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Author Topic: J.R.R. Tolkien  (Read 48628 times)

Offline Doctor_Chill

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Re: J.R.R. Tolkien
« Reply #15 on: September 05, 2012, 11:25:16 PM »
From what I can understand, you're saying Tolkein wrote a horrible story, no matter what the time, coupled with terrible prose that would eventually happen. I can agree with the prose part. But saying that it would eventually happen is a sad assumption of ignorance. In mystery/ crime detective, there's this guy called Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Yes, his prose might not suit my taste, but neither does Shakespeare. Both are genuises, though. Fantasy has Tolkein.

The gist is that something will happen eventually. But you dismiss the inevitable. Fantasy would progress in the same fashion without Tokein. But where would we be today without him. You say the tropes were all there, and overdone at that. But the standard today, the trope if you will, is to be original and full of twists. When presented enough times, it will become boring, as you say Tokein is. To dismiss his ingenuity is sad. If we went back and let some autho read bits of GRRM, fantasy would be completely different, maybe in the same vein as Tolkein.

But I agree when you state getting annoyed by people who only read LotR. For me, it's Eragon, which is less inventive than LotR in my opinion.
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Offline Seven

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Re: J.R.R. Tolkien
« Reply #16 on: September 05, 2012, 11:51:11 PM »
The gist is that something will happen eventually. But you dismiss the inevitable. Fantasy would progress in the same fashion without Tokein. But where would we be today without him. You say the tropes were all there, and overdone at that. But the standard today, the trope if you will, is to be original and full of twists. When presented enough times, it will become boring, as you say Tokein is. To dismiss his ingenuity is sad. If we went back and let some autho read bits of GRRM, fantasy would be completely different, maybe in the same vein as Tolkein.
I think the journey might have been different, but we'd have ended up here eventually. Removing LotR would result in no great loss or even difference to fantasy, in my opinion.

Think of it like convergent evolution: certain creatures evolve similar features completely independently of each other with no common ancestry purely because the features are good. They don't need to have any knowledge of each other. In the same way, I think fantasy would always have matured as it did and ended up in its current state regardless of LotR's existence because it is good. Adding in the human drive to always create and improve removes the element of chance, so I definitely think the evolution of fantasy was inevitable.

But I agree when you state getting annoyed by people who only read LotR. For me, it's Eragon, which is less inventive than LotR in my opinion.
Nihil novi sub sole. It wasn't inventive when Tolkien done it, but I can agree it was even less so when Paolini done it, since he basically mashed together Star Wars and Lord of the Rings as opposed to Tolkien drawing on dozens of sources. Eragon is more obvious and lazy about its plagiarism, let's say, but what it did, it did better than LotR.

Offline BrianAnderson

Re: J.R.R. Tolkien
« Reply #17 on: September 06, 2012, 12:19:30 AM »
I read a couple of the Eregon books. I have to say they didn't leave me awestruck, but I enjoyed them well enough. Of course I often read just for fun with little expectations of a life changing story. I guess that I tend to be less critical than most. He did certainly take from Tolkien. But as I understand, he was only 20 when he wrote the first book. Unless I'm misinformed....
To a point made earlier regarding writing styles as opposed to ideas. I'm probably going to take a lot of heat for this, but Stephen King's style as never appealed to me. Don't get me wrong, I respect him, and realize it's my own taste and opinion (ones clearly not shared my millions of fans), but I struggle to read his work. Even when I like the idea behind it.
And as I said before, as much as I love Tolkien, I find myself skipping over the vast amounts of descriptions to get back to the story. And the story is a classic good-v-evil told many times in many ways. But how many writers are truly original anyway? Most of us take what we've read, combine it with an idea, mix it with experience, and see what happens. Not that originality deosn't exist, but it begs the question...is it truly original?
Even if you think Tolkien sucks, think about how many people out there fell in love with fantasy because of him. His popularity has brought the genre into the mainstream and gave many fantasy writer an opportunity they might not have had otherwise, and in turn given fans wonderful books to read that we would have been otherwise denied.

Offline Jian

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Re: J.R.R. Tolkien
« Reply #18 on: September 06, 2012, 06:56:29 AM »
The gist is that something will happen eventually. But you dismiss the inevitable. Fantasy would progress in the same fashion without Tokein. But where would we be today without him. You say the tropes were all there, and overdone at that. But the standard today, the trope if you will, is to be original and full of twists. When presented enough times, it will become boring, as you say Tokein is. To dismiss his ingenuity is sad. If we went back and let some autho read bits of GRRM, fantasy would be completely different, maybe in the same vein as Tolkein.
I think the journey might have been different, but we'd have ended up here eventually. Removing LotR would result in no great loss or even difference to fantasy, in my opinion.

