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Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern…

Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy (2003)

by Douglas A. Anderson

Other authors: L. Frank Baum (Contributor), John Buchan (Contributor), James Branch Cabell (Contributor), Lord Dunsany (Contributor), H. Rider Haggard (Contributor)7 more, William Hope Hodgson (Contributor), Andrew Lang (Contributor), George MacDonald (Contributor), Arthur Machen (Contributor), Abraham Merritt (Contributor), E. Nesbit (Contributor), Frank R. Stockton (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Tales Before... (1)

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Some gems in here, but also felt like the collection was a little over-zealous with the inclusion of stories and a desire for completeness that doesn't necessarily mesh with the stated goal of getting the general world of fantasy fans to enjoy pre-Tolkien works.
  JonathanGorman | Feb 11, 2012 |
i really found some ot these stories very hard to read. They are often atmospheric but dull. Events do not move along. Still I found some gems, including a Frank R. Stockton and an E. Nesbit. ( )
  aulsmith | Jul 6, 2010 |
This anthology pulls together 21 short stories and one short play to explore the wide variety of influences on the writer who has long been regarded as the father of modern fantasy. Authors range from the iconic (L. Frank Baum) to the virtually unknown (Clemence Housman). Anderson includes commentary for each piece, highlighting possible connections with Tolkien's work.

"The Elves" by Ludwig Tieck >> A "literary fairy tale" in the German tradition and illustrates the dangers of visiting with fairies.

"The Golden Key" by George MacDonald >> A mystical tale of a boy and a girl who embark on a lifelong quest meeting several magical personages along the way.

"Puss-Cat Mew" by E. H. Knatchbull-Hugessen >> A story of a young man and a cat (in reality the favorite daughter of the Fairy Queen) against evil ogres and dwarves. An added bonus is when the fairies deign to speak in prose rather than verse.

"The Griffin and the Minor Canon" by Frank R. Stockton >> A delightful yarn about the friendship between a clergy man and a monster.

"The Demon Pope" by Richard Garnett >> A tongue-in-cheek story of Satan and the Sacred College. What would happen if the Wvil Prince becomes the Head of Vatican?

"The Story of Sigurd" retold by Andrew Lang >> An abbreviated version of the Nibelungenlied.

"The Folk of the Mountain Door" by William Morris >> A mystical tale of a god and goddess attending a naming rite of a newborn prince in a Norse-like kingdom.

"Black Heart and White Heart" by H. Rider Haggard >> A story of an English gentleman who tries to steal the lover of a Zulu woman.

"The Dragon Tamers" by E. Nesbit >> Describes the trials of a poor dragon who is always outwitted by one family.

"The Far Islands" by John Buchan >> Tells of a boy whose family is obsessed by the Western Isles and uses vivid descriptions of landscapes strikingly similar to that of Middle Earth.

"The Drawn Arrow" by Clemence Housman >> A story of the gratitude of kings and the trials they delight in imposing upon others just to keep loyalty in check.

"The Enchanted Buffalo" by L. Frank Baum >> A yarn about treachery and revenge within the Royal Tribe of the buffaloes.

"Chu-bu and Sheemish" by Lord Dunsany >> A fable about jealous petty gods.

"The Baumhoff Explosive" by William Hope Hodgson >> A cautionary tale about becoming too much like Christ.

"The Regent of the North" by Kenneth Morris >> A tale about a Viking who will not forswear his religion for Christianity.

"The Coming of the Terror" by Arthur Machen >> A suspense story about frightening events in England during World War I.

"The Elf Trap" by Francis Stevens >> Relates the strange experiences of a Professor of Biology who meets a beautiful young lady in the back woods.

"The Thin Queen of Elfhame" by James Branch Cabell >> The story of a man who unintentionally finds true love.

"The Woman of the Wood" by A. Merritt >> Discloses the murderous actions of a man who loved a coppice.

"Golithos the Ogre" by E. A. Wyke-Smith >> Tells of the vegetarian ogre who has two plump children as house guests.

"The Story of Alwina" by Austin Tappan Wright >> An excerpt about the history of Queen Alwina of Islandia.

