Have you spent hours staring into a desk fan trying to decide how quick you’d have to be to shove your hand in and out without getting cut? Were you ever invited to shake hands with “Angry,” your friend’s pet snapping turtle? Ever slice your finger off with a melon baller? (Ever slice someone else’s finger off with a melon baller?) If so, I bet you thought it might make a pretty compelling story. Well that’s just what I and three other Seattle authors thought when we set out to write our new short story collection titled Four Fantastical Ways to Lose Your Fingers.
And hey, Four Fantastical Ways to Lose Your Fingers is now available to read as a Kindle exclusive! I may be biased, but I think you should pick it up right away, especially if you enjoyed Zeus Is Dead and/or The New Aeneid Cycle. Did I mention that my own contribution, “Mything Digits,” is a crossover tale between those two universes? Bet you didn’t think I was crazy enough to try to combine comedic fantasy with cyberpunk sci-fi, huh?
To spread the word, my fellow authors and I are having some fun asking each other questions with a finger-related theme, and today it’s my turn to ask everyone. As I’m addicted to lists, here’s my contribution:
What are your top 3 favorite fictional characters who have lost a body part (finger, hand, leg, eye, ear, etc.)?
Pilot, the, well, pilot of the bio-mechanoid ship Moya from Farscape. He’s absolutely dedicated to his service to both Moya and those aboard her. Heck, he has chosen to be physically fused to Moya for the rest of his life, shortening his lifespan by centuries in exchange for being with her and seeing the galaxy. Even after some of the crew slice off his arm in order to go home (it’s complicated), he manages to forgive them (it’s even more complicated). But what I like most about Pilot is how complex he is over the course of the series. This is made more impressive by how expressive and emotive the Jim Henson Company and the human actors who work with him manage to make him despite the fact that he is, essentially, a puppet.
Walker Boh, the reluctant Druid from Terry Brooks’s Heritage of Shannara series. Talk about your reluctant heroes. Walker can’t stand how the Druids manipulated his ancestors, hates them for it, in fact, and then finds himself called to become the next Druid. He sees the need, so he’s constantly torn between trying to motivate people to do what’s needed, and doing so without using the methods he deplores. And just to add to his challenges (spoiler alert), he has to do so while dealing with a poison that turned his forearm to stone and forced him to break it off just above the elbow.
Darth Vader, from some space opera saga whose name escapes me at the moment. 😉 What limbs hasn’t this guy lost? Over the course of his life he’s lost both legs, both arms, and later an artificial hand. That’s not to mention his hair, much of his skin, probably his lungs, and who knows what else. (Eep.) But does he let it get him down? No, because he’s still one of the most iconic villains ever. Plus, ya know, he’s Darth Frelling Vader.
Just let me say it’s actually harder to think of fiction characters with missing body parts off the top of one’s head than one might expect. My first reaction to this question was: blank stare. Fortunately, the wheels started turning in the next couple minutes and several limbless individuals came to mind, but ranking them proved difficult.
First I’d have to say Aughra from The Dark Crystal. (She has a removable eye that continues to move and observe on its own, in case you forgot.) She uses this to her advantage for spying, puns, and general intimidation. My kind of creepy enchantress.
Second, I’d have to say Stump from Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café—the book, not the movie. Fannie Flagg does such a good job of using Stump to illustrate the essential struggle of over-coming feelings of inferiority, I think anyone can relate to him, no matter whether they are whole or in pieces.
Third, I’m going into your territory and saying Orpheus. Sure, he’s technically dead after the Bacchanae tear him limb from limb, but his severed head continues to sing & weep even as it’s floating down river. That is some serious dedication to lost love.
Z.D. Gladstone is an aspiring young novelist who does not shy away from any literary challenge, including making herself sound much more interesting in the third person. She is a geek, a Scorpio, a feminist, a dreamer, and a lover of both eating & cooking food. At the time of writing this bio, she was still in possession of all of her fingers. She was also in possession of at least five very-high-quality kitchen knives, and several intriguing new recipes, so stay tuned. Connect with her at zdgladstone.blogspot.com.
Imperator Furiosa (Mad Max: Fury Road). Oh. Hell. Yeah. I loved the old Mad Max movies. I loved the feral kid. I loved the idea that even though the world has no water, we still get American muscle cars and flame throwers are a huge thing. But Furiosa? She is an order of magnitude more bad ass than all of that. She is BadAss10. Mega-Bad-Ass, if you will. If you don’t love this character, maybe reexamine your life choices because when it all came down between Furiosa and Immortan Joe, she effing won. She wasn’t even shiny and chrome, she was just pissed off.
