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Old 02-22-2003, 07:43 PM   #1
Iarwain
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What does everyone think about Lord of the Rings as a member of the Fantasy genre?

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[ March 03, 2003: Message edited by: Iarwain ]
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Old 02-22-2003, 07:46 PM   #2
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I can see what you mean. Tolkein goes so mush further than any other fantasy book I've read, but if they made another section it would have to be very small. just tolkeins books. I don't think anything else could measure up to this literary master piece.
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Old 02-22-2003, 07:48 PM   #3
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Nice idea!

The best way to look at it (and in a neat tolkinesque way) is a s afeudal system.

God - Tolkien
Valar - David Eddings, Sara Douglass
Maia - Terry Brooks, Robert Jordan, Maggie Furey, Chris Bunch

Then there are elves, men, dwarves and of course orcs!

(all of the various Ainur are my opinion, feel free to disagree)
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Old 02-22-2003, 07:53 PM   #4
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The only fantasy I've ever read other than Tolkien is Terry Brooks, which IMHO really STINKS. But then, Tolkien CREATED the genre, so of course, everything else is just an imitation. Even if their ideas are the OPPOSITE of Tolkien's, his is still the template (good choice of words Iarwain)
from which their comparison is drawn.
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Old 02-22-2003, 07:53 PM   #5
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Quote:
Perhaps a separate genre should be developed?
And that would be...? A genre of one isn't really a genre... After all, since LotR started the Fantasy genre (or at least made it popular and profitable) it doesn't seem like a terrible thing to categorize it with it's successors. In a way, tt's like saying that because some descendents aren't as noble or intelligent (etc.) as their forefathers, the connection should not be acknowledged.

Actually, at my library Tolkien is in regular fiction, though we do have a large Fantasy/Sci-Fi section. But my library also has the nearly R-rated PG-13 movie in the children's section, so I wouldn't say we have it "right". [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

[ February 22, 2003: Message edited by: Diamond18 ]
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Old 02-22-2003, 08:02 PM   #6
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At a guess, I would say that many people don't like modern fantasy as much because it is less formal and heroic. For instance if we take the wizards from thre of my favourites.

Gandalf (LOTR) - Wise and kind, heroic in his magical abilites

Belgareth (The Belgariad/David Eddings) - old tramp with bad habits

StarDrifter (Axis Trilogy/Sara Douglass) - outrageous flirt, seducer, womaniser

An obvious trend is that the modern wizards are more 'human' and less heroic in the sense of perfectness, although Belgareth is pretty heroic when he has to be.

I must admit Terry Brooks might be a bit less than Maia on my scale. His overuse of magic (ie. firebolts and swords of flame, etc) may make it seem less real and more dungeons and dragons if you see my meaning.
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Old 02-22-2003, 08:12 PM   #7
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Thank you everyone! Didn't expect a response so quickly. [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]

Good old Diamonds, as you have taken the liberty of labeling modern Fantasy as Barbaric and unintelligent, should nobility really be grouped with barbarians? Since others seem to agree that there is something different between Tolkien literature and Fantasy with more typical standards, perhaps those differences could be sifted out and identified, perhaps putting it even with the outside world of general Fiction.
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Old 02-22-2003, 09:31 PM   #8
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I think a lot of it also has to do with the fact that there is hardly any mythical/fantasy situation or character which isn't found in Tolkien to some extent. Wise old Wizard? Check. Bad Wizard? Check. Fiend plotting world domination? Check. Plucky, unheroic main character who comes through? Check. Banished ruler (Fisher King) returning? Well, you see what I'm saying. A lot of the situations are very archetypal, and it's virtually impossible to write a fantasy novel without incorporating several of them. Writers who have the misfortune not to be geniuses will naturally model their characters and situations - consciously or unconsciously - after the best examples they can think of, which are ... Tolkien's. Or else they try very consciously to make a Wizard, for example, who is very much UNLIKE Tolkien's kind - comic and more human, as was pointed out earlier - and then make a poor job of it by comparison.

