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maestrowork
06-11-2004, 07:48 AM
Are there any more stories about witches and wizards to tell, now that the Harry Potter series have pushed the "genre" to mainstream, to such new heights and visibilities?

I guess there have always been stories about magical people, and there will always be. The question is, how do you make it fresh and new, so that people don't roll their eyes and say, "Oh no, not another wizard story, Harry Potter rip-off."

Jenny
06-11-2004, 07:57 AM
When I think wizards I tend to think of Pratchett's Unseen Uni and Rincewind the Wizzard. I guess I'm too old for the Harry Potter universe, although Diana Wynne Jones remains a favourite.

I think the secret to a wizard would be having a believable, coherent world of magic - you know, rules that work all the time. I guess the risk is that you inadvertently "borrow" other authors' rules for their magic worlds.

I find fantasy world building hard work - I tried an historical novel (unpublished) and it was much easier because I had something concrete to start from. The fact that Rowling has been so incredibly successful in creating a world everyone wants to visit doesn't put me off trying to create my own fantasy world, but it does make me envious.

Jenny

Oklahoma Wolf
06-11-2004, 09:07 AM
I think there are... at least I hope so. I'm attempting to write one :grin

Usually the first author I recommend to people reading the Potter books is John Bellairs - the man who started me on the path to writing in the first place.

macalicious731
06-11-2004, 10:26 AM
|I Who knows?

A Harry Potter fan will be the one to point out your book is a "ripoff." A LOTR fan will tell you Rowling ripped off Tolkien. This just goes back to those "8 plotlines." How you do it is up to you (and yeah, I'm totally ignoring your final question because I don't know [and if I did I'd have a killer book so I would tell you! :lol ]) except just don't use the Tolkien cliches - but you knew that.

But actually, because HP made fantasy more mainstream, I think it's helped the genre and other authors be more successful. As much as something might be similar, people tend to seek out what they know they like rather than something new. I don't know anything about that "Eragon" book or the author, so I might just be sticking my foot in my mouth, but would it be as popular if Harry Potter didn't precede it?

So... good luck? (Save some for me.)

veingloree
06-11-2004, 02:23 PM
When I was younger it was all 'the Wizard of Earthsea', 'The Dark Moon Rising Trilogy' and a bunch of others. Even now there is Tamora Pierce and others. I would hate to see the whole genre retrospectively defined as belong to Rowling. I am not one of her many fans and I often see things attributed to her that shouldn't be (i.e. in the guardian a reviewer said she 'invented' the hippogryph).

Tormanth
06-11-2004, 06:46 PM
I guess there have always been stories about magical people, and there will always be. The question is, how do you make it fresh and new, so that people don't roll their eyes and say, "Oh no, not another wizard story, Harry Potter rip-off."

Magic is a plot mechanism, not a plot in and of itself. Jim MacDonald recently posted a number of movies that were adaptations of the exact same story. Another, classic, example of this is The Seven Samurai and Guns of the Magnificient Seven. You could easily go off and write Seven Magnificent Mages, which is a retelling of the same story, but where the heroes use magic instead of swords or guns.

That would have no recognizeable similarity to Rowling's stories, which are coming-of-age stories with a backdrop of magic. But people would say that you DID rip off Kurasawa. Because that's what they say about the western version.

It is when the genre features become the plot that an author is being gimmicky. Science dominates science fiction, the method of the murder dominates the murder mystery, the fantasy setting dominates the fantasy novel. Books need to tell stories. The setting is flavor and spice.

I'm writing a story inspired by the Lord Byron quote: "Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely." It's an old message and has been an element of a vast number of stories. I'm taking it into the fantasy realm and presenting the dangers of having personal power. I'm using magic as my source of power because I can make magic behave any way I want. If I want to demonstrate a character's mood with magical auras, I can do that.

I could easily rewrite the story such that it's about a reporter who gains privileged knowledge, making her powerful. She would then have to decide what to do with that newfound power. I wouldn't be able to use the crutches of magic, which permit me to write about metaphors as physical things, but I'd still be able to present the same points. Because of the characters.

So don't sweat it. Find a story that you want to tell, set it in a fantasy world that can carry your story and go write it.

JB

mistri
06-11-2004, 07:00 PM
Most of the fantasy fiction I've read, even when it does have witches and wizards, is nothing like Harry Potter - it would never occur to me. I don't even find her books particularly fantastical (I know, I know, it's just my opinion, ok?).

What I found frustrating about the HP success is that people were treating the series like the first (children's) fantasy book ever.

Le Guin's Earthsea and Wynne Jones' Chrestomanci series both use similar elements, and were written earlier (and I like them better :) ). Fantasy as a genre has been around for hundreds of years (depending on you define it) and much of it is completely different to Wizards at School.

There are no new stories - but lots of different ways to tell old ones. I'm sure some people will try and rip Potter off. Others however, will write about witches and wizards (and schools!) and write a different, and maybe even better, story.

alinasandor
06-12-2004, 12:58 AM
I think there will always be new worlds and new ideas. I think Orson Scott Cards tells how to come up with new worlds best in his book How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. Great read!

Ravenlocks01
06-12-2004, 02:36 AM
I don't find Rowling particularly original. Schools for magic are nothing new. In fact most of the elements in the books (as far as I can say without having read them all) fall into the "nothing new" category.

I guess she just put it all together in an appealing way, and it caught on.

I think you go about making a fantasy novel fresh and new just the way you would go about making anything fresh and new. Put your own twists in, add your own perspective, don't use elements that are obviously stolen (disguise it! :D ).


Jenny-

I tried an historical novel (unpublished) and it was much easier because I had something concrete to start from.
That is funny because I find the exact opposite to be true for me. Historical fiction is tons harder for me because of all the research! With fantasy I can just make it all up.

:)

TazDevl68
06-12-2004, 10:48 AM
This is a bit off topic, but I figure someone around here might have an answer. While watching "5 Days 'Til Midnight" on Sci-Fi (a pretty good story, incidentally), I saw previews for a December miniseries called "EarthSea". Does anybody know if it's based on the book?

mistri
06-14-2004, 02:58 PM
I believe it is based on the book. I'm really looking forward to it - just hope they can do it justice!