Think of it like convergent evolution: certain creatures evolve similar features completely independently of each other with no common ancestry purely because the features are good. They don't need to have any knowledge of each other. In the same way, I think fantasy would always have matured as it did and ended up in its current state regardless of LotR's existence because it is good. Adding in the human drive to always create and improve removes the element of chance, so I definitely think the evolution of fantasy was inevitable.

But I agree when you state getting annoyed by people who only read LotR. For me, it's Eragon, which is less inventive than LotR in my opinion.
Nihil novi sub sole. It wasn't inventive when Tolkien done it, but I can agree it was even less so when Paolini done it, since he basically mashed together Star Wars and Lord of the Rings as opposed to Tolkien drawing on dozens of sources. Eragon is more obvious and lazy about its plagiarism, let's say, but what it did, it did better than LotR.

I literally fell asleep when I tried to read Lord of the Rings, but with Eragon, I downright got mad that it managed to become a bestseller, and dropped it on the floor. Awful, awful book. Much worse than LOTR since, as you said, copied a ton from both Star Wars and LOTR. And Star Wars was already derivative. What irks me most about it is that the dedication in which Paolini had to getting his book out there was astounding, but he was just lazy when he wrote Eragon. The writing was bad, the story was boring, and the characters were all one-dimensional and had no originality to them.

@Seven, I think, in comparison to the current works today, and without taking into account the time period of LOTR, it was indeed a piece of crap by today's standards. Same reason why a lot don't like Wheel of Time (coughs ME coughs), but people, like it or not, plagiarize all the time. I mean, subconsciously, we read something, and it sticks in our head. And when we try to purge it so we can get on with our own story, one little nugget of info sticks around, and you subconsciously think of it a few days later, and decide to implement it in a similar fashion. That's what everyone did after Tolkien, to the point that Tolkien-esque stories are just pure crap nowadays. But if it wasn't for all those imitators of Tolkien, E.R. Edison, and C.S. Lewis, creative geniuses like Mieville, Rothfuss, and Sanderson wouldn't have strived to write something more original. So by writing a rather predictable story, he spurned them to write unpredictable stories with epic twists and turns.

@Anderson. It can get laborious to read Stephen King, but his books are just those fast reads that you read if you just want to relax. I actually have a goal to defeat him in terms of quantity in books (he has written about 51 books, I think), so I've been writing like crazy since setting out to defeat him. xD
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Offline pornokitsch

Re: J.R.R. Tolkien
« Reply #19 on: September 06, 2012, 01:45:09 PM »
We stopped by the Eagle and Child on the way to the SFX Weekender last year and raised pints. However the heat was out, and it was February, so our pints may have frozen...

I've got mixed feelings about Tolkien as a reader. I love The Hobbit and The Two Towers. Spectacularly bored by Fellowship and the Return of the King. But I absolutely 100% advocate that anyone 'seriously' (interpret as you will) reading or writing fantasy should read him. Even if it is just to look what he did wrong. Love or hate his work, he defined fantasy for 50 years, and the backlash against Tolkienesque fantasy may define it for the next 20.. (or already be over, depending how you look at it). It is like taking a course in religion without reading the Bible.

My pet theory about Tolkienesque fantasy is that everyone imitating Tolkien got it wrong: they all wrote books about Aragorn. Lost kings, romances with princesses, ranger/wizards with broken heirlooms, etc. etc. Tolkien really wrote books about hobbits. Completely ordinary people who were a bit crap at everything, got in over their heads and failed a lot. For a man credited with creating high fantasy, he also did a LOT for low fantasy...

(Fun fact about the Newton quote. One interpretation is that he was using it as an insult in an argument with Hooke, who was, er, shorter. Newton wasn't above a bit of snark.)


Offline Seven

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Re: J.R.R. Tolkien
« Reply #20 on: September 06, 2012, 01:55:19 PM »
My pet theory about Tolkienesque fantasy is that everyone imitating Tolkien got it wrong: they all wrote books about Aragorn. Lost kings, romances with princesses, ranger/wizards with broken heirlooms, etc. etc. Tolkien really wrote books about hobbits. Completely ordinary people who were a bit crap at everything, got in over their heads and failed a lot.
I think there's a middle ground between the hobbits (worthless baggage) and Kvothe (godlike perfection). I found the hobbits extremely irritating to be honest.