Diamond, that's interesting - since my library can't make up its mind! Copies of Tolkien are in young adult fiction, adult fiction AND fantasy/sci-fi. Though admittedly stuff like "The Book of Lost Tales" and the Silmarillion are only in adult fiction, not sure why...unless the assumption is that fantasy readers haven't got the patience or depth for the Sil...well, there you go. I'm not sure why so many multiple copies, though - it's the same thing for Harry Potter, it's in young adult, children's fiction, and adult fiction. The only reason I can think of for that is that a lot of adults don't like being told that they book they want to read themselves is in the same section as "Arthur Visits the White House."

And on a side-note...I've never really enjoyed other fantasy novels, at least not the big chunky saga-istic ones. Terry Brooks and Robert Jordan just bored me terribly. Even fantasy short stories tend to leave me cold. So yes, there's just something about Tolkien...we don't know... [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

[ February 22, 2003: Message edited by: Kalimac ]
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Old 02-23-2003, 01:56 AM   #9
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Perhaps Tolkien should be placed in the section that deals with addictions?

[ February 23, 2003: Message edited by: Pukel-Man ]
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Old 02-23-2003, 05:16 AM   #10
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I don't think we should be so elitist about our beloved books, even if they are better. It makes us look bad. I've read a lot of other books that I've enjoyed, even though they weren't as good as Tolkien's works. Tolkien did have the best grasp of the mythohistorical aspect of the genre, and so his books all seem a little more real than anything else I've read. Other authors can't seem to make their characters "un-modern" if you understand me. As noted, every fantasy book suffers from a lack of originality. There's always a "dark lord" and unlikely hero, etc. While some are blatant copies (Dennis McKiernan), some are interesting. I liked Eddings--he stays away from the normal races (his different races of humans substitute) and has an interesting take on magic and Gods (I liked the Elenium more than the Beleriad or whatever it was). I also liked Jordan while I still kept up with it, because he has a very deep world and some original ideas, though the forces of evil sounded familiar. I can't say I've read much else, though. I tend to stick to science fiction--there are some brilliant authors there. If I get an itching for fantasy, I can always re-read all my Tolkien (and I still have all the HoME books, etc, to go through...).

lol, I think addiction is just about right!
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Old 02-23-2003, 05:22 AM   #11
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The difference is most people books are a story within book. Tolkiens works are a WORLD within a book. [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]
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Old 02-23-2003, 02:53 PM   #12
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Very true, very true indeed.

Tolkien's books should not be "elitist", but they should be kept in the correct classification, they do contain all of the different storytelling elements of modern fantasy. The idea that Middle-Earth is a complete world with languages and cultures is one of the main ideas that makes it so different from the rest of modern fantasy. This is why it belongs in a separate category, if not unsubcategorized (placed with the rest of the general fiction)

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Old 02-23-2003, 04:29 PM   #13
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Quote:
Good old Diamonds, as you have taken the liberty of labeling modern Fantasy as Barbaric and unintelligent, should nobility really be grouped with barbarians?
Well, I didn't mean to sound quite that harsh about it. I'm sure there is some very good modern Fantasy, and by saying "less intelligent" I didn't mean to label it all Barbaric. I've read and enjoyed other Fantasy, and I write my own. (Eeep!)

However, I often don't get past the cover-art of modern Fantasy because it does so turn me off, with its scantily clad females standing on snowy cliffs in nothing more than a leather bikini and a shawl of fur draped casully about their shoulders, shooting firebolts out of their eyes. And I could go on about that, but you get the picture. [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

But I thought it a shame that Fantasy should be so degraded in our eyes that the Daddy of All Fantasy should not be called Fantasy anymore. Maybe we need two genres of Fantasy, "Good, Original Fantasy" (Tolkien, Lewis, LeGuin, et al) and "Cheap Imitation Fantasy". [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]