Delirieuse
06-15-2004, 10:29 PM
I would have said that the main interest in Harry Potter is not the "Wizard at school" part of the plot, but the "One boy against overwhelming odds" underlying plot that runs through the series. In a sense, the idea of "Wizard at school" is as much set dressing as the fantasy genre; it's a subgenre rather than necessarily a plot in and of itself. The "Wizard at school" subgenre shapes what events happen, but not the shape of the plot itself, if that makes sense.

Compare and contrast with "The Worst Witch" by Jill Murphy, where Mildred Hubble deals with being the most incompetant witch in her year, but still saves the day; or "Equal Rites" by Terry Pratchett, where Eskarina Smith has to fight against gender stereotypes of magic from both sexes in order to get her place at Unseen University.

Tormanth
06-16-2004, 12:32 AM
In a sense, the idea of "Wizard at school" is as much set dressing as the fantasy genre; it's a subgenre rather than necessarily a plot in and of itself. The "Wizard at school" subgenre shapes what events happen, but not the shape of the plot itself, if that makes sense.Do you mean for the adults or for the kids? I asked my pre-teen nieces what was so enjoyable about the Harry Potter books and I was told "The magic!"

It's just simple fun that kids can identify with. The school-and-friends aspect makes it applicable to their lives, and the magic is pure entertainment (a bit like having funky new video games). You've got sports and other physical activities for the boys, the social setting of the school for the girls, and the more complex themes ("One Against the World", "Man of Destiny", "Loyalty of Friends", etc) for the adults.

Rowling found a sweet spot by keeping it easy to read and by hitting on basic themes. We're all so busy trying to find our edgy twist on reality that we missed the value of a good old-fashioned wholesome yarn.

Now we'll be inundated with old-fashioned wholesome yarns and the edgy stuff will find new appeal :)

JB

Prelate Annalina
06-16-2004, 12:35 AM
I would have said that the main interest in Harry Potter is not the "Wizard at school" part of the plot, but the "One boy against overwhelming odds" underlying plot that runs through the series.

That's what makes up a fantasy story, basically. There are very few original fantasy stories, if you look at it that way. Because it is almost always the "one person against overwhelming odds". The "Wizard at school", while not original at all, is still a plot that makes the "one person against overwhelming odds" into a slightly more original story.

_-_-_-_-_-_

:hail
Hail to fantasy

SFEley
06-16-2004, 01:02 AM
Maestrowork wrote:

Are there any more stories about witches and wizards to tell, now that the Harry Potter series have pushed the "genre" to mainstream, to such new heights and visibilities?
You're joking, right? That's like the old saw (probably false) that there was once a call to close down the U.S. Patent Office in the 19th century because "everything useful had already been invented."


Have Fun,
- Steve Eley

Yeshanu
06-16-2004, 01:37 AM
maestro,

In answer to your question...

Of course! I'm writing it now.:p When my novel is finally published, then you can ask that question. :ha

Ruth

macalicious731
06-16-2004, 01:42 AM
Yeshanu, is that what you've posted on the 'share' forum? Best of luck! :thumbs


You're joking, right?

And Steve, I think maest's question was more in reference on how to top and compete with Harry Potter, especially when Rowling has integrated so many of the known (and unknown) fantasy symbols/ideology into her tale. She's gobbled them all up and left none for us! :lol

Yeshanu
06-16-2004, 01:43 AM
No, the share forum piece was just a short-short. No, I have a real novel in progress... :grin

pencilone
10-26-2004, 04:05 PM
What amazes me most about HP is the wide age readership that enjoys it. My three-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son loved it and older people I know loved it too. I wish I'd manage to write a book for such a wide readership.

Another thing is the 'wow' factor. Something that amazes you, it tickles your toes and then it stays with you for some time. I thoroughly enjoyed Philip Pullman's Dark Materials too. The creation of that 'wow' factor is the one that puzzles me most.

Kida Adelyn
10-26-2004, 07:09 PM
Harry potter are great books. I love them more than any book in the world, second only to LOTR.
The themes of coming of age, boy against impossible odds and all that are older than books themselves, and school stories, and magic stories are really old elements to. In fact the idea that HP is origional is laughable. There is a book by Jane Yolen called wizards hall that was published 5-6 years before HP, and is a wizards school story where a boy faces impossible odds. It is very similar.

You can name any number of books that Rowling "ripped off" but everyone ripps off everyone else, weather they have even read the book they're "ripping off" or not. J.K. Rowling is popular because she's a good writter. She makes it believable and you can relate to her Characters.
In Jane Yolen's book, her world is not really believable, and you can't relate to her characters in the same way you do to Rowlings. It's a good book, but not popular material.

-Ally

Risseybug
10-26-2004, 08:09 PM
(i.e. in the guardian a reviewer said she 'invented' the hippogryph).
Wow, there's someone who's fact checker was sleeping on the job. And something like that is so easy to check on. I happened across it myself doing research on Greek myths for my WIP.

Jamesaritchie
10-26-2004, 08:28 PM
"Are there any more stories about witches and wizards to tell, now that the Harry Potter series have pushed the "genre" to mainstream, to such new heights and visibilities?"

Writers asked the same question after Tolkien. For most writers, the answer is "no." For the rest, those with enough talent and imagination, the answer is always "Yes." There's always something new to write. But no one ever said being both good and original was easy. It's simply up to your imagination and talent to find that new take on something, and write in in a way that makes people want to read it.

I do think Harry Potter is highly original. Just because schools for wizards have been done before doesn't mean a thing. No one has done it in quite the same way, or nearly as well, as Rowling.

Elyse
10-27-2004, 01:05 AM
I read "The Figure in the Shadows" when I was in the third grade. I stuck with me and inspired me to write. I now own every book he and Brad Strickland have written and I still re-read these "classics" often. I'm so glad to hear that someone else has read these, too.