"A Christmas Play" by David Lindsay >> Recounts the efforts of the fairy Emerald to find husbands for three sisters when there are only two princes available.

Some of these authors are known to have influenced Tolkien, but all wrote on themes which Tolkien would probably have admired. All the authors were chosen to be at least five years older than Tolkien. Others are not actually mentioned by Tolkien but possibly had an influence on him, while still others were probably not read by him but are indicative of the state of fantasy at the time he was active. None of these stories really measure up to Tolkien's standards (but then, what does?) but many are quite interesting and enjoyable to read.

Book Details:

Title Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy
Author Edited by Douglas A. Anderson
Reviewed By Purplycookie ( )
2 vote purplycookie | Apr 12, 2009 |

Douglas Anderson, a leading Tolkien scholar, has collected here 21 stories that either inspired Tolkien directly in the creation of his seminal The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books, or are striking examples of the lineage of prior fantasy works from which Tolkien drew inspiration.

While I understand that some sort of criteria needed to be followed in order to choose from a more finite pool of candidate stories, the selection criteria indeed seemed (as the editor himself admits) a little arbitrary: That the authors be born at least 5 years before Tolkien, not that the stories have directly influenced Tolkien. There's many other works I would have liked to see in this list, of which I have become aware from one of Anderson's other works, The Annotated Hobbit.

At any rate, as I expected to find in a work of this scope, many of the stories were wonderful little gems in their own right (for ex., The Elf Trap by Francis Stevens), while others struck me as being vastly inferior to what came later (for ex., The Golden Key by George MacDonald). Some stories were quaint and charming (for ex., Puss-cat Mew by E. Knatchbull-Hugessen), while others were simply off-beat (for ex., The Coming of the Terror by Arthur Machen).

For anyone who is a fan of fantasy literature, whether or not you are a huge fan of Tolkien, this is a book I'd recommend. ( )
1 vote pixxiefish | Mar 17, 2009 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Douglas A. Andersonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Baum, L. FrankContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Buchan, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cabell, James BranchContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dunsany, LordContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Haggard, H. RiderContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hodgson, William HopeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lang, AndrewContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
MacDonald, GeorgeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Machen, ArthurContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Merritt, AbrahamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nesbit, E.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stockton, Frank R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Howe, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345458567, Mass Market Paperback)

“A superb collection, a splendid and much-needed book. Anderson has cleared away the dross and shown us the golden roots of fantasy before it became a genre.”
–Michael Moorcock, author of The Eternal Champion

Many of today’s top names in fantasy acknowledge J.R.R. Tolkien as the author whose work inspired them to create their own epics. But which writers influenced Tolkien himself? In a collection destined to become a classic in its own right, internationally recognized Tolkien expert Douglas A. Anderson, editor of The Annotated Hobbit, has gathered the fiction of the many gifted authors who sparked Tolkien’s imagination. Included are Andrew Lang’s romantic swashbuckler “The Story of Sigurd,” which features magic rings and a ferocious dragon; an excerpt from E. A. Wyke-Smith’s The Marvelous Land of Snergs, about creatures who were precursors to Tolkien’s hobbits; and a never-before-published gem by David Lindsay, author of A Voyage to Arcturus, a novel that Tolkien praised highly both as a thriller and as a work of philosophy, religion, and morality.

In stories packed with magical journeys, conflicted heroes, and terrible beasts, this extraordinary volume is one that no fan of fantasy or Tolkien should be without. These tales just might inspire a new generation of creative writers.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:52 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"Terry Brooks. David Eddings. George R. R. Martin. Robin Hobb. The top names in modern fantasy all acknowledge J.R.R. Tolkien as their model and master, the author whose work first fired their imaginations and inspired them to create their own epics. But what writers influenced Tolkien himself? Sir Isaac Newton once wrote, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." As with the scientific genius of Newton, so, too, with the literary genius of Tolkien. Now Tolkien expert Douglas A. Anderson has gathered the fiction of some of those giants together for the first time in a collection destined to become a classic in its own right." "In stories packed with magical journeys, conflicted heroes, and terrible beasts, this extraordinary volume is one that no fan of fantasy or Tolkien should be without. These tales just might inspire a new generation of creative writers."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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