TSR Appendix N Discussion

My understanding is that elves and fairies being small, tiny sprite like things is to some extent a product of the Victorians. Though in older tales there are at least two major categories of elves, some of whom are tall and other small, as mentioned, for example, here, by the folklorist Morgan Daimler.

I think there's an argument to be made that one of most well known examples of elves in popular culture (as opposed to folklore) isn't from anything we would consider (classical) fantasy or European literature, but rather from Twas the Night Before Christmas. It was an immensely important piece of American literature that helped shape the landscape of holidays in America and across the world (also coming to fame around the same time as another very important piece of Christmas literature: A Christmas Carol). And it names what may be the most famous elf of all time: Santa Claus.

In the 1800s many depictions of Santa were much more traditionally elf-like. Smaller, pointy ears, etc. That had a big change in the 1930s when Coca-Cola gave Santa his red suit and new visual aesthetic. Their advertisements effectively gave the world the traditional red-suit Santa that we know today. But he would still be considered an elf by many holiday and pop culture traditions. A tall, powerful, immortal elf with magical powers.

I don't really know where I'm going with this. Obviously, Tolkien's reaction to C.S Lewis putting Santa in his books is well documented, so I doubt he would approve of this comparison. But it would be super entertaining for someone to do a deep dive comparison of Elrond to Santa.

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Follower of the Way
I would imagine Lewis was drawing more on Dickins' Ghost of Christmas Present.
Though he is explicitly called "Father Christmas" in Narnia, which, at least when Lewis was writing, was the most common name in the UK for "Santa Claus," "Saint Nick/Nicolas," "Joulupukki," etc. He's also depicted with a bright red robe ("as red as holly berries"), where Dickens' Ghost of Christmas Present IIRC wore the green outfit that had traditionally been associated with Santa in the 19th century. (He grew out of the "Yule Goat"--hence, "Joulupukki"--tradition in German paganism.) But the idea that said robe had white fur trim had come along by Dickens' time, but IIRC wasn't the traditional interpretation. The Ghost of Christmas Present is something of an intersection point between Christian, German pagan, and Greek notions, as he has a little bit of Dionysus in him (he's actually bare-chested, because the robe is so loose on his body, and pretty clearly reveling, regardless of the snowfall.)


To add to this, one of the main reasons I think it is necessary to rationally discuss Tolkien is because far too much of the discussion of fantasy literature (and D&D) gets trapped in this never-ending cycle. Tolkien was important and influential, but there were a number of writers (some of them mostly forgotten, some of them nearly completely forgotten) that were also writing at that time who were also important and influential at that time- and to attribute everything, always, to Tolkien shows the same facile understanding of history and influence that you often see in other fields. It's like the person whose knowledge of reggae's history is that Bob Marley was wicked popular, so you literally are unable to discuss rocksteady without someone going on about everything they know about Bob Marley.

History is complicated and multi-faceted; something that I am sure Prof. Tolkien himself would acknowledge if he were still around. It is somewhat bizarre that we have to keep having these conversations about things that do little credit to Tolkien (who is still a cultural icon, even if people mispronounce his name in America) while doing such a disservice to so many other amazing people. For that matter, the idea that Tolkien did not, himself, stand on the shoulders of giants is also incorrect; it is common, albeit incorrect, for people to credit him for things that he did not do. He did not popularize the Mirkwood- this was a term that, while derived from Myrkvior, was used in England long prior to Tolkien and achieved some popularity with (wait for it) The House of the Wolflings (William Morris). Warg, for that matter, was not coined by Tolkien, but was also a term used in various sources that referred to older Scandinavian materials- see, e.g., The Old Runic Monuments of Scandinavia (from 1868), "Here we are at once on familiar ground. The WARGUS is our well-know Old-English WARG or WEARG .... WULF and and the now obsolete WARG being two words of exactly the same meaning."

It is certainly true that Tolkien had a singular genius for borrowing and synthesizing a lot of this material (not to mention his facility with language and literature!); it is also true that other authors (particularly Anderson, who spent part of his childhood in Denmark and repeatedly returned to Norse myths) also did separate, and amazing, work in disparate areas. Heck, of interest to this group is that Anderson, author of one of the most influential books on D&D, was also a founding member of the Society of Creative Anachronism.

In short, I always think it is important to remember that Tolkien has a secure legacy; it is not necessary to celebrate him by insisting that others were just imitating him. Especially when that is not the case.
I only recently became aware of Morris' influence on Tolkien when reading "Strictly Fantasy," by Gerald Nachtwey. Is this also where you discovered it? I am always on the lookout for more resource materials.


There's another factor at play, though.

Tolkien is still omnipresent. Both because of the books and the more recent movies. So when people today are looking back at the origins of D&D, all they see are the Tolkien bits.

At the time, it was much more obvious that "the other bits" were the lion's share of the influence. But there aren't a lot of people that read Leiber, Vance, Zelazny, Anderson, REH, Saberhagen, de Camp, Moorcock, St. Clair, and so on.
I was introduced to D&D at the age of 10 by a fellow fifth grader when I told them I liked the Hobbit movie that had just been on television. That one movie, from Tolkien's works, was all I knew about the "Fantasy" genre at that time. The older kids playing D&D had collections of books they had discovered at used bookstores that were more the pulp fantasy of REH's Conan, Gardner Fox's Kothar and Kyrik, Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and Gray Mouser, and Moorcock's Elric, Corum, and Hawkmoon. Required reading if we wanted to play in their games. Appendix N came along a few years later and introduced new authors but most of what we read was influenced by whatever we could find at the used bookstore in the "Fantasy and Science Fiction" section or what our friends picked up and shared after a rare visit to Waldenbooks in the fancy new malls.


I only recently became aware of Morris' influence on Tolkien when reading "Strictly Fantasy," by Gerald Nachtwey. Is this also where you discovered it? I am always on the lookout for more resource materials.

Morris is one I need to read more of! "The Folk of the Mountain Door" shows up in the anthology "Tales Before Tolkien", where it notes Morris translated Beowulf and some of the Icelandic sagas.

The Chapter "The Men Who Invented Fantasy" in Lin Carter's (1969) "A Look Behind The Lord of the Rings" focuses on Morris and his "direct literary successor" Dunsany, and then E.R. Eddison.

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Notorious Liquefactionist
I only recently became aware of Morris' influence on Tolkien when reading "Strictly Fantasy," by Gerald Nachtwey. Is this also where you discovered it? I am always on the lookout for more resource materials.

I know it wasn't that book, as I have not read it, nor was I familiar with it until this post. So I'd like to start by thanking you for bringing it to my attention! Not sure how I missed it, but after checking out the description, I definitely have to add that to my "must read" list.

Unfortunately, I can't recall exactly what I learned that; it was just something that I knew. Since I apparently have source amnesia, I can't give particular credit for it. That said, at one point long ago, I did read Lin Carter's book (see the post from @Cadence ), so it might have come from there.

I thought the association between Tolkien and the Arts & Crafts movement was quite well known. It's certainly reflected in a lot of the art, and the style found it's way into the movie.

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