TSR Appendix N Discussion

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
And this is it, right here. Both were inspired by the same Nordic folklore. Which just goes to show just how much Tolkien was taking from existing folklore, and yet some people get really riled up at any mention of Tolkien copying from others. Kinda weird. Feels almost like some folks have deified him to a point where Tolkien's creative genius was so great he created everything, including fantasy. He was a genius, but he did copy a lot.
It's not like Tolkien tried to hide it at all or the serious folks looking into him didn't make that obvious...

 

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Parmandur

Book-Friend, he/him
Just look at any discussion where it gets brought up how Brooks copied from Tolkien. We just had it recently. Folks will tear into Brooks and elevate Tolkien but completely ignore how Tolkien did the same.
...

Weeeeell, nooooooo. Not at all

Tolkien drew on and used a lot of material from all over. But in the final analysis, the plot and characters of Lord of the Rings are quite original in many ways.

Brooks intentionally was engaging in a totally valid writing exercise where he dissected books he liked and put them back together with legally distinct markings (since he was a smart lawyer). It was copy-pasta, which is a different animal. That doesnapply to his latter works, but the original Shanara books were painted by numbers, which is a valid way to learn how to paint. Brooks did it with other authors and genres before Tolkien, so he had gotten good at that and had a product right when Lester Del Rey needed it, and then was anle.tongo full tike and grow as an original storyteller. For me, it's not even shameful that he was blatantly copying, because that how one learns artistic skills.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
Yeah, the timeline doesn't match up, it seems. Actually a good third of this essay is Anderson comparing his approach to Elves with Tolkien, and what different influences and goals they were going for in their stories. A very good analysis, really, Anderson was a smart dude.

That said, I firmly believe that Gygax was more influenced by the Hobvit than he wanted to admit after being sued.

On that .... I think that a bunch of different things can be true. And I will list them:

1. Gygax's statements were often self-serving. I've done enough historical research to know that he would contradict himself, and that he would outright lie about things for his benefit (look at his taking credit for the creation of the Thief class, for example, despite published information to the contrary). So yes, take his comments with a giant grain of salt.

2. I agree with Jon Peterson's analysis that the fantasy rules for Chainmail was "based off of" (took large elements from!) Batle of Pelennor Fields, which was a wargame that was ... yeah, completely Tolkien. That means that the fantasy rules for Chainmail borrowed from a Tolkien game. And if you look at those rules, you see it.

3. That said, I also completely believe Gygax when he says that he wasn't a huge Tolkien fan. Again, you have to remember his age and his time. For him, Tolkien was almost "uncool," because it's what the "new kids" and the "young kids" were into. The real fans (like him!) were into the swords and sorcery. I believe that he really preferred the multitude of authors he listed, and that they were that influential. It's why he immediately brought Leiber into the fold. Hero worship, of a kind.

4. On the other hand, Tolkien was immensely popular in the 70s, and Gygax was a businessman. And (second-order design!) the people that were playing were also Tolkien fans. So it's no surprise that a fan, for example, wrote in their submission for a Ranger class that later got codified into AD&D.

5. So I think that Tolkien was both more influential than Gygax admitted, but also less influential than people today think. Because Tolkien is so omnipresent, it is easy to both see the things that were obviously "Tolkien" but also to read Tolkien influence into things that were not a product of Tolkien, but actually came from other sources. Most people today lack a familiarity with the other sources and the general gestalt of the time, so everything becomes Tolkien.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
...

Weeeeell, nooooooo. Not at all

Tolkien drew on and used a lot of material from all over. But in the final analysis, the plot and characters of Lord of the Rings are quite original in many ways.

Brooks intentionally was engaging in a totally valid writing exercise where he dissected books he liked and put them back together with legally distinct markings (since he was a smart lawyer). It was copy-pasta, which is a different animal. That doesnapply to his latter works, but the original Shanara books were painted by numbers, which is a valid way to learn how to paint. Brooks did it with other authors and genres before Tolkien, so he had gotten good at that and had a product right when Lester Del Rey needed it, and then was anle.tongo full tike and grow as an original storyteller. For me, it's not even shameful that he was blatantly copying, because that how one learns artistic skills.

I disagree. I'm not sure how one can say Tolkien's characters and plots were original, especially when compared to Wagner's The Ring Cycle. Cursed ring of power where one brother kills the other for it? (Um..Smeagol?). Gandalf is a divine being dressed in grey robes, long grey beard, pointy wizard's hat, and staff? A character who "dies" and later comes back more powerful? A character with a special unique horse? A character who's earthly form is lesser than their true power? That's a carbon copy of Odin from the Eddas.

Brooks used the Heroic Journey trope and elves and dwarves, but that's pretty much it. There are more similarities between Gandalf and Odin than there are Allanon and Gandalf. Brook's plot was his, while Tolkien literally copied plots from folklore, almost word for word.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend, he/him
I disagree. I'm not sure how one can say Tolkien's characters and plots were original, especially when compared to Wagner's The Ring Cycle. Cursed ring of power where one brother kills the other for it? (Um..Smeagol?). Gandalf is a divine being dressed in grey robes, long grey beard, pointy wizard's hat, and staff? A character who "dies" and later comes back more powerful? A character with a special unique horse? A character who's earthly form is lesser than their true power? That's a carbon copy of Odin from the Eddas.

