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And the Mary Sue Award Goes To...


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Guest Emu on the Loose

I don't know much about the man, but I think some of the other comments are going down the wrong track. I think characters like Egwene, Mat, and Lan illustrate RJ's views about the world. I don't see them as vehicles for inflating or idealizing himself. As is the case with most authors, you can see a lot of RJ in a lot of the characters, but I can't (off the top of my head) think of any Mary Sues.

 

Fain, maybe?

 

*flees*

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If I had time, I'd post my answers to the questions on the litmus test, because I'm really interested in seeing where people disagree on this. I've seen the charge of Egwene as Mary Sue before, and I've never understood it. Going through the litmus test, I still don't think she's a Mary Sue, but maybe I can see where people would think she is. The first question I gave a "yes" to was #17 the one about having piercing eyes, because I couldn't remember what had been said about her eyes. Next was #26, but only to err on the side of Yes, since I don't know RJ's political views. Then #28 (spitfire personality) which really only deserves half because her tongue-lashings often aren't justified. And #29 similarly - she is often defiant of authority figures, but not always, and she isn't always justified in doing so. Arguably #34 but no rules were broken to promote her to Amyrlin. #44, she is extremely accomplished for her age. And #45, she does pick up some skills very fast. $63 (Does she take out more armed forces than you can count with her awesome skills?) Yes. #64 - Is anyone envious of her skills? Some of the accepted I guess. #87 some of the Forsaken do fixate on her. Into Part 2: Maybe #4 (Are most characters who dislike her merely mean/jealous/etc.) but it's hard to say since we don't often get their perspective (rather we get Egwene's or friends' perspectives) and maybe #8 Does your char. save the day way more often than other main characters? I would say no, but I haven't counted. Judging by the titles I don't think the other Parts apply, so I won't go through them now.

 

 

The reason I'd be interested in seeing where people disagree is that there are a lot of questions where maybe you could make a case for a "yes," but they don't really fall to the level of Mary-Sueness. For example:

 

6. Do other characters frequently tell your character how sexy or beautiful he/she is? Sure, Gawyn does, but is everyone always fawning over how beautiful she is? No. 1-2 characters (in a 12 book series with thousands of characters) finding Egwene incredibly hot, does not make her a Mary Sue.

 

40. Does your character habitually share profound wisdom and knowledge? Sometimes she thinks she's doing this, but sometimes it isn't so profound or wise (and sometimes that's part of the joke). Compare this to a true Mary Sue (er Gary Stu I guess) like Richard Rahl who gives a lecture that's clearly straight from the author's lips.

 

 

Even some of the questions that I hesitantly said "yes" to above I think only deserve "yes" if you miss the point of the question. Examples:

28 and 29 - she does these things (tongue-lashings and spitfire personality) but she's often in the wrong - blessing out Mat when he's just saved her, for example.

 

64 and 87 - Are some of the accepted jealous of how quickly she learns? certainly. Does Moghedien fixate on her? Kind of (although more on Nynaeve). But they don't fixate on her because of how awesome she is. It's not like Moghedien turned to the dark one because "everyone thinks Egwene is special well I'll show them." If some of the accepted dislike her, it's because they think she's getting special treatment. If it were Mary Sueness, their jealous would be intended to illustrate just how awesome Egwene really is.

 

 

All major characters are going to have some Mary Sue qualities. If there were nothing special about these people, why would we care about them? Why would they be main characters? Faolain isn't a main character because she's average. Who wants to read about the non-adventures of an average accepted? A character is a Mary-Sue when they can do no wrong, and even their "flaws" are secretly beneficial. Egwene does wrong all the time. Don't people frequently complain that Egwene always thinks she's right when in fact she isn't? The author of a Mary Sue character wouldn't let that happen to their character. The Mary Sue would have been right all along. Egwene messes up quite a bit. Tricked by Liandrin and captured by the Seanchan; captured by the BA in Tear; captured by the Elaida's Tower; etc. One of her major flaws is thinking she's right when she's not. A Mary Sue would even better than she thinks of herself, not worse. Mary Sue's don't need Mat or Gawyn to rescue them.

 

This don't mean I don't have complaints - there are times when her "outwitting" the hall is obnoxious and obviously contrived, but it doesn't happen so often I would call her a Mary Sue.

 

 

It's also interesting to see how varying answers to these questions stems from reading the author's intent into the characters. Going through the list, I realized that a lot of the things that annoy me so much about Richard Rahl are things that Rand does on occasion too. For example, all the War-Wizards do magic through intuition stuff. How many times did RR get himself into trouble when all of a sudden a bit of intuitive knowledge (and a long speech about how awesome Ayn Rand is) fixes everything? It drove me nuts that Richard never really learned, he just acted on instinct. Yet similar issues with Rand never bothered me, and now I wonder why.

