This thought was triggered by a friend of mine, an English major who plans to write a book that will surpass J.R.R. Tolkien's eternal classic, Lord of the Rings. As you may have heard, LOTR (among others) is considered to be the definition of modern fantasy, introducing many of today's common elements (a battle between good an evil, an improbable hero, multiple races of human-ish creatures, extensive worlds, history, and languages, and so on).
My question is, do you think it's possible to re-invent fantasy as we know it? Or is today's "new" genre something completely different (the graphic novel, for instance)? What does this say about our society--are we now unwilling to use our imaginations and instead prefer to mindlessly devour images with text taking a back seat?
I hope your friend is successful. It is a good thing that he or she sets tough goals like that. Henry Thoreau said "if you build castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."
Harry Potter is the only series that came close to challenging the Lord of the Rings, but I think HP didn't quite make it. The Lord of The Rings stands alone at the moment. I do believe that one day a fantasy genre book will take the top spot from LOTR. Maybe the only way to do so is to redefine the genre. But the Fantasy genre has been the same for the last 70 or 80 odd years, so for now I would place my bets on more of the same.
If you actually delve into Tolkein's works, and how they came about, then things like Harry Potter don't come close. I hadn't read LotR for a while, so I picked it back up, and was amazed, as I always am, at the life that is contained in the books.
I would say Wheel of Time was closer than anything else I've read, but Tolkein's dedication to developing cultures, languages, and environments is unmatched.
Honestly, with the changes in society(everything is instant, internet, phones, now now now), I wouldn't be surprised if it never is surpassed. I think that kind of writing has had it's day.
Good luck to him, I'd be interested in reading what he comes up with.
Personally, I found Harry Potter poorly written, unimaginative and predictable. I gave up somewhere midway through the fourth book because it had become so tedious.
In contrast, I have read Lord of the Rings trilogy probably more than 30 times in my life, and have never ceased to be caught up in it and deeply moved in places.
I would be very surprised if someone could match Tolkien. He spent many years constructing the most detailed background for the world about which he wrote. This is one of factors that makes his work so powerful.
A Stint in the trenches of WW1 also helped temper that talent.. I doubt many today can truly appreciate what such experiences did to creative genius!
According to "Hobbits, Elves, and Wizards," an analysis of LOTR by M. Stanton, Tolkien's entire inspiration for Middle Earth was two or three different languages he had created. He built his characters from the styles in which they spoke. How totally opposite of what the fantasy writing process has become today. (Just thought I'd insert that, as it was personally interesting.)
I have to agree with you; in direct contrast to the character treatment in the movies, Rowling's syntax patterns and word choices seem almost childlike. I walked away from the series after it drove my literary sensibilities to internal head-pounding. (No offense to Potter fans.)
Most certainly worth a try. Do you have any idea how sick I am of blasted vampire books?
I thought Tolkein was marvellous, Harry Potter came at the right time and was a breath of air for the genre, which had become a bit niche.
The Wheel of Time series was really great, so are the Terry Goodkind books, Robin Hobb, Game of Thrones - all great stories.
Nothing tops Tolkein though, there have been a few attempts
Nothing will top Tolkien, he is the master of this genre. A lot of fantasy and sword and sorcery novels and stories got inspiration from his work and followed his template. The Lord of the Rings is one incredible piece of literature, a classic. The strength behind Tolkien's work is that he built a world around the story: races, language, culture, history. Considering the period in which he created this masterpiece, it was groundbreaking stuff then and it still is today.
What has to be recognised is that Tolkien did not actually invent the genre he simply gave it new life in a very profound way. Books like The Worm Ouroboros and other amazing books existed long before LOTR and were great examples of High Fantasy.
Tolkien proved that it is possible to re-invigorate a genre and drag it into the mainstream - other modern writers such as Brandon Sanderson, George R R Martin, who both write amazing fantasy works that are not 'normal' aer showing that the whole genre continues to adapt, change and grow - even writers like Jim Butcher produce some great fantasy pieces.
The cool thing about fantasy is that the options you have are limitless and there's no doubt there is room for somebody to come and surpass Tolkien (George R R Martin is widely considered as the American Tolkien).
Good luck to your friend!
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