-Elyse

Kempo Kid
10-27-2004, 10:13 AM
About the wide age range of Harry Potter fans--

Once I was sitting at the light rail station reading a Harry Potter book. The gray-haired gentleman sitting near me kept looking at me, which made me uncomfortable, and looking at my book. I thought perhaps he thought it odd that a middle-aged woman was reading a child's fantasy, but I finally looked over at him, and he saw the cover of my book and began to laugh. Then he showed me the cover of his.

Harry Potter.

In fact, I've seen more adults reading HP books than kids.

I'm definitely a fan of Harry's. Yes, Rowling used elements that have been used before. And they'll be used again. You could just as easily argue that we fantasy writers are cribbing off the Arthurian tales, or The Odyssey, or any mythology book you can find. The boy wizard, unaware of his heritage, who finds himself pitted against some great evil, has been done and redone. Rowling took traditional elements and wrote engaging tales, as others before her have done, and as others will again.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Lloyd Alexanders Black Cauldron series. Or Alan Garner's Weirdstone of Brisingamen and Moon of Gomrath. If you haven't, go pick them up. They're great.

maestrowork
10-27-2004, 10:19 AM
I have many adult friends who love HP books. I personally find them (at least the first two which I read) a little too juvenile for me. They're good YA fiction, but not quite adult enough for me. I enjoyed them to an extent, then I lost interest.

I haven't read the third or forth... but the third movie was pretty good.

PixelFish
10-29-2004, 04:54 AM
Similar to the reviewer's confusion regarding the hippogriff, I've seen rabid Diana Wynne Jones fans accuse Rowlings of ripping off DWJ because of the mandrake root--they assumed that DWJ had invented the mandrake root, and Rowlings was caught with her hand in the cookie jar.

Then there's my personal peeve--acting as if appreciation for Rowlings somehow would totally preclude my appreciation of DWJ or Tolkein or Pullman or L'engle or LeGuin or....well, you get the picture. Also similar is the assumption that we can't get kids hooked on comics or fantasy because then they'll never read "Good Literature". God forbid they read Harry Potter BEFORE Wuthering Heights or War and Peace.

Eowyn Eomer
10-29-2004, 05:18 AM
Well I could point to Harry Potter and say it's a Lord of the Rings rip off. There are just so many similarities between them.

My honest opinion, wait a few years after Harry Potter is completed to create such a story. That would allow for the Harry Potter craze to diminish some. Or write the story and put it on a shelf for a later date. I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

There are other wizard type stories out there. Merlin comes to mind.

I wish I had thought up the idea of Harry Potter. I would have done some things different, but the concept is intruiging I think.

Fantasy Adventure is my favorite genre and it is a difficult genre, I think, because to make it successful, you have to make the fantasy believable. You want audiences to find enough sense of reality to feel themselves drawn into the world you've created. And like Harry Potter, it helped to start with the real world.

Are there other witches or wizard stories to tell now? I say, absolutely. I don't think there is a limit to the imagination of mankind. And you can always take old concepts, such as wizards and witches which have been around for centuries, and create new ideas.

PixelFish
10-29-2004, 07:19 AM
*blink*

I just don't see how you see Harry Potter = Lord of the Rings rip off. Sure they have elements in common (wizards, wands, elves), but it's mere window dressing, and they aren't even the SAME types of wizards, wands, elves, etc.

Unless you are being sarcastic....?

vstrauss
10-29-2004, 07:25 AM
Diane Duane's "Young Wizards" series takes quite a different look at wizards and magic. Good stuff.

I saw the preview for "Earthsea" and it shows Ged and Tenar kissing, so I'm not terribly optimistic about the adaptation.

- Victoria

Eowyn Eomer
10-29-2004, 08:58 AM
I just don't see how you see Harry Potter = Lord of the Rings rip off. Sure they have elements in common (wizards, wands, elves), but it's mere window dressing, and they aren't even the SAME types of wizards, wands, elves, etc.

Unless you are being sarcastic....?
No, I'm being serious. There are so many similarities that I probably won't remember them all right at the moment. But I'll try.

Frodo Baggins and Harry Potter

Both are tragic heroes.

Both are only children.

Both had their parents die and were sent to live with relatives before their journey began.

Both were the only ones with the power/ability to save the world.
Frodo alone could save the world from evil Sauron.
Harry alone could save the world from evil Voldemort.

Both had the guidance of an old wizard.
Frodo had an old wizard as a grandfatherly type figure to guide him - Gandalf.
Harry had an old wizard as a grandfatherly type figure to guide him - Dumbledore.

Both had a loyal, goofy best friend willing to die for them who was beside them during their journey.
Frodo had Sam.
Harry had Ron.

Both have two syllable first and last names.
Frodo Baggins and Harry Potter

Both have scars they will never fully heal from. Frodo the scar from being stabbed by the Nazgul. Harry the scar on his forehead. These scars magically connected them to their darkest enemy - Sauron and Voldemort.

Both are considered small and non-threatening. They don't look like what people would think a hero should look like.

Frodo knows he must bear his burden alone.
Harry knows he must bear his burden alone.

Both have relatives they can't stand.

Both have the power to become invisible through an external source. Frodo through the ring. Harry through the invisibility cloak. Both the ring and the invisibility cloak were passed on to them from a family members. The ring from to Frodo from Bilbo and the cloak to Harry from his father (through Dumbledore).

Both find themselves falling to the influences of their dark enemy the longer they are on the journey. Frodo eventually lost all sense of himself and was no longer able to control himself as Sauron basically took over his body. We've already seen Voldemort do that to Harry and it's possible it could get worse for him.

Gandalf and Dumbledore

Both old wizards who guide the hero through their journey.

Both despite their age and apparant wisdom, make big mistakes.

Sam and Ron

Both are the best friend of the hero.

Both are willing to die for the hero and have proven themselves in such a task.

Both have one syllable nicknames and two syllable full first and last names - Samwise Gamgee and Ronald Weasley.