 

I used to think that Richard's knowledge was always very ad hoc. As if the writer had written himself into a corner and so here's this convenient bit of magic to get him out. RJ mostly avoids that (but admittedly, not always)

 

But now that I think about this in terms of this Mary Sue discussion, maybe what makes these cases different is that Rand's "intuitive" knowledge has a cost, while Richard's just makes him more "awesome". If Rand were a Gary Stu, all of his LTT knowledge would come no strings attached, but in fact there are strings all over the place.

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Why is it that every time I put myself through these Mary Sue tests it turns out that I am one? Is this the sign of a bad test, or am I just too good to be true? (I got 67.) Really, I'd say these tests aren't very helpful in terms of whether or not a character is really a Mary Sue - of course, the meaning of that term is often so watered down it basically means "a character I don't like". Does anyone else think it odd that sociopathy is considered a Mary Sue trait by this test?

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All major characters are going to have some Mary Sue qualities. If there were nothing special about these people, why would we care about them? Why would they be main characters? Faolain isn't a main character because she's average. Who wants to read about the non-adventures of an average accepted? A character is a Mary-Sue when they can do no wrong, and even their "flaws" are secretly beneficial. Egwene does wrong all the time. Don't people frequently complain that Egwene always thinks she's right when in fact she isn't? The author of a Mary Sue character wouldn't let that happen to their character. The Mary Sue would have been right all along. Egwene messes up quite a bit. Tricked by Liandrin and captured by the Seanchan; captured by the BA in Tear; captured by the Elaida's Tower; etc. One of her major flaws is thinking she's right when she's not. A Mary Sue would even better than she thinks of herself, not worse. Mary Sue's don't need Mat or Gawyn to rescue them.

 

 

 

 

outstanding.jpg

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I think we need to look at the idea of Mary Sues in published works and fanfic a little differently. Ultimately, to one degree or another, all characters in a fantasy books are about wish fulfillment to one degree or another. That's why it's called fantasy. So, while a fan fic is about wish fulfillment in the author, a published work must be about wish fulfillment in the reader.

 

The question in either a published work or a fanfic is: how much do the fundamental laws of the universe seem to bend so that the character can be glorified? Being ta'varen doesn't count in my mind as it is, in and of itself, a fundamental law of the universe.

 

<tangent>

 

It strikes me all the sudden that Nynaeve is pretty Sueish by the above standard. No, I didn't do the quiz for her but look at the facts:

 

* She has done the "impossible"on multiple occasions and has changed the course of history and added to the knowledge of the civilized world

* ...At a young age

* Is hot

* Firey tempered

* Is married to the lost king of Malkier and tells him what to do ;)

* On subjects where the White Tower is classically ignorant or misinformed, she is often wiser and better informed

* At a young age ;)

* Etc.

 

It's a little silly. But I still think she's great.

 

Imagine the world of the WoT without Nynaeve. Now imagine that Nynaeve is a fan fic character dreamed up by an obsessed fan-girl. Heheheheheh....

</tangent>

 

Bottom line: If there were no Sueish characters in these books it probably wouldn't have gotten published.

Edited by Joshua Jarboe
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Does anyone else think it odd that sociopathy is considered a Mary Sue trait by this test?

 

i don't think that word means what you (or the test?) think it means. . . at least not in the DSM.

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I think we need to look at the idea of Mary Sues in published works and fanfic a little differently. Ultimately, to one degree or another, all characters in a fantasy books are about wish fulfillment to one degree or another. That's why it's called fantasy. So, while a fan fic is about wish fulfillment in the author, a published work must be about wish fulfillment in the reader.

Why? An author can, of course, be writing for his own benefit, and therefore the "wish fulfillment" (if such exists within the work) can bein the writer, not the reader. And it's called fantasy due to the not-realness - the magic and stuff. Why does wish fulfillment have to be a part of that (and, by inference, not a part of non-genre fiction)?

 

It strikes me all the sudden that Nynaeve is pretty Sueish by the above standard. No, I didn't do the quiz for her but look at the facts:

 

* She has done the "impossible"on multiple occasions and has changed the course of history and added to the knowledge of the civilized world

* ...At a young age

* Is hot

* Firey tempered

* Is married to the lost king of Malkier and tells him what to do ;)

* On subjects where the White Tower is classically ignorant or misinformed, she is often wiser and better informed

* At a young age ;)

* Etc.

