notable now, but faced backlash at the time of their release for featuring controversial subject matter such as rape, murder, and pre-marital sex (It was the 1800s, so pre-marital sex was still rather controversial). Additionally, Jude the obscure also featured another controversial subject: incest.
The novel begins with the titular character, Jude Fawley, who is depressed because his professor is leaving his school in pursuit of a new job in the town of Christminster. Jude’s intellectual pursuits eventually lead him to Christminster, where he ends up sharing his interest with his cousin, Sue Bridehead. Their interests eventually blossom into a more intimate relationship, and they decide to pursue it, in spite of being related, both being previously married, and a family curse that warns that any marriage in their family will end in disaster. In spite of all of this, they get married and have a family of three children; two of their own, and one that they adopted from Jude’s previous marriage. Eventually, Jude and Sue’s family falls apart as they begin to receive backlash from the community. Sue is kicked out of her home and she and her children are forced to live in a cottage that is not large enough to accommodate her entire family. Her oldest son, Little Jude, points out that it would not be a problem if she did not have to take care of children. This observant child takes it upon himself to hang himself and his siblings. He leaves behind a brief suicide note that simply reads, “Done because we are too menny.”
There is a similar tragedy that occurs in the Capcom RPG Breath of Fire III. The main protagonist, a blue-haired boy named Ryu with the power to transform into a dragon, starts off near McNeil, a town which is dealing with a food shortage due to a bad harvest and a monster on nearby Mt. Glaus who has been stealing the cattle. Ryu and his two friends, a purple-haired boy named Teepo and a knife wielding tiger-boy named Rei all get caught trying to steal food from the house of a local woodsman named Bunyan. Bunyan decides to give them the chance to redeem themselves by performing some honest work for a change. Their pursuit of honest work leads them to Mt. Glaus, where they encounter the monster: a nue chimera. After Ryu and his friends defeat the chimera, she dies on her feet trying to keep them out of her den. When they enter, Ryu, Teepo and Rei come across three dead chimera cubs that the mother had been struggling to keep alive.
The situations in Jude the Obscure and Breath of Fire III bear similarities in their tone, setup and consequence. The death of the children and the cubs are both excessively tragic, but there is a slight hindrance in how mournful any unrelated person can feel about their deaths. Jude and Sue were in an incestuous marriage that would never be accepted by society. Between this and their family’s curse, misfortune of some kind was inevitable. As for the cubs, if Ryu and his friends didn’t find them already dead, they may have been burdened with the ugly responsibility of executing them in order to prevent another food shortage in McNeil.
The untimely deaths of the children and the cubs are unquestionably horrific, but their survival had the potential to be exponentially worse. After their tragic loss, Jude and Sue separate and return to their less than satisfying relationships with their exes. Sue is forgiven by her husband for leaving, and Jude can’t bear to continue living without Sue and his children. On the other hand, Ryu and his friends bring a prosperous spring to the citizens of McNeil and are regarded as heroes.
It all comes down to perspective. Jude and Sue are both heartbroken to lose their family and return to their previous spouses, but their exes are both delighted to have each of them back in their lives. Ryu and his friends are not happy about being put in the situation of killing a creature that was only hunting to provide for her young, but the people of McNeil, are happy that the menace that was plaguing their town is gone. For most, the details simply don’t matter as long as the results are satisfactory. For a select few, those details will linger for eternity.