Janny Wurts vs J. R. R. Tolkien


Well-Known Member
Feb 19, 2008
Lives in Adelaide, Australia
For some reason I have just been thinking about the Similarities between the three Paravian Races of Athera (from Janny Wurts "Wars of Light and Shadow") and the High Elves of Middle Earth (obviously from the collected works of great J. R. R. Tolkien).

Here are a handful of the major points that I find very similar:

1. Three races of Paravians (Riathan - Unicorns, Ilitharis - Centaurs, and Athlien - sunchildren) and three kindreds of Eldar (Vanyar, Noldor and Teleri).

2. Higher powers intervene to ensure the survival of these elder races.
The Valar intervene to stop Melkor/Morgoth destroying the elves, and the Great Drakes summon the Fellowship of Seven to save the Paravians from the Seardluin.

This leads on to my third point of similarity:

3. Higher powers send powerful magic users to save these elder races from a great evil.
The Valar send the five Istari (Wizards - Saruman, Gandalf, Radagast and their two lost brothers) to save Middle Earth from the dominion of Sauron, the Enemy (former servant of Melkor).
The Great Drakes send the Fellowship of Seven Sorcerors to save Athera from devestation by the drake spawn - Seardluin, Methuri, etc.

4. These powerful magic users are met by an imported member of the Elder races on arrival.
The Istari are met upon their arrival at the Grey Havens by Cirdan Shipwright (bearer of one of the three rings of power).
Cianor Sunlord (the greatest of the Paravian High Kings) was on hand to great the arrival of the Fellowship Sorcerors at Crater Lake (when it was formed).

5. These elder races were great builders, armourers and gem cutters.

The Noldor elves were the greatest Builders in the history of Middle Earth, having built the hidden city of Gondolin, and the halls of Nargothrond.
The Paravians are unmatched on Athera as builders, having built the towers of Ithamon, and the Citadel at Alestron.

The Paravian smith Ffereton s'Darian forged the twelve blades of Isaer, of which Alithiel (also known as Dael Farenn - Kingmaker) is most famous. Alithiel wakens to danger with a blinding light.
The Noldor that returned to Middle Earth made many weapons of power, such as Aeglos the spear of Gil-galad, against which none could stand. Also the smiths of Gondolin made Glamdring (the sword of Gandalf the Grey/White) and Sting (the blade of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins) both of which glowed with a pale blue light in the presence of Orcs.

Gemcraft was also a gift of the elder races
Feanor created the Silmarils, which held the light of the two tears, and the theft of which (by Melkor) lead to the return/exile of the Noldor, and the War of the Jewels (which took place in the First Age of Arda). Also the Elves of Eregion (Hollin) were famous for their Gemcraft long after the land was destroyed by Sauron, especially for the crafting of the Rings of Power (the Three, the Seven, and the Nine).

The jewellers of Mearth were famous for their skill long after their city was destroyed by the Curse of Mearth.

6. Light itself was stolen from these elder races, causing huge migrations.
Morgoth destroyed the two trees, casting Valinor into darkness. This sparked the events that led to the majority of the Noldor returning to Middle Earth and being exiled there.
The light of the Sun was hidden away by the mists of Desh-Thiere (the Mistwraith). Due to the Mistwraiths invasion the Paravian races left Athera (to places unknown).

And there are more similarities between the Paravians and the Elves, but I need to go soon, so I will end it there.

Has anyone noticed any more similarities between Janny Wurts and Tolkien?

And which author do people like better?
There are way too many recent topics about this Janny Wurts person (and too few about Tolkien, for that matter). As a result, instead of ignorance about her work, I have developed a distaste instead, without having ever seen it. Now that you have told everyone about her ripping off Tolkien instead of using her own imagination, the distaste runs even deeper.

I will be sure to not to read her writing and recommend others to do the same. I hope this is what you wanted to achieve.

