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Mrevilpants
08-08-2005, 09:40 PM
Well hello everybody. Ive only just registered having stumbled into these forums by accident and finding them both insightful and refreshing. I was looking into writing a book for the first time after reading an absolutely attrocious David and Leigh eddings novel. Are they meant to be childrens authors? i found the premise of Redemption of Althalus Uninspired, the characters 2 dimentional and the writing bordering on the farcicle.

Anyhow, the point in this thread is as follows. Ive been wondering recently why so many decent authors start out rehashing the tired old Lord of the Rings formula. Ill probably get lambasted for saying this, but ive never really been into the lord of the rings books. I adored the biblical style and epic scope of the silmarillion but found the lord of the rings abit Ponderous. It was written after all as a study of linguistics which i think is telling.

I recently read Raymond E.Feist's Riftwar saga recently. The first book Magician Is the story of Pug and Thomas as they embark on an epic journey to make an appeal to a mad king, on the way they meet the elf queen algranna in her secluded and magical elven tree home, and through the dwarven mines of mac mordain etc... bla de blah de blah.. The book soon takes on a character of its own, detailing a war through a space spanning portal, and throwing in Time and space travel, as well as a meeting with the gods and the legacy of millenia old dragon riders.

The point is, Raymond E.Feist is an author of surpassing imagination, so what was the point of filling the intro to his epic and original fantasy with a tired rehashings of Tolkiens ideas. The story would have worked just as well without elves.

It seems an author will only get published if their first book is a tired reworking of the traditional formulas.

Terry Brooks' talismans of Shannara series was far superior to the 'travel to the black mountain and destroy the dark lord' sword of shannara.
James Clemens' Shadow Fall was gritty and original compared to the 'travel to the black mountain and destroy the dark lord' Witch War Saga.

Does this rile anyone else because as much as i like to rant, i really prefer ranting with others. It makes me feel like theres a point to ranting.

Saanen
08-08-2005, 11:34 PM
There's a fine line, I think, between someone rehashing Tolkien and someone writing an epic fantasy. Epic fantasies concern quests and battles, the outcome of which is the balance of good and evil/saving the world. The Lord of the Rings is an epic fantasy, so all epic fantasies are going to have some of the same elements as LotR even if the author deliberately avoids all things Tolkien. Also, many of Tolkien's ideas have become so embedded in fantasy writing that they're sort of stock elements and careless authors use them without thinking them through (e.g. noble elves, warlike dwarves, evil orcs, etc.).

Sorry, I tend to play devil's advocate ALL the time--it drives my family crazy. Actually I agree with you, and welcome to the boards. :)

JerseyGirl1962
08-09-2005, 12:07 AM
:welcome:

Although I don't agree with you about Tolkien (I love LOTR), I do agree that too many fantasy authors try to rehash LOTR, usually with crappy results.

For instance, I tried reading the 1st of the Shannara books by Terry Brooks and couldn't stand it. He made it so obvious!

You said you read something by David & Leigh Eddings - have you ever tried reading his 5 book series "The Belgariad"? It's the standard "boy from the backwater has no clue he has awesome powers" thing, but I found that series to be a lot of fun - there's a definite skein of humor running through it which I loved (one character esp. stood out - Silk; cracked me up every time that character was around). You might want to check out the first book of the series, or read an excerpt off of Amazon if the feature is available for it. BTW, it was written for adults.

I think you'll find plenty on these boards who share your dislike of LOTR. I'm just not one of them, heh heh. ;)

~Nancy

pconsidine
08-09-2005, 01:12 AM
Regardless of what one may feel about Tolkien's work, it still represents a milestone achievement in epic literature. It's really only due to the fact that it's the last Great Epic that things since then seem to derivative. Epic literature goes back to far before 1937. One could just as easily say that everyone is cribbing off Arthurian legend.

The only bit of magical fantasy writing I've done was lifted from a very brief passage in an Irish myth. It may be less derivative than others, but I'm sure you could still find similarities.

