Is there a reason other fantasy stories with detailed worldbuilding don't get the same amount of praise as Tolkien's Middle Earth?

P.K.Acredon

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Like most people, I've read the lord of the rings and was lost in its worldbuilding. It was done so well cause Tolkien was a genius. But as I've read other fantasy stories with their own vast worldbuilding, I found myself not being that impressed with it as I was with Tolkien's world. Which honestly shouldn't be the case. There are plenty of fantasies that excel at worldbuilding. Many worlds expand on other things that Tolkien didn't expand on. Examples are the The Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, the Cosmere, Stephen Kings shared universe, H P Lovecrafts shared universe, etc. These are very obvious examples that any reading fantasy should know. But the reason why there obvious is because people love them. Peoples love for them made them popular and for good reason. I've read many of them and was impressed with it fantasy worldbuilding. But many people seem to agree that while many come very close, they don't reach Tolkien's worldbuilding. Myself included.

I became apart of that mindset when I started looking up World of Warcraft's world. WoWs world is huge. It has so many details that has literal tens of thousands of pages on its wiki. Meanwhile the back of my mind kept saying: "This is some very impressive worldbuilding. The details that are in everything are crazy. But then why doesn't world of Warcraft's worldbuilding get the same amount of praise as Middle Earth?" You could say that because WoW copied off of Tolkien. But this feeling was with me for other stories that had good worldbuilding. I'm not saying I worship Middle Earth. I really do think some stories should be held at the same regard as Middle Earth, sometimes. But also sometimes, a part of me thinks that that is nonsense and the stories, for all their talent, are not quite as impressive as Middle Earth.

I'm genuinely curious as to why lots of very impressive worldbuilding in many other fantasy stories just don't feel like there as good as Middle Earth. Seriously, WTH did Tolkien do to set the bar so high that it was basically impossible to top? It seems like the day a fantasy story becomes more influential the Middle Earth is a day when the earth explodes.
 

BAYLOR

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Even before Tolkien there were fantasy writers who did some type of world building. William Morris(utterbol) and James Branch Cabell(Poictesme) for example, built quasi medieval inspired fantasy realms which they derived from history . When L Frank Baum created the Land of Oz, he basically winged it and made things up as went along . Robert E Howard's Hyborian Age was slightly better but, even he borrowed the names of his kingdoms and peoples from history and , created a sort pseudo history of his lands set 15,000 years ago before recoded history . He went further back with King Kull and created The Thurian age set 100,000 years ago. In the context of his short stories, what Howard came up with was serviceable but not really convincing . And others like Clark Ashton Smith did similar things in times past and future times. Tolkien did borrow, but he reshaped and invented languages and histories for his lands and, did it extremely well . In reading Tolkien, you as a reader could believe that a place like Numenor and Middle Earth and it's peoples lands could exist. That's the genius of Tolkien .:cool:
 
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Extollager

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I believe too that Middle-earth is pervaded by the spirit of Tolkien. It is possible to speak of the wisdom in Tolkien’s writing, the depth of human interest, a genuine sense of wonder felt about our own world of stone and tree, river and cloud, etc. There is, so far as I know, nothing like this in the “world-builders” mentioned. (I’ve read all the Conan, Kull, Bran Mak Morn etc by Howard, and whatever he had going for him, wisdom and wonder in this sense are not among them, for example.). They might be fun to revisit occasionally if you liked them as a youngster. But you probably don’t find they grow with you. Tolkien’s writings do. To take one example from personal experience, it wasn’t till my days of courtship and early marriage that I really got Bombadil and Goldberry. Bombadil and Goldberry have been together for ages perhaps, but they are newlyweds (hence no children yet). They are in a certain gay state (I retrieve the adjective for the poets and away from the activists) that Tolkien understood, something about eros that never crossed the horizon of REH and Co. as far as I know. But this is only a few paragraphs in LotR. LotR is news from the real world.
 

BAYLOR

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I believe too that Middle-earth is pervaded by the spirit of Tolkien. It is possible to speak of the wisdom in Tolkien’s writing, the depth of human interest, a genuine sense of wonder felt about our own world of stone and tree, river and cloud, etc. There is, so far as I know, nothing like this in the “world-builders” mentioned. (I’ve read all the Conan, Kull, Bran Mak Morn etc by Howard, and whatever he had going for him, wisdom and wonder in this sense are not among them, for example.). They might be fun to revisit occasionally if you liked them as a youngster. But you probably don’t find they grow with you. Tolkien’s writings do. To take one example from personal experience, it wasn’t till my days of courtship and early marriage that I really got Bombadil and Goldberry. Bombadil and Goldberry have been together for ages perhaps, but they are newlyweds (hence no children yet). They are in a certain gay state (I retrieve the adjective for the poets and away from the activists) that Tolkien understood, something about eros that never crossed the horizon of REH and Co. as far as I know. But this is only a few paragraphs in LotR. LotR is news from the real world.

