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What was fantasy before “the Hobbit” and “the Lord of the rings”: 10 stories that inspired Tolkien

For many readers journey in genre fantasy began with Professor John Ronald Ruel Tolkien. “Hobbit”, “Lord of the rings” or even Peter Jackson’s screen version… these stories “hooked” millions of people. It is known that Tolkien was inspired by some of the masters of modern fantasy, from George R. R. Martin to Terry Brooks. But the fantasy genre was not born in a day when middle earth was created.

Tolkien himself drew inspiration from old works, as well as from the writings of his close friend and colleague on the work of Clive Lewis (once they even planned to write a book together, which began to write Lewis). Here are ten stories that inspired Tolkien to his work and gave rise to the legendary world that everyone knows and loves.

1. “The roots of the mountains” by William Morris

One of Tolkien’s favorite stories as a child was “the Story of Sigurd” from Andrew lang’s “the red fairy book.” It was through this book that Tolkien learned about William Morris, as “the Story of Sigurd” was actually a shorter version of “the Saga of the Welsungs” by Morris, which he translated from old Norse. William Morris had a great influence on the Professor (during Tolkien’s childhood), although almost none of his biographers mentions it. Tolkien attended king Edward school in Birmingham from 1900 to 1911. During his studies, the teacher showed him the English translation of the Anglo-Saxon Saga “Beowulf”. Although no one will say for sure, some scientists believe that it was a translation of Morris.

In 1911, in his senior year, Tolkien read an article on the Norwegian sagas, and a few months later he published a report on the “welsung Saga” in the school Chronicles. In it, he used the name of Morris’s translation as well as his words and phrases. Years later, in 1920, Tolkien read his essay “the Fall of the gondola” at the Exeter College club. The President of the club wrote in the minutes that Tolkien followed the traditions of “such typical romantics as William Morris.” Although there is much evidence of Morris ‘ influence on the Professor, very few scientists have talked about it so far.

2. Beowulf.
This epic poem was so important to the Professor that he changed the modern view of it. In 1936, Tolkien wrote an essay entitled “Beowulf: monsters and critics”, where he said that the Saga is extremely important in the world of literature. Today, thanks to Tolkien “Beowulf” part of the basis of fantasy. His theme “of light against darkness” has become one of the most common in the modern fantasy, including own history Tolkien. In 1938, the Professor stated in an interview that “Beowulf is one of my most valuable sources.” John Garth, who wrote Tolkien and the Great war, even said, “If you weren’t Beowulf, Tolkien wouldn’t be who he is.”

3. “The Story Of Sigurd” By Andrew Lang

Andrew lang’s red book of fairies was one of Tolkien’s favorite children’s works. One of the last stories in it was “the Story of Sigurd,” which was (as Humphrey carpenter, who wrote the Professor’s biography, claimed) the best story Tolkien had ever read. Tolkien also once said, that he was one of children, with whom spoke lang. This story originates from the old Norse sagas.

Sigurd won fame and fortune by killing the dragon Fafnir and taking his treasures. The sword Sigurd used was broken when his father died, but it was forged again from the wreckage. Tolkien used the same idea for Aragorn’s sword, which was broken when Elendil, Aragorn’s ancestor, fought Sauron. In his letter to Naomi Mitchison, he said that his image of Smaug in his novels is based on Fafnir.

4. “Book of dragons” by Edith Nesbit

No one knows for sure whether Tolkien read this book, but researcher Douglas Anderson believes that this is so. The book of dragons was first published in 1899, when the Professor was seven years old. Tolkien once mentioned in a letter to Wisten Auden that he had once written a story when he was about this age. All he could remember was that there was a “great green dragon.” Maybe it was just a coincidence, but there were a lot of green dragons in one of Nesbit’s stories. Therefore, we can not exclude the possibility that forgotten childhood memories could suddenly surface after a long time.