Both come from big families.

Both are kind of goofy and lovable.

Both are loyal to a fault.

Both have troubles expressing their interest in a girl they like.

Sauron and Voldemort

Both are powerful dark forces.

Both are set to destroy the hero.

Both highly underestimate the hero.

Both are extremely naive.

Both are consumed with the lust for power to control people.

Nazgul and Dementors

Physical descriptions are extremely similar. (In fact, before the third HP movie came out, most fans were creating images of Dementors using Nazgul.)

Both take away joy and replace it with fear.

Both are after the hero. Nazgul are after Frodo, Dementors are after Harry.

Both serve the number one enemy. Nazgul serve Sauron, Dementors serve Voldemort.

Both fly (though Nazgul do so on flying beasts) and attack from the air.

Other

Merry and Pippin act as comic relief.
Fred and George act as comic relief.

That's all I can think of at the moment.

Obviously the stories are different and I love both series. But because I love both series, I have noticed the similarities.

Oh, btw, they don't both have wands. Harry Potter uses wands. LOTR uses staffs. Same effect though.

DanALewis
10-29-2004, 12:20 PM
The blue ribbon in the Tolkien rip-off category certainly does not go to J. K. Rowling. That prize must go to Robert Jordan. At least he has a bunch of strong women and cyclical time going for him; they really changed the way the book reads, I think. But then there's the rest: the human lords and ladies who have sold their souls to the dark one, the wound that never heals from the stroke of a sword of a minion of the dark one, the giant men who love trees, the towers, the made up old languages, and on and on.

PixelFish
10-29-2004, 05:31 PM
Just about everything you point out could apply to, oh, say The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander (young tragic hero who lost his parents, elderly wizard helping him out, comic relief friends) or The Belgariad (ditto, huge dittos) or about two thirds of the high fantasy books on the market. (Somebody pointed out Robert Jordan and Dave Duncan.) These are genre trappings--these books are part of the same GENRE. That doesn't mean they are rip-offs of each other.

If you want to get really nit-picky, Tolkein was "ripping off" ancient Norse legends when he built Middle Earth. :) (I don't really think so--but he was definitely mining from the mythology. That's all fantasy is....new extruded mythology.)

HConn
10-29-2004, 05:56 PM
Actually, Sam was Frodo's servant, not his friend.

HP isn't a tragic hero. Not yet, anyway. He's just an orphan (which is a secret wish of many a child).

And Frodo isn't a child. He's a young man. Maybe I'm wrong on this one, but I'm sure Yesh can correct me.

And I haven't read book 4&5. Do the Dementors come under Valdemort's control then? Because in book 3 they're after an escaped prisoner (occasionally attacking the wrong person like Harry) and they aren't under V's control.

And counting the syllables in their names? Please.

Terra Aeterna
10-29-2004, 10:01 PM
I wonder if syllabic patterns in names is a left-over from the days when most fiction was written in some sort of meter.

macalicious731
10-29-2004, 10:29 PM
I'll contend that there are some similarities between the two stories, but mainly on the basic level of plot. HP is not a formulated copy of LotR in any sense that I can see, but rather both stories follow the guidelines set up under Campbell's hero's journey, just like so many others of their predecessors, including myth and legend.

ChunkyC
10-29-2004, 10:37 PM
FYI -- Frodo is 33, which is when Hobbits "come of age". Analogous to our 18 or 21, I would think.

Dementors do start showing an increased interest in Harry in the recent installments.

I love the HP books, I always pre-order them as soon as they are available. Also, each book becomes more complex than the one before, Rowling seems to be letting the books "grow up" and become more adult as Harry gets older. Can't wait for The Half-Blood Prince. So far no publishing date.

Risseybug
10-29-2004, 11:25 PM
I can't wait for the next one. Hopefully it will be better edited than "Order of the Phoenix". Not that it wasn't great, but it could have been trimmed up a bit easily and still had the same effect.

maestrowork
10-29-2004, 11:31 PM
I agree with Macalicious. They're both classic hero's journey stories and thus they have many similarities in plot and characters: protagonist, antagonist, trickster, mentor, friends, etc. You can apply these to many hero stories -- you an always find protagonist in a bad jam, have a best friend, a mentor, great obstacles, trying to find himself, etc. etc.

But LotR and HP are very different stories.

Eowyn Eomer
10-30-2004, 01:40 AM
If you want to get really nit-picky, Tolkein was "ripping off" ancient Norse legends when he built Middle Earth.
Well my point was, no matter what the work of fiction, you can most likely accuse an author of taking someone else's idea if you wanted to. I don't think you can be a writer and not have been inspired by other writers. But that doesn't mean you're ripping them off. And I'm not accusing Harry Potter of being a rip off of Lord of the Rings. I was merely trying to illustrate a point that you could accuse any author of such a thing.

I think I heard in a writing class I took once that there are no new plots, just different ways of telling a plot. Or something like that.


Actually, Sam was Frodo's servant, not his friend.
Oh, another similarity - both Sam and Ron were extremely poor and came from poor families.

Sam was Frodo's servant, but I don't think anyone would argue that they developed a true and deep friendship.


HP isn't a tragic hero. Not yet, anyway.
No, he is a tragic hero. Everyone in the wizarding world sees him as such because as an infant, he defeated the most powerful dark wizard of all. His life is tragic and he is the hero of the story. He has been a tragic hero since the first book.


And I haven't read book 4&5. Do the Dementors come under Valdemort's control then? Because in book 3 they're after an escaped prisoner (occasionally attacking the wrong person like Harry) and they aren't under V's control.
Well if you don't mind being SPOILED, yes. In the beginning of book five, the Dementors came and attacked Harry and Dudley. This forced the Order of the Phoenix to come and rescue Harry and take him away from his relatives early to stay with them for the rest of the summer until it was time for him to go to school. It was discovered that the Dementors had all abandoned Azkaban prison to serve Voldemort and regular wizards were now having to act as prison guards.