The worlds created by these other writers where in fact little more than stage props.
 
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W Collier

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Tolkein was a scholar of ancient literature, especially the heroic epics. He does not come at world-building the way a typical author does, in that where a typical fantasy author is imagining the fantasy world itself, trying to think up how the fantasy world actually looks and actually works, Tolkein is focused on imagining the literary history of the world, the literature which that world produced, and the world itself is almost secondary. It's kind of like... you or I might invent something like dinosaurs. Tolkein would invent fossils, and legends of dinosaurs, and in the process incidentally imagine dinosaurs. And because he was an authoritative expert on the ancient literature of our world, the ancient literature of his world has the ring of truth about it. He knew all about ancient epics, ancient poetic cycles and oral traditions, and so forth, so he wrote all the ancient epics and poetry and songs of Middle Earth so that they could sit amongst the similar works of our real world's history and fit right in. That's not just talent, but talent married with vast scholarly mastery. The result is a fantasy history that lives in its poetic records, grows out of its poetic records (rather than a clinically designed fantasy history that then spawns some poetry), and is crafted with not just the art of a gifted writer but the expertise of a master philologist and literary anthropologist.

I, for one, think there is a really important model in this for aspiring fantasy writers. People these days, especially in this videogame age, are obsessed with "designing" worlds, thinking through all the details of how those worlds work, creating world-bibles and wiki entries for their fictional planet. Tolkein shows that not only do you not have to do that, but it might not even be the best way to do it. He didn't write much in the way of the actual history of Middle Earth. We don't what actually happened on the fields of Pelennor from Tolkein's writing any more than we know what happened at Thermopylae from the writings of Herodotus. He never gives us the word of God on the matter, never gives us the objective facts. What he gives us is what writers of that era and eras after wrote about those events. Everything is through the lens of poets from that world, leaving behind legends, not data. He has never established that x is actually what happened, only that x is what this person wrote about it and y is what that person wrote about it, and to the extent that there is a history of Middle Earth, it is constructed by readers interpreting these written artifacts in the same way that we might construct the history of the Greeks from Homer and Herodotus. This is frankly brilliant for world-building, because it leaves so much space for interpretation and imagination. It leaves so much space in which our imaginations can play.

The lesson is that you don't have to world-build from the top down. You don't have to draw a map and fill it in, figure out who all the kingdoms are and what they do and how their economies work and the geology of each mountain range and the ecology of each region. You don't have to establish anything as actually true about your world but what the narrative of your story actually witnesses. You don't have to decide where any given road goes until your characters turn down it. The wide world beyond the view of your narrative camera can all be left vague, mystical, suggested in legends and tales, and it will be no less real, no less vibrant, and no less truthful for it. Indeed, quite the opposite if you do it well.
 

TheEndIsNigh

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Only slightly tongue in cheek here , but...

Could it be (as in my case) that having waded through most of old T's worldbuilding and having lost the will to live by book three people skipped the details and just read the story. Having done so with LOR they then pay less attention to the worldbuilding of others because they can't bear the thought of absorbing more mind numbing detail.

In other words old T dumped so much info in pages and pages of solid text that he ruined it for everyone else.
 

Toby Frost

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Three points.

1) Tolkien was exceptionally good at what he did. On occasion, his details just feel like a bunch of names to me, but at many others, the depth of worldbuilding and knowledge of source material is unparalleled. The vast majority of long fantasy novels (and settings a la Warcraft etc) can be dismissed as they're derivative of Tolkien. Yes, there was fantasy before Tolkien but, in real terms, he's not derivative of anyone else. How many other fantasy authors built a huge other-world (not Earth with extra bits stuck on, like Lovecraft) setting from pretty-much scratch? I can only think of Mervyn Peake, who had other priorities in his writing than that sort of world-building and died before he was able to conclude his work. Maybe Lewis Carroll, but Carroll was aiming to entertain rather than to build a logical, consistent world (the point of Wonderland is that it's not logical, surely). And of course none of them made up their own language.

