Satireknight Rants – What Is A Saga?

I know people are probably sick of me bitching and moaning about Twilight, so I’ll keep this rant brief. In this case, it’s about the wanton abuse of the word “saga.”

“I’m good at big-girl words!”

I refuse to refer to this series as a “saga.” Smeyer and her publisher use that word to describe it all the time, presumably because “saga” sounds so much more epic and impressive and DEEEEEEEEEP. You know, like that OTHER fantasy series that came out a few years earlier. Or the sci-fi trilogy that came out a few years later.

Funny, neither the Hunger Games trilogy nor the Harry Potter series needed to add the word “saga.”

First I’m gonna examine what a saga is. Originally, they were oral narratives in Germanic/Scandinavian countries, and they were usually pretty epic. Wars, heroes, supernatural powers, kings, feuds, dynasties, and sweeping looks at their semi-fictionalized history. They came in all different sorts, but they usually involved a lot of STUFF going on. They were big in scale.

Yes, words change over time. But even today, the word “saga” means that your story is epic. It’s big. It’s got a major impact. Stuff is going on. It’s a long, detailed story, usually with lots of characters.

The problem? Well, Twilight is at (cold dead) heart a Sue story about Bella getting the sort of life Smeyer thinks she deserves. She should get a hot guy, a Suey kid (since all women must have a kid), immortality, “perfect” beauty, a mansion, more money than God and the undivided attention of everybody. The entirety of Smeyer’s imaginary world revolves around Bella and getting her what she wants. Nothing more. Nothing less.


The cast is small. Almost all of the action takes place in a single small town, involving NOBODY who doesn’t come there. There are only a handful of villains, and they don’t actually need thwarting or anything. Nobody fights for anything… well, except when they fight for Bella. But they don’t fight for anything big or important, and the consequences aren’t really far reaching. If you were a vampire or familiar living in some other part of the world in Smeyer’s universe, you would literally not know or care about the ENTIRE EVENTS OF THE SERIES.

Smeyer tries to give it some significance by introducing the Big Bad Vampire-Ruling Villains… who really don’t do much. And in the last book, she tries to epicize it by bringing in a bunch of OTHER vampires for a battle royale. But these new vampires don’t have any actual power or influence; they’re just a bunch of bodies there to make it seem like the Cullens have an army. And that battle royale?

That’s right, two groups of a few dozen people show up and make faces at each other. Then they go home. Even in the movie, which tried REALLY REALLY FUCKING HARD to let us know that this was important, the climactic battle “saga” is basically a few dozen people fighting.

In other words, this is an ANTI-saga. It takes everything that could be big and epic, and shrinks it down to the size of Bella’s life.

Let’s contemplate what some REAL epic stories are, shall we?

This is probably the best example of a saga I can come up with. JRR Tolkien came up with a pretty compact main cast with a lot of variety, but he also had dozens of supporting characters with their own important parts to play. And the story is IMPORTANT – the entire planet is riding on the actions of the main characters, because the villain will kill or enslave everybody in the world if he triumphs. And we see a pretty big chunk of that world as the characters travel, and their presence has a big impact on multiple countries and cultures.

Now THAT is an epic. Important stuff is going on, the characters are important to the world at large, and the story spans multiple civilizations.

I’m not really a fan of Harry Potter, but I’ll freely admit that this series – especially the second half – can be called a saga.

Yes, like Twilight, it focuses primarily on the perspective and life of one main character… you know, Harry Potter. Almost everything is from his perspective, and a lot of the plot revolves around him.


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