- Jun 13, 2005
I'm one of the ones advancing these claims, though focusing more on the world created than the plot (though Lord Foul's Bane was very similar to LotR). Let's get through the basic things:I said:I could have sworn that I'd read a list of claims purporting to show that Lord Foul's Bane derives a lot of it's actual plot elements from Lord of the Rings - the only accusation I can specifically remember is that of both chasing after a powerful ring.
I'll see if I can find something on the net.
Until then - for those who've read the series - how do you take claims that Donaldson might have borrowed heavily from Tolkien?
Is the format simply too different? Or is it a case of Tolkien having used so many different themes and concepts, that it's hard not to incidentally repeat some of them?
A powerful ring in both novels.
A very powerful dark lord who can be defeated by arbitrary means
A fellowship to help the main character succeed
Hordes of mindless minions
A lair for this darklord
An unlikely hero (going a bit far, admittedly)
You might argue that, so what, most of this stuff is in the bulk of epic fantasy. I argue that doesn't excuse it - originality, and in more than one aspect, is necessary. Sure, it's the archetype of fantasy and commonly accepted, but I don't think anything using this plot can be an excellent novel - or at least I haven't seen an example of one yet. The overarching plot may not be Tolkienesque, because it's all about character development. But then if we argue that, we end up saying that Erikson, Bakker, Martin and Mieville all write Tolkienesque plots because their overarching plots have some similarities. What's important is what the bulk of the story is - that's the plot - and in Covenant, it's a tale of good vs evil, albeit in a world that may not exist beyond Covenant's head. There's a Tolkienesque plot, and there's a twist in it. It's still very similar to Tolkien's. One element of originality doesn't suddenly make every aspect original. As for characters - while there are few direct copies of any, and Covenant is very original, the inhabitants of the land tend to be archetypes based on similar ones found in Tolkien, and there's a similarly racist outlook (before anyone kills me for saying that, I mean that race dictates personality and outlook on life to some extent in this world).
Or is it a case of Tolkien having used so many different themes and concepts, that it's hard not to incidentally repeat some of them?
I can't take that this seriously. Just because Tolkien wrote a decent epic fantasy doesn't mean that other people can't use their own imagination. Tolkien didn't even use that much. And so many authors have written very different things from Tolkien, I don't see why you can't write your own novel - Bakker, Calvino, Erikson, Harrison, Kay, Leiber, Martin, Mieville, Moorcock, Peake, Powers, Vance, Swanwick, Vance, Vandermeer, Wolfe and Zelazny all managed it - and I have only been reading fantasy for a few years, so someone better read than me can probably come up with a load more who have as well. And for a trilogy described as "good enough to be compared to Tolkien" (the Riddlemaster trilogy by Patricia McKillip) it's startingly original and very different from LotR, even while being a very traditional epic fantasy.(and even inevitable) similarities
And now after attacking Donaldson, I'm going to have to say I think that I prefer the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant to Lord of the Rings - because LotR was all the elements I just said I didn't like in Covenant, but without the redeeming feature of the characterisation of Covenant.