2) It's not just that Tolkien was good at world-building: I don't know of anyone who really did it before him, at least not in the way that we now expect big fantasy stories to do. I'm not sure that you can quite ever compare the person who invents something with those who come after, even if they enlarge and improve on the original version.

3) Tolkien became very popular at a time that was important for both SFF as a genre and the lives of some of his most hardcore fans. To a certain portion of his fans (perhaps less as time goes on), he's simply beyond any serious critique. I've met Tolkien fans (not here) who can answer any criticism whatsoever with either "It's meant to be like that" or "If you read the Silmarillion, you'd understand that, actually..." Shakespeare isn't venerated in the same way as Tolkien.

I think all of those points, together, go some way to explaining why no other fantasy author's world-building is praised so highly.
 

dneuschulz

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I don't think it is possible to overestimate the number of hours Tolkien put into his languages. It was almost a monomania. Words, etymologies (more words), histories to explain the etymologies... phonemes, alphabets, etc. I think it's a rabbit hole the ordinary mind can't delve too deeply into and cannot stay for too long in. If it were me, I would soon go buggy and drop it all to get out and actually write a story. Tolkien let these languages and histories pile up for decades before launching into an actual narrative.
 

Extollager

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dneuschultz, with reference to your last sentence, it would probably be better to say that the linguistic invention was concurrent with the composition of narratives and that each interpenetrated the other -- since the earliest narratives (Turin, Earendel, Beren and Luthien) of what was eventually called Middle-earth do go back very far in Tolkien's life.

It seems there was a holistic quality here that, I suppose, is almost impossible in our time. Tolkien's imagination constantly synthesized his faith, his learning, his experience of romantic love, of friendship, and of war, his love of the English countryside, his memories of Switzerland, etc. All of these things were alive in him -- they were not "dead" elements that he shuffled at a computer keyboard. He was deeply integrated in a scholarly community that, I suppose, does not exist anywhere in Western Europe and North America any more -- even while he was also on its margin. His brother (Hilary) was a market gardener and Tolkien would have had a firsthand experience of such culture of the soil, with labor of humans, oxen, and horses -- even though, to be sure, the Enclosures etc. had greatly changed English agriculture from medieval norms. I don't know whether or not Tolkien had firsthand acquaintance with farmers who followed "lore" and tradition (more than scientific agriculture), but he must, at least, have been very close to it, and while I hope we appreciate the benefits of agricultural technology and so on, that technology has tended to change the way people imagine the land.

Well, I could go on. One of the things I'm driving at is that (I believe) for many readers much of the appeal of Tolkien's fantasy is the access it provides modern people to an earlier relationship with the countryside, a relationship Tolkien valued and experienced in the primary world. I would resist the notion that this is just a matter of "nostalgia," something distasteful to some policy makers, theorists, etc. Rather it is something real but probably less known to people than it was to Tolkien.

And I think these things are not going to be there, or only in diminished degree, in the writings of fantasists today.

Here's a photo I found online of the Wrekin in Shropshire. I think the first reaction many people will have is that "it looks like the Shire!" But the scene shows the clear marks of mechanical agriculture.

1625852035502.png
 

JohnM

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World-building and then adding interesting characters is an intricate task. I think the main thing is just sitting down and doing it. As prerequisites, it requires research into common myths among your potential readership and then creating a new mythology. This requires some level of invention, and each invention needs to feel like it fits into the whole. The intricacy involves what details to put in and what to leave out. Some things need more detailed descriptions than others, and every new idea does not, and should not, carry equal weight in the story. Some new ideas are simple, while some are more complex, with some being even more elaborate.

When this weaving together of plot, characters and world is done in a very entertaining way, praise follows. Look at J.K. Rowling.
 

Karn's Return

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I don't think it is possible to overestimate the number of hours Tolkien put into his languages. It was almost a monomania. Words, etymologies (more words), histories to explain the etymologies... phonemes, alphabets, etc. I think it's a rabbit hole the ordinary mind can't delve too deeply into and cannot stay for too long in. If it were me, I would soon go buggy and drop it all to get out and actually write a story. Tolkien let these languages and histories pile up for decades before launching into an actual narrative.



You have to remember that as far as this sort of thing goes, he WAS a POW of WWI, so not only did he see combat in perhaps one of the most brutal and frankly, horrifying wars ever fought (Use of chemical agents, for example, had really only been matched by certain dictatorial leaders of unstable nations), against a nation that didn't necessarily shy away from savagery, so I think we could only imagine the kind of psych breaks his mind had to endure. What I find impressive was that after he got back home he managed to settle down into a professor job before The Hobbit came along.