Kalimac: At my library Tolkien is actually not only in adult fiction, but also young adult fiction and adult non-fiction (HoME). But our YA contains a lot of copies of adult, so I usually just disregard that section when I think about it. Mainly I think the reason is that we just have so many copies, they thought they'd spread them about a bit. I do believe we have at least five or six different versions of LotR alone. (Oh, and The Hobbit is in Adult, YA, and Juvenile Fiction. That one puzzles 'em. [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img] )

Personally, I rather like thinking of Tolkien as belonging more with the Dickens and Sir Walter Scotts of the literary world. But it is Fantasy.
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Old 02-23-2003, 11:44 PM   #14
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Ah, I do agree with Diamond, as a former Librarian, I tend to think of Tolkien as British Literature, and as such he'd be heaped up next to Dickens, Lewis, and so forth. Ah, but I probably couldn't help putting a few copies of Grimm's Fairytales right up against Tolkien's works. It'd be rather appropriate, don't you think?
[img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

[ February 24, 2003: Message edited by: Tirned Tinnu ]
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Old 02-24-2003, 04:01 PM   #15
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I agree. Tolkien is literature. I know many libraries/book stores don't have a separate literature section, but, in my mind, that's where Tolkien belongs. The work has lasting value and literary merit. Academics study it and publish articles/books about it. This is one of the things that separate it from fantasy or general fiction. (I don't mean to imply that a work must receive academic/critical attention in order to be good, but it is one of the ways we tend to judge such things.)
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Old 02-27-2003, 12:27 PM   #16
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Sorry for being so ignorant- who's Terry Brooks? I've heard the name, but I don't know who he is. Also, yes, Tolkien is the Iluvitar of epic/fantasy. But if you placed him in an already existing catergory, what do you think it would be? I found a webpage that said that Lord of the Rings could be counted under one of two catergories- allegory or romance. I find this very annoying, but sort of funny. There was hardly any romance, except a tiny thing about Aragorn and Arwen in the Appendices, and the Lay of Luthien piece that Aragorn sang at Weathertop. As to allegory- the person who made the webpage said that s/he knew that Tolkien stated many times that his works should not be taken for allegory, but did not believe him. Rather strange, don't you think?
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Old 02-27-2003, 02:50 PM   #17
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grr.. perhaps that person should read this part of the foreword:

Quote:
I think that many confuse 'applicability' with 'allegory'; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.
-J.R.R. Tolkien, foreword, LOTR TFOTR
As for the original topic, I think I get what you mean. I don’t consider myself an elitist but it hurts to see Tolkien’s works in the same shelf as piers anthony’s. Perhaps Tolkien’s books should be in the same genre as Homer’s Odyssey. (Whatever that genre is). They’re in the same level of ‘worthiness’ in my opinion. Yes, ‘literature’ is the key word. Tolkien’s books are great literary pieces. Sorry I did not contribute much here. grrr.
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Old 02-27-2003, 03:23 PM   #18
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Perhaps Tolkien should be placed in the section that deals with addictions?

Ugh, I love that thought, Pukel-Man! I COMPLETELY agree! lol
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Old 02-27-2003, 03:36 PM   #19
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addictions...obsessions... i just read the lord of the rings and got hooked. now i have to read the HoME, i have no choice! and im forcing - forcing- my reluctant friend to read the LotR.
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Old 02-27-2003, 06:53 PM   #20
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I spent much of my lunchhour today trawling round the bookshops of Charing Cross Road in search of The Atlas of Middle Earth (successfully, I'm glad to say). And I noticed that all of the major book-shops have a separate Tolkien section, albeit next to the fantasy and sci-fi fiction sections. And it included not just the books themselves, but also guides, companions, books of illustartions, the atlas and biographies of JRRT. Now this may just be a product of the rise in popularity of the works in the wake of the films, but it seemed to me to be appropriate.