My opinion, book 4 was mostly a bore until the end. Book 5 was much better all around.


And counting the syllables in their names? Please.
Yeah, but it's the amount of them. Both the tragic heroes share the same syllables in all regards. Same with the sidekick. Okay, a lame point alone, I only mentioned them in addition to the rest there.


Dementors do start showing an increased interest in Harry in the recent installments.
Book five says differently. They came after Harry and Dudley at the beginning. For the rest of the book, he was too well guarded for them to get to him. And there's no indication that they kept coming after Dudley, which means their target was Harry. And that's in the latest book to come out.


Can't wait for The Half-Blood Prince. So far no publishing date.
Have you checked out the author's official web site for all the information she's given out there? She has some very interesting stuff.


I can't wait for the next one. Hopefully it will be better edited than "Order of the Phoenix". Not that it wasn't great, but it could have been trimmed up a bit easily and still had the same effect.
It felt too long to be a young readers novel, I thought, even though the reading level is clearly for young readers. I've had people tell me their kids didn't want to read books 4 and 5 because they saw how long they were. It's okay for people with a higher reading level. It didn't take me that long to read the book. But I do feel it's too lengthy for the target audience.

HConn
10-30-2004, 03:37 AM
Sam was Frodo's servant, but I don't think anyone would argue that they developed a true and deep friendship.

Being Frodo's servant meant Sam would never be Frodo's friend. Sam and Frodo love each other, yes, but they aren't and can never be "friends."

It's a British class thing, as I am assured by a British writer and editor I know.

By the way:


Main Entry: tragic hero (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=tragic%20hero)
Function: noun
Definition: a literary character who makes an error of judgment or has a fatal flaw that, combined with fate and external forces, brings on a tragedy

That's the traditional definition of "tragic hero." HP isn't one, and as I think about the circumstances that lead to Frodo's "failure" at Mount Doom, I don't think he's a tragic hero, either. He certainly doesn't succumb to the ring because of an error of judgment or a fatal flaw.

ChunkyC
10-30-2004, 03:48 AM
Dementors do start showing an increased interest in Harry in the recent installments.
-----------------------------------------------------------

Book five says differently. They came after Harry and Dudley at the beginning. For the rest of the book, he was too well guarded for them to get to him. And there's no indication that they kept coming after Dudley, which means their target was Harry
Exactly what I said. The Dementors start showing an increased interest in Harry.

Anyway, good info on the proper definition of "tragic hero", H. You're right, I can't think of a fatal flaw than either of them possess.

Eowyn Eomer
10-30-2004, 05:41 AM
Being Frodo's servant meant Sam would never be Frodo's friend. Sam and Frodo love each other, yes, but they aren't and can never be "friends."
It sounds to me as though you have a very limited definition of what a "friend" can be. I have a very broad definition in which I understand the two of them to be friends. Sam did not have to go on the journey, he wanted to go. Sam was given the opportunity more than once to go home, he chose to stay with Frodo. A mere servant wouldn't risk his life like that, and actually, he's Frodo's gardner, not really a servant. Sam decision to go shows that their relationship was not one of a servant and master. It was much deeper. There was a bond between them, a friendship that goes deeper than most friendships. Just because Sam worked for Frodo does not mean the two could not be friends.


Anyway, good info on the proper definition of "tragic hero", H. You're right, I can't think of a fatal flaw than either of them possess.
I can, it seems rather obvious I think. According to this "traditional" definition, I definitely see it applying to both characters. So according to this "traditional" definition, they are both tragic heroes. I can think of more that one example for each.

But one example each. Frodo made an error of judgment to go through the mines of Moria which led to the tragedy of losing Gandalf. Though fate took a hand in that, it took Gandalf away from Frodo for the rest of his journey.

(This contains a major spoiler for "Order of the Phoenix," so I caution anyone who hasn't read it not to read further.)

Harry made an error in judgment to go the Ministry of Magic, despite Hermione's sound argument it was a bad idea. It was an error in judgment because his vision was false, his godfather was not in trouble, but once finding out Harry and company had gone there, his godfather and friends came to their rescue and the tragedy was that because of Harry's error in judgment, his godfather was killed whereas if not for Harry's error, he would still be alive.

That's just one example each. I can think of more.

macalicious731
10-30-2004, 05:55 AM
Eowyn, your examples make sense by the definition given, but I still don't think either one of the two characters are tragic heroes, mainly because the examples you gave don't have impact on the ending. (At least none that we can forsee for HP.) When I think of tragic hero, I think of Greek plays like Oedipus Rex or Antigone, and some Shakespeare plays, where the tragic flaw has a huge (tragic) impact on the final outcome of the story and the lives of everyone involved.

Eowyn Eomer
10-30-2004, 09:12 AM
Frodo was unable to return to his prior life. He ultimately left for the Gray Havens, leaving his friends behind. I haven't yet reached the end of the third book to know exactly how the book ended, but the movie I think portrayed him well as the tragic hero. His losing his finger was symbolic of the inner change. The line that there are some things that time can't mend, some wounds which go too deep. He was forever tragically changed by the experience and unable to reconnect with his people and the life he had known before going on his journey. Essentially he lost his innocence.

He may have been of age, but if you want to compare him to Harry Potter, I think mentally they're the same. Both extremely naive and innocent before horrible things began happening in their lives.

Frodo was a tragic hero. He was unable to go back to living the way he had. Ultimately he knew he had to leave his home, family, and friends forever. Yes it was joyous that he would be with Gandalf, Bilbo, and the elves, but he was leaving others behind who he cared about deeply and who cared about him just as much.

You're right that we don't yet know how Harry Potter will end. It seems most people predict he will die. I myself highly doubt it.

I would say there are differing levels of what can make a tragic hero. Just as there are differing levels of tragedy. And tragedy affect every person differently. A person's death would be more tragic to their spouse than to a neighbor than to a co-worker than to the person who worked behind the gas station counter and saw them every time they came to fill up their tank.

