Tolkien (was Re: Who invented the modern fantasy genre?)

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Tue Aug 24 07:37:41 EDT 2004


Emma wrote:

>It would be interesting to hear from someone who read it when it
>first came out, who doesn't have horrible rip-offs in the front of their
>minds when they read it.

Not quite "when it first came out", which in the case of the Hobbit was
long before I was born and in the case of LotR was *just* before I was
born, but certainly well before I read any of the horrible rip-offs, which
(if Terry Brooks started them, did someone suggest? that was 1977?) took
more than twenty years to happen.  I can remember being mildly pissed off
when Tolkien was "discovered" in the late sixties, and suddenly everyone
was babbling about the books and being no end pseudy and as far as I was
concerned missing the point completely -- not to mention Hell's Angels
calling themselves "Strider", and hippies naming their children Frodo, and
all the rest of the hoofaraw.  I suppose there might have been imitations
at that point but I don't remember reading them.

I measure fantasy against Tolkien, rather a lot, and very little in the
same general area measures up!  If it's a quest with elves it needs to be
really first-rate for me not to feel a distinct "oh yawn, another rip-off"
as I cast it from me with some force.

Oh...  I did think that Garner had ripped off Tolkien when I first read
*Weirdstone* -- which came out in 1960, didn't it? -- as a child: there
seemed to be rather a lot of similarity, to my uninformed infant mind.  I
thought that for instance the Chasm and the Thing In It That Gets Woken By
Something Falling In was a bit familiar when I encountered it, in fact I
thought the whole Mines of Moria I mean sorry Undercroft to the Morrigan's
House was something I had met before.  Dwarves.  Elves.  Sinister birds
patrolling the skies.  A hooded nasty whose face was never seen but who
turned out in the end to have been Good and Beautiful before the evil
overlord subverted him.  (Come to that, a used-to-be-good ally of the evil
overlord who is trying to set up in competition.)  A Wise Old Wizard who
gets it a bit wrong and doesn't quite manage to be as much help as someone
that Wise ought to be.  A down-to-earth countryman who goes along on the
Quest.  A desperate rush across country in the magically-induced snow to
get rid of an object.  Things like that.

Of course someone as sensitive on the subject of plagiarism as Garner has
been in his time (and as inclined to fury if he thinks anyone has used one
of his ideas even if the idea in question is actually out of the Mabinogion
and somewhat Public Domain by now) would never have dreamed of using
someone else's work for inspiration.  So I must have been wrong, mustn't I.
I just didn't realise that they were both mining the same sources, as it
were.

Minnow


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