I posted previously today – or at least thought I did – but the post appears to have vanished into the aether. It’s no great loss, as it was a rambling collection of largely incoherent thoughts about the ease with which humans are slain in fantasy fiction, so I shall summarize it thusly:
Heroes and Villains appear to be significantly harder to kill than everyone else. This occasionally reaches risible proportions, although some authors, such as Simon Green in his Deathstalker novels, at least provide some rationale for slaughtering millions while leaving nearly every main character unscathed. Also, if it is a common theme in the Western genre that being gutshot is a slow and lingering death, then why does a sword thrust into the stomach always appear to kill people instantly?
Historically, the wounded significantly outnumber the slain in most combat situations. In even the most lethal battles of WWII, the wounded/killed ratio was around 3-1. In most fantasy fiction, this ratio appears to be closer to 1-100. Also, it takes a long time to heal; even a pulled muscle can take months to recover. Perhaps this is why authors prefer to simply kill everyone off.
Terry Pratcher’s Night Watch is hugely underrated and is arguably the best of the Discworld novels. This is, in part, because he takes a collection of characters who would serve as mere cannon fodder in almost any other novel and forces the reader to see things from their perspective, to identify with them, and to recognize how even cannon fodder can rise to heroic heights when pressed by circumstance.