HConn
10-30-2004, 10:33 AM
Just because Sam worked for Frodo does not mean the two could not be friends.

They don't have an employer/employee relationship. It's part of British culture and their class system. I don't understand all of it, but I do know that master and servant are not *friends.* They may love each other, they may be willing to give their lives for each other, they may be comfortable together, but they will not think of themselves as friends.

Although they may look like friends to me, an American, I am assured by people who know the culture Frodo and Sam are representing that they will not think of themselves that way. But Harry and Ron would.

I don't want to go back and forth on this. I'm no expert on the British class system. I'm just relaying what I've been told by Those In A Position To Know. :)


-----------------------

Holy cow. I went to put my son to bed, then do some dishes, and forgot to finish this post. It's been sitting on my screen for over an hour.

Anyway, a bad decision in the middle of the story that leads to a tragic occurrence over the course of the story does not make a hero tragic. If you can "think of more that one example for each" then I think you are missing the point.

It's the final outcome of the story that must be tragic. Oedipus, ruined, having torn out his own eyes. Ahab, killed fighting Moby Dick. That sort of thing.

If you're going to include every story with a tragic setback in the middle and beginning, you're going to have to apply the label to so many characters that it would become meaningless.


He was forever tragically changed by the experience and unable to reconnect with his people and the life he had known before going on his journey. Essentially he lost his innocence.

That doesn't make him a tragic hero. That only makes him a hero who suffered for the great good he did. A tragic hero has an inner flaw that causes his downfall. What would you call Frodo's inner flaw?

Kempo Kid
10-30-2004, 11:53 AM
Frodo wasn't a child. He wasn't even a young man when he took off with the Fellowship. He was 33 at Bilbo's birthday party. In the book, it's 20 years later when he left the Shire. He was in his fifties. In the film, Elijah Wood wasn't even 20 when he played Frodo.

And what about Hermione? There is no Hermione character in LotR, and she's crucial to HP.

The hero who's an orphan and who has special powers or a special lineage is a staple of heroic fantasy. I mentioned the Prydain books.

And Dobby is nothing like Legolas.

HP has more in common with the Arthurian mythos than it does with LotR. But both are part of the subgenre of heroic fantasy, which has many common elements.

HConn
10-30-2004, 07:31 PM
I loved the Prydain books so much as a kid that I'm afraid to revisit them now. I don't want to spoil that wonderful memory if they aren't as good as I remember.

I keep hoping a British citizen will step up and tell me I'm wrong (or even better, right) about Sam and Frodo.

ChunkyC
10-30-2004, 10:21 PM
I think you are correct about the English class system, H. It makes an interesting subtext for the Sam/Frodo relationship. I would be curious to see how this particular point manifests itself in the book.

Sam initially calls Frodo "Master Frodo" all the time, then I believe (once they are alone in Mordor) this falls away and he just calls him "Frodo". I think that when they were alone, they were able to let the conventions slip away and they did become friends, if only for a time.

When they return to Gondor, and subsequently the Shire, I can't remember if the "Master" returns. If it did, then it would show that the conventions of the class system were ingrained in them so deeply that even the extraordinary events of their quest could not shake them loose.

Jules Hall
10-30-2004, 11:23 PM
Frodo wasn't a child. He wasn't even a young man when he took off with the Fellowship. He was 33 at Bilbo's birthday party. In the book, it's 20 years later when he left the Shire.

Yes, although bear in mind that it is stated somewhere (I think this might have been in the Hobbit, rather than LOTR) that hobbits aren't considered to be fully adult until they reach 35, so they obviously mature more slowly than humans do.


I keep hoping a British citizen will step up and tell me I'm wrong (or even better, right) about Sam and Frodo.

This is a question that would probably be better answered by somebody of Tolkien's generation, because such things have changed substantially over the last fifty years, but I'll have a go.

I think you're only partially right. A large proportion of the British upper class would not have allowed themselves to consider a member of their domestic staff as a friend, and vice-versa. However, there has always, I think, been a minority who do, and Frodo's personality suggests that he would have been in that minority. I think Frodo and Sam were, at least by the end of the book if not at the start of it, friends.

Also worth noting is that Sam's social status seemed to increase on his return -- I believe at the very end of the story he becomes Mayor of the Shire (?).

macalicious731
10-30-2004, 11:48 PM
Yes, you're right about that Jules. He did become mayor, which is another reason I don't consider Frodo a tragic hero. Yes, he left for the West, but everyone afterward did lead very happy lives (something which is also shown at the end of the film, Sam with his family). The other hobbits got married, had families and had positions in society as well. There lives did not completely fall apart and they didn't dwell on the tragedy, which is something expected of the tragic hero.

Eowyn Eomer
10-31-2004, 12:21 AM
Yes, although bear in mind that it is stated somewhere (I think this might have been in the Hobbit, rather than LOTR) that hobbits aren't considered to be fully adult until they reach 35
33 is coming of age and according to the book, Frodo turned 33 on the same day that Bilbo turned 111, which was the day (or night) that Bilbo left. And according to the book, Frodo didn't start his adventure until he was 50 years old. The movie obviously took a lot of creative licensing to cast an 18 year old for a 50 year old book character. And according to the book, Samwise Gamgee was considerably younger than Frodo.

I've heard that the relationship between Frodo and Sam was more likened to that of a commanding officer and his most trusted soldier. Maybe the Brits wouldn't call it a friendship, but I would, even if Frodo and Sam themselves didn't recogninze it as a friendship, though I think they did. It's probably western thinking that all men are created equal.

maestrowork
10-31-2004, 12:25 AM
Elijah Wood is in his mid-20s.

Second, who said the hobbits age the same way as humans? A 33yo hobbit might look, feel and act like a 18yo human (much like a 2yo cat is actually 14yo in cat years).

macalicious731
10-31-2004, 12:41 AM
Ray, Wood is in his mid-20s. But when filming began (almost 7 years ago) he was still only 18.