 

It's a little silly. But I still think she's great.

 

Imagine the world of the WoT without Nynaeve. Now imagine that Nynaeve is a fan fic character dreamed up by an obsessed fan-girl. Heheheheheh....

</tangent>

Strikes me that Nynaeve isn't that far out - her Sue tendencies aren't that strong. The two biggest ones that stand out to me are her jumping Novice to go straight to Accepted, and her abilities with Healing (inventing a new form of Healing and discovering how to Heal severing). She's not the strongest channeler, not the best Healer (just better at discovering things). She's deeply insecure and is politically the weakest of the leads (she's just an AS - and even then, that was disputed by some until the latest book). If Nynaeve was a character dreamt up by an obsessed fangirl, I'd say that fangirl had done quite well in writing a balanced character.

 

Bottom line: If there were no Sueish characters in these books it probably wouldn't have gotten published.
Why not?

 

 

Does anyone else think it odd that sociopathy is considered a Mary Sue trait by this test?

i don't think that word means what you (or the test?) think it means. . . at least not in the DSM.
Remind me, what do I think that word means? From the wikipedia article the test links to: "Rather, psychopathy and sociopathy are generally considered subsets of ASPD."
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Strikes me that Nynaeve isn't that far out - her Sue tendencies aren't that strong. The two biggest ones that stand out to me are her jumping Novice to go straight to Accepted, and her abilities with Healing (inventing a new form of Healing and discovering how to Heal severing). She's not the strongest channeler, not the best Healer (just better at discovering things). She's deeply insecure and is politically the weakest of the leads (she's just an AS - and even then, that was disputed by some until the latest book). If Nynaeve was a character dreamt up by an obsessed fangirl, I'd say that fangirl had done quite well in writing a balanced character.

 

 

I actually agree with you on most things, and I adore Nynaeve, but just to be devil's advocate: She's not the most powerful channeler, but she IS the most powerful Aes Sedai. There's not been very many that can outmatch her in terms of power, and a lot of those are Forsaken. Politically, yes, I'd say she's one of the weakest, but then, since the Aes Sedai's power structure, with the exception of things like the Amyrlin, and Ajah heads, works on a "Whoever is the most powerful has the most say", then theoretically, until this structure changes, if it ever does, she has the potential to be perhaps the highest "unofficial" authority in the Tower. And being Lan's wife, she's the Queen of Malkier- no real country, but I imagine it holds some sway amongst the Borderlanders, nontheless.

 

Overall, though, I'd agree that Nynaeve isn't that much of a Sue-character compared to others in the book. RJ did have a tendency to write his characters overpowered. I mean, if we consider the "core cast" to be Rand, Mat, Perrin, Nynaeve, Egwene, Elayne, then amongst them, we have three of the most powerful female channelers for hundreds of years (although I forget how Cadsuane compares in power, I know she was meant to be very strong, too, but I seem to recall she's not quite at the same level- correct me if I'm wrong, though), we have 2 of the greatest generals in the world, we have the Amyrlin Seat, the Queen of Andor, the Seanchan Prince of the Ravens, and Rand, who is a king, and currently, probably the most powerful channeler in the world. Even in the supporting cast, we have great generals, distant royalty, Aiel Wise Ones, and so on. I think if there's a Mary Sue test for power- political, magic or strength- then most of the main WoT cast are going to fail it in some way. Compared to that list, Nynaeve is certainly one of the less over the top characters, and, given that she has these huge levels of power, and a dedication to healing, her accomplishments haven't been beyond the realm of believability. And, as you said, she's very insecure at times, too.

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Does anyone else think it odd that sociopathy is considered a Mary Sue trait by this test?

i don't think that word means what you (or the test?) think it means. . . at least not in the DSM.
Remind me, what do I think that word means? From the wikipedia article the test links to: "Rather, psychopathy and sociopathy are generally considered subsets of ASPD."

 

 

my bolds. i didn't look at the test bc it seems. . . nevermind what it seems. i put that parenthetical bit in because i wasn't sure if you were stating your own belief, or referring to something written in the test, which i will not read.

 

so, my bad. very sorry.

 

if you don't know, and do care, what a sociopath (a term used, as you indicate, to describe a type of antisocial personality disorder) is, you can look it up in the DSM. or ask a psychiatrist, or psychologist.

 

it appears you do know, and if you do, you know that even some of the forsaken would not be considered sociopaths.

 

please forgive my misunderstanding, and enjoy the rest of your conversation.

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Mary Sue

 

The Universal Mary Sue Litmus Test

 

Ran across this doing some research for a class I am teaching. Why is it Egewene popped immediately into my mind? Is Egwene a Mary Sue? Are Egwene, Avienda, and Elaine all Mary Sues?