Nateskate
08-09-2005, 02:11 AM
Very few things are entirely unique in life. When Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion were written, they were unique, and to the point where Tolkien wrote a defense of fairy tales, trying to convince an audience that these things can be aimed at an adult audience. Who'd a thunk it?

And essentially, he draws from Norse, Greek, and other myths. He even uses Biblical material in the blend. The Fall of Numenor (partly Atlantis/Partly Noah's fload/Partly tower of Bable/Partly destruction of Sodom) and threw it all together. However, he believed in a formula, and that essentially all fairy tales have an element of Eucatastrophy, unfortunate events leading to a great good.

Throw in some English legends, and you have Arda- his world.

Tolkien uses composites, so his Valar are Angels or "powers", but with characteristics of Mythological gods. In his mind, they were more "Angel" than "gods", but they behaived more like Zeus and Mars.

I'm not disagreeing with you. I feel so many authors have piggy-backed off of Tolkien, or Caucer, the Author legends. But it's kind of like saying, "All Romance books are copycats because two people always fall in love, or three." Well, you get my drift. Yes, the point of a Romance never changes, but Romance lovers aren't looking for a spin where love isn't the point, and people in tanks just kill and maim each other.

This is long-winded, but my point is this. If you trace most fantasies back, you have your "Messiah", the number one element in all fantasy. You have your Satan prototype- the other number one element in fantasy. Or you have Dragon-lore, but generally you have a Messiah in Dragon-lore. Or you have your basic occult-lore, which is spell oriented, but even in your spell lore, you have your messianic figure. Oh, and your mythology-lore, which may actually be the other number one element.

In other words, you have everybody stirring the same pot even though people add their spin to the pot. But now that we've identified the pot, except for occult-lore, which is surprisingly small in the whole of Tolkien's myth, he has virtually everything else. For this reason, you can have another influence (not Tolkien), but you may still wind up looking like Tolkien.

Narnia- Aslan is the Messiah Prototype. LOTR- Frodo/Aragorn/Gandalf- all partial Messiah Prototype. You have this in Dune, and most others. Are they copycats? Maybe. But the point is, I think if you look deep, fantasy is somewhat like Romance, in that people are looking for hope. So, some common elements will repeat themselves.

Nateskate
08-09-2005, 02:30 AM
Regardless of what one may feel about Tolkien's work, it still represents a milestone achievement in epic literature. It's really only due to the fact that it's the last Great Epic that things since then seem to derivative. Epic literature goes back to far before 1937. One could just as easily say that everyone is cribbing off Arthurian legend.

The only bit of magical fantasy writing I've done was lifted from a very brief passage in an Irish myth. It may be less derivative than others, but I'm sure you could still find similarities.

I agree it was a milestone. But I think Tolkien takes the most out of Norse Mythology, rather than arthur. The second influence was probably the Bible. Then he blends in English Lore to make it an English Legend.

Arthurian legend was a bit different than mythology. The view of magic in Tolkien's world vs the Arthurian world differ. Tolkien's view of "magic" is different than in the arthur legends. In a sense, he saw "magic" as the "machine", and in many cases, as evil's attempt to take a short cut to an ends, which backfires. However, the "power" intrinsic to a nature, was not seen as such.

Tolkien said that the point of his book was not that Power corrupts, although it is a valid point. His point was from an Elf and Human perspective. Tolkien believed in fallen nature. And in his mythology, what corrupted the Elves and Man was an attempt at immortality. (Elves/and man) In the Silmarillion, this leads to man trying to Usurp power and listen to Sauron's lies. However, in the earlier part of the story, Tolkien implies the Elves turned to magic for a different reason. They were born into a corrupt world, poisoned by Melkor (Sauron's boss). And Tolkien implies that since their fate "The Elves" was tied to the fate of the world, they tried to preserve the world. However, he said they actually tried to Embalm the world, fearing change. The Silmarills were the downfall of the Elves. In a sense, the light within was a gift to humanity, and they tried to "own" or control it.

