Tolkien's contributions to "modern fantasy"
#21
Ah, I did not know that. You learn something every day. If the authorities of the day were not irate about the racial themes, what were they objecting to?
"What song the Sirens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, though puzzling questions are not beyond conjecture." - Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici
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#22
Quote:Originally posted by Michael
Tolkien's influence on authors of the 1960s/1970s generation need not be as blatant as the use of trolls, orcs, and sword-wielding warriors. Writers like McCaffrey are correctly deemed contemporaries of Tolkien's.
. . .
In general, Tolkien opened doors through which other authors have walked. They wandered in their own directions, but Tolkien got them through the doors first. The "cute and cuddly" factor, however you define it or describe it, is attributed by some people to Tolkien -- there really wasn't anything like it in the Fantasy genre prior to the publication of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

That is all I was saying.

Well, Michael, I admit I usually avoid reading literary critics of Tolkien. So I am unfamiliar with their pronouncements. But about the "cute and cuddly" reference, I kind of see Puck as "cute" if not "cuddly"! Yeah, Robin Goodfellow! But do you recall which of said critics made that pronouncement? Do they seem to you to have completely overlooked that element in fairy story (hugely important as an inspiration of fantasy, thanks to JRR Tolkien) generally?

As to influences, I have read variously that Tolkien may have taken the idea of goblics/orcs and trees that speak from Beowulf, or Norse mythology generally. Certainly, trolls and elves and dwarfs were the stuff of many mythological tales.

I have never really thought of McCaffrey as being his contemporary; am I that far off base guessing her age? Is she not still living and writing? One example of a writer living and producing in the same time frame as Tolkien would be Edgar Rice Burroughs, I believe.

(As to early seminal influence on science fiction--as opposed to fantasy, I have always believed that tribute should go to Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Mary Shelley.)

IT is an OLD story that certain critics look down their noses at fantasy, sci-fi, and other more-modern genres as being "low brow". There is less of that now than in previous decades, but it is still the case.
Sidh na chae!
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#23
Quote:Originally posted by Ann Kalagon
Well, Michael, I admit I usually avoid reading literary critics of Tolkien. So I am unfamiliar with their pronouncements. But about the "cute and cuddly" reference, I kind of see Puck as "cute" if not "cuddly"! Yeah, Robin Goodfellow! But do you recall which of said critics made that pronouncement? Do they seem to you to have completely overlooked that element in fairy story (hugely important as an inspiration of fantasy, thanks to JRR Tolkien) generally?

The "cute and cuddly" factor arose out of private discussions I had with some people in the publishing/book distribution industry. To be precise, a friend of mine who used to be a bookseller told me that, in order to increase the chances of selling my own fiction, I needed to include a "cute and cuddly" character in the stories. She gave some examples and said it all went back to Tolkien. I shared her comments with some published authors and they agreed to a certain extent. (That is, they qualified their agreement, and one even said something like, "Unless you're Michael Moorcock").

Quote:As to influences, I have read variously that Tolkien may have taken the idea of goblics/orcs and trees that speak from Beowulf, or Norse mythology generally. Certainly, trolls and elves and dwarfs were the stuff of many mythological tales.

Tolkien's acknowledged influences include (in no particular order) The Bible, Greek mythology, Germanic folklore, Celtic folklore, Norse mythology, Icelandic sagas, the Kalevala (from Finland), "Beowulf", George MacDonald, and Shakespeare. And that is by no means an exhaustive list of his ACKNOWLEDGED sources. The critics have managed to heap a lot of other sources onto the pile (and I suppose I am one of them -- I have argued for a Babylonian/Egyptian impact on his numerals, for example).

