Favourite fictional characters of 2022

Who, if I hadn’t met them in media in 2022, would my life have been poorer for it?

This is the third edition of what has become an annual tradition of noting characters in media who left an impression on me, for one reason or another. As always, it answers the question “Who, if I hadn’t met them in media in 2022, would my life have been poorer for it?”

Editions from previous years: 20212020.

Eisl (Over All the Earth)

Over All the Earth is a short story by Alexandra Rowland, from their Tales of the Chant fantasy series.

In this series, Chants are something like wandering griots, storytellers travelling from community to community, collecting stories, and retelling them to whoever needs to hear them. Sometimes Chants help people find their way back to themselves. Sometimes, they deepen someone’s understand of the world. Always, they remind people of how a person can (and maybe should) be.

In this story, a Chant comes to a very small village, on a very high mountain. There, he meets a very special goatherd called Eisl.

Eisl was easily my favourite character of 2022.

This is a small, tight story about hungers, and Rowland’s character sketch of Eisl is - and I don’t use this phrase lightly - a work of art.

This might be the most harrowing and most accurate description I’ve ever read of what it means to experience anxiety attacks. To want something so much, that the ache begins to gnaw on the extremities of your mind. To feel oneself disemboweled, from the inside out, and to recognise the face of the creature ripping out your innards as your own. I would have thought words would be insufficient to communicate the feeling of being caught in the red jaws of your own mind as it eats you alive, but Rowland succeeds.

And I love Eisl because despite this, he lets himself dare. He dares even though every encounter with this thing is the mental equivalent of having a him-shaped rabid animal bite off a chunk of his face.

There are many stories of heroes who defeat a terrible monster in cataclysmic battles that light up the sky. There are too few of people, no less heoric, who go into fights with nothing more than their bare knuckles against things only they can see, with phlegming fangs and steaming claws, in arenas the width of a brain. Eisl is one of the latter.

And he does it scared! This is very important to understand! He’s scared shitless!

But he puts up shaky, bloodied fists, knees barely keeping him upright, and he dares.

Cardamon (Bee and PuppyCat)

Cardamon, on Bee and Puppycat, created by Natasha Allegri

Cardamon is trying.

Cardamon is seven. He’s trying his best.

And it’s not enough.

This seems to be the painful lesson here. That you can try really, really hard, and want something very, very much.

And sometimes, it’s not enough.