Gandalf - demigod in human form.
Legolas - Elf prince. Immortal, with an affinity for nature and the wild, and good in a fight.
Aragorn - King, leader of a remnant group of "high men" types, excellent survival skills and good in a fight.
Gimli - dwarf of the royal line, good in a fight.
Boromir - heir to the "stewardship" of Gondor; de facto future king. Skilled leader, good in a fight, only one with the guts to actually use the ring.
Merry, Pippin, Sam and Frodo - bunch of fat midgets. Their skills, collectively: gardening, boating, cooking, hiding, whining and being so useless even the Ring can't inspire ambition in them.

See what I mean? Gimli is a great middle ground; less experienced than the two immortal fellows and Aragorn, no great power or advantages, not a king or future king, just good in a fight and not completely worthless.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2012, 02:28:44 PM by Seven »

Offline pornokitsch

Re: J.R.R. Tolkien
« Reply #21 on: September 06, 2012, 04:52:23 PM »
I found the hobbits extremely irritating to be honest.

Oh I'm totally with you on that! And I think your middle-ground point is a really good one. But I find it interesting that Tolkien is known as the granddaddy of Big High Fantasy Stories, when really, the Big High Fantasy characters were supporting, and his heroes were slobs.

My favorite character in all of his books is Boromir (and his father is fascinating as well). He's the only one with an actual character development arc. Plus, hard not to feel for him. While Aragorn and Gandalf have been dicking about for centuries, Borormir and his family have been the Last Line of Defense against Mordor. Is it any surprise that Boromir thinks he should have the ring? Or that his father is a little skeptical that Aragorn is back to claim the throne? These guys have been doing their jobs and fighting evil for generations while Aragorn angsted about in the woods. I'd be a little upset too.

(The whole thing ties in to the whole underlying classism in Tolkien, which is another reason that it should a) be read and b) be read critically. The whole trope of 'those born to rule' are superior to those that 'work to rule' is a nasty thing popularised here...)

(Anyway, yes. Hobbits, really annoying!)

Offline Seven

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Re: J.R.R. Tolkien
« Reply #22 on: September 06, 2012, 04:55:44 PM »
(The whole thing ties in to the whole underlying classism in Tolkien, which is another reason that it should a) be read and b) be read critically. The whole trope of 'those born to rule' are superior to those that 'work to rule' is a nasty thing popularised here...)
You would love this: ymarkov.livejournal.com/270570.html

Boromir was my favourite too. He was the only one to challenge the idea that the Ring must be destroyed, as opposed to used for good. Who knows, maybe Gandalf was right and it would inevitably corrupt anyone into a new Evil Overlord, but no one seemed to have the strength of will to even TRY. And the world was going to be screwed by Sauron even without the Ring, so one of them putting it on, defeating Sauron then going bad couldn't exactly make things any WORSE.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2012, 05:00:31 PM by Seven »

Offline Jian

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Re: J.R.R. Tolkien
« Reply #23 on: September 06, 2012, 07:38:11 PM »
(The whole thing ties in to the whole underlying classism in Tolkien, which is another reason that it should a) be read and b) be read critically. The whole trope of 'those born to rule' are superior to those that 'work to rule' is a nasty thing popularised here...)
You would love this: ymarkov.livejournal.com/270570.html

Boromir was my favourite too. He was the only one to challenge the idea that the Ring must be destroyed, as opposed to used for good. Who knows, maybe Gandalf was right and it would inevitably corrupt anyone into a new Evil Overlord, but no one seemed to have the strength of will to even TRY. And the world was going to be screwed by Sauron even without the Ring, so one of them putting it on, defeating Sauron then going bad couldn't exactly make things any WORSE.

Aye, my favorite from the movies. Though it's hard not to love anything portrayed by Sean Bean. (-coughs- Ned Stark anyone? -coughs-)

Boromir and Faramir were pretty interesting characters because they were human. I mean, it's hard not to see Aragorn as human when he's old as Hell, can speak fluent Elvish, and can crack open curses like they're a jar of pickles. Same reason why Legolas was at the bottom of the Best Fantasy Archers list on Paul Wiseall's article. Too perfect. Hard to relate to. So Boromir and Faramir were a welcome change in the movies from all the perfection. (Though I loved the character of Aragorn and Legolas when I was about 5 and watched LOTR.)
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Offline Seven

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Re: J.R.R. Tolkien
« Reply #24 on: September 06, 2012, 07:42:11 PM »
Aragorn isn't REALLY human. He's from an older race of Men who live longer, are tougher and generally better than regular Men, similar to antediluvian biblical humans.

Offline J. Mark Miller

Re: J.R.R. Tolkien
« Reply #25 on: September 09, 2012, 04:24:34 AM »
I watched this discussion with curiosity and a bit of anger as it happened the other day. Don't worry, no flames coming, just a bit of perspective.