In his story, the Wizards are not "Wizards" like in Arthurian legend. They are Maia (spelling???) which is kind of like a lesser angel. The five Wizards of LOTR were sent to counter evil in the world, but restricted from using most of their powers to acheive this. So, Gandalf, cheifly is supposed to use his influence to motivate humankind to fight evil, rather than to fight their war for them.

So, when Gandalf comes back as Gandalf the White, it isn't by spells. Rather, he is "sent back" to finish his work, and equipped with greater power to do that.

So, the temptation of the rings for each kind was different. For the Elves, the rings were used to control the elements of the world to preserve their turf so it never changed. And it became a snare to them, because Sauron could then control them if they used their rings. But the humans were tempted to take the rings, not simply for "Power" as the movie implies, but because it prolonged life. But we see what happens to the humans (Hobbits were humans) in that it stretched life, but didn't make Gollum better, or his life fuller. It was a deception.

Jamesaritchie
08-09-2005, 03:29 AM
I was looking into writing a book for the first time after reading an absolutely attrocious David and Leigh eddings novel. Are they meant to be childrens authors? i found the premise of Redemption of Althalus Uninspired, the characters 2 dimentional and the writing bordering on the farcicle.
Ill probably get lambasted for saying this, but ive never really been into the lord of the rings books. I adored the biblical style and epic scope of the silmarillion but found the lord of the rings abit Ponderous. It was written after all as a study of linguistics which i think is telling.

.

Well, I like David Eddings, so, no, those are not children's books. I think they're all pretty good, considering they aren't very original.

As for LOTR, it was written for many reasons, and a study of linguistics was only a minor reason. I think the things are masterpieces. Which is why so many cliched, cloned, tripe-filled novels are still written based on Tolkien's work.

You're the first I've ever heard who prefers the Silmarillion to LOTR. Even many die hard fans don't like Silmarillion.

But I do wish writers would get away from Tolkien. Epic fantasy does not need elves and wizards, any more than an epic western needs elves and wizards. The main reason I read so little fantasy these days is because there are so few original writers in the genre. There will always be a fan base for elves and wizards, but 99% of the books written as epic fantasy are not original, not very good, and in a few years, or sooner, will disappear without trace. They are, at best, popcorn books.

There's a whole, wide world of epic fantasy waiting to be written that has nothing to do with elves, wizards, or Tolkien. What's lacking is a writer who hads the imagination to write without using these cliches.

alaskamatt17
08-09-2005, 02:05 PM
I'm moving my fantasy away from Tolkien territory. My first book had dwarves and elves (it will never be published), my Orion's Key trilogy is a little better, with genetically engineered dinosaurs taking the place of the typical fantasy races. My next project will truly move away from standard epic fantasy fare: the opening scene occurs in an emergency room. A man is wheeled in by two paramedics, he is fast asleep, but a brain scan reveals that he's experiencing all the symptoms of sleep deprivation--at an accelerated rate.

I agree that too many fantasy novels borrow from Tolkien. But I love Lord of the Rings, and I've done my share of "borrowing." I'm through with that now, though.

Nateskate
08-09-2005, 04:12 PM
World building is quite an accomplishment. And one of the reasons why I think we see so many borrowed criters, is that you can lose your audience before you get them into your story.

The Silmarillion might have died an obscure death if it was Tolkien's first book. Likewise, if LOTR was the first book, people might not have known what to do with it.

The book that starts the ball rolling is the least relative to the whole story, "The Hobbit". The nature of the Dwarves is not the tough stone-like Naugrim of the Silmarillian. They were bed-time story dwarves, who prance into Bilbo's life like Sneezy, Dopey, Frumpy and Dumpy. The Elves in Rivendale, "in the Hobbit" were just party hardy elves, as were the Wood Elves of Mirkwood.

In a sense, Tolkien's first published story gave him a head start. People who loved the hobbit didn't know what LOTR was about. It begins, "About Hobbits", and seems whimsical.

So, in Tolkien's landscape, he did world build, but no one knows about that world until after Mount Doom. Who knew about Illuvatar? Who knew about Arda?

