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Influences Part II: Classic Fantasy Influences

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We’ve covered my initial exposure and influence to fantasy, but it wasn’t until I became more selective that I turned to staples found on most influencer’s top 10 lists. After having watched the Lord of the Rings cartoon from 1978, I read the Hobbit and I loved it. My favorite scene was Bilbo and Gollum matching wits with riddles in the underground cave. Without a doubt, I’ve enjoyed reading scenes and writing scenes where two characters go head to head in a battle of wits. Fight scenes were exciting and magic systems interesting, but the buildup as two characters fought with their brains really hit home.

In looking back to my experience with Lord of the Rings, I find it comical because of how many times I started reading, only to find the Fellowship initially boring after having read the Tolkien derivatives. After a few years of going back and forth between LOTR and the other titles mentioned, I finally slogged past the Shire where the hobbits meet Tom Bombadil and the barrow wights. From there, things became interesting, and I made it through the rest of the series. Of course, I fell in love with the story and the obvious depth. When I read the Silmarillion, I became blown away at the true depth of the world. Tolkien truly was the master, and he spent 18 years developing Middle Earth. After reading LOTR, it was obvious how everything else was a derivative, but I contest that many stories that would be considered derivatives are separate works of art that could stand on their own. (I will do a separate post on this.)

I dabbled in Orson Scott Card with Ender’s Game and the trilogy on Bean, the Shadow Series. What I love about many of the authors and stories I read from this point is how different they were from the bread and butter fantasies I grew up with in high school. Ender and Bean are some of my favorite protagonists with the real and gritty backstories and believable motivations. Their intelligence and skill struck me as a magical power found in sci-fi, and I enjoyed how they outwitted opponents without having to use plot armor or overpowering strength.

Next came C. S. Lewis. Narnia was awesome. I read all the stories and a bit of the Screwtape Letters, and this changed my perception of fantasy again. Lewis opened up the concept of embedding Christianity into the story with allegory and the concept of portal fantasies. It wouldn’t be until I reached my late thirties that I compared and contrasted Lewis and Tolkien.

The one series that I’ve read almost as much as the Belgariad has to be R.A. Salvatore’s Dark Elf Trilogy. Drizzt’s arc was awesome, and his journey through the underworld fulfilled so many dreams of what might happen in the dark caves beneath the fantasy worlds. I also appreciate Drizzt’s skill and desire to choose good amidst so many trials and pressures to be evil.

So, I need to address the elephant in the article – I only read a quarter of Robert Jordan’s first book in the Wheel of Time series. Some would tell me I’m not a true fantasy nerd because I never read the series. After Goodkind and Rawn, I felt burned with reading super-long books that fell flat and failed to deliver on their promise. I didn’t want to invest my time, money, and emotion into a story that would leave me hanging, especially on a series that had not been completed before the author’s unfortunate passing. Some have argued that Jordan was the best in the 90’s, but I never went down that road.Before I graduated college, I considered what I might like to write. In my head, I had inserted myself into the stories I’ve mentioned and how I wanted to write something for my teenage self that would be fun and interesting. After five years and several miserable attempts, I let the dream fade, but I also needed to take a break from fantasy to engage real life. This struggle would play out for the next ten years until I returned to reading fantasy.

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1 thought on “Influences Part II: Classic Fantasy Influences”

  1. I think I’ve read about 75% of the books you’ve mentioned, and now I have a few more to look into. I look forward to keeping up with your endeavors.

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