I would really imagine that the first faint stirrings might have started then, as a sort of protective retreat against what I would imagine just broke a lot of other men. I could be wrong there, but I really doubt that the true first origins all began with that blank essay paper.
 

Extollager

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The book to read about Tolkien's early experiences of battle and his early creativity is Garth's Tolkien and the Great War, a really fine, readable piece of scholarship, one of the best books about JRRT. (I don't remember JRRT being a prisoner of war, but he was a casualty, in that he became seriously ill from trench fever.)
 

dneuschulz

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dneuschultz, with reference to your last sentence, it would probably be better to say that the linguistic invention was concurrent with the composition of narratives and that each interpenetrated the other -- since the earliest narratives (Turin, Earendel, Beren and Luthien) of what was eventually called Middle-earth do go back very far in Tolkien's life.
Yes, I oversimplified. I see the kind of spectrum from the "biblical" narrative of, say, The Silmarillion transitioning to something closer to a modern narrative, like the tale of Hurin, and then to the mode that the books the Good Professor is most famous for -- which I would say are fully in the modern novel mode, with colloquialisms and very character-POV-centric. For some reason, I see that latter transition as a real leap that Tolkien didn't take until a later time. But now I am going refute myself, because Leaf By Niggle is very old and in the more modern style. So obviously Tolkien's choice of genre (is it genre? I mean, they are all epics, maybe mode or tone is a better term) was very fluid his whole life.

The other thing that makes his world more affecting than those of other fantasy writers (and hence garner's him more praise) is how his languages tap into the roots of English (Mordor being the Old English word for murder, etc.). For native English speakers, there is an intangible resonance in his fantasy names and phrases. Evil place names sound evil to native English speakers; likewise noble names: is there any doubt that Gil-Galad was gallant or resonant of Sir Galahad? Arathorn from Arthur (or closer: Arthurian)? Likewise Sindarin from Gaelic and Welsh. Likewise Khuzdul from Hebrew, Arabic, and -- I believe -- some Slavic. All of which have definite regional connotations to the Anglophone reader.

The opposite of this is -- and this is the most polar opposite I can think of -- is the fantasy naming of Gary Gygax in early Dungeons & Dragons mythos. Those words look like someone dropped the alphabet into a blender. I mean, Juiblex and Blipdoolpoolp -- evil gods names and are resonant of what? Dropping objects on the ground? But many other fantasy lexicons, though not as bad as this, are far more arbitrary than Tolkien. I often pity those who read Tolkien translations instead of English, because the depth of the phonic resonances aren't there for them.
 

BAYLOR

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Yes, I oversimplified. I see the kind of spectrum from the "biblical" narrative of, say, The Silmarillion transitioning to something closer to a modern narrative, like the tale of Hurin, and then to the mode that the books the Good Professor is most famous for -- which I would say are fully in the modern novel mode, with colloquialisms and very character-POV-centric. For some reason, I see that latter transition as a real leap that Tolkien didn't take until a later time. But now I am going refute myself, because Leaf By Niggle is very old and in the more modern style. So obviously Tolkien's choice of genre (is it genre? I mean, they are all epics, maybe mode or tone is a better term) was very fluid his whole life.

The other thing that makes his world more affecting than those of other fantasy writers (and hence garner's him more praise) is how his languages tap into the roots of English (Mordor being the Old English word for murder, etc.). For native English speakers, there is an intangible resonance in his fantasy names and phrases. Evil place names sound evil to native English speakers; likewise noble names: is there any doubt that Gil-Galad was gallant or resonant of Sir Galahad? Arathorn from Arthur (or closer: Arthurian)? Likewise Sindarin from Gaelic and Welsh. Likewise Khuzdul from Hebrew, Arabic, and -- I believe -- some Slavic. All of which have definite regional connotations to the Anglophone reader.

The opposite of this is -- and this is the most polar opposite I can think of -- is the fantasy naming of Gary Gygax in early Dungeons & Dragons mythos. Those words look like someone dropped the alphabet into a blender. I mean, Juiblex and Blipdoolpoolp -- evil gods names and are resonant of what? Dropping objects on the ground? But many other fantasy lexicons, though not as bad as this, are far more arbitrary than Tolkien. I often pity those who read Tolkien translations instead of English, because the depth of the phonic resonances aren't there for them.

