In Nancy Farmers The Sea of Trolls, the protagonist, Jack, leaves the remnants of his conservative fathers farm to become a Bards apprentice. He is forced to embark on a journey with a crowd that he thought could only exist in his nightmares. In this fish out of water scenario Jack learns countless life lessons about the cruel world he never knew existed; at the same time he is able to make a difference in the lives of many people (and monsters) by staying true to what he was taught to believe in.
Halfway through Jacks training he is taken as a slave by the Beserkers. This is Jacks first encounter with a culture entirely different then his own. They pillage monasteries, destroying all the religious items and killing all the monks; they ransack villages killing all the women and children and they never hesitate a second. The believed to be half wolf men do what they were raised to do and they did not think of it as immoral. They believed that they had the right to end a life and take things that did not belong to them.
Jack slowly taught them that there is more to living than just that. Jack did not stop them from doing what they were born to do, but he helped them realize that they could apply their pillaging skills in such a way that it could help other people too. Most people live inside of a cage of their own expectations. It makes them feel safe. The world is a frightening place full of glory and wonder and, as weve both discovered, danger. Flying isnt for everyone' The Bard (449) While Jack was helping them he had an epiphany. He noticed that people believe what they want to believe and they dismiss everything else as a myth. He uses this idea throughout the book to help himself and others change and warm up to new cultures and idea brought to them.
Jack was also teaching other cultures the arts which they only saw when destroying a place or at illegal markets that sold slaves and pillaged items. He taught the Beserkers poems and praises (which also involves music) and also taught numerous other species the same thing such as half trolls and animals. He had to be patient but he was able to really bring out sides of them that they never knew existed. This helped them realize that other cultures were maybe just as distinctive and enthralled as their own. Jack and Jill went up the hill To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after¦
Its nice. Really it is. said Rune as Throrgil looked ready to lose control. Its not the kind of thing that lasts but its sweet It is not sweet! shrieked Thorgil. And its going to last! People will be saying my poem long after your moldy old verses dissapear!' Thorgil and Rune (435). This conversation shows two cultures and emotions colliding, but the fact that they are together brings the idea that even some of the most violent, steadfast people can come close to accepting another culture even if their culture will not allow it.
Jack was not the only one that was teaching other people life lessons through his culture. Other peoples cultures taught him lessons as well. By learning these lessons he was able to apply them to other peoples situations which changed their lives as well. One lesson he learned was that he should enjoy life instead of focusing on the negative.
The culture that shared this with him was in The Mountain Queens court. They were about enjoying life because it flowed through them and it was what they were meant to do. Jack was not used to hearing this type of thing because he grew up on a farm that was run by his very conservative dad who believed only pain and suffering brought good to a person. One thing I do know, the queen went on. To ignore joy while it lasts, in favor of lamenting ones fate, is a great crime.' -Glamdis (The Mountain Queen)(349). This lesson teaches Jack that by using the life force from the tree of life, Yggdrasil, he will be able to focus on bringing joy to other cultures that do not even know the meaning of the word, such as Friths court, the Beserkers, and even his family back at home.
Throughout the book Jack was put through the test of teaching communities his culture and learning others at the same time. It brought many new elements to the book that could have easily been overlooked by the untrained eye, but adds to the overall meaning and the theme. By the end of the book most of the cultures that Jack encountered had been mixed together with his own because he had left such an impact on them.