Edit: Upon rereading your post, I feel even more justified in my opinion that I should not waste my time on reading her work.
I think in general too many lines can be drawn to Tolkin and people forget that he in the first case copied the old Norse tales. Thus you could say that a person has copied Tolkien without them ever having read his material.
Further, whilst this post outlines the links between one of Janny Wurts works, she has written many more - and something like the stand alone book "To Ride Hells Chasm" is certainly a great bit of writing and an original one at that -- don't cast you view based on only those of others -- take a read and have your own ;)
Doesn't everyone rip off Tolkein? I thought you had to to get published :D
I told myself that I wasn't going to do this, but I am anyway. I don't want to, because I hate Tolkien comparison questions, but there you are.

To Dekket, all I can say is that you pulled out the more esoteric and minor details that show some similarities, but that the major themes of the two works (The Wars of Light and Shadow and the Silmarillion, mostly) are really quite different. These are, in my opinion, superficial similarities. Remember, humans on Athera originated from a galaxy-spanning high-tech sci-fi civilization that destroyed itself.

The similarities that I do see are depth of descriptive power, use of language, and amazing world-building, but there was no more a rip-off here than there is in GRR Martin or Erikson or Williams.

To Zedlav, I shall give your words all the attention they deserve.

Doesn't everyone rip off Tolkein? I thought you had to to get published :D
Gladly not so my young Jedi.....:D

There are a zillion examples of pre-Tolkien stuff plus post-Tolkien work that steers away from his influence, at least on a consious level.
sorry I was in a sarcastic mood :)

Tolkein wearies me at times I must admit but I do love him, i prefer my reading a little less hard going, mind you it has been many a year since I last read Tolkein, I think I need to rediscover him from an older perspective.

To be honest I think that Tolkein comparisons are inevitable, but then he did take the folklore he thought we had lost and wrote his own version, lots of other writers are inspired by Norse, Celtic mythology etc as well so it isn't surprising we have similarities in the genre.

Anyway I am rambling now nad not making sense other than to myself so I retire to my bed ) night
Somebody called him "Token" in another thread, but I didn't call them on it.

"i" before "e", except after "c"! Except: weird, rottweiler, etc.

I suppose comparisons are inevitable. Doesn't mean that I like them, as authors inevitably are influenced by those who go before. So little bits get used here and there that, added together with the influencee's imagination, grow to something much different, and sometimes better, than the influencer ever wrote.

That, however, is the nature of art and science. One builds on what has gone before, or departs from it entirely. In both situations, they started from the same place: what went before.
I haven't read Janny Wurts (and have no desire too, tbh), but even the examples you've chosen aren't exactly... convincing. I mean, they make special weapons, and are good at gemcraft? Hardly unique to those two series.

Precisely my point. Most of the comparisons are largely superficial, and the differences are quite distinct. However, even if you picked up To Ride Hell's Chasm on e-bay or some-such second-hand place for a few pennies, or even new, I really think you would be pleasantly surprised, and drawn to read more of her stuff. If not so drawn, then you have read only a one-shot book that gives you an idea of the author's capabilities, and have not invested in the beginning of a long epic series that leaves a whole lot of questions unanswered.

The plot of the two series are completely different (LOTR was rather questish with epic battles, whereas WoLaS is much more a constant ongoing struggle, with great development of the characters over the course of their various trials), the magical systems are different, Wurts does not use the same fantastical races, or even use fantastical races to the same extent as Tolkien (her whole idea is to bring them back, whereas Tolkien is showing them to be leaving).

As I said above, the similarities are in the complexity of the respective stories, but they pretty much end there.

Again, this is why I hate Tolkien comparison questions, unless something is accused of being a rip-off, and even then, you only end up drawing attention to the rip-off. There is, after all, no such thing as bad publicity.
I guess 15 pages of threads, at about 28 threads a page, aren't enough Tolkien threads.
Ouch, Zed. There's a reason there are growing threads about Janny Wurts. She has a lot of fans who are coming out of the woodwork to speak out about the quality of her books. To choose to not read something just because a lot of people like it is kind of silly. But its your choice and we do not need to convince you.
Whoa. Quite the responses. I seem to even to have generated anger, which was not my intent. And in my defense, I never said anything about copying, ripping off, or anything of the ilk. Such statements would be ridiculous, as when you look at the works of Tolkien, and the works of Wurts, they are completely different. Tolkien took the essence of norse mythology and generated a alternate history/mythology for england, set in the pre-history, on the world of Arda. Janny Wurts has done something completely different to Tolkien, and has generated something wonderfully knew in the Wars of Light and Shadow. However, despite being an different, you can still find similarities between elements. But similarities between things doesn't mean there is any link between them, let alone one being copied from the other.

