Saturday Art: Influential Authors: JRR Tolkien
It is pretty much indisputable that JRR Tolkien was an influential author. As his wiki notes, he was not the first fantasy writer but he is considered the “father” of modern fantasy:
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE 3 January 1892 – 2 September 1973, was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.
After his father’s death, Tolkien’s son Christopher published a series of works based on his father’s extensive notes and unpublished manuscripts, including The Silmarillion. These, together with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings form a connected body of tales, poems, fictional histories, invented languages, and literary essays about a fantasy world called Arda, and Middle-earth[b] within it. Between 1951 and 1955, Tolkien applied the term legendarium to the larger part of these writings. While many other authors had published works of fantasy before Tolkien, the great success of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings led directly to a popular resurgence of the genre. This has caused Tolkien to be popularly identified as the “father” of modern fantasy literature—or, more precisely, of high fantasy.
I had to look up what the word “philology” meant:
Philology is the study of language in written historical sources; it is a combination of literary criticism, history, and linguistics. It is more commonly defined as the study of literary texts and written records, the establishment of their authenticity and their original form, and the determination of their meaning.
The first of Tolkien’s works I ever read was The Fellowship of the Ring followed immediately by The Two Towers and Return of the King. I don’t remember who first pointed me to these books; about all I do remember is it was the early ’70s. I then went back and read The Hobbit even though much of that story was repeated and updated within the Rings Trilogy. I read The Simarillion not long after it was first published in 1977, four years after Tolkien’s death.
As I read through Tolkien’s complete wiki, I was a bit fascinated by some of the stated influences on his work and symbolism. That is probably the biggest problem I have ever had in studying any type of literature as I am always more interested in the tale told well than I have ever been in knowing that a particular religion or mythology is a foundation for the tale. I think that has allowed me to just enjoy a well written story without worrying about whether or not there is some hidden or not-so-hidden agenda behind the story. And of course, as the wiki notes here, it almost doesn’t matter what or even if an author intends for his story to convey as people can read whatever they desire into the words. I will add though that some writers do come in and bludgeon people such that it is impossible to miss their perspective
Tolkien’s IMDB page is a bit larger than I had anticipated with the bulk of credits for a variety of video games based on the Rings Trilogy. Of course, we have The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, all three blockbuster movies based on the individual books of the same names yet The Hobbit, a much smaller book, has been broken into three movies itself. An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug have both been released while There and Back Again is scheduled for release in December 2014. There was an animated film released in 1978, Lord of the Rings, that was directed by Ralph Bakshi that received mixed reviews. While the Bakshi movie only covered the story from The Fellowship of the Ring and the start of The Two Towres, there has not, to date, been a sequel. There were also a couple of animated TV movies for The Hobbit and The Return of the King with some interesting voice actors – Orson Bean as Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, John Huston as Gandalf, and Roddy McDowell as Samwise Gamgee for example.
One way to identify influence is the existence of parodies and Tolkien is no exception. Bored of the Rings was a parody novel written by Henry Beard and Douglas Kenney who went on to be founders of National Lampoon.
Picture from Aleksandar Cocek licensed under Creative Commons