Apologies for not replying to your lovely comments last week. Those who follow my guinea pigs know that I lost Midge last week. I’ve discovered I no longer have the ability to nurse a piggy through the night and catch up on lost sleep in one day. I may be back to normal soon.
J R R Tolkien. Well of course he’s one of my inspirations. I aspire to emulate him. Just think about the thoroughness of his world. Just read the Lord of the Rings and identify all the details that went into it. For my first A to Z (2012), I did an A to Z of my Princelings world. At that point I realised that I was nowhere near as complete in my world-building as I thought I was. I’d only just started. I needed the backstory of everything, the legends, the romances, the languages, the detail of how things worked… which Tolkien has in the appendices and extra books in the series. It was his life’s work.
Consider Tolkien’s work
Plot: The Lord of the Rings starts with Isildur’s Ring. Well, it doesn’t, it starts with the forging of the rings of power, the downfall of those who had them, and Sauron forging the One Ring. Okay, Gandalf tells us that, but there are also stories of the early days, poetry of the early days (the Lay of Galadriel?), and beyond that, the relationships of Elves and Men to consider. So bringing all of that history into the simple plot of LOTR should be a piece of cake.
Weak young thing, guided by a mysterious wizard, discovers an heirloom has more powers than he imagined and sets off on a quest to give it to the people that should know what to do with it, the Elves at Rivendell. But the baddies are already watching, and Frodo needs the help of a mysterious wanderer in the wilds, who turns out to be the heir of the line of kings…
Now go back a few days and check the Silver Blade checklist of fantasy clichés.
Tolkien isn’t a fantasy cliché, of course, he’s the real thing. I believe the Greeks got there before him, and who knows who they nicked it from – story-telling as old as time perhaps. My point is, Tolkien studied all these things, and wove them meticulously into the best fantasy saga ever.
Characters: definitely well-rounded, some more than others (Proudfoots spring to mind). Where does Tom Bombadil and the Wights fit into the story? They are older than the Ring… history of history. Different races have generic traits, elves tend to be haughty and easily offended, dwarves tend to be stubborn and easily offended. But the Elves of Lothlorien seem to have a different culture from the Elves of Rivendell, and the Elves of Mirkwood are different again. As different as Australians, Americans and Brits, perhaps?
Legends: the backstory in the legends is astounding. Sometimes I skip the poetry, but other times I study the words; there is so much history in them, and Aragorn in particular lives them as he speaks.
Terrain: Despite everything, I am convinced that the Green Dragon at Bywater is the Green Dragon at Brook in the New Forest, Hampshire (officially Bramshaw, but who cares?). The Shire is a unique blend of all that is perfect about the English countryside, and the Hobbits belong to it as correctly as Mole and Ratty inhabit Wind in the Willows country. The geology of the lands of Middle-earth make sense and the maps reflect that. I love the maps. The care with which Peter Jackson chose his locations in New Zealand meant I was completely happy* with the films (checkout this Youtube vid).
Backstory: The Silmarillion. Beren and Luthien. The Children of Hurin. Farmer Giles of Ham. The Lays of Belgeriand. Tree and Leaf. The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. The first two appendices in my LOTR copy (1969, second edition, fourth impression!) are the Annals of the Kings and Rulers, which includes the detailed Arwen and Aragorn story. The Annals go from the first Numenorean kings through to King Elessar (Aragorn) dying, and includes the House of Eorl and Durin’s Folk.
Languages: there are people who speak and write Elvish. I expect some of them speak Dwarvish too. Most people speak the common tongue of course. How are you at deciphering Dwarvish Runes? The Black Tongue is Sauron’s version of elvish. The elves of Mirkwood speak a different variant, and orcish differs again (I’m not sure whether it’s Sauron’s version). The Rohirrim have their own language, although I’ve not checked whether it’s in the book.
Chronology: The Tale of the Years runs through a description of the First Age; lists the Second Age from year 1 to 3441 (the fall of Sauron), and the Third Age from Year 2 to year 1541, the passing of King Elessar. The calendar of the Lord of the Rings books is given in detail. I know that writing something like LOTR means you must have a calendar. Even Princelings has a calendar, from 1999 through to 2022. But I’m still writing and amending it where necessary!
I think it’s pretty obvious. I’m not going to publish it all, but I aspire to a level of detail appropriate to my work that would make Tolkien proud. Now, I really must get on with drawing that second map to help readers of The Princelings of the North. Or at least, persuading Fred to do it.
footnote: * save for the character assassination of Faramir.
14 thoughts on “T is for Tolkien, JRR #AtoZChallenge2018”
I’m so sorry about Midge, Recovery is often not easy.
xxx Massive Hugs xxx
Don’t worry too much about not being as detailed as Tolkien was in your world building. Remember, he started when he was somewhere around 10 by creating a secret language and kept at it, adding here or changing there, until the day he died. I think you have many years left to flesh out Fred and George’s world.
Yes, I should have kept those maps and scribbles I did when I was ten and kept going with them. Instead I got a ‘proper’ job!
So glad you picked Tolkien – I have not explored his other writings but you are inspiring me to do so! Peace and hugs on the passing of Midge.
I think you have to be a real aficionado to get through them, although maybe I should try Farmer Giles of Ham as that’s for children. I bought and read the Silmarillion when it came out – but only read it once. I suspect that because the main event is LOTR, all the rest is, well, backstory.
I’m so sorry about Midge.
I’m not sure anyone could build a world as completely as Tolkien (though I think Eldest Son and a couple of friends are trying!). And in some ways, it’s hard to ever write another fantasy, or at least a quest story, that doesn’t feel like you’re just trying to write LOTR. I, for one, have never read another that I liked anywhere near as well.
Thanks for your Midge message. One week on I think we’re settling down here.
I think, to do a Tolkien world, you have to invest yourself very early on and make it your only world. I don’t think I’ll write anything else until both Princelings and Viridian System are done and dusted. And maybe then I’ll feel I’ve done enough. We’ll have to wait and see!
Since I may well be moving from Norfolk before then, there may be a new world for me to invent based on my next surroundings 😉
Hi Jemima – I was sorry to read about Midge … but Tolkien wrote some amazing works and I really need to read more of them – thanks for this thorough post – cheers Hilary
Sorry to hear about Midge – poor wee thing.
He was a lovely, cuddly teddybear of a guinea pig <3
Sorry to hear about Midge.
I love JRR Tolkien, but he’s a bit of a sore spot right now because my brother loved him more.
~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
My A to Z’s of Dining with IC
Patricia Lynne, Indie Author
The things that remind us of loved ones crop up in the most unlikely of places. Sending hugs.
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