Quote:
Sorry for being so ignorant- who's Terry Brooks?
Author of the Shannara series, books of the fanatsy genre. I wouldn't recommend that you bother educating yourself. I have only read one of the series, but I would tend to agree with Nimrodel:

Quote:
Terry Brooks, which IMHO really STINKS
In my opinion, they are vastly inferior attempts to copy the style of LotR.
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Old 02-27-2003, 07:32 PM   #21
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It's tourture when you're made to read Terry Brooks, "At lest the first one, come they're awesome!" Aghr! I hate little brothers. [img]smilies/mad.gif[/img]
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Old 02-28-2003, 09:32 PM   #22
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I'm very happy to have attratcted such an intelligent group of posters! [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]

Don't worry, Diamonds, I like some other fantasy also. It isn't all that bad, just very redundant in plot sometimes... I've also written some fantasy (not on a publishable scale though). It can be fun, and its good for the imagination. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

It would be very funny to see what other series would be grouped under this "addictive" genre [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

Quick question, Saucepan, was this Tolkien specific section on the wall with the rest of the alphabetized authors, or had they removed Tolkien to an island, or was it even on a book case of its own? I've never actually seen Tolkien pulled out of the Sci Fi/Fantasy section. Hmm... I've never read terry brooks, though I've probably seen people with his books before.

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Old 02-28-2003, 09:48 PM   #23
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Usually the Tolkien section is in a book-case of its own next to, or opposite, the fantasy section ...

... But this may all change, of course, when the interest prompted by the films dies down.
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Old 03-01-2003, 10:06 AM   #24
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In partial defence of Terry Brooks...

Although his first book, 'The Sword of Shannara' is in many parts a copy of LOTR, the later books are much better. Of course they are no where near as good as Tolkien, but they're something to read.

At the present moment in time, my favourite Fantasy Authors are...

1) Tolkien
2) David Eddings
3) Sara Douglass

Eddings' work is amazing and isnt a straight copy of LOTR like so many others.

Douglass' is also amazing and a bit less heroic (in the sense of chastity).

All good reads!
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Old 03-01-2003, 04:06 PM   #25
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In reality, I've only read books by two fantasy authors: Tolkien (obviously) and the Miller Brothers (creators of the Myst computer game series).

Both involve in depth, complex solutions to the realities that they produce, along with cultures, histories, languages, and theologies.

I've read excerpts from other fantasy novels and heard all about their plots, and honestly most fantasy seems very dull, and is only popular because of this amazing image it produces, of a world beyond hope of existence, where power is a tangible and attainable thing, endless instances of heroism and battle create forced excitment, and new discoveries as to the nature of this fantastic reality are constantly appearing.

I may be wrong, but if that is what fantasy has become, then how is Tolkien all that similar to it?

Grim,
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[ March 03, 2003: Message edited by: Iarwain ]
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Old 03-01-2003, 09:40 PM   #26
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I agree with a lot of what's been said. I think that Tolkien basically founded fantasy, and though it's true that most (if not all) modern fantasy is vastly inferior to the Lord of the Rings, it's hardly feasible to seperate the Lord of the Rings into its own genre. Though I, too, shudder to think of the Lord of the Rings grouped with anything by Piers Anthony (and forgive me if anybody likes him, I just never got into Xanth), there will always be ups and downs in a genre. "Ender's Game" is grouped with all of those awful Star Wars spinoff stories ("The Courtship of Princess Leia," anyone?), though it's immesurably superior to them. To quote Theodore Sturgeon, "Sure, 90% of science fiction is crud. That's because 90% of everything is crud." This includes fantasy.

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Old 03-01-2003, 09:45 PM   #27
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That would be known as Sturgeon's Law, I think.
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Old 03-01-2003, 09:46 PM   #28
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Massive mistake in my last post, sorry. [img]smilies/confused.gif[/img]
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Old 03-01-2003, 10:00 PM   #29
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Yep, sure is! But I wasn't sure if everybody would know what Sturgeon's Law was offhand, so I wanted to quote him to make sure. But the "Sure, 90% of science fiction is crud. That's because 90% of everything is crud" quote is, indeed, known as Sturgeon's Law, though the words are occasionally changed slightly depending on the company.