5. “The Golden key” by George MacDonald

George MacDonald was another child’s favorite of Tolkien’s. In his book, Humphrey carpenter says that the Professor liked the books about the writer’s Kurdi. In 1964 Pantheon Books asked Tolkien to write a Preface to the new edition of the Golden key. The Professor replied that he was “not as ardent a fan of George MacDonald as Clive Lewis; but he likes these stories.”

But Humphrey carpenter says that after the Professor reread the Golden key, he found the book “poorly written, incoherent, and simply bad, despite a few interesting points.” Stories about Kurdi in the end, Tolkien was inspired by the images of orcs and goblins. In the “Golden key” is a sorceress age of thousands of years. The way MacDonald described this character is very similar to the way Tolkien described Galadriel many years later.

6. “Cat Meow” By Edward Knatchbull-Hugessen

In a letter to Roger Lancelin green Tolkien remembers reading an old collection of short stories in his childhood, which was all tattered, without cover and title page. One of the Professor’s favorite stories in this book was “Kitty meow” by E. Knatchbull-Hugessen. Tolkien believed that this collection could be made Bulwer with Litton. Later, he was not able to find this book, but you can quite easily see how “Kitty meow” influenced the further work of Tolkien.

Much of this story takes place in the “big and gloomy forest”, which is very similar to Mirkwood, Fangorn and even the Old Forest. It has ogres, dwarves and fairies. Also in the collection was described an Ogre disguised as a tree. At some point, the Professor denied that he was inspired by the images of children’s fairy tales, but later admitted otherwise.

7. “Wonderful land of snergs” by Edward Wyke-Smith

“I would like to describe my own love and the love of my children for the “Wonderful land of snergs” by Edward Wyke-Smith,” Tolkien wrote in his notes to the essay “On magic stories.” Later, in his letter to Wisten Auden, Professor told, that likely this book has become a prototype hobbits. When Tolkien first began to write a story that later became a “Hobbit”, he told children a lot of stories about snerg, which really were very similar to hobbits. Middle-earth, and especially the Shire, is also largely similar to the Land of Snergs.

One of the chapters of the book entitled “Twisted trees” inspired Tolkien on the story of Bilbo and the dwarves in Mirkwood. In the earliest drafts of Lord of the rings, a hobbit named Trotter helped Frodo get from Shire to Rivendell. Trotter was very similar to Gorbo, the main character of the “Snergs”, who traveled with two human children on earth. Eventually Trotter was replaced by Aragorn, but many similarities remain.

8. Henry Ryder Haggard

Tolkien loved the stories of Henry haggard as a child, and later spoke highly of his work. Most of all, Tolkien was inspired by the book “king Solomon’s Mines”. Thanks to her, the writer included “the Hobbit” map, some details of the narrative and ancient treasures. Even Gollum, the Glittering caves of Helm’s PADI and Gandalf’s difficulties in choosing the right path in Moria seem to have been inspired by scenes and characters from king Solomon’s Mines.

9. William Hodgson’s night land
Clive Lewis once said that the images in William hope Hodgson’s novel “Night land” can be described as “unforgettable gloomy splendor.” Douglas Anderson also agrees with Lewis that “Night Land” is a kind of masterpiece. Although there is no evidence that Tolkien ever read the works of Hodgson, if you read “Night earth” or even “Explosives Baumoff”, you can find similarities with some of the moments of creativity Tolkien. For example, Hodgson described the challenge of the forces of darkness in the same way as Tolkien in the episode about the mines of Moria.

10. Lord DANCENY’s book of miracles

Tolkien was interviewed by Charlotte and Denis Plimmer in 1967. They sent him their first draft of the article, which was eventually published in the daily Telegraph the following year. In it they quoted the Professor: “When you invent a language, you base it on something you have heard. You say “Boo-hoo,” and that means something.”

Tolkien was clearly not impressed by their statements and replied that it was strange for him to say something like that because it was completely contrary to his own opinion. But he also said that if he came up with any meaning for the phrase “Boo-hoo,” it would be inspired by Lord DANCENY’s story “Chu-Boo and Shimish”: “If I used the word “Boo-hoo,” it would be the name of some funny, fat, important character.”

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