AKA: The Storyteller, The Wandering Minstrel, The Tale Teller, Pied Piper
And no, as much as I enjoy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I don’t mean the Bard.
Throughout this I’m going to use the term “Bard” partly because it sounds cool, partly because I keep misspelling minstrel, and partly because it is long and annoying to repeat every one of the archetypes each of these things can fall under. Especially when they often serve the same functions.
What are Bards?:
Bards are storytellers. Oftentimes they’re also musicians. If they’re only musicians, they tend to be called minstrels. They tell tales of old and spread news across the land. They’re record keepers. They often perform in taverns or bars, or even the town square.
They’re also sometimes magical. Depending on the creation, being a Bard is magical. They always have the ability to change minds and influence people by their very nature. But some authors take it further. They’ll have Magical Music that can do whatever can be imagined.
History of the Bard:
Bards are basically as old as time. For almost as long as there have been humans, there has been a need to keep and share stories. They are especially important in societies where not everyone can read and most people don’t ever leave the village or demesne they grew up in.
Bards in Fantasy have grown and changed as the genre has. Both started pretty small, mimicking the world and trying to explain things as best they can. As time went on, we understood the world better, and our fantasy got better as a result. Now, bards can be literally magic or simple storytellers and musicians.
What Can You Expect from Bards?:
They drive exposition: They show up to explain something the characters (and readers) need to know. Typically just in time for it to be relevant.
They can pass on important past tales: especially when they’re immortal or functionally immortal and saw it first hand.
They can be the voice of reason: calming down angry mobs with facts and logic, or even lies. They can tell hard truths to those in power who need to learn it the most.
They can influence: Either through their words or through their magic. When you have one person telling the news to a group of people through the telephone game, people tend to believe what they hear..
They can really influence: They can pied piper or snake charm all of the people into doing their bidding through musical mind control. Either for good or evil.
They have one tale to tell, and by god they’re going to tell it: and it will be relevant.
They can create: I mean, if your bard can’t sing universes into creation, are they really even trying?
They can be a jack-of-all-trades: Especially common in video and role-playing games, bards are one of the most adaptable classes. They end up being able to do whatever you can imagine.
They can be thiefs, assassins, or spies: Because of their nature of traveling town-to-town and meeting new people, they can be a part of the darker side of life. I mean, no one suspects the bard to be the one whodunit!
They can be scoundrels, rascals, cheats and crooks: Not all bards are happy, good people singing to trees to release poor hobbitses. Sometimes they’re bitter and want to inflict a bit of pain on others.
They can even be a bit spoony!:A bit useless and just out for some silly, good fun.
Sidenote: TV tropes for this trope is utter garbage. If anyone is a fan of bards, and tries to update this atrocious lack, they would be doing the world a favour. Because those links I shared above are the ONLY ones I found for bards on TV Tropes at all.