This thread started of with idle speculation about the similarities between two different "Elder" races, in two completely different bodies of work. J. R. R. Tolkien was a great author, and considered by many as the "father" of modern fantasy. I recently pointed out to someone who commented about the similarity between The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, and The Lord of the Rings, that you can find similarities between virutally all fantasy work and that of Tolkien, mainly because he was one of the first to bring the folklore of the olde english epics (think Beowulf) into a new incarnation. He was a English Professor who feared that the world was about to lose the great epic. He was inspired by the Norse mythology, which is why the Roharrim look simply to be Vikings riding horses (rather than sailing longships). One of my favourite authors (Katherine Kerr) is inspired by Celtic mythology, but fundamentally the mechanics of fantasy story telling will be the same. Fantasy is all about quests, wizards, etc.
However different authors execute things in their own way, which is why we read new authors.

But back to the point, I was thinking about similarities between Elves and Paravians.
Perhaps I should have picked different races. I could have been thinking about the similarities between Vorlons (from the TV Series Babylon V) and Paravians. Or Elves and Mimbari? Or between Elves and the Asgard (from the TV series Stargate). But perhaps I shouldn't be mixing different media.
How about similarities between the Valheru (from Feist) and the Great Drakes (from Wurts). Both are entirely unrelated works, no way one was copied from the other, but you can still find points in common:
Valheru are the oldest sentient race of Midkemia = Drakes are the oldest sentient race of athera.
Valheru had innate magical powers far beyond the magic of any other race = Drakes (even the dead and the unborn) have the power to dream true dreams that altered reality.

Similarities abound in fantasy. And I find it interesting when I realise that authors who I thought were completely different still have points in common.
Hence I posted the thread. If anyone is able to point out any more flimsy, superficial, unconvincing, and minor similarities between Elves and Paravians, I would be interested to here them.

Differences between authors are much more profound, but I don't really have the next million years spare to list of everything different between Janny Wurts and J.R.R. Tolkien (or between anyone else, for that matter). And would there be any point in asking what differences there are between Elves and Paravians?

And by the way, in answer to my second question, I like Janny Wurts better. Her work is something different. And everyone else just seems to be copying the stuff Tolkien did (only joking, don't want to start an uproar).
And in my defense, I never said anything about copying, ripping off, or anything of the ilk. Such statements would be ridiculous, as when you look at the works of Tolkien, and the works of Wurts, they are completely different. Tolkien took the essence of norse mythology and generated a alternate history/mythology for england, set in the pre-history, on the world of Arda. Janny Wurts has done something completely different to Tolkien, and has generated something wonderfully knew in the Wars of Light and Shadow. However, despite being an different, you can still find similarities between elements. But similarities between things doesn't mean there is any link between them, let alone one being copied from the other.

And even if one can prove there are influences, or even that such were conscious (depending on how much we know about an author, it is often something that can be done fairly accurately) this is not necessarily a bad thing. There's a world of difference between being influenced by, being part of an ongoing tradition (or part of a "school" of writing), actually imitating or emulating someone (not always a negative thing either, and something most writers do at one time or another, most usually in their formative years as an artist), and "ripping off" another writer. The last deserves no consideration. The second varies from "fannish" to hommage to beginning with that and branching out into something that assimilates that into one's own unique vision. The first, on the other hand, is almost entirely positive, and shows one's ability to absorb and transform what one encounters -- written or otherwise -- into the materials for genuine original creativity, and is something all writers of worth do and always have done.

