Tales Before Tolkien

Tales Before Tolkien

The Roots of Modern Fantasy

Book - 2003 | First edition.
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TALES BEFORE TOLKIEN The Roots of Modern Fantasy-- Classic Stories that Inspired the Author of The Lord of the Rings Edited and with commentary by Douglas A. Anderson Editor ofThe Annotated Hobbit Once upon a time, fantasy writers were looked down upon by the literary mainstream as purveyors of mere escapism or, at best, bedtime tales fit only for children. Today fantasy novels stand atop the bestseller lists, while fantasy films smash box office records. Fantasy dominates the role-playing and computer gaming industries, and classic works in the genre are taught in schools and universities throughout the world. Credit for this amazing turnaround belongs to one man more than any other: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, the beloved author ofThe HobbitandThe Lord of the Rings. Terry Brooks. David Eddings. George R. R. Martin. Robin Hobb. The top names in modern fantasy all acknowledge J. R. R. Tolkien as their model and master, the author whose work first fired their imaginations and inspired them to create their own epics. But what writers influenced Tolkien himself? Sir Isaac Newton once wrote, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." As with the scientific genius of Newton, so, too, with the literary genius of Tolkien. Now internationally recognized Tolkien expert Douglas A. Anderson has gathered the fiction of some of those giants together for the first time in a collection destined to become a classic in its own right. In "The Golden Key," the inspiration for Tolkien's short storySmith of Wootton Major, George MacDonald tells the tale of a boy whose quest for the end of the rainbow leads beyond the borders of the world. Andrew Lang's romantic tale, "The Story of Sigurd," features magic rings, an enchanted sword, and a brave hero loved by two beautiful women--and cursed by a ferocious dragon. Tolkien read E. A. Wyke-Smith's "The Marvelous Land of Snergs" to his children, delighting in these charming tales of a pixieish people "only slightly taller than the average table." Also appearing in this collection is a never-before-published gem by David Lindsay, author ofVoyage to Arcturus,a novel which Tolkien praised highly both as a thriller and as a work of philosophy, religion, and morals. In stories packed with magical journeys, conflicted heroes, and terrible beasts, this extraordinary volume is one that no fan of fantasy or Tolkien should be without. These tales just might inspire a new generation of creative writers. Tales Before Tolkien: 22 Magical Stories "The Elves" by Ludwig Tieck "The Golden Key" by George MacDonald "Puss-Cat Mew" by E. H. Knatchbull-Hugessen "The Griffin and the Minor Canon" by Frank R. Stockton "The Demon Pope" by Richard Garnett "The Story of Sigurd" by Andrew Lang "The Folk of the Mountain Door" by William Morris "Black Heart and White Heart" by H. Rider Haggard "The Dragon Tamers" by E. Nesbit "The Far Islands" by John Buchan "The Drawn Arrow" by Clemence Housman "The Enchanted Buffalo" by L. Frank Baum "Chu-bu and Sheemish" by Lord Dunsany "The Baumhoff Explosive" by William Hope Hodgson "The Regent of the North" by Kenneth Morris "The Coming of the Terror" by Arthur Machen "The Elf Trap" by Francis Stevens "The Thin Queen of Elfhame" by James Branch Cabell "The Woman of the Wood"
Publisher: New York : Del Rey/Ballantine Books, 2003.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780345458544
Branch Call Number: TAL
Characteristics: 436 pages ;,24 cm


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Apr 01, 2017

There are quite a variety of tales in this book, ranging from Tolkienesque stories of elves and dragons to horror “The Baumoff Explosive”, comedy “The Dragon Tamers”, satire “Chu-Bu and Sheemish”, paradoxically violent children’s folktales in the Brothers Grimm mode “Puss-Cat Mew “, mythology “The Golden Key”, imaginary histories “The Story or Alwina”, strange little existential gems “The Thin Queen of Elfhame”, as well as a rather unsuccessful attempt to shed fantasy of its European roots “A Zulu Idyll” (which is nonetheless told from the view of a European). Many of them combine two or more of these ideas. Some of them ring with the type of epic grandeur and deliberately archaic language that characterize Tolkien’s “High Style”.
Every reader will probably like one or two of these stories and despise one or two others. I found the first several to be disappointing but began to like the ones near the end (I don’t know if this has anything to do with the chronological order in which the tales are presented). Anyway, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in fantasy writing, and specifically anyone interested in the roots of Tolkien’s ideas, though the editor leaves out that other epic about a magic (and cursed) ring, that one by Richard Wagner…

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