This month, I finished A Clash of Kings, the sequel to George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. About a third of the way through the book, the reader is introduced to one Qhorin Halfhand, a member of Martin’s paramilitary defense group the Night’s Watch. You see, the northern half of the continent of Westeros is separated from the wild forests of the extreme north by a 300 MILE LONG and 700 FOOT HIGH wall. Various sorts of men (rapists and thieves, knights and princes) are all, through force or honor, drafted into the Nights Watch, and to take a lifelong oath to deck themselves only in black and defend the north from various beasties and Wildlings, the barbaric humans that live in the wild forests north of The Wall.
As you can tell, these guys are probably pretty depressed. But, at The Wall they mainly train to fight and track in the forest, so what you essentially have is about two thousand badasses guarding the northern part of the country from barbarians and mythical creatures.
Got it? Good.
Qhorin Halfhand is already a legend in the Night’s Watch. He’s a commander, (like an officer) who ranges out into the wild for long stretches of time. Halfhand is known to a lot of the Wildlings north of The Wall because he kills so many of them.
Why’s he called Halfhand? Because he lost three of the fingers on his right hand catching the blade of an axe while its wielder was trying to take off his head with it. In case you didn’t know, the right hand is generally the swordbearing hand. No fingers on his right hand = no right handed wielding of swords. What’s Halfhand do in the face of this dilemma? He teaches himself how to use a sword left handed and becomes even better with the left hand than the right. He even looks badass. He’s tall and clean shaven, with a gray braid, dressed all in black, and missing most of the fingers on his right hand.
Sadly, we don’t see a whole lot of Halfhand in A Clash of Kings. While ranging into the wild (and dragging Jon Snow along with him), he discovers that the Wildlings are massing for a direct attack on Westeros. While he uses all of his considerable cunning to try and divert the party of Wildlings that is tracking them (led by a possessed eagle and a bone-armored wildling named Rattleshirt), the Wildlings find him. In the end, he sacrifices himself to save Jon Snow and ultimately gain intelligence on the Wildings’ ambitions.
It’s thoroughly enjoyable to read a character who serves the purpose of being a complete and total badass. It’s too bad that Halfhand dies before we can see him really wreak some havoc.
Who’s your favorite badass in a fantasy or science fiction work? Hit the comments and let me know or get in my inbox at specfictionblog [at] gmail [dot] com and give me some reasons why I should feature your badass suggestions.