Howard or Tolkien, Which of them Had The Greatest Impact On Modern Fantasy ?

BAYLOR

There Are Always new Things to Learn.
Joined
Jun 29, 2014
Messages
23,361
Thanks for a nice sercon posting! : )

Tolkien influences people to read more fantasy, but I suspect a lot of writers, fan or pro, never try seriously to write like him. How many of these authors are philologists, poets, scholars like he was? I have loved Tolkien's work since I was 11 but I have never tried to "imitate" it. He's way too great for that.

Contrastingly, Howard is extremely imitable. Gobs of us teenage fans of the Lancer paperbacks wrote our own sword-and-sorcery barbarian stories and I'll bet a lot of those imitations were not ridiculously poor as such. My character was named Koroth. He appeared in a fanzine called Endeavor.

Nobody has ever came close to what Tolkien achieved and never will nor will he ever be forgotten :cool:

As for Howard , Yes there is a definite formula and limitations to his style and yes lots imitate him , but some writers of note have done some excellent pastiches of Conan and of some of Howard's other characters characters. And soon there will be another Conan novel coming Conan Blood of the Serpent by S M Stirling . And of comic book and movies and tv. :cool:
 
Last edited:

KGeo777

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 24, 2017
Messages
2,199
Location
Canada
Lovecraft said in 1919 that after a collapse into barbarism there would be "natural chieftains" rising up to starts things over. That's Conan - a natural chieftain.
The current chieftain of the Hyrkanian Steppes is in that mold I would say.
Military, cavalry-trained, probably decent with a sword, but shorter and less hair than Conan.
But he enjoys a good joke when he isn't plotting military campaigns so that also makes him similar to Conan.
 

The Big Peat

Darth Buddha
Joined
Apr 9, 2016
Messages
3,647
Thanks for a nice sercon posting! : )

Tolkien influences people to read more fantasy, but I suspect a lot of writers, fan or pro, never try seriously to write like him. How many of these authors are philologists, poets, scholars like he was? I have loved Tolkien's work since I was 11 but I have never tried to "imitate" it. He's way too great for that.

Contrastingly, Howard is extremely imitable. Gobs of us teenage fans of the Lancer paperbacks wrote our own sword-and-sorcery barbarian stories and I'll bet a lot of those imitations were not ridiculously poor as such. My character was named Koroth. He appeared in a fanzine called Endeavor.

Oh I don't know about that. I've heard too many complaints of insipid Tolkien-esque prose from the 70s (and even read some), and reckon there's much more that doesn't get published to boot. Particularly from teenagers that neither know what a philologist is or cares.

Truth told, I don't find one much more enjoyable for its prose than t'other (at least with Conan). I daresay Howard breaks more conventions, but then great pulp writing has a tendency to break the rules and create something so visceral and powerful it doesn't matter. What places Tolkien above for me is, well, everything else.
 

BAYLOR

There Are Always new Things to Learn.
Joined
Jun 29, 2014
Messages
23,361
Lovecraft said in 1919 that after a collapse into barbarism there would be "natural chieftains" rising up to starts things over. That's Conan - a natural chieftain.
The current chieftain of the Hyrkanian Steppes is in that mold I would say.
Military, cavalry-trained, probably decent with a sword, but shorter and less hair than Conan.
But he enjoys a good joke when he isn't plotting military campaigns so that also makes him similar to Conan.

There is reference to Cimmeria in one of Lovecraft's stories.:unsure:
 

BAYLOR

There Are Always new Things to Learn.
Joined
Jun 29, 2014
Messages
23,361
Oh I don't know about that. I've heard too many complaints of insipid Tolkien-esque prose from the 70s (and even read some), and reckon there's much more that doesn't get published to boot. Particularly from teenagers that neither know what a philologist is or cares.

Truth told, I don't find one much more enjoyable for its prose than t'other (at least with Conan). I daresay Howard breaks more conventions, but then great pulp writing has a tendency to break the rules and create something so visceral and powerful it doesn't matter. What places Tolkien above for me is, well, everything else.

Pulp writing his m that in spite of its flaws of shortcomings , can be flat out fun to read.:)
 

The Big Peat

Darth Buddha
Joined
Apr 9, 2016
Messages
3,647
One aspect about their relative influences is simply time. Howard died in 1936. If he had been a little more stable and lived longer he might have had a greater influence with more output. Tolkien’s output wasn’t much greater overall but the fact that he lived to 1973 gave him more time to achieve a rather legendary status among his readers. He became part of the mythos he created. Howard did as well, to some degree, but that was the work of others.

If the school teacher REH dating had stayed in his life , he would had had someone who might have been able to help through the death of mother and his other issues . I think he might well have lived for many more years and wrote more. But, I suspect that he had lived, he would largely abandoned fantasy and horror in favor of Western detective stories historical fiction . At the time of his death , he was heading that way. But, I also think around the 1950's he's come back to fantasy and science fiction and in a big way and, he would be even better it because writing would matured considerably by that time. But. we'll never know for sure. :(

Bobbing back into this and Baylor beat me to the punch - Howard was moving away from fantasy at that time. He was doing so to no small extent because Weird Tales weren't sending him the promised cheques (he was owed 1200 dollars at time of death I believe). Might he have returned like Leiber and Vance did when the sea blew their way? Hard to say.