In a sense, if he began in the beginning, there might not have been any more books. But because he began with "The Hobbit", and now hooks Hobbit-lovers onto LOTR, he has a loyal following who will read the rest of the story with interest.

mistri
08-09-2005, 04:51 PM
There are many, many new fantasy books today that don't follow Tolkien. Saying that, most epic fantasies do. It seems that when authors write on a particularly large scale (good and evil, saving the world, etc), the temptation is fall into near-cliches. I wonder why that is, and how easy it is to avoid? I, personally, wouldn't write about elves (they just don't appeal to me), for example, but then most of my fantasy ideas are on a somewhat smaller scale.

azbikergirl
08-09-2005, 06:26 PM
I'm reading George R. R. Martin now, and while his 'A Song of Fire and Ice' books are set in a medieval world, they are not Tolkienesque. Of course, I haven't finished yet -- could be elves or orcs are behind it all, but I don't think so. :) I'll bet if we put our minds to it, we can find a bunch of epic fantasies that have none of those 'Tolkien' elements. I think the last time I read something that was really like Tolkien, the author was RA Salvatore (Wizards of the Coast).

Does simply being in a medieval setting qualify as following Tolkien? If so, all my fantasy is Tolkienesque. If not, none of it is! I have not a single dwarf, elf, hobbit, orc, etc. Oh wait. I do have magic users. Does that make it Tolkienesque? But if fantasy is set in the middle ages and has no magic, is it really fantasy? Or is it just 'alternate history?' I recently read Paladin of Souls: medieval setting, magic-users. Tolkien? Not even a little.

Guess it comes down to how you're defining 'following Tolkien.'

Jamesaritchie
08-09-2005, 06:42 PM
There are many, many new fantasy books today that don't follow Tolkien. Saying that, most epic fantasies do. It seems that when authors write on a particularly large scale (good and evil, saving the world, etc), the temptation is fall into near-cliches. I wonder why that is, and how easy it is to avoid? I, personally, wouldn't write about elves (they just don't appeal to me), for example, but then most of my fantasy ideas are on a somewhat smaller scale.

Yes, there are some good fantasies that do not copy Tolkien. But they can be terribly difficult to find.

Jamesaritchie
08-09-2005, 06:53 PM
I'm reading George R. R. Martin now, and while his 'A Song of Fire and Ice' books are set in a medieval world, they are not Tolkienesque. Of course, I haven't finished yet -- could be elves or orcs are behind it all, but I don't think so. :) I'll bet if we put our minds to it, we can find a bunch of epic fantasies that have none of those 'Tolkien' elements. I think the last time I read something that was really like Tolkien, the author was RA Salvatore (Wizards of the Coast).

Does simply being in a medieval setting qualify as following Tolkien? If so, all my fantasy is Tolkienesque. If not, none of it is! I have not a single dwarf, elf, hobbit, orc, etc. Oh wait. I do have magic users. Does that make it Tolkienesque? But if fantasy is set in the middle ages and has no magic, is it really fantasy? Or is it just 'alternate history?' I recently read Paladin of Souls: medieval setting, magic-users. Tolkien? Not even a little.

Guess it comes down to how you're defining 'following Tolkien.'

No, I don't think uising a medieval world means you're following Tolkien. In fact, Tolkien's fiction really isn't set in a medieval world. But if there's a writer out there with enough talent to copy Tolkien and get away with it, that writer would be George R. R. Martin.

Mrevilpants
08-09-2005, 07:15 PM
Im by no means rubbishing Tolkiens work. LOTR was obviously a milestone of achievement in the genre. Im not contesting that alot of the success of the fanatasy genre is because of Tolkiens amalgamation of european legend. It was a great idea.

I have no problem with books in the genre borrowing the grand themes, a messianic character on some kind of oedipal quest, a great journey and some dark presence to vanquish. These are the building blocks of epic fantasy. Its the specifics that are borrowed from tolkien that wind me up. What made the elves intriguing to me is the scope and richness of their history, the fact that they were so immaculately crafted as a race by tolkien that they even have their own language. It seems that for many authors who rip them off its all about pointy ears and being immortal. If your going to steal elves but construct your own rudimentary history of the race and plonk them in your own fairy forest, you may as well nick klingons from star trek. Why does the bad guy have to reside in a dark mountain, and be made more of shadow than substance? Why must he have red eyes? Why must the downfall of the dark lord be prophecised by the appearance of the golden sword of bastard slaying?

