Post by Divides the Waters on Jan 2, 2008 23:07:08 GMT -5
Tolkien did not invent elves. He defined them for use in his own universe. But elves have been around a long, long time before Tolkien. One might as well complain that he did not use dwarves as Wagner did, or that Wagner didn't use them as his predecessors did, and so on.
You are right, though, that there were "sea elves" in Tolkien. I think the fascinating thing to me was not that there were not sailing elves in fiction before, but that, as you said, the concept was not fully explored. I agree with Therin, here: I can see whole cultures of seafaring long-livers, perhaps even ones that never set foot on land. The fact that a love for the ocean was alluded to in LOTR or the Silmarillion, or that they sailed to the Grey Havens (which was necessary, as no flying ships were in Tolkien's world) doesn't really strike me as a problem for someone wanting to explore this relatively new territory.
Post by fairieswriter on Jan 5, 2008 1:07:35 GMT -5
I haven't read the entire thread of this conversation...so, I'm sorry if I am being repetitive.
I have been writing about fairies and mythical beings using a lot of research books. To me, Tolkien is not the creator of fantastical creatures...don't get me wrong...I love him!...but I know mythology. Just look at Shakespheare! It is a part of our history. I don't feel that using similar creatures is stealing...just adapting. ;-)
Post by Divides the Waters on Jan 6, 2008 2:28:40 GMT -5
You're right on target, Fairies. Tolkien was a popularizer of certain races, and again, he defined them for his own secondary world. I think the real question is, "Am I going to create my own races, or define old ones as Tolkien did?" More and more authors are using races Tolkien did, but defining them differently for their own stories. I think this is a wise move, if one does not care to create races whole cloth. Michael Stackpole is a terrific contemporary writer (whose personal political views I have to ignore in order to fully enjoy his stories) who did a great job of re-defining such things as elves for his novels.
On the other hand, I rather enjoyed Karen Hanc ock's approach in LEGENDS OF THE GUARDIAN-KING; the creatures were quite recognizable to those familiar with spiritual warfare, but had little to do with European legends of long-livers, etc.
I didn't have time to read the whole thread...sorry. But here's my two cents.
I second Fairie in saying: "Don't look at Tolkien. Just look at myth." Yes Tolkien took myth and shaped it for his own, but you could do the same.
IE: I write about faeries and elves. I call the faeries: faeries, fae, or sidhe (Irish) and the elves I call Alfar (Norwegian--I think). First, I call them these names to separate them from Tolkien (I mean, you hear elves and we all think: LEGOLAS!). Also I have goblins, bogarts, pixies, kelpie, and Imps. Next I describe them immediately so the reader knows they're NOTHING like the average fae.
You want your creatures to be familiar, but different. I made my Alfar be fond of clothes and adornments. My sidhe are more like the elves in Tolkien than my own Alfar. Human-like but not (I went very heavily towards the Irish legends in my first ms)
Tamora Pierce gave a lecture on "Stealing Worlds" at SCBWI and she says: "Do it! But do it well." She takes a legend structure and then makes it her own--maybe even mixing it with others. India with the Incas mixed in. China mingled with a dash of Egypt. She "steals" all the time. But she does it in such a way that it seems new--but it's also familiar, and makes it easy for her to work with. No guessing is involved and the legends don't become convoluted or weigh down the plot.
You can pick a history, say, China. Pluck at its myths and find the tone you're going for. IE: A dragon--but he's small and golden. He rides in your pocket and brings good fortune to the bearer. But he's also a trickster and will lead you off a cliff if you're not sharp.
Also: You may be surprised how many culture myths cross.
Okay, that may have been 5 cents. Sorry.
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Post by strangewind on Jan 10, 2008 17:30:18 GMT -5
Cultural myths have their origin in creation and a falling away from God.
Giants did roam the earth in our history, in great number before the flood, and even up at least until the more "modern" reign of David. Ancient giant "myths and legends" of the later Greeks, Romans and cultures around the world, more than likely stem from a common historical knowledge.