I will say the more I look at this, the more I see Howard's influence being very, very big (although the more I see Howard being a big influence, the more I wonder why not just give the credit direct to Burroughs). You have to ask whether there's a market for tales of swords and dark magic for LotR to fall into without Howard. The taste for monster fighting has remained and so has a deep capacity for subversiveness. He's also a bigger influence on D&D than Tolkien, with D&D

It's just very hard to argue against someone whose commercial success inspired publishers to bunch of nascent small genres and smash them together into a major category.
 

hitmouse

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2011
Messages
4,006
He's also a bigger influence on D&D than Tolkien, with D&D
That is very debateable. D&D is a bit of a mongrel in its source materials and style varies by campaign and by player and group. Howard is certainly in there, but the last time I looked (about 1982) D&D had dwarves, elves, orcs, halflings, rangers. The magic users tend to be Gandalfean even if the magic system is derived from Jack Vance.
 

The Big Peat

Darth Buddha
Joined
Apr 9, 2016
Messages
3,647
That is very debateable. D&D is a bit of a mongrel in its source materials and style varies by campaign and by player and group. Howard is certainly in there, but the last time I looked (about 1982) D&D had dwarves, elves, orcs, halflings, rangers. The magic users tend to be Gandalfean even if the magic system is derived from Jack Vance.

The only thing on that list specific to Tolkien is halflings. There are undoubtedly influences from Tolkien with all the others, yet differences also. D&D's elves have little to do with the mighty Eldar beyond aesthetics. D&D's Ranger lacks Aragorn's healing and leadership, and focuses on animal companions, a bit of magic, and archery or fighting with two weapons - not one sword. D&D's wizard is, in most editions, incapable of even using a sword, and exists to act as magical cannon rather than wise counsellor. Gandalf would probably be better represented as a cleric in most of them. Their powers beyond level 6 tend to outstrip him.

Where things fall in the favour of Howard and those influenced by him is the main content of the game - going to ruins, fighting monsters, and taking their stuff. The settings, the modules, the rules, by and large don't favour a mix of large battles and sneaking around trying not to fight anything. They favour a handful of individuals fighting a handful of monsters.

The simplest way to put it is that it's S&S team action with some Tolkien-esque aesthetics in terms of race selection. It would look a bit different without Tolkien - although they still might well have taken elves from Poul Anderson and Moorcock, dwarves again from Anderson too, and so on - but it quite possibly would have never existed without Howard.
 
Joined
Aug 7, 2023
Messages
11
Tolkien is easily the greatest influence, I feel, on heroic fantasy literature. He will be remembered in a thousand years time, I am sure.

Howard though wasn't just a writer, he was a philosopher. May this important insight never be forgotten. It is as relevant today as it ever was:

"Barbarism is the natural state of mankind. Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph."
 
Last edited:

BAYLOR

There Are Always new Things to Learn.
Joined
Jun 29, 2014
Messages
23,361
Tolkien is easily the greatest influence, I feel, on heroic fantasy literature. He will be remembered in a thousand years time, I am sure.

Howard though wasn't just a writer, he was a philosopher. May this important insight never be forgotten. It is as relevant today as it ever was:

"Barbarism is the natural state of mankind. Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph."

Conan was everything Howard wanted to be and wasn't . Howard could tell story and put the reader righting it. that the mark of a good writer and had he lived he gotten even better and would claimed high . I think it likely he would fantasy and honor and concerted on Western, Dietetic stores and strip up Historical adventure stories much Harold Lamb did. But iI think that head level into 50 and beyond, he would circled back to Fantasy and horror.

A Book that Howard greatly admired The Star Rover by Jack London London's only fantasy novel about straitjacketed Heathrow inmate who dockers via transcendyal mediation that he astral project himself into past lives at will. It a great book loci in scope and scale takes you acrsstime , space and history and unlike all of London's other books . You can fine online via project Gutenberg. :)


Some book you might fined of future interest

. Bloodstone By Karl Edward Wagner the best place ot start the 5 book dark fantasy fantasy series Kane The Mystic Swordsman . It's quite good. .The main character Kane is an Immortal heroic villain/antihero. Wagner he also did a wonderful Conan Pastiche Conan The Road of Kings and he did a pastiche of another Howrd character Bran Mac Morn The Legion From the Shadow.
Kothar Barbarian Swordsman by Francis Gardens Fox. this man also did some work on Conan Comic books and he was one the co-creater of the DC character Dr Fate and did some work for Warren Magazine. The Dark World by Henry Kuttner a novel with most usual protagonist . Black Gods Kiss by C L Moore contains all of her wonderful Jirel of Joity Swordswoman stories

Citadel of Fear by Francis Stevens of be of Interest , invented the sub genre of Dark Fantasy . The Ship of Ishtar by Abraham Merritt.

Welcome to Chrons.:)
 
Last edited:

BAYLOR

There Are Always new Things to Learn.
Joined
Jun 29, 2014
Messages
23,361
If only the Kull movie thye did a few years ago had only been good and hit.
 

Similar threads


Top