Incidentally i think NateSkate raises a good point. If i hadnt already seen the films, i may not have perserveered with the Silmarillion. It can be hard to relate to an entirely unique world if you are plunged in without being lowered in ankle first. as anyone who has read larry niven can testify.

With respect to my comments on David and Leigh eddings. Admitedly i have only read the one book. Maybe i shouldnt judge them all on the one book i have read. Im sure they have done better works such as the Belgariad as suggest by Jersey Girl. Id be willing to argue with someone defending the redemtion of Althalus book specifically, but then that would require me re-reading it. Something im just not prepared to do. ha ha.

Nateskate
08-09-2005, 10:01 PM
Im by no means rubbishing Tolkiens work. LOTR was obviously a milestone of achievement in the genre. Im not contesting that alot of the success of the fanatasy genre is because of Tolkiens amalgamation of european legend. It was a great idea.



I think the point is very valid. And I should hope some people take it seriously.

If someone comes up with a seriously new concept, and it works, it will be copied. I for one, find myself liking mythology and fairy tales more than fantasy.

If you look at Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology, they all have borrowed elements. You'll see interwoven characters and interwoven themes. And I agree, if something is simply a rehash of something else, it better be an awefully good rehash.

My particular problem as an aspiring to be published writer, with a grand story, is that most of the greatest ideas are already written. It doesn't matter what world, or Universe, someone has already come up with the grand concept of saving the world or the Universe. Or in the "Men in Black" story, "A Universe on a chain around a cat's neck."

I think Tolkien is correct, some elements almost seem vital to a great fairy story, and King Arthur was simply a boy who found it was his call to save his particular part of the world.

Now, take this a step further, I tried to think of entirely novel concepts, and they were novel, in that I never heard them before. But the more I read fantasy, the more I found that others thunk it first. And it wasn't that I copied them, but in general "Great Ideas" aren't owned by anyone. Given enough time, someone will write the song you thought up, and they'll do it better. Arda was a novel idead. The re-shaping of the world. What was the "Fourth" age of Arda like? What adventures were lived there?"

I think Tolkien, by the scope of his thinking, covered so much ground and brought it together. But honestly, Tolkien borrowed from many ancient works, so even Tolkien was doing what everyone does to him, borrows ideas from others.

MadScientistMatt
08-09-2005, 10:19 PM
I have to say that the trouble with The Redemption of Althalus wasn't that it copied Tolkien too much, but that it copied Eddings too much! It felt like most of his characters in that book were second-rate rehashes of characters he had developed earlier, such as Althalus seeming way too much like Belgarath. Some of his older writing is a lot better. Not always original, but certainly better. However, it does seem like his writing seems to suffer from cliches of its own. For example, anyone else ever wonder why he wrote four different serieses where the most powerful force for good was a sentient blue stone?

pconsidine
08-09-2005, 10:25 PM
The ensuing conversation made me realize another reason why everything seems derivative of Tolkien - while he may have drawn mostly from Norse mythology (or what have you), he seems to have thrown a bit of just about every known mythos into his stories. That doesn't leave all that much for anyone else to draw from.

I suppose the choices are either try to develop something completely original (which is near impossible, in my mind) or plumb a whole new mythos your your source material. Eskimo magical fantasy, anyone?

Saanen
08-09-2005, 11:29 PM
The ensuing conversation made me realize another reason why everything seems derivative of Tolkien - while he may have drawn mostly from Norse mythology (or what have you), he seems to have thrown a bit of just about every known mythos into his stories. That doesn't leave all that much for anyone else to draw from.

I suppose the choices are either try to develop something completely original (which is near impossible, in my mind) or plumb a whole new mythos your your source material. Eskimo magical fantasy, anyone?

