Town Criers in Books: Do We Need Them?

I think this is a great question, DO we need town criers in our epic fantasies? Because I say this not in the sense of should we get rid of them, but should be ADD them? When was the last time you read a story that featured a town crier? SEE. I can’t remember for the life of me one example and I think it’s a missed opportunity.

Today, the 13th of July, is world town crier’s day. So obviously I had to talk about it. We read so many epic fantasies that heavily feature kings and queens, spies and assassins, the poor and the rich. But where are all the people in between? Today, I’m going to list eight books that I think could greatly benefit from the addition of a character such as a town crier.


1. The Tale of Despereaux
by Kate DiCamillo

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First on the list is The Tale of Despereaux. We’re going straight in the deep end here. This is a fantastic story about a mouse trying to be a brave knight for the princess of this kingdom. I really do think that if, throughout this story, we had an enthusiastic town crier periodically updating the people of this kingdom about the latest mouse and rat escapades occurring in the palace, that would definitely be a great addition to the story. I’m specifically thinking of a crier who hated the mice/rats and spread unnecessarily nasty updates about them to pump this story full of drama.


2. Eragon
by Christopher Paolini

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When I thought about how a town crier could be inserted into Eragon, I immediately thought of a commentator. With the pacing of the story, this wouldn’t actually work, but humour me. If there was a town crier screaming out the character’s movements and then updating the town with the egg’s whereabouts, I actually think that would be hilarious.


3. Grave Mercy
by Robin LaFevers

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No but, historically speaking one of the main roles of a town crier was to announce executions and cut down the hanged people. With all the people who die within the His Fair Assassin’s trilogy, the town crier would be the busiest man alive and he would be a wild interruption to the flow of the story with how many times he’d have to announce deaths.


4. Graceling
by Kristin Cashore

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I concede that this would probably not be the book to include a town crier in because most of the story is spent away from the castle. But I can imagine Katsa being pally with the town crier as she is the one causing most of the deaths, anyway. I think a fun storyline could be added where the town crier and Katsa are best friends and maybe the town crier always throws in a pun to each announcement. NB: the final book in this series (Bitterblue) would be EXCELLENT with a town crier.


5. The Ruins of Gorlan [Ranger’s Apprentice]
by John Flanagan

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OKAY BUT WHAT ABOUT A TOWN CRIER RIVALRY? What if Will is called off to a neighbouring town to sort out a dispute between town criers who have got themselves wrapped up in a big dispute about who is the best town crier. Or maybe they’ve even started a wager about who announces the most deaths and it’s causing a spike in murders because the criers are paying people off to murder others. I think this is a story that Flanagan really needs to write, personally.


6. Defiance
by C J Redwine

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I could definitely see a town crier being seamlessly inserted into this story. I can’t see them playing the biggest role and definitely think it would be a more serious one. But I do think it would help build the tense and desperate atmosphere of this world at the very beginning of the story.


7. Assassin’s Apprentice
by Robin Hobb

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I’m on the fence as to whether this would actually be a good addition or not. It’s certainly the right setting to include a town crier but I don’t know if the story strictly needs it. Perhaps the crier would be more focussed/used for announcing new policies that help drive the plot forward or whatever, opposed to a focus on executions.


8. The Novice
by Taran Matharu

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I definitely think this would be a fun addition to this story. The bureaucracy of the world within The Novice is just begging for a loud and annoying character like a town crier. This would be an awesome plot device for garnering interest in the final battle scene/test (not that I can remember at this point at to whether the general public attended this duel, or if it was private . . . let’s pretend the public was there) because it would totally hype the scene up and place even more pressure on the Fletcher to perform well.


That’s a wrap!

What do you think about town criers? All silliness aside, I do think there is some potential for including this character as a plot device in books. It’s something I don’t recall ever seeing in books before and I think it could be fun!!


Happy reading!

~~ Kirstie ~~

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