Why is Tolkien revered? Well, because there are some of us who had their imaginations captured at the right place at the right time. For those, like Seven, who don't like or appreciate his work, that's ok. There are several authors who inspired me or caught my imagination who some folks consider hack writers. That's ok too. What's important is somehow, someway, their storytelling came alive in my mind and fired my imagination, and that's what most important.

Coincidentally, I started re-reading Lord of the Rings earlier this week, and I found something pertinent to this discussion from Tolkien himself. It's from the Foreword he wrote for the Ballentine paperback re-issue of the trilogy, and if you'll indulge me, I'd like to share a paragraph with you.

"The Lord of the Rings has been read by many people since it finally appeared in print ten years ago; and I should like to say something here with reference to the many opinions or guesses that I have received or have read concerning the motives and meaning of the tale. The prime motive was the desire of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them. As a guide I had only my own feelings for what is appealing or moving, and for many the guide was inevitably often at fault. Some who have read the book, or at any rate have revived it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible; and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer. But even from the point of view of many who have enjoyed my story there is much that fails to please. It is perhaps not possible in a long tale to please everybody at all points, or to displease everybody at the same points; for I find from the letters that I have received that the passages or chapters that are to some a blemish are all by others specially approved. The most critical reader of all, myself, now finds many defects, minor and major, but being fortunately under no obligation either to review the book or to write it again, he will pass over these in silence, except one that has been noted by others: the book is too short."

One further passage, if you please:

"I hope that those who have read The Lord of the Rings with pleasure will not think me ungrateful: to please readers was my main object, and to be assured of this has been a great reward."

Whatever people think about him, he accomplished what he set out to do with his stories. And like him or not, we're still talking about him. That, my friends, is influence.

Thanks for indulging me. :)

Offline pornokitsch

Re: J.R.R. Tolkien
« Reply #26 on: September 09, 2012, 08:48:30 AM »
I don't think anyone's disagreeing that Tolkien is vastly influential.

It is, as you point out, a matter of whether or not he's still enjoyable! And, judging by this thread - opinions differ on that, and even Tolkien agrees with it.

Speaking of which, another Tolkien-spawned trope comes out of the Scouring of the Shire. One of my favourite parts of the Lord of the Rings, but also started the whole 'old vs new is good vs book" equation. You get that everywhere in high fantasy. We're now trained as readers to understand that anything that containing newness or modernisation or (most of all) industrialisation is going to be a tool of the Big Evil.



Offline Fellshot

Re: J.R.R. Tolkien
« Reply #27 on: September 09, 2012, 05:52:55 PM »
I think that part of the issues surrounding Tolkein is that people get so caught up in the overbearing pompousness of LotR and the Simarillion (which is one of the most boring books on the planet) that they use that as the be all end all of his influence and forget that The Hobbit is a vastly different tale from either of them.

However, since the pompousness in Tolkien's work is both obvious and has multiple flavors to it (classist, sexism, racism, pastoralism anyone?), it merits discussion since those same flavors of pompousness continued to crop up in fantasy all the time and it's nice to have one instantly recognizable book that acts as an example of all of them at once.

I also think that its very easy to get lost in the trappings and set pieces that Tolkien used. The language, the maps, the places described are all very interesting.



Offline Seven

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Re: J.R.R. Tolkien
« Reply #28 on: September 09, 2012, 06:01:31 PM »
However, since the pompousness in Tolkien's work is both obvious and has multiple flavors to it (classist, sexism, racism, pastoralism anyone?), it merits discussion since those same flavors of pompousness continued to crop up in fantasy all the time and it's nice to have one instantly recognizable book that acts as an example of all of them at once.
I can't remember which thread to link to it, but there was a conversation about that a while back. I think it's ridiculous to attribute sexism, racism, etc to a work just because it doesn't feature women or features dark people as antagonists.

Offline J. Mark Miller

Re: J.R.R. Tolkien
« Reply #29 on: September 09, 2012, 07:31:04 PM »
I don't think anyone's disagreeing that Tolkien is vastly influential.

It is, as you point out, a matter of whether or not he's still enjoyable! And, judging by this thread - opinions differ on that, and even Tolkien agrees with it.

Yep, and that's really the point my long-winded post was meant to make. It's like music in a lot of way. You like what you like, and don't like what you don't. That's ok, and everyone else would do well to be ok with it too.

That's the true beauty of a forum like this, a place where can all share our opinions. I'm thankful not everyone likes what I like and were not influenced by the same things. Ugh, how boring would literature turn out then?