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Old 03-01-2003, 10:28 PM   #30
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One thing tha I find about Fantasy is that you have to watch out you don't buy crap, but I have an excelent way of knowing good stories from bad. But then again since I am a book worm I always buy a good book and have only twice bought a bad book. I agree with a lot of people that David Eddings's books are good!
There are also two other authors I recommend: Melanie Rawn and Michael Ende
Michael Ende wrote the neverending story, I am sure most of you saw the movie but it is an awesome book I have re-read it 5 times. It is also a unique book, not the average one where the characters have to destroy a great evil. Much more happens and the characters are really interesting.
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Old 03-02-2003, 12:22 AM   #31
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I have read and enjoyed plenty of other science fiction and fantasy works from this century, and some of them are contemporaneous with Tolkien's work. I think his fantasy is unique and full of depth, but there are created worlds that I can enjoy just as well without having to know their entire history. (I must admit there is something addictive about being able to immerse oneself like that, however!)

One world I particularly enjoy is Fritz Leiber's Nehwon and this world is mapped, just as Middle-Earth is mapped. There was even a role playing game based upon Nehwon at one time. The thing I liked about these books, the Swords series, was the completely human attitudes of its two protagonists, Fahfrd and the Grey Mouser. They were much less heroic and more pragmatic, but also quite different from each other. And they each were pupils of a different wizard with vastly different characteristics. But the focus is not heroic in the traditional sense, but rather adventurous. They satisfy me on a different level than LOTR does. But I enjoy them both! Right now, however, I am caught in the obsession that brought me here!

Thanks for allowing me to prattle on a bit!
Cheers,
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Old 03-02-2003, 05:59 AM   #32
The Squatter of Amon Rūdh
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I find that the fantasy I have read that attempts to echo Tolkien invariably becomes little more than a pale reflection, and I share Diamond's exasperation with leather-clad warrior maidens with heaving bosoms and impressively-muscled square-jawed barbarian heroes, but there are some good writers within the genre. One of my favourites is David Gemmell, who doesn't even attempt the epic style so predominant in Tolkien's work, instead opting for a more intimate, personal approach. This only works if one is prepared to sacrifice the epic feel of the piece, something which Eddings is simply unable to do. He wants to use familiar language to describe epic events, which simply doesn't work. Gemmell, on the other hand, takes a completely different view of his stories, telling them on a very human, microcosmic scale, which fits much better with the greater intimacy of characterisation that he clearly prefers.

I suppose that what I'm trying to say is that people who try and fail to imitate Tolkien will never scale his heights. Each writer should find their own style, and it is those who do that rather than trying to imitate the Professor whose work I enjoy reading. This, I think, is the key to writing worthwhile fantasy as it is with any genre. Nobody else can write your stories for you.
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Old 03-02-2003, 06:31 AM   #33
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I totaly agree with Diamond18 on this matter.

Quote:
And that would be...? A genre of one isn't really a genre... After all, since LotR started the Fantasy genre (or at least made it popular and profitable) it doesn't seem like a terrible thing to categorize it with it's successors. In a way, tt's like saying that because some descendents aren't as noble or intelligent (etc.) as their forefathers, the connection should not be acknowledged.
You would just be selecting books on qualety and in your opinion Lotr is great, but others might think that it is crap because there has been put to much work in it and they just want to read a book. (can you beleive that? They really excist. I know a couple of those dimwit's myself.) So there would be an endless discussion over wich book where. And riot's might brake out. (They will defenetly do when Lotr is considered a minor book.)

So what you are doing is in a way just discrimenating books. You should not put books in boxes. It is cruel to the writers and readers and it shows no respect for literature.