Ive often wished Tolkien had made the Silmarillion into saga like LOTR . I think he could've easily gotten three books out the story martial contained within. But, he didn't.
 
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Toby Frost

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It seems there was a holistic quality here that, I suppose, is almost impossible in our time. Tolkien's imagination constantly synthesized his faith, his learning, his experience of romantic love, of friendship, and of war, his love of the English countryside, his memories of Switzerland, etc. All of these things were alive in him -- they were not "dead" elements that he shuffled at a computer keyboard.

I'm not sure I agree that this is now impossible. I don't see why elements of Tolkien's world should be more "alive" than in any other author whose own experiences influence his writing. It's probably unlikely that a new author would exactly copy the qualities of Tolkien, but I could imagine a writer of second-world, non-Tolkien fantasy like China Mieville doing this now with different elements of their life.
 

The Big Peat

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I am puzzled as to whether the original question is "why don't I find other created secondary worlds as impressive" as Middle Earth, which I can't answer, or "why doesn't the fantasy community talk equally of gaming worlds with book worlds when talking about best worlds" which is probably best answered by an unspoken assumption that we separate the two for apples to apples, or "why doesn't the fantasy community hold other worlds as high as Middle Earth" or "why doesn't the fantasy community hold other stories as high as Lord of the Rings" to which there are tons of answers but which mainly boil down to popularity and broad appeal, which of course means there are parts of the community where it's not true, and all claims of other works being lessened by being in Tolkien's shadow don't really exist because they've maybe watched the movies at most.

Fwiw, as someone who cut their fantasy teeth on Tolkien, I can't say I find LotR ranks hugely high in my personal canon and that while I do very much love pieces of Middle Earth, I don't find it some impossible untouchable standard.
 

Extollager

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What I’m about to say is a discussion thread comment, but could be expanded into an essay or a book. It’s my considered opinion and some people might dislike it, but Chrons seems to be a corner of the internet in which civil discussion is still possible.

My argument will be largely sociological, and that bears out one of my chief claims: that “all of us” in the English-speaking world and in Europe think and imagine “sociologically.” In some sense we’re all Marxists now. But sociological thinking and imagining are intrinsically and necessarily hostile to the kind of poetic consciousness in which great fantasy can be composed.

Tolkien’s fantasy was a culmination and late flowering of a widespread poetic consciousness nourished by contact with countryside, by language strongly influenced by the “unacknowledged legislators” (poets, storytellers whose media could be the spoken word or the written and printed word), by the learned life, and by myth.

As regards myth: when Tolkien grew up and began to write his great stories, even while unbelief was increasingly common among the urban uneducated and among the intelligentsia, many people still were invested in myth, namely Christian mythology of humanity’s origin and predicament, the activity of the divine being in history, and the possible destinies of each one of us.* People went to church and myth was interwoven with birth, the education of the young, sexual conduct and marriage, law courts, the making of war, outreach to the disadvantaged, sickness, and death. People thus felt the presence and pressure of unseen reality in their consciences, and in their reading and music-making and music-listening. Society was permeated by poetic consciousness as Tolkien grew up. Even though secularization was increasingly ascendant, the imaginations of many ordinary people were permeated by a sense (which you may regard as illusory, but they did not) of genuine meaning, significant agency, etc. This was reflected in things as quotidian as the way people dressed, the sense that one shouldn’t use the name of Jesus loosely, etc. (i.e. language was connected with the mythic), etc.

Who is a popular poet today? Who is the poet laureate right now? But in Tolkien’s day many quite ordinary people turned to poetry, whether folk verses or the poems of Tennyson and de la Mare, etc. Whether or not it was often taken from the shelf, there might well be a family Shakespeare or a broken set of Scott or Robert Louis Stevenson in the bookcase. Likely enough these books – along with the family Bible – were lavishly illustrated, and children might peruse them again and again (where now the essence of imagery seen by children is that it is in constant motion). These pictures too encouraged a poetic sense of life. Poor people might have no books, of course, but if the children went to school they would at least be encouraged to memorize poems (“The boy stood on the burning deck” or whatever) and would be taught stories from the Bible as being history, part of the story of the human race to which we all belong. They would also be taught, however unkindly, some sort of respect for language in the form of prescriptive grammar, etc. Music was likely to be melodic; a piano was a desired mark of middle-class life with one or more children getting lessons to play it, perhaps emphasizing what might be deplored as sentimental tunes but were things people liked to sing about love, loyalty, and loss (Tolkienian themes!).