Eowyn Eomer
10-31-2004, 01:21 AM
Elijah Wood is in his mid-20s.
Well it's like macalicious731 said. Elijah was only 18 years old when they began filming the movie. He was born in 1981, they began filming in 1999, he was 18, he's even stated in interviews that he was 18 when he started filming the movie. He was only 19 or 20 when filming the trilogy was complete (not including call backs for additional footage).


Second, who said the hobbits age the same way as humans? A 33yo hobbit might look, feel and act like a 18yo human (much like a 2yo cat is actually 14yo in cat years).
Yeah, I think that was Peter Jackson's general idea. And of course the movie never gave Frodo's age or the age of any of the Hobbits. I think the only ages we were ever given were for Bilbo and Aragorn. However, I extremely doubt a 50 year old Hobbit would look like an 18 year old human. But that's my opinion. :)

HConn
10-31-2004, 06:27 AM
Frodo's age is one of the changes they made for the movie.

pdr
10-31-2004, 05:28 PM
Ah me, sorry everyone but when I'm in professorial mode and I keep seeing you all misusing the word 'tragic' I can't help butting in. Besides which it gives me a break from marking these mediocre Shakespeare essays I have to finish by tomorrow.
Please read dear old Aristotle. It's his ideas about comedy and tragedy that we still base our writing on today. Put very simply - because I'm working in Japan for a few months without my personal reference library - a tragic hero or heroine is one who dies because they are in a situation where that fatal character flaw of theirs prevents them from saving themselves. Othello and his jealousy is a good example.
By the way Peter Jackson changed quiet a lot of Tolkien's original story. He did this, so he says, to make a better film.
I personally think that the reason 'The Lord of the Rings' resonates so deeply is because of Tolkien's knowledge of and study of the Anglo Saxon Sagas and Middle English poetry. JRR Tolkien was a scholar and professor first at Leeds University and then at Merton College, Oxford, he specialized in Anglo-Saxon, Middle English and Chaucer's works. It gives LOR great depth. Your own Patricia McKillip comes closest to writing this quality of work and she too was (I hope this is correct!) a scholar of Middle English. Her trilogy, which I think was published in your country as 'Morgon, Prince of Hed', is another outstanding work. I've never seen her name mentioned on this board which surprises me as she proved, in her trilogy, that you can write stunning fantasy using the old hero and quest theme and make it seem brand new and startlingly original.

Writing Again
10-31-2004, 07:07 PM
pdr has it right, but I will give you a better example: Read Macbeth: For romantic tragic heroes read Romeo and Juliet.

A tragic hero must first of all be in a tragedy; which means the story ends tragically: and the ending must come about through the hero's own devices: faults of character.

Getting oneself into trouble through a mistake in judgment is "standard plot device 101" which everyone who has studied the three act structure knows.

First act: Character meets a situation which must be solved.

Second act: Character attempts to solve the problem (at least twice, sometimes five or six times, but three is the optimum number) each time making a mistake in judgment that gets them into deeper and deeper trouble.

Third act: When the situation is at its worst the character finds the correct answer, wins the day, solves the problem, is successful, and wins: Except in the case of the tragic hero where the character fails utterly and miserably.

Writing Again
10-31-2004, 07:32 PM
Frodo and Samwise: Friends to the end or master and servant from end to end?

This is a matter of definition of a relationship.

Frodo and Sam never defined their relationship in the story, nor did the author define it: either because he thought it was obvious, or because he did not think it important, or he was only aware of one definition, or he felt the reader could define it for themself.

Tolkien was British, so we can assume he looked at their relationship in the British way using British tradition. However the definition of their friendship plays no part in the story, does not effect (impact, if you prefer the toothy modern word meaning effect) the story at all.

Because the relationship does not effect the story, the relationship is open to the interpretation of the reader.

The British can and will view the relationship as they choose.

As an American who believes that friendship can and does extend beyond class and station I can (and will) define them as friends.

HConn
10-31-2004, 08:33 PM
... a tragic hero or heroine is one who dies because they are in a situation where that fatal character flaw of theirs prevents them from saving themselves.

pdr, wouldn't a more modern definition be:

"A tragic hero or heroine is one who dies or is substantially ruined because they are in a situation where that fatal character flaw of theirs prevents them from saving themselves."

Of course I've read Aristotle. But things change. Not so much that I'd call Frodo a tragic hero, but they've changed nonetheless.

pdr
11-01-2004, 07:58 AM
A simple answer HConn would have to be no, because the death is what makes the tragedy. Death is the end of a life we care about, and it's brought about by the character's fatal flaw.

Remember that old saying about 'where's there's life there's hope?' A ruined man or woman can still go on living and making another life for themselves. Indeed these days with public figures it doesn't matter what scandal happens in their lives they keep on in their positions and spin doctors put another face on the scandal. For a ruined person there is always hope. For a dead person there is none.

The tragedy is the waste, the end of someone promising because they could not conquer their fault. Frodo never was a tragic hero, he doesn't die as a result of a 'fatal flaw' but unless Harry Potter learns to control his 'dash-to-the-rescue instincts then he is being set up as a tragic hero!!!!

Eowyn Eomer
11-01-2004, 11:58 AM
I don't see it that way. To me, death of a hero does not necessarily imply tragedy.

Although you could argue that Frodo essentially died at the end of Lord of the Rings. He left Middle Earth forever to go to the Gray Havens, never to return. Something in him died that made it impossible for him to stay. He might as well have committed suicide because he left his world forever, never to return.

From what I understand, elves who die, their spirits go to the Gray Havens. So those elves travelling there still alive, like Elrond, Galadriel, and Celeborn at the end with Frodo, Bilbo, and Gandalf, would be reunited with elves who had died. So Elrond would be reunited with his wife. And why Elrond was opposed to Arwen choosing a mortal life because she was choosing to follow Aragorn in death to where humans go when they die. Elves are bound to the world until the end of it, but humans go on to somewhere else. I'm not sure where Hobbits go or what would happen to Frodo and Bilbo by going to the Gray Havens. But it essentially, to me, marks their deaths from the world.

