Friday, September 03, 2010

Meditations on Middle-Earth

J.R.R. Tolkien influenced many fantasy authors with his works. One book that explores this influence among writers is Meditations on Middle-Earth edited by Karen Haber. It contains essays written by various Fantasy authors about how Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings affected and inspired them. The book is interesting not so much because it is about Tolkien, but that it provides insights on the various Fantasy authors and how their careers were shaped by Tolkien. Readers will discover several interesting essays in this book.

Fantasy author Raymond Feist would like to consider Tolkien the grandfather of the Fantasy genre. He feels that Tolkien helped create the publishing of Fantasy books with Lord of the Rings. The book influenced Feist as a reader and a writer. As a reader, he felt Tolkien appealed to him with its sense of adventure and a complex world. As a writer, Tolkien gave Mr. Feist a start with idea s that led to the creation of his Fantasy world of Midkemia. He feels Fantasy authors owe a debt of thanks to Tolkien for his grand creation.

Another author inspired by Middle-Earth is Charles de Lint. This author feels that Tolkien woke up his sense of wonder. What impressed him was the Story, with fleshed out characters and good themes. He believes few Fantasy books do that today. There needs to be a balance between imagination and reason as Tolkien believed. A Fantasy book needs a strong story and interesting characters to touch the hearts of readers. Mr. de Lint practices this in his writing.

Tolkien’s influence stretches to women authors too. Robin Hobb’s essay talks about growing up in Alaska and Lord of the Rings making a strong impression on her. As a writer, he raised the bar for her to make writing Fantasy a challenge for her. She learned that a Fantasy story can have depth. Ms. Hobb’s essay is interesting and thoughtful. It has wonderful insights on how Tolkien’s work sent a generation of writers on a quest.

One of the most interesting essays is by Orson Scott Card. In “How Tolkien Means,” he talks about how literary critics and scholars miss what most readers understand in Tolkien’s books. Tolkien felt that stories need to be experienced, not decoded. He wants readers to enjoy the story and not worry about symbols. Mr. Card goes on to elaborate on this point for the rest of the essay. This is a very interesting, thoughtful essay that Fantasy readers will enjoy.

In “The Myth-Maker,” Fantasy author Lisa Goldstein discusses why Lord of the Ringsis so powerful a work. She thinks it is because people have a need for myth. Tolkien fed that need with his poetic language and mythic rhythms. He provided an epic experience for readers at a time it was needed. Ms. Goldstein gives a clear, concise viewpoint on Tolkien’s works.

Meditations on Middle-Earth edited by Karen Haber is an interesting book of essays. Various Fantasy authors write about how Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings changed their lives and influenced their writing. Fantasy grew as a genre thanks to Tolkien’s book. He speaks to something in every reader through story, language and mythic patterns. This is an informative companion piece that will enhance a reader’s understanding and enjoyment of Tolkien. Try it out.

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