Back to the original question-

Rate them-

Elayne #1-except for her flaw to rush in blindly-yet no direct harm comes to her

Avienda #2-hard to say since she is such a solid character but maybe too solid.

Eqwene #3-driven to suceed yet she has fallen on her face with her pride (like with the wise ones and being captured) but has learned and come out on top.

???

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I think if there's a Mary Sue test for power- political, magic or strength- then most of the main WoT cast are going to fail it in some way. Compared to that list, Nynaeve is certainly one of the less over the top characters, and, given that she has these huge levels of power, and a dedication to healing, her accomplishments haven't been beyond the realm of believability. And, as you said, she's very insecure at times, too.
The thing about a Mary Sue is that it's not a powerful character, it's an overly idealised one. While many in the WoT cast tend to be powerful figures, and in some cases they have earnt that power more easily than would be expected (Rand is a wonderful example - Blademaster in no time, most powerful channeler, emperor of half the world, etc.), they often have to deal with rather large downsides, especially in terms of personality flaws (again, Rand is a good example - increasingly insane and tyrannical until VoG, refusal to kill women, etc.) so there is some measure of balance. While there are plenty of powerful people, they tend not to be overly idealised. Rather, they are flawed characters, whose flaws are often noted and cause problems.

 

Does anyone else think it odd that sociopathy is considered a Mary Sue trait by this test?

i don't think that word means what you (or the test?) think it means. . . at least not in the DSM.
Remind me, what do I think that word means? From the wikipedia article the test links to: "Rather, psychopathy and sociopathy are generally considered subsets of ASPD."
my bolds. i didn't look at the test bc it seems. . . nevermind what it seems. i put that parenthetical bit in because i wasn't sure if you were stating your own belief, or referring to something written in the test, which i will not read.

 

so, my bad. very sorry.

 

if you don't know, and do care, what a sociopath (a term used, as you indicate, to describe a type of antisocial personality disorder) is, you can look it up in the DSM. or ask a psychiatrist, or psychologist.

 

it appears you do know, and if you do, you know that even some of the forsaken would not be considered sociopaths.

 

please forgive my misunderstanding, and enjoy the rest of your conversation.

The test asks whether the character in question has an Antisocial Personality Disorder, to "explain [their] Jerkass Loner personality". I'm not sure why the test considers this a Mary Sue trait. Then again, I consider tests like this to be flawed, as I don't think that Mary Sue characteristics can be reduced to just a bunch of tick boxes devoid of context. It's not even a particularly helpful guideline.

 

 

Elayne #1-except for her flaw to rush in blindly-yet no direct harm comes to her
I know this is a bit of a tangent, but in the last book Elayne didn't rush in blindly, she came up with a plan - and direct harm came to her. I hope she learnt her lesson: never plan.
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i don't think that word means what you (or the test?) think it means. . . at least not in the DSM.

 

Inconceivable!

 

I can certainly see how Egwene appears to be a Mary Sue - from tSR onwards nothing particularly BAD happens to her. In THG she was made damane and had to be rescued, in TDR she (with Elayne and Nynaeve) were captured by BA and had to be rescued (not that they gave Mat an ounce of credit ;)) but since then, she's almost single-handedly saved herself every time from any potential trouble; stuff like getting beaten by the wise ones etc doesn't count - it was character building :) Even when she is next rescued (by Siuan during/after the Seanchan raid) she berates her for it!

 

As people have said, it's her firm belief that she's always right (even when she's very wrong) that annoys so many people, but her Mary Sue qualities are very clear, her ascent just happens to coincide with the dramatic humanisation of the Aes Sedai who suddenly seem like bumbling novices when she comes on the scene. I admit that I loved the arc of her in the tower, learning to embrace the pain of her beatings, slowly disestablish the flawed structures, and then prove herself in a roar of power linked with novices and a sa'angreal - I loved that part, but then her treatment of Siuan was terrible, and don't even get me started with her dealings with Gawyn!

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i don't think that word means what you (or the test?) think it means. . . at least not in the DSM.

 

Inconceivable!

 

 

:smile: yes. yes yes. thank you.

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I'd say that Egwene is a "Mary Sue." She's just too...good at everything. I mean, I just think that the transition from innkeeper's daughter to political mastermind and fierce leader is a little bit too abrupt. She somehow has learned to play the political game in just a few months better than other Aes Sedia who have literally been doing it for a hundred years or more. That "Black Hole Sue" description is fairly accurate - all of the other characters seem to go down when she's around.

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