Ash Williams (Evil Dead series). How could he not make this list? I don’t care how medically impossible it would be. Ash and his chainsaw arm is the true hero of 80s slasher films and we all know it.
Granny Weatherwax (Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series). She once got stuck as a bird, essentially losing her whole body, does that count? I don’t care, I’m sticking with it because Granny Weatherwax is simultaneously the most horrible and the most fabulous old woman ever. When I grow up, I want to be just like her. #Weatherwax4LYFE
Other characters worth mentioning:
Hellboy. He only loses his horns and it’s self-mutilation basically, but Hellboy is my jam. Loves cats, Liz, cigars and pamcakes. Hates: living in a vault. I totally get this.
Fred Weasly. I tear up just thinking about this one. His ear and his twin. Ugh.
Shelby the worm. In the Adventure Time episode “Little Brothers” Shelby the Worm does some parkour trying to impress his friends and he gets his rear end sliced off. Because he’s a worm, Shelby doesn’t die. His bum turns into his little brother, Kent, who goes off to find adventure. “Look guys, I’m doin’ PAAAAR-COUR!” is now something we say in my family when something is doing something incredibly dumb.
I could go on but I’m going to go look up that episode. It really is hilarious.
Tiffany Pitts grew up in the PNW on a diet of cartoons, candy, and instant noodles. She is a former molecular biologist and a former-former analytical chemist who has definitely never blown anything up on accident. Her latest novel, Wizzy Wig, won the 2016 Cygnus Award for best Speculative Fiction. Connect with Tiffany on Twitter, Facebook, and TiffanyPitts.com.
It’s easy to have a favorite character. It’s even easy to have a favorite use for a missing body part. However, it took me three days to come up with an answer to this question because I had to decide which type of favorite took precedence in “favorite character who has lost a body part.” In the end, I got it down to these top 3. Welcome to the media that I consume, gentle readers.
Joe Dawson of Highlander (TV show and I think at least one movie). An ex-Marine turned Watcher of Immortals (so many capital letters in his job description), Joe is consistently in a wheelchair or using a cane. He lost his legs to a mine Vietnam twenty years before the series begins. Yes, his storyline gives him some jealousy of the perpetually able-bodied Immortals, but also shows him as a very successful guy whose disabilities don’t define him. It’s way more important that he’s the leader of the Watchers in his area (sometimes), that he’s besties with Duncan MacLeod (whom he’s supposed to be Watching), and that he plays killer blues guitar.
Joe is, without doubt, the most realistic (and aged) of the three on my list. That’s not why he tops it, though. He’s #1 because I like him as a character, I like him as a human being, and I like the way his missing body part is portrayed. He’s a fave all around.
Kouji Nanjou of Zetsuai 1989 (and Bronze –I’m referencing the manga here ’cuz I’ve read the manga and can’t recall watching the animation). Kouji is a famous rock star who (bizarrely?) falls in love with a high school soccer player. Cue some star-crossed love stuff. It just looks like things might be working out when Kouji’s family voices displeasure about the heir’s soccer player obsession. To show his devotion and seriousness to his beloved, Kouji proceeds to CUT HIS OWN ARM OFF. (Apparently, this is a call back to a fifth century monk who did much the same thing, but in hopes of becoming a student to Bodhidharma… sort of like the Flagellants, but more extreme.)
For the modern anime fans: I’d like to take a moment to call out all the people who keep describing Victor in Yuuri on Ice as being “extra,” cuz you don’t know “extra in Japanese manga/anime” until you know Kouji Nanjou. (Oh wow. In fact-checking this segment, I learned there are new volumes of Bronze. I’d given up hoping at volume 6, and now there are 14??? I’m gonna have to brush up my Japanese for this because yay.)
Gazelle of Kingsman (movie). Look! A reference not from the 90s. No, Gazelle isn’t a major character, but her prosthetic leg is the most amazing use of a non-cyborg prosthetic in modern film. As the chief strategist and henchman of the movie’s leading bad guy, she’s got power and brains. By turns sexy and deadly, her very obviously missing leg becomes the thing you watch for in her scenes. “How will she kill someone with this?” you wonder.
(I thought this would be an easy question. In the past two years, I’ve published two stories including people with missing body parts: a mystery wherein a prosthetic leg is a clue and an action adventure which stars a one-handed parkour enthusiast. But apparently it’s only me who writes these often.)
Janine A. Southard once cut her hand on a mirror liek woah, though she didn’t lose a finger that way. (She did spend a year mostly unable to use her right hand for other medical reasons, thanks to which she now excels at opening doors left handed and taking notes on her phone.) She writes speculative fiction from coffee shops in Seattle, WA. Find Janine on Twitter, Goodreads, and JanineSouthard.com!