Actually, I believe Tolkien mostly drew on European mythos. So we can all safely draw ideas from Asia, North America, South America, Philippines, middle East, Africa, etc. (including Eskimo) without seeming to be ripping off Tolkien's ideas. On the other hand, I've read books that draw from non-European sources and they often seem shallow imitations of rich cultures, or forcibly warped into the European tradition so that they might as well be Tolkien ripoffs, or just plain confusing. One of Tolkien's great strengths is that he integrated all his borrowed elements into his own world, not anyone else's world, so his elves, for instance, don't feel tacked on--they're an integral part of his world, not just humans with pointy ears or "I'll create a fantasy race" decorations to his plot.

I'm trying to remember some non-European fantasies I've read to throw some ideas out, but I can't remember authors or titles beyond those books about Master Li and Number Ten Ox, I think by Houghart? Hugharth? I can't remember his name at the moment--they're fun fantasies that draw from ancient Chinese culture in a very solid way, although they do sometimes seem a little glib to me. There's a Newbery book called The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm--an SF book, actually--that draws from African culture and does a pretty good job even if the writing is sort of dense. Someone else help me out here; I know there are lots of examples!

Medievalist
08-09-2005, 11:44 PM
Actually, I believe Tolkien mostly drew on European mythos.

You can narrow it down even more; he drew mostly on medieval Old English, Old Norse and Middle German texts, with a little bit of Middle English (passing nods at Sir Orfeo and SGGK). There's almost no influence at all from Celtic myth (though there are hints).

clintl
08-09-2005, 11:50 PM
If you want an epic fantasy completely unlike Tolkien, try Gene Wolfe's The Wizard Knight. It's possible to create something different while using the European mythos.

pconsidine
08-10-2005, 01:07 AM
There's almost no influence at all from Celtic myth (though there are hints).

Woo hoo! I'm safe! Though I'm sure there's no shortage of other pejoratives I can be tagged with aside from "derivative." ;)

Jamesaritchie
08-10-2005, 08:26 AM
Eskimo magical fantasy, anyone?

Absolutely, though you'd better not call them Eskimos. And definitely yes to Native American fantasy of any sort. And present day fantasy. And, yes, future fantasy. I'd even like to see more parallel dimension fantasy.

Why draw on mythos when you can create your own?

Mrevilpants
08-10-2005, 03:04 PM
Absolutely, though you'd better not call them Eskimos. And definitely yes to Native American fantasy of any sort. And present day fantasy. And, yes, future fantasy. I'd even like to see more parallel dimension fantasy.


If you havent already i highly recommend the Split infinity series by Piers Anthony. He Juxtaposes a Sci-fi and fantasy thread through a dimension spanning portal. The main guy also has sex with a unicorn. What more could you want from a fantasy?

Tirjasdyn
08-10-2005, 08:30 PM
For instance, I tried reading the 1st of the Shannara books by Terry Brooks and couldn't stand it. He made it so obvious!


Yah know I really disagree with this statement. While this book is heavily tolkien influenced much the story is not, in anyway the same. He takes it a very different cirlce with a very different theme. You can't compare his 10th book to his 1st either. Talsiman is a cummination of 100s of years worth of story whild Sword is only a foundation.

I find myself wonder how many had only read Tolkien when it first came out. Being the 1st fantasy bestseller after Tolkien was published has almost tarnished his carreer more than it has helped.

A closer example would be the iron tower series with halfings and even a quest through an underground dwarvern ruin. But the books are excellent in their own right. His world is vastly different with a heavy vampire influence though.

I think the fact is that some one did it and did it well for most people but then you don't want the idea changed or tarnished if you will.

Anyway my point being: Is there any other reason to hate Brooks than that his first novel has several resemblences to tolkien?

Euan H.
08-11-2005, 10:05 AM
... Master Li and Number Ten Ox, ...--they're fun fantasies that draw from ancient Chinese culture in a very solid way, although they do sometimes seem a little glib to me.

Bridge of Birds, by Barry Hughart.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0345321383/

Well worth buying, IMHO.