Greetings,

Anuion

P.S. They could place Lotr on the highest shelf so that it rizes above all the other books tough [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]
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Old 03-02-2003, 03:39 PM   #34
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I have read very little fantasy-type literature, because most are just too...well...fantastic (fantastic as in unbelieveable). I don't really classify Tolkein as "fantasy" because the world of Middle-Earth and all of its inhabitants are REAL to me. Not something that someone has made up. They are real people with real emotions, real places, real happenings...(oops! starting to ramble)

I've never read any of the other authors mentioned (Brooks, Eddings, etal) due to lack of interest on my part. However, a friend recommended a set of books to me a few years ago. They are actually 2 sets of 3 books each. "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever" and "The Second Chronicles..." by Stephen R. Donaldson. While they do not compare with Tolkein's world in layering of history & depth of detail, to my surprise I really enjoyed them and was drawn into this other world called The Land.
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Old 03-02-2003, 05:40 PM   #35
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I don't really like the fantasy genre at all. This is no criticism of those who do like it, it's just my own preference. Lots of people (including all my Tolkien-loving brothers) have lent me fantasy books saying "oh you'd like this if you like Tolkien". The Dune books, Thomas the Unbeliever, Terry Pratchett, etc etc.
I found them all boring and almost unreadable. I just don't regard Tolkien as part of that genre. For me, he belongs in a far more ancient 'genre', that of myth and heroic epic.
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Old 03-02-2003, 06:22 PM   #36
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Tolkien

Nice observation Lalaith! I personally have always revered Tolkien's use of and influence from Beowulf and the Kalevala. I do however think that (though far from Tolkienian in depth and grasp) "The Book of Three" is a great series.
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Old 03-02-2003, 09:39 PM   #37
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if tolkien is the template, then all the other writers, good and bad, BASE their story on the Tolkien world. So, they should al belong in the same category.
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Old 03-02-2003, 10:26 PM   #38
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Now, good Sandman, I must disagree. If you use an author as your template, that does not in any way mean that you will use the same writing style as them, or even (in Tolkien's case) work outside of reality. One could easily write as rational story about a hopeless struggle in the middle of NYC, and use Tolkien as a template without making their tale fantasy. Am I correct?

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Old 03-02-2003, 10:36 PM   #39
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Hmmm, well, I'm sorry if I offended anyone in my last post, but I still hold to the idea that Tolkien is no longer like the ninety percent of modern Fantasy. It shares too few of the key elements. This is like placing Homer with a group of books on Urban Legends. It doesn't work. All fantasy needn't be inferior, but it is different, is it not?
You've raised a number of good points, Iarwain, but from what I understand, your arguments seem to be based on emotional ties to Tolkien's work, and I don't really see a solid scholarly argument in there (i.e., something that would actually merit change to take place).

I think that time and evolution of literature as a whole is the only agent that may percipitate the said change. At this point, I really don't mind seeing Tolkien's works stuck next to the paperback literature that features (to borrow from Squatter's example) top-heavy, light-brained sword-maidens and their rugged counterparts, because I know the difference between the two; if some shmuck from the venerable academic world does not, it's not my problem. I refuse to let the opinions of pretentious people influence me.
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Old 03-03-2003, 12:31 AM   #40
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Does anyone remember when, I think it was back in the 1970's, one was obliged, after reading Lord of the Rings to then move on to read Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast? How many people like them both? They are both classified as fantasy, and yet they are quite distinct in style. Tolkien's style is more linguistic and epic, while Peake, an artist by trade, wrote in a very visual way and drew his narrative landscapes as with a closely detailed paintbrush. Both are classics, in my opinion, although Gormenghast is much less known than LOTR. What they have in common, though, is an "other" world that is somehow tied to ours. Both laid their realms out on top of their places of experience and both draw their environments finely. I would not say their styles are similar, but their focus on detail of place gives me a feeling the attitudes are similar. It is interesting how two works can be so different and yet one can find a thread to tie them together in some way! (And Gormenghast is as far from the sword and sorcery musclemen and scantily clad women art covers of stereotypical "fantasy" as one can get! Peake drew wonderful grotesques and his characters are odd and ugly, yet beautiful in the way he drew them as image or as word painting!)

I just thought this would be a good example of how two works can both be fantasy and yet be VERY different in theme, style, setting, etc. They do share elements. OK, I'll be quiet now! Thanks again! [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

Cheers,
Lyta

[ March 03, 2003: Message edited by: Lyta_Underhill ]
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