I'd be very surprised if dinosaurs aren't the inspiration for ancient, globally shared dragon tales.
Most worldwide idol-gods are a perversion of the very real God-Man relationship - man's attempt to melt the real God into a tangible trinket, a wish-granting pet. Those "gods" become so perverse as to in no way resemble the true and living God except in the delusions of its creators. All sorts of orcs, hobgoblins, wights, gnomes, fairies, etc. seem to be fantastical anthropormorphizings of the (relatively) best and worst elements of our created "gods."
The "real" Dagon was nothing more than a fish-god statue. But a merman or mermaid can be a fanciful "living" personification of that god. The "real" Molech was a statue of a bull, but couldn't that be an inspiration for the Minotaur?
I'm not suggesting direct inspiration, here, just that I think a lot of myth and legend (i.e. known to be made-up) creatures have their inspiration in the things mankind really did first turn to when turning from God.
I'll put it another way: one of the reasons why so many myths and legends have corrollaries in very different parts of the globe is that our culture has a shared origin.
Uhm, so, uh, that's a long way of saying, "Just steal from Tolkien."
I won't mention any books in particular, to avoid stepping on others' personal favorites, but there are many fantasy novels I've read where I just want to say, "Oh, for pity's sakes! Just call them orcs already and get on with it!"
Unless you've got creatures who are a) clearly divergent from existing tropes and b) can't be "tamed" to suit existing tropes, I say stick with the familiars. Sometimes creature creation can take on a bit of "D&D Monster Manualization:" an exercise for its own sake.
I would echo others' comments on the importance of knowing your legends and ancient and medieval bestiaries, though.
I would add that most of my races are mostly Tolkeinesque. There are a few exceptions, and for good reason. Those exceptions are the Sachalin and Fenrin. Both races are merges, magical blendings of human and animal DNA (though any character which uses the term DNA will be summarily executed without trial). The Sachalin are cat people and have three breeds: tiger, lion, and cheetah. Lion heads call the shots because the other two are lone wolfs, so to speak. They have been on the scene for 1700 years.
The Fenrin are introduced to society in the book. They are elf-wolf merges. All of them are social and require groups with a clearly defined leader to function well. Merges were forbidden by the towers of magic not long after the Sachalin's maker (Valpudius the first Shadow Mage) lost control of them.
True holiness comes when we loathe sin not when we loathe getting caught.
Okay, I need some help. This is the description for a critter that I have in a project I'm working on. I have them called Fellblights, but I really don't like that. Can I get some ideas? They aren't big enough or smart enough to be orcs, they aren't dwarves and they aren't gnomes or goblins. Thanks.
"In the Northlands, from the roots of the Barrier Mountains, a large band of creatures stirred from their underground tunnels. They had long been cave dwellers, tunneling back under the base of the mountains, living in the dark, dank pits that smelled of sulphur and rot. They were unintelligent, yet crafty, and were led by one who was smarter than most. His name was Grimple. He had heard the call of his Master’s voice and knew the time had come to gather his little army and go to war. Grimple was a Fellblight. He was five feet tall with matted fur growing in greasy tufts from his head. His arms were long, ending with hands that knotted into fists at any provocation, real or imagined. He generally carried a large, double headed battle axe that could kill in one blow either direction. It was a brute of a weapon for a brute of soldier. His eyes were small, black and quick to see his prey. He wore heavy leather clothing that was studded with the heads of nails to help protect from enemy weapons. His boots were metal tipped with long spikes on the toes, also used as weapons. He had waited long years for this day. He heard the call and answered."
Thanks all. I'll check out the wordsmith thing. That's a new site for me and it sounds like a place I could have lots of fun. Although I do like "blogs" as a name. I'll have to think about that one. I thought shoats were similar to weasels. Oh, well, I'm just a small town kid, what do I know?