Brooks used the Heroic Journey trope and elves and dwarves, but that's pretty much it. There are more similarities between Gandalf and Odin than there are Allanon and Gandalf. Brook's plot was his, while Tolkien literally copied plots from folklore, almost word for word.
No, there is a qualitative difference. Is Gandalf an example of the Odinic Wanderer? For sure. Is there a magic ring? Certainly (though Tolkien didn't care for Wagner, interestingly, he waa goijg to sources before him). But he is using broad tropes in a new and fresh way.

In Sowrd of Shanara, by Brooka own admittance, every plot event and character has an exact parallel in Lord of the Rings. He was filing off serial numbers, deconstructing the structure and putting it back together looking at the blueprints from Tolkien. Tolkien built a new building with old bricks on a new architectural plan he devised himself.

It's no shade on Brooks, but that's what he did. And it is distinctly different, and obviously so going back to the sources Rolkien used and comparing what he did with them.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend, he/him
On that .... I think that a bunch of different things can be true. And I will list them:

1. Gygax's statements were often self-serving. I've done enough historical research to know that he would contradict himself, and that he would outright lie about things for his benefit (look at his taking credit for the creation of the Thief class, for example, despite published information to the contrary). So yes, take his comments with a giant grain of salt.

2. I agree with Jon Peterson's analysis that the fantasy rules for Chainmail was "based off of" (took large elements from!) Batle of Pelennor Fields, which was a wargame that was ... yeah, completely Tolkien. That means that the fantasy rules for Chainmail borrowed from a Tolkien game. And if you look at those rules, you see it.

3. That said, I also completely believe Gygax when he says that he wasn't a huge Tolkien fan. Again, you have to remember his age and his time. For him, Tolkien was almost "uncool," because it's what the "new kids" and the "young kids" were into. The real fans (like him!) were into the swords and sorcery. I believe that he really preferred the multitude of authors he listed, and that they were that influential. It's why he immediately brought Leiber into the fold. Hero worship, of a kind.

4. On the other hand, Tolkien was immensely popular in the 70s, and Gygax was a businessman. And (second-order design!) the people that were playing were also Tolkien fans. So it's no surprise that a fan, for example, wrote in their submission for a Ranger class that later got codified into AD&D.

5. So I think that Tolkien was both more influential than Gygax admitted, but also less influential than people today think. Because Tolkien is so omnipresent, it is easy to both see the things that were obviously "Tolkien" but also to read Tolkien influence into things that were not a product of Tolkien, but actually came from other sources. Most people today lack a familiarity with the other sources and the general gestalt of the time, so everything becomes Tolkien.
I would say I agree with all thar, but I don't hinkle Tolkien was "that hip thing the new kids are into" to Gygax, because the Hobvit was a massively popular children's book...when he was a child. I doubt he didn't read it as a child. And LotR came out when he was a teen, and I tend to doubt that he didn't read it relatively early, though the Hobvit influence is more marked. Again, I will point to the use of the word "Dungeon" in D&D thar as far as I can tell was only used that way in English by Tolkien in the Hobbit prior to 1974.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
In Sowrd of Shanara, by Brooka own admittance, every plot event and character has an exact parallel in Lord of the Rings. He was filing off serial numbers, deconstructing the structure and putting it back together looking at the blueprints from Tolkien. Tolkien built a new building with old bricks on a new architectural plan he devised himself.
I don't believe he said that. I've met the man a few times, and one of those times someone asked him that question, and he replied that he captured the feel of Tolkien because the publisher wanted it, but he didn't "admit that he copied it as an exact parallel". Looking at the book, and that's evident he didn't do that. No orcs or goblins. No divine influence. No hoarding dragon. Gnomes and Trolls were completely different. There was similarity in the feel of elves and dwarves, and how the big bad was a fallen hero at one point, but that's pretty much it. Unless you're arguing that Tolkien and no one else created the "group of heroes fighting a big bad guy" trope.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
I would say I agree with all thar, but I don't hinkle Tolkien was "that hip thing the new kids are into" to Gygax, because the Hobvit was a massively popular children's book...when he was a child. I doubt he didn't read it as a child. And LotR came out when he was a teen, and I tend to doubt that he didn't read it relatively early, though the Hobvit influence is more marked. Again, I will point to the use of the word "Dungeon" in D&D thar as far as I can tell was only used that way in English by Tolkien in the Hobbit prior to 1974.

Well, on that the use was certainly more diffuse, and Gygax didn't originate the term. The idea for "dungeons" came specifically from Arneson. It was his idea to have the dungeons underneath the castle as a place for the players (using individual characters) to adventure, and then he showed it off to Gygax. Blackmoor, Greyhawk, et al.

And so I find that double unlikely- first, the idea of "dungeons" beneath a castle had widespread usage prior to Tolkien. Second, Gygax didn't "borrow" it from Tolkien. He used it because of Arneson. It would be an example, unless we had more, of people reading Tolkien back into D&D.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend, he/him
I don't believe he said that. I've met the man a few times, and one of those times someone asked him that question, and he replied that he captured the feel of Tolkien because the publisher wanted it, but he didn't "admit that he copied it as an exact parallel". Looking at the book, and that's evident he didn't do that. No orcs or goblins. No divine influence. No hoarding dragon. Gnomes and Trolls were completely different. There was similarity in the feel of elves and dwarves, and how the big bad was a fallen hero at one point, but that's pretty much it. Unless you're arguing that Tolkien and no one else created the "group of heroes fighting a big bad guy" trope.
I mean, I read Brooks autobiography where he is quite honest about what he did: Sword of Shanara was an exercise in taking a book apart and putting it back together in his own words. It's not really an arguable point, that's what he was doing, and he did it well?
 

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