The goblins of The Hobbit are generally regarded to be based on George MacDonald's goblins (Cf. The Princess and the Goblin). Tolkien acknowledged the MacDonald influence in Letter 144. The Orcs of The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings are a bit more serious and nasty than the Hobbit goblins, but they appear to be a gloss between the MacDonald breed and Tolkien's interpretation of the word "orcneas" (which occurs in "Beowulf"). "Orcneas" is defined as "demon corpse" or something similar. "Goblin" is originally a French word referring to a malicious spirit. Tolkien's relatively late idea that the original Orcs were corrupted Maiar might owe something to the etymology of both words.

Quote:I have never really thought of McCaffrey as being his contemporary; am I that far off base guessing her age? Is she not still living and writing? One example of a writer living and producing in the same time frame as Tolkien would be Edgar Rice Burroughs, I believe.

While ERB is certainly a Tolkien contemporary, I was implying that writers who emerged in the 1960s (Anne M's first Dragonriders book was published in 1968-70, I think) would be deemed contemporary with Tolkien because he hit the mass market only after Ace Books published the unauthorized edition of LoTR. The same generation that discovered Tolkien in the 1960s also discovered McCaffrey and her contemporaries. Tolkien had been around for many years, but he nonetheless achieved a fresh presence in the SF markets with the paperbacks.

The Ents, btw, owe a great deal to Tolkien's dissatisfaction with Shakespeare's "coming of 'Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill'" (see footnote to Letter 163).
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#24
Quote:Originally posted by Michael




While ERB is certainly a Tolkien contemporary, I was implying that writers who emerged in the 1960s (Anne M's first Dragonriders book was published in 1968-70, I think) would be deemed contemporary with Tolkien because he hit the mass market only after Ace Books published the unauthorized edition of LoTR. The same generation that discovered Tolkien in the 1960s also discovered McCaffrey and her contemporaries. Tolkien had been around for many years, but he nonetheless achieved a fresh presence in the SF markets with the paperbacks.

The Ents, btw, owe a great deal to Tolkien's dissatisfaction with Shakespeare's "coming of 'Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill'" (see footnote to Letter 163).
"Draagonrider" and "Weyr Search" were first published in Analog in 1967, with Dragonrider published by Walker in 1968. I have a first edition (sans dust jacket, alas) that I purchsed from an ad in Analog. As for the Birnham Wood thing, I agree with JRRT about that being a cheap shot. Wink
"What song the Sirens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, though puzzling questions are not beyond conjecture." - Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici
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#25
I have to say that one thing that has bothered me about some fantasy published since Tolkien is the extent to which some people go about trying to create "another" LOTR. This is what I have always disliked about the Terry Brooks books -- it's to the point where you can say, well Allanon is meant to be Gandalf, etc.

On the other hand, there is some truly good stuff out there that is not nearly so derivative. I'm particularly fond of Patricia McKillip's Riddle Master trilogy. Yes, there's a nod to Tolkien in the sense that the Star-Bearer calls to mind the notion of Smith of Wooten Major bearing a star on his forhead. But she is not just spinning a yarn (like Brooks); there is some deeper thought about questions of human nature, power, temptation, self-control and self-acceptance. I suppose one could construe a Tolkien influence in terms of thoughts about the nature and use of violence. The whole theme of "they were promised a man of peace" reminds me of Faramir not "liking the sword for its brightness" as well as the message in the Homecoming of Beortnoth (spelling?)

As for as the cute and cuddly bit goes, I am reminded of my thoughts about Katherine Kurtz's Deryni books. She may have started with some element of that, but these days she reminds me of Saruman -- it's dangerous to study the works of the Enemy too long for good or ill. There's a point where I just can't read another description of disemboweling, empaling, crucifiction, or strangling children with bowstrings. Call me weak-willed, but there it is -- I guess I'm just cute and cuddly at heart. Smile
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#26
Silmarien, I, too, am a great fan of Patricia McKillip's Riddlemaster Trilogy to the extent of reading to death two sets of books, one hardback, the other soft. I particularly like the invented science of Riddlery as an attempt to understand their peculiar history.
"What song the Sirens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, though puzzling questions are not beyond conjecture." - Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici
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