I recently posted a thread comparing (or opening up for discussion the comparisons) between Michael Moorcock's work and that of James Branch Cabell. As someone who enjoys and admires both writers, the intent there was by no means invidious to either party, but simply to look at possible influences and/or differences in the ways each writer used similar materials/ideas/motifs, etc. -- whether Moorcock consciously (or unconsciously) picked any of these up from Cabell or not. I had gathered that this thread was something of that nature: more in the way of opening up discussion on such themes... something that is a very fruitful aspect of literary enjoyment and scholarship.....
I had missed this thread...I'm with Clansman, I don't think the similarities between Wars of Light and Shadow and Tolkien's work are particularly striking - there are a lot of other stories out there who come a lot closer to Tolkien. As for who I like best out of the two, I would choose Tolkien - LOTR is a desert island book for me, I reread it roughly once a year. WOLAS has stood up pretty well to rereads - those are a necessity because the story is so long and complicated, and chock full of significant little details - but not as well as LOTR, for me. ;) I'm sure I've mentioned before how some of Janny's wordiness really makes me want to get out the red pen! So as much as I enjoy WOLAS, if I had to pick, its Tolkien for me.

Elves and Paravians it is, Dek (not knowledgeable enough about the others, especially those from TV, to form a reasonable opinion).

How about this one: Tolkien's elves, specifically his Eldar and most specifically his Noldor, almost always receive identities. Whether one is discussing the strongest personality (e.g., Fëanor) or a rather quiet one (Celebrián), if they have a role in the story, they receive names at least, and usually personality descriptions where they do not have "first person" participation.

Wurts, by contrast, will occasionally name the centaurs (e.g., Shehane Althain), but otherwise, when a Paravian appears, they are almost of one mind and body, and it wouldn't matter whether one Riathan (again, for example) replaced another, or a different Sunchild had administered to the removal of the curse from Arithon; their actions and responses would largely be the same, regardless of which member of their race was involved. A curious thing, too is the importance that knowledge of a true name has inside Wurts' creation, and the fact that the sunchildren and unicorns almost never (I would say never, but it's hard to remember that exactly when the story spans more than a decade in the workings) have names, at least not such as are revealed to us....
Cianor Sunlord is one of the sunchildren with a name (and perhaps the most famous/widely known Paravian High King), but I get your point.
Paravian actions are consistant (and within the Law of Major Balance), whereas Elves tend to be much more individualist.

But could this difference just be because Tolkien let us see so much of the Elves firsthand (in the Silmarillian, and in the Lord of the Rings).

Sam, (back before they embark on the quest to destroy the ring), when his only wish was to meet Elves, had a childish impression that one Elf was much like any other.

And in the Hobbit, the Elves of Rivendell were very much a vague, interchangable crowd of fey beings. Only Elrond Half-Elven was a true personality in this book (the Elven King of Mirkwood (father of Legolas) was more a stereotype than a true personality).

However, when a more detailed look at individual elves occurred in the Lord of the Rings, and in the Silmarillian, elves became much more individual (Galadrial, Haldor, Legolas, ), and less a general force.

Perhaps when Janny finally reveals a living paravian presence, they will become much identities also.

Also, the (s'Valerient) Paravian that came to intervene on behalf of Jieret s'Valerient was (in my opinion) very much an individual.
But that could have been due to his personal outrage at the treatment of his clanmate at the hands of Lysaer.
Agree with much of what you say, chief. Sam (and almost all the rest of The Shire, for that matter), however, was extremely naive as to Elves (or anything more than 20 miles from Hobbiton, including Bree, for that matter).

Couldn't remember whether Cianor was a sunchild or not...caps off to you there, as usual (not for nothing are you "The Researcher":p). Doesn't help that Cianor's not in Stormed Fortress' index (under Cianor, anyway), though....

I agree about Jieret's Paravian ghost, but again, that was a Centaur....

Re Tolkien, he changed quite a bit from Hobbit to Silmarillion (mostly completed right after Hobbit) where his races are concerned, and indicated in Letters that, had he the chance do it over, he might have changed a number of things about the way the characters in the Hobbit were portrayed.
Yes, the elves in The Hobbit bear little or no resemblance to the Eldar of LotR or the Silmarillion - can you imagine Círdan, Fëanor and Turgon singing

O! Will you be staying
Or will you be flying?
Your ponies are straying!
The daylight is dying!
To fly would be folly,
To stay would be jolly...

But in a more general sense, there are a lot of things in The Hobbit which sit badly with the other two books. This is a legacy of that book being written as a purely childrens entertainment, and makes for some awkward comparisons between the details at times.

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