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  1. Stammis

    Stammis Senior Member

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    Borrowing from LoTR

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Stammis, Jul 14, 2020.

    I think borrowing from LoTR is a sign of respect to Tolkien. Tolkien set out to create a myth, England's own mythology. Granted, he borrowed from Norse Myth, but everything is borrowed, (or stolen) There's nothing new under the sun. What's the difference between borrowing from the Norse or Tolkien?
     
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  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    What's the difference between a religion and a mythology?

    Time.
     
  3. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Supporter Contributor

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    No one has ever borrowed elves, dwarves etc. from Tolkien before. :)
     
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  4. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber oike despatio Contributor

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    They usually exist simultaneously; it's kind of hard to have a religion without a concomitant mythology.
     
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  5. Stammis

    Stammis Senior Member

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    Exactly, but it's generally viewed as a bad thing
     
  6. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    What's the difference? Take one example: Gandalf. Tolkien borrowed elements (especially the appearance) of Odin for the character, but Gandalf is not Odin. The difference is in the details, surely?
     
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  7. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Interesting thread. Tolkien borrowed heavily from all kinds of sources. The name Gandalf apparently originated from the Old Norse "Catalogue of Dwarves" - from Dvergatal in the Völuspá. And the name Gandalf surfaced (for an entirely different character) in William Morris's The Well At The World's End, which I read earlier this summer.

    And how's this for 'copying' Odin?
    Screenshot 2020-07-15 at 09.15.42.png
    Tolkien didn't invent the concept of a dwarf or an elf. I think he might have invented 'orcs' as we now think of them, but I'm not sure. I know when I see modern writers writing about 'orcs' I do immediately think "copied from Tolkien." I would certainly think that if somebody started writing about hobbits. So it's hard to draw a line, really.
     
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  8. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I think Gandalfr in Old Norse means something like 'staff monster'. Which I kind of like.

    It's not just his name that Tolkien took from the Voluspa, all of the dwarfs in The Hobbit are taken from that section. Tolkien's elves are unique to him - I think. There are elves in Norse Mythology, but it's kind of unclear what they are. It seems 'elf' is a catch all word for any kind of magical creature, and the dwarves are elves in the Prose Edda.

    Honestly, I think it would be far more fun to use the elements of Norse mythology Tolkien didn't use to construct a fantasy world. Or even look into other mythologies - Greek/Roman or Viking seems to be pretty well explored, but what about the Irish mythology? Or even one not from Europe?
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2020
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  9. Cdn Writer

    Cdn Writer Contributor Contributor

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    Why is it "generally viewed as a bad thing"?

    I can see copyright issues if I wanted to write a book with a character named "Bilbo Baggins" or "Galdalf" but surely there wouldn't be issues writing about a wizard or a dwarf or an elf?

    If that is the case, how is it that role playing games exist? Or books like Dragonlance (series)?

    That said, I do remember that when Dungeons & Dragons was starting to develop, the creators were not allowed to use the race of "hobbit" and they had to create the race of "hafling" in the series. Why....? I have no idea. Haflings and Hobbits are basically the same creature.
     
  10. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber oike despatio Contributor

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    I don't have much to add to this discussion, but the elves depicted in Lord Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter bear a lot of similarities to Tolkien's elves, and I believe Tolkien was influenced by that book (I think he was?). But yeah, Tolkien really did a number on elves, that's for sure.
     
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  11. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Supporter Contributor

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    Net necessarily. Depends how well you do it.
     
  12. Cdn Writer

    Cdn Writer Contributor Contributor

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    I think he was writing them as a stereotype, an elite and snooty type of character. I don't really think any of his characters really jumped out very well, it was mostly "middle-earth" that was the central character of his books and the "people" in the world were just there to bring it to life. I'm pretty sure I read a book on developing characters that used that example.....probably by Orson Scott Card.
     
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  13. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber oike despatio Contributor

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    I don't really care for the LOTR, even though it is a pretty good story, but the Silmarillion is one of my favorite books. I think the elves jump out really well in that book. The whole mythological cycle that Tolkien created there is glorious.
     
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  14. Stammis

    Stammis Senior Member

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    'Wrote them as stereotypes' lol... He invented the damn things! And I bet you'd be elitist and snobby too if you were immortal and superior in every way shape or from, haha. Been a while since I read the books though, so i don't even know if that's the case!
     
  15. DannyC1986

    DannyC1986 New Member

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    Personally I'd be very cautious when it comes to "borrowing" from Tolkien. The man was, after all, a one-off. A truly exceptional man who wrote fiction to provide a vehicle for his invented languages rather than the other way round. And of course he was adequately equipped to do so.

    This is the way I see things. It isn't Tolkien's plethora of races and monsters (while considerable) that make his sub-creation so compelling. It's the narrative itself and the sense of realism and history that he was able to achieve by working and reworking the stories over many years. Decades even, in some cases.

    Think of the fantasy writers that have tried to emulate - or even blatantly plunder - from Tolkien's work.
    Christopher Paolini springs to mind. Now, I've read his Inheritance Cycle series and I'll admit I enjoyed it at the time. But I wouldn't read it again. Whereas I re-read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings every five years or so.

    Terry Brooks has made a successful career off the back of Tolkien, but I read The Elfstones of Shannara and thought...do you know what? I don't want to read any more of this stuff.

    If people want Tolkien they should read Tolkien. Accept no substitutes.
     
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  16. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I remember back when Tolkien was first really popular, back in the late 60s. Suddenly everybody was reading him. And suddenly there were lots and lots of blatant imitations, including the one @DannyC1986 mentions above—Terry Brooks—that were obvious rip-offs of Tolkien elements and storyline. These were intended to make money off the back of Tolkien's popularity. (In fact, for many years I mixed Terry Brooks up with Terry Pratchett ...probably due to the first name and the cartoony covers ...and I refused to read Terry Pratchett at all, more fool me!)

