Powerful Trinkets: Jewellery in Fantasy

The one Ring from The Lord of the rings
The one Ring. Image Copyright New Line Cinema.

Before anything else, thanks, Sumayyah, for the inspiration for this post! I’ve quickly gotten used to wearing a ring, which, thankfully, doesn’t attract the attention of any evil entities. It also doesn’t turn me invisible, which is a bummer, but that’s life I suppose. It doesn’t even have an inscription on the inside, though maybe that was a missed opportunity. Aaaand there I go, referencing The Lord of the Rings1. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before on the blog, and maybe as a librarian, I shouldn’t be admitting this… but I liked the movies more than the books in this case. Though I did read the books way back in high school. If I remember right, I read The Fellowship of the Ring, then started Two Towers, got annoyed by the lack of Gandalf and even Tolkien’s writing style at some points, and then just stopped mid-way through2. Then the movies came out. I watched the first but didn’t keep reading. Then I watched the second and decided that maybe I should finish the books before the third movie came out. I did that, but I still don’t have any desire to return to the books, whereas I’ll watch the movies again every now and then, even in their extended format. But now I’ve used a paragraph talking about the obvious choice for this topic… Without even introducing the topic within my intro, as I’ve just realized4. For those of you who don’t click on my copious links5 or read the titles of my articles, today I’m focusing on powerful jewellery in fantasy, and I’ll be introducing a few trinkets that, while maybe not as well-known as The One Ring, are perhaps shiny enough to draw your attention to their source material.

The cover of Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Starting off is one that I’ve seen the movie but haven’t yet read the book for. Why? Honestly, I have no idea, as I’ve praised Neil Gaiman before in this very blog. The book/movie in question is Stardust. It’s been years since I watched it, but I remember enjoying it for its sense of whimsy and wonder. When one of the main characters is a fallen star being pursued by witches bent on using her for eternal youth, princes seeking to win a kingdom, and a naïve eighteen-year-old Englishman who wants to bring her back to his village to win the heart of another woman, and it’s written by Gaiman, you know you’re in for a good time. “But wait,” I hear you say, “a star isn’t jewellery!” And, dear readers, you’re right about that, but our female protagonist has, in her possession, a pendant that kicked off the whole mess in the first place. The king of Stormhold set his three living sons6 a task to claim the throne: retrieve a pendant, which he promptly threw out of the castle window. This being a magic kingdom, the pendant flew up into the sky, where it knocked Yvaine, the star, down to earth. The male lead, Tristran, or Tristan in the film, also has, while not jewellery, a glass snowdrop given to him by his father, who got it from a fairy woman he spent a night with eighteen years ago. While not as plot-critical as the pendant, the snowdrop has some importance to Tristran’s story, and I did put trinkets in the title of this post.

The cover of the Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker

From a pre-Tolkien style English fantasy to something a little more grounded: The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker. Chava is a golem, a being made of clay and brought to life by… not jewellery, but a piece of parchment, which I’m considering a trinket, with Hebrew words on it called a schem that’s hidden under her tongue. Did I mention she’s a Jewish golem? Shortly after the man she was made for brings Chava to life, he dies, leaving the now-masterless golem bound for 1899 New York, an undocumented immigrant and supernatural being with telepathic powers and super strength. Created to serve, Chava has some issues with being her own person and struggles with her free will. There’s another title character, though, and… maybe I’m stretching, but I’ll call an iron cuff jewellery as it’s close enough to a bracelet. Where Chava’s schem gives her life, Ahmad’s cuff binds him to human form. He’s a jinni, a being of fire from Arab folklore. Unlike Aladdin’s Genie, though, Ahmad has no interest in granting the wishes of others; everything is all about him. That attitude got him trapped in a copper flask by a magician, only to be freed centuries later by a tinsmith in, you guessed it, 1899 New York. Ahmad has no issues with free will, but the consequences of his actions aren’t something that crosses his mind. Using these two supernatural characters, Wecker examines everything from the immigrant experience to what it means to have free will and keeps it all wrapped in a beautifully written modern fairy tale with a solid historical turn. I may be stretching the definition of jewellery to put this book in the post, but there’s no stretching when I say this book is well worth its 486 pages.

The cover of The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

In the interest of keeping this blog post to a reasonable length, here are a couple of rapid-fire books that fit the bill. Try some on, see what suits your style, and enjoy.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi. Reading the summary for this, I can’t help but think of Ocean’s Eleven or Ocean’s Twelve. It’s a magical heist crew after a powerful artifact at the behest of someone they stole something from. Babel rings, an Eye of Horus, a magic compass, a reality-warping Babel fragment; jewels and trinkets abound. Don’t let this one being YA turn you off from a fast-paced and fun read.

The cover of The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson

The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson. I could have put the earlier Mistborn novels here, but this continuation is the better fit for this post. The magic system in these books allows users to store things like weight, strength or health in jewellery made of different metals and then use it later when they need it. Imagine being just a bit sick every day but being able to quickly heal a wound with all of the health you’ve stored up. I’ve read the original trilogy and this first book of the new series, and I can say they’re worth the read.

And that’s it for this month. Next month’s post won’t be about anything as precious as gold and silver. Probably. I don’t plan that far in advance. Let me know in the comments if there are any precious items I’ve missed that you’d like to mention. I’m sure there’s enough for a dragon hoard.

1 If I hadn’t mentioned the evil entity I’d have used The Hobbit instead.

2 Evidently well before Gandalf came back. I guess I wasn’t as aware of Tropes3 back then.

3 Been a bit since I linked that site. Enjoy!

4 Can you tell that I’m a stream of consciousness style writer?

5 I don’t blame you if you don’t, but you are missing out.

6 He had seven. Four of them died fighting each other for the throne. It’s one of those families.

About Adam

Adam is a Digital Creation Specialist - Children who never has enough shelf space for his board game collection, wall space for his photographs, or stomach space for his baking. Once he’s got a book in his clutches (preferably a fantasy, or humorous non-fiction one) absolutely nothing else is getting done that day. Working in a library is a blessing and a curse to his free time.  |  Meet the team

2 thoughts on “Powerful Trinkets: Jewellery in Fantasy

  1. Ayo a post using my suggestion! Love that! Also, I’m very excited to read Gilded Wolves, thanks for all the recs!

    1. It was an excellent idea! So thanks again. And heists are always fun! Maybe I should find/create a heist adventure for my D&D group… On the off chance any of you read this, you saw nothing!

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