But my point is that I don't think death of the hero is the only thing that could make a tragic hero and that I don't think a hero's death is always something tragic. If death enables the hero to be reunited with loved ones, that's a happy thing. Or if you write that this world isn't really life and true life doesn't begin until you pass on, death is a happy event then because it's entering real living.

To me, a tragic hero is one who suffers greatly either physically or emotionally, and is forever marked by it.

pdr
11-01-2004, 03:52 PM
In the book, Eowyn, though it isn't clear in the films, Frodo and Bilbo take the gift of immortality offered by the elves and leave Middle Earth. They don't die but go to the Haven with the elves and wizards. The elves and wizards must depart because their Age is now over, ended with the destruction of the ring. The King has returned and so the Age of Man begins. Frodo brought about that change and so earned the right to go with Gandalf and the elves. He is very much an epic hero, like so many of those ancient heroes Tokien studied and wrote about.

HConn
11-01-2004, 09:29 PM
A simple answer HConn would have to be no, because the death is what makes the tragedy.

So you don't consider Oedipus to be a tragedy, because he is merely blinded and exiled at the end?

Yeshanu
11-02-2004, 01:21 AM
Sorry, I've been busy these past few days and I only just found this thread now. So I'll chime in with my 2 cents worth...

Frodo is a tragic hero, not because he dies or even because he is substantially altered, but because he fails.

He was not able to do what he set out to do because of a tragic flaw in his character. Gollum, not Frodo, destroyed the One Ring, and then only by accident.

In a sense, The Lord of the Rings is a tragedy. It's true that the One Ring is destroyed in the end, and that Aragorn gains the throne of Gondor, but the elves and the ents are rendered powerless, and are destined to fade and leave Middle Earth forever.

As for Frodo and Sam, I think friendship might be a bit insipid for a relationship as complex as theirs is. That Sam loves Frodo is beyond doubt. Sam would lay down his life fro Frodo, right from the start. At the end, he passes the true test of love -- he hands the One Ring back to Frodo, in Mordor, without being coerced. He's a little reluctant, but he does it.

Whether or not Frodo loves Sam is, I believe, truly debateable. I don't think he has the kind of feelings for Sam that Sam does for him, and there are clues in the books that he knows this to be true.

As for Harry, I'll reserve judgement regarding tragic hero or not until the end of book seven, but I suspect that he is not going to end up as a tragic hero. It's true he has flaws, and that he changes throughout the books (given that he's a teenager, it would be kind of strange if he didn't), but I don't think he's going to die, and I don't think he's going to fail to destroy You-Know-Who.

ChunkyC
11-02-2004, 05:11 AM
Hmmm.... Yesh, you make good points.

One thing that occurs to me is my own emotional response to the Lord of the Rings book. The ending chapters are permeated with such a profound sadness that I burst into tears every time I read Sam's last bit of dialogue that ends the story: "...I'm back." He may be back, but much is gone. He has returned to a world that is forever altered and emptied of so much of he knew and loved.

It may not be a classic tragic hero epic, but the book certainly has the emotional impact of a tragic story.

Okay, I'm a big marshmallow, so sue me. :grin

pdr
11-02-2004, 07:15 AM
'So you don't consider Oedipus to be a tragedy, because he is merely blinded and exiled at the end?'


I said that my answer was the simple one, HConn! We could have a great discussion for hours about Oedipus if only we were face to face and had the time.

One opinion is that as he was the King then what happened is a tragedy. Another is that the play is not a tragedy by Aristotle's definitions. Personally I need to reread a copy before I could start a good discussion with you.

I think you can place 'Oedipus Rex' into the tragic category in one way because part of Aristotle's definitions had to do with a catharsis for the audience - you know, the bit about the audience learning what can happen and what not to do from watching a tragedy - and they learn plenty from 'Oedipus Rex'.
Alas, I've only access to a Japanese copy here and I can't read Japanese!

HConn
11-02-2004, 08:31 PM
We could have a great discussion for hours about Oedipus....

Argh! :ack

Let's agree to disagree, or agree to agree, or accept wherever we are on this subject and spend that time on our writing instead.

Spoilers for Lord Of the Rings



Yesh, Frodo didn't succumb to the ring because of a character flaw. He succumbed because he couldn't hold out any longer. It was only his strong, noble character that let him get as far as he got with it.

Succumbing to the ring was a dramatic necessity. You can't have a ring that tries to take control of it's wearer, have everyone tremble in their boots over the power of this ring, and its irresistability, and then not have the ring take control of its bearer. It had to happen.

Flawed Creation
11-03-2004, 10:01 AM
Frodo is not a Tragic hero.

sure, there's a certain bittersweet element to the story- not everything is happy, but the quest succeeds, evil is stopped and everyone but boromir lives. and no one lked boromir in the first place. (actually, HE might be a tragic hero)

As for the actual destruction of the ring- although Frodo didn't throw the ring in himself, it is my belief that his nobility caused it to be destroyed. he allowed Gollum to live when no one else saw any need, and gollum ultimately saved them.

Writing Again
11-03-2004, 12:29 PM
As for Frodo and Sam, I think friendship might be a bit insipid for a relationship as complex as theirs is.

That is an interesting approach in itself. I never considered friendship to be either insipid or simplistic.

Are you sure you aren't thinking of acquaintances?

Kempo Kid
11-05-2004, 07:52 AM
I agree about Boromir being a tragic hero. And he was a hero. He stuck by the Fellowship even though he didn't agree with its aims. He protected the others, especially the hobbits, to the best of his ability.

But he had a tragic flaw, his weakness for the ring, and that destroyed him.

Of course, he was from a highly disfunctional family, and conquering Sauron with the One Ring on his hand might well lift him up in his father's eyes. Or so it might have seemed to him.

Eowyn Eomer
11-06-2004, 11:06 AM
Frodo was the big hero of the story. His life was full of tragedy. Therefore, he was a tragic hero. I don't understand why others don't see this, but I'm okay with that. It's how I see it. :)