There was a continuity between this household and schoolroom poetic culture and the world of the universities as Tolkien knew them. The universities were largely dedicated to humane learning. With his passion for language, Tolkien was no weirdo in the university, which spread a feast before him in classroom and library. Tolkien’s professors were on the same page with him as regards the learned study of languages. In our time, we have lately seen the casting out of Beowulf and Old English/Anglo-Saxon, and now e.g. the University of Leicester prepares to drop Chaucer and the remaining survivals of medieval literature. In their place? Sociology! Sociology applied to literature in the forms of feminism, decolonialism, and so on. That’s basically what “theory” is.

Politics, popular entertainment, ordinary etiquette, the education of children – all encourage us always to think sociologically. In the States, the teachers’ unions are now pledged to sociology in the form of inculcation of “antiracism,” etc. It is with this that the minds of the young are to be occupied. Whatever good may come of this, I don’t suppose it will be of much use to the young potential fantasist. If there were a young Tolkien, he or she would never flourish in the classroom of the teacher who knows very little poetic literature and instead thinks his or her job is exposing the sins of the past and present, and promotion of perpetual struggle on behalf of undefined social “progress.”

However, uncongenial as all this is for fantasy, science fiction often thrives in a sociological context (The Time Machine, Brave New World, 1984, etc. all are marked by sociological-type thinking). We may see some great works of sf yet -- although I think there may be an imaginative crisis approaching for the genre, as it becomes too obvious that its tropes include evident impossibilities; it will be too discouraging to write stories of interstellar travel when, at last, hardly anybody believes any more that faster than light travel can be done somehow. That’s another matter. But as for great fantasy, I suppose its time is over. More and more people will find that Tolkien’s books don’t speak to them, that the books exude an air they can’t breathe; they put them aside and never manage to finish them or, if they do, don’t feel they get what all the fuss used to be about.

If any great fantasy is yet written, it may have to come from some culture other than the homogeneous one of America, Britain, and western (at least) Europe. I think there was a suggestion of this in the book Laurus by the Russian medievalist Vodolazkin, but it is not a huge story of a secondary world.

My main point is about poetic consciousness vs. sociological consciousness and the implications for inspiration for literary fantasy.

I close with a couplet adapted from Swinburne:

Thou hast conquered, O shaggy Victorian**; the world has grown grey from thy breath;

We have drunken of things Lethean, and fed on the fullness of death.



*As C. S. Lewis expressed it, in Christ “myth became fact” of history. This is my own belief and certainly was Tolkien’s, as his famous conversation with Lewis bears out.

**I had Marx in mind. Then I thought also of a "Notes on the Way" essay by George Orwell from 1940. Orwell thought in sociological terms, but his remarks are pertinent to my thesis. He wrote:

------I thought of a rather cruel trick I once played on a wasp. He was sucking jam on my plate, and I cut him in half. He paid no attention, merely went on with his meal, while a tiny stream of jam trickled out of his severed œsophagus. Only when he tried to fly away did he grasp the dreadful thing that had happened to him. It is the same with modern man. The thing that has been cut away is his soul [cf. poetic consciousness], and there was a period — twenty years, perhaps — during which he did not notice it.

It was absolutely necessary that the soul should be cut away. Religious belief, in the form in which we had known it, had to be abandoned. By the nineteenth century it was already in essence a lie, a semi-conscious device for keeping the rich rich and the poor poor. The poor were to be contented with their poverty, because it would all be made up to them in the world beyond the grave, usually pictured as something mid-way between Kew gardens and a jeweller's shop. Ten thousand a year for me, two pounds a week for you, but we are all the children of God. And through the whole fabric of capitalist society there ran a similar lie, which it was absolutely necessary to rip out.

Consequently there was a long period during which nearly every thinking man was in some sense a rebel, and usually a quite irresponsible rebel. Literature was largely the literature of revolt or of disintegration. Gibbon, Voltaire, Rousseau, Shelley, Byron, Dickens, Stendhal, Samuel Butler, Ibsen, Zola, Flaubert, Shaw, Joyce — in one way or another they are all of them destroyers, wreckers, saboteurs. For two hundred years we had sawed and sawed and sawed at the branch we were sitting on. And in the end, much more suddenly than anyone had foreseen, our efforts were rewarded, and down we came.-----

Dale Nelson
 
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