    However, nowadays I see more people writing stories inspired by LOTR, rather than trying to cash in on LOTR. While I'd still rather these writers would think up their own mythology, rather than riff off Tolkien's, at least these are genuine, and I'm much more willing to give them house room. But I do agree with DannyC. There is only one Tolkien. Nothing else is likely to satisfy in quite the same way.
     
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  17. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    One thing Tolkien did that might not always be recognised as such, by writers of High Fantasy, is that the story was mostly told by the little guys. Not just the hobbits, but a dwarf, an elf, a man (who only at the end actually became a King) and a wizard who started out as simply an old man who was able to entertain people with fireworks. Not to mention their very small nemesis, Gollum.

    The doings of the high and mighty were often alluded to, and our little guys occasionally rubbed shoulders with leaders, kings, etc. But the story was mostly told through the perspective of bit players, and I think that's one reason the story appealed to us so much. The elf lords, ladies, and kings of men, etc seemed quite untouchable and unknowable, didn't they? But the ordinary hobbits, Gimli son of Glóin, and elves like Legolas who didn't have any particular status, and even Gollum were quite understandable, and were characters with strong personalities. As was Strider/Aragorn. They carried the bulk of the story.

    It's one way to tell a High Fantasy story. These stories don't always need to have royalty and status-holders as the main characters.
     
  18. Richach

    Richach Contributor Contributor

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    I have elves that are very much like Tolkiens in my book, but they are not his. They are there because I love them and I want them to live between the pages. I want my characters to engage with them. For them to be in an entirely different setting, world and circumstance. Such magnificent beings should live on for future generations. His/my elves play a significant role in my book at times but they are not the main event, but I choose to tip my hat to him.

    I was always rather struck by the idea of Lalaith - Urwen. How terribly sad it was that she shone so brightly but her life was short. She or any of Tolkiens elves don't play a role in any of my work but I will write a short story based on this particularly powerful idea of Lalaith.

    I think I have mentioned before that I live a few miles from Sarehole Mill and I do feel connected to Tolkien somehow. An incredible life's work should not stop because a book is closed or his life has ended. Such powerful ideas should live on. I say borrow if you wish!
     
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  19. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, that's kinda what I meant. His work has inspired you. You're not trying to ride his coat-tails into fame and fortune, by selling your work as Tolkien II. :) I think it's a tribute to his skill as a storyteller, that so many folks do feel inspired by the characters and the type of story he's told. I'm sure he wouldn't mind. He borrowed heavily from the mythology and history of various nations himself.
     
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  20. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Supporter Contributor

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    I have two different elves in different settings. My classic high fantasy D&D-esque setting has multiple Tolkien-style elves.

    My other setting has traditional folklore elves. Essentially crafty little fairies, who might well do things like cobble your shoes or spin gold yarn in exchange for your first born daughter.
     
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  21. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I think I read the same Orson Scott Card article/book. I think he referred to LOTR as a 'mileau' story ...meaning the setting/society was more important than the characters—which tended to be stereotypical plot-carriers. When you look at the kind of research and study Tolkien did, prior to writing LOTR and The Hobbit, I think Card has a point. Tolkien was a world-builder's world builder, wasn't he? It's testament to his skill that a few characters did seem to transcend the stereotypes. Gandalf, Bilbo, Frodo, Gollum, Sam, Boromir, Faramir, Denethor, etc. They all had distinctive personalities. (I'm talking about the books here, not the movie.

    The movie (and the actors) did a better job, in my opinion, of giving most of the characters distinct personalities. Especially the two generic hobbits, Merry and Pippin, who were fairly interchangeable in the book, but quite distinctively different from each other in the movie. Aragorn's personality came through more strongly in the movie as well, in my opinion. And Arwen, Elrond, Gimli, Legolas, Saruman, Grima Wormtongue, Eowyn, etc. I guess they are testament to what good actors can do.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2020
  22. Richach

    Richach Contributor Contributor

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    Tolkien was able to deliver ideas from his own mind to the readers with apparently little effort, often in as little as one or two sentences. JK Rowling also has the same ability to get to the point quickly and effectively. They seem to transfer these ideas through some kind of osmosis that does not require the reader to pause or rest. Their words, sentences and paragraphs are absolutely loaded with technique, mechanisms, levers, tricks and devices that whilst remaining invisible to the reader simply lead them through the story. Sounds so simple, doesn't it!
     
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  23. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    My husband knew a fellow who had attended some of Tolkien's university lectures. The guy said Tolkien was a VERY boring speaker! He couldn't believe the writing came from the same person. :)
     
  24. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Supporter Contributor

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    If you've ever read the Silmarillion, you could believe that!
     
  25. DannyC1986

    DannyC1986 New Member

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    From what I've read Tolkien was a great tutor in terms of one to one tuition. Kind, considerate and genuinely interested in his students' academic endeavours.
    But yes, apparently he wasn't so great as a lecturer. Especially when compared to his friend C S Lewis who could reputedly pack out a lecture hall.

    Although, am I right in thinking (I may have misremembered) that in The Letters of J R R Tolkien someone wrote to him saying how great were his lectures on Beowulf?

    Returning to my earlier comment about "borrowing" from Tolkien. I hope I didn't offend, as that wasn't my intent. But my main point really - and to echo Jannert - is that although it's fine to borrow his ideas/races etc, carbon copies of Tolkien's work may be commercially viable but at the end of the day a copy is a copy. A Tolkien copy isn't something that I'd be interested in reading when I could read Tolkien's own work.
     
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