Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How LOTR Changed Fantasy Forever

I didn't make this up!  It's not just that Lord of the Rings  has changed me, but it literally has changed the course of fantasy literature.  Wikipedia even says:
"J. R. R. Tolkien played a large role in the popularization and accessibility of the fantasy genre with his highly successful publications The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954–55).  Rarely does one consider modern fantasy without conjuring the memory and image of Tolkien and his creations. Tolkien was largely influenced by an ancient body of Anglo-Saxon myths, particularly Beowulf, as well as modern works such as The Worm Ouroboros by E. R. Eddison. Tolkien's close friend C. S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia and a fellow English professor with a similar array of interests, also helped to publicize the fantasy genre."
Tolkien be like: "I changed the course of literature.
What did you do today?"
And that's taken from the second paragraph in the whole Wikipedia page--pretty important it seems to me.

Before Tolkien, fantasy was often oriented towards children and looked down upon by older people.  Even in Tolkien's own story, The Hobbit, the narrator often takes (and Tolkien even admitted this) condescending little asides to speak directly to the reader.  It was not until Tolkien realized this mistake of talking-down and began to address it that fantasy began to take on a higher and more adult feeling.

The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion are certainly not geared towards children because of their advanced themes, difficult language, and complicated story lines.  They proved extremely popular anyway.


In the 1960s an illegal edition of The Lord of the Rings was printed in paperback in the U.S.  It proved very popular among college students and quickly caught on.  The following is from thelandofshadow.com:
"If anyone can appreciate a character who throws frequent parties, eats six meals a day, and “whiles away his ‘tweens’ — the ‘irresponsible twenties between childhood and coming of age at thirty-three,’” as TIME once encapsulated the essence of a Hobbit, it’s the American college student. This demographic proved to be J.R.R. Tolkien’s best audience, and the one that elevated him to the status of literary celebrity."
Tolkien was actually very distressed that certain irresponsible "hippie" college students were misinterpreting his story.  He received many letters from young people who had taken strange views about his story that suited their own world-views.  This article by the BBC has some good quotes and tells the hippie's side of the story (though certain aspects of Tolkien's original intentions were left out).

 

This huge boost from the college teens drew the attention of many, including some critics.  While not all legitimate literary critics had high reviews of the tale, there were quite a few who realized that there was more to the tale than the hippies had presented.  The story began to get taken seriously and made it's way around.

Dungeons and Dragons is one well-known fantasy enterprise which took a lot of ideas from The Lord of the Rings, as well as World of Warcraft and many current franchises.  None of the spin-offs have managed to capture the full themes and depth of the original Lord of the Rings, but nevertheless the fantasy genre has remained very popular throughout all this time.

So next time you (Anna, I'm directing this at you) think about insulting The Lord of the Rings, remember that your favorite fantasy books would likely not be around or be as appreciated without it.

4 comments:

  1. Oh thank you so much for doing this post! I'll use this as a reference when someone is putting down LOTR and/or fantasy!

    Some person (I forgot who) told me that they didn't read fantasy because it was a waste of time and used as a way to escape reality... yeah some people just don't get it XD

    I absolutely adore your new header! It's really nice :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not a problem at all! Continue defending LOTR and fantasy!

      Gasp D: How could they say that? Tell them to go read the "Why I Love Fantasy" post and hopefully they will change their minds.

      Thank you! I thought I might freshen up the look for summer. :)

      Delete
  2. Great post, Nimrodel. So true! Without Tolkien's work, fantasy would not be what it is today. I thank God for giving him that wonderful gift, and so blessing the rest of us as well. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why, thank you :)
      I agree with you; his contributions certainly enrich the literature world and I suppose the world in general.

      Delete