Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tolkien the fan-fiction writer

A question, from WikiAnswers: "Where did Tolkien get the story of The Hobbit from?"

Perhaps the person who asked this question had heard that Elvish was in many respects derived from Finnish, and assumed that folklore lent itself to Tolkien's book. And in fact Beowulf is considered to have been something of an influence. There is no such thing as a new idea, really. Heck, Romeo and Juliet is just an earlier rip-off of Titanic.

But to the cynic in me, it seems to me that implicit in the above question is the idea that Tolkien lifted the idea from someone else, in much the same way various writers are now releasing books about vampires and swooning girls, or about wizard academies. (And we shouldn't forget that Stephenie Meyer owes a huge debt to Bram Stoker, and Rowling a similarly large debt to Ursula le Guin.)

Has fan-fiction and wholesale idea-poaching now become such a part of our literary landscape that we assume a great, ground-breaking and iconic work of fiction to have been pinched?

Or am I reading too much into this? I have been known to do this from time to time...

(For Facebook Notes readers: this post is redirected from my 'head vs desk' blog at


Linda W said...

Actually, I think Stephenie Myer owes her inspiration more to Jane Austen and William Shakespeare, according to an early interview with her.


Later copies' of her work, may be inspired more by Bram Stoker!

mat said...

i think you're definitely reading too much into this... i think it would be better worded as "where did tolkien get his inspiration from". but then again, i could be reading too much into this...