Tag: JRR Tolkien

Is there Pre-Tolkien Fantasy?

Posted June 3, 2011 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

Last night at Trivia, I was having a conversation about The Lord of the Rings and its effect on literature and fantasy. I asked the question ‘What fantasy was there before Tolkien?’ A question that I thought I would get some interesting answers but it was a question that they didn’t know how to answer. Was there fantasy before Tolkien? While J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis would be the ones responsible for making fantasy popular; the genre isn’t really that new. While the concept of a fantasy genre may seem new, a lot of it draws from Epic Poems such as The Odyssey & Beowulf, but also from Fairy Tales, Fables and Myths. I’m not a huge fan of fantasy as a genre, so I might be missing some information, but from what I can find the first Fantasy novel was by George MacDonald but writers like Lord Dunsany have been writing short stories beforehand. For more about pre-Tolkien fantasy, check out this list from Goodreads.

Another thing I’ve noticed about fantasy, while this is often a new world with commonly known races; Tolkien’s Elves, Hobbits, Orcs, etc have been used time and time again. I know there are probably people that differ from Tolkien’s world but it seems to be a template that is being used far too often. While I haven’t read the Lord of the Rings books, I’ve seen the movie and can see similarities between Tolkien and other books, movies and games in the fantasy genre.

We owe a lot to J.R.R. Tolkien for everything he has done for speculative fiction; I would like to know, can books step out of his shadows and reinvent the races or the genre successfully? Also I would love to know more about the fantasy genre and all its subgenres. What would fantasy novel would you recommend to people?