"Yes," she answered. The sun filled her eyes with brightness.
Together, she and her companion started up the barren hillside
toward the trees.
With her right hand, Linden Avery kept a sure hold on her wedding ring.
|-- White Gold Wielder|
It was impossible for me to make a web site about Donaldson's
Chronicles of Thomas Covenant without comparing and contrasting
aspects of them with the characters, scenarios and geography of
Tolkien's stories, and in particular with a certain magic ring.
The body of work J. R. R. Tolkien sculpted
during his long life is such an impressive edifice that trying
to ignore his influence upon modern fantasy authors is as
pointless as standing at Giza and trying to ignore the Pyramids.
The sweeping grandeur of his novels and the messy yet voluminous
conglomeration of his notes indelibly influence even writers who
set out deliberately to break the Tolkien mold. Yet Tolkien did
not invent the fantasy genre; if others tread similar ground in
crafting their stories they stand on the shoulders of more
giants than just Tolkien, to corrupt a phrase coined by Sir Isaac
How refreshing to stumble across two interesting books spilling the beans on the many literary works from which the grand Professor lifted inspiration ... and frequently a lot more. Imagine my 'alarum' to read of a doomed hero bearing a cursed sword lying in wait for a hideous dragon and dispatching it with a stab to the soft white underbelly for possession of its tremendous hoard only to be hounded to death by its curse. Only that hero isn't the tragic Túrin Turambar, it's Siegfried, and the book isn't the Silmarillion, it's the Nibelungenlied. That's just the tip of the literary iceberg of sources Tolkien, uh, borrows from -- sometimes so heavily it's a good thing for him the original authors had been pushing up the daisies for several centuries.
Now I'm not accusing Tolkien of out and out plagiarism, but according to Lin Carter's Tolkien: A Look Behind the Lord of the Rings a mere six verses of the Norse saga The Elder Edda contain the following "Tolkien-ish" names:
But it's not just names the good Professor enjoyed making his own, he knew a good story when he read one and mightily enjoyed 'liberating' them, with a few minor alterations ... sort of like jacking a car and adding flame decals on the side. As pointed out above, the story of Túrin and Glaurung is actually that of Siegfried (or Sigurd) and Fafner, the text reads almost verbatim. Another example is the theft of King Thingol's treasure -- and in particular the enchanted necklace Nauglamir -- by murderous dwarves who are soon slain themselves. Again this scenario is lifted from the Nibelungenlied, perhaps even to excess when Tolkien names his dwarf Mîm [Mime]. These are just the two most glaring examples, but Mr Carter points out a dozen more.
That brings us to the origin of the Ring, this cursed ring of such terrible power and import. Turns out Tolkien can't be accused of stealing this idea from the Nibelungenlied ... because it appears in at least twelve (12) entirely separate mythologies or legends. The Norse, the English, the French, the Celts, the Saxons, the Germans, the Greeks and Romans, the Jews and even the Orientals of antiquity devised stories of magical rings that drove mighty heroes upon fabulous quests to fulfil their destinies. David Day happily recounts them all in his well-researched, slightly boring and ironically titled book Tolkien's Ring. He details the travails of the Norse god Odin (" ... stern, grey-bearded ... wear[ing] a blue-mantled cloak ...") who grappled with death itself and emerged reborn with vastly increased power (Gandalf, anyone?) and his role in the forging of the eldritch ring of power Draupnir. In both the Volsung and Nibelung legends a cursed ring plays the central role in the fates of both good and evil men. The "Serpent Ring" of Charlemagne shows how even a valiant Christian knight and king could be obsessed with the power of such a cursed talisman. Other tales in which magic rings figure prominently include King Solomon, Prometheus and Zeus, the Mabinogion, Gesar of Tibet, The Thousand and One Nights, the Sky Ring of the Shang Dynasty, to name a few.
Why do I bother enumerating a seemingly endless catalogue of names, places, events, characters and themes which Tolkien did not create but which appear throughout every one of his novels, and in particular the plot device of a magic ring? I'm simply tired of the frequent accusation that Stephen Donaldson's Chronicles are a rip-off of the Lord of the Rings. At the risk of sounding like someone considerably older than me, "what's good for the goose is good for the gander" or "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones". I find a certain satisfaction in knowing that even the master himself drew heavily upon the fantastic ideas of others to shape his creation ... and that there is nothing wrong in doing so. As a scholar of old English literature, it was expected that Tolkien would want to bring some of that vast and important heritage across the centuries into the modern world. Far from guiltily hiding the fact, Tolkien publicly and in letters gave tribute to various authors whose written works influenced his writing. And I for one am excited that there are so many grand stories and epics out there still waiting to be read with such magical writing they could inspire even Tolkien.