tolkien’s toy

A call for “best fantasy” lists over at the inestimable Crooked Timber soon devolves into a Tolkien vs LeGuin wrangle. More intriguing than the usual Tolkien vs Peake; but not so interesting as, say, The Lord of the Rings vs The Journal of Albion Moonlight or The Street of Crocodiles. In fact, given that Tolkien has so many possible “opposites” –a comparison with any of which might tell us something about both the Prof & his adult toy–maybe we could have some suggestions ? I’d nominate Iris Murdoch’s The Flight from the Enchanter & Tree of Smoke, by Denis Johnson. In the one, we have a Dark Lord whose charisma is very clearly the sum of the needs of his victims–who exists solely because they need him to, & who may, anyway, actually be their rightful king; in the other, a Fellowship predicated on a disinformation operation, in which not only the Ring but the quest itself may be an invention, & in which the Orcs are convinced that they are the good guys. (That reminds me, why has no one ever compared The Lord of the Rings to Smiley’s People ? Both novels from the Cold War period, one from the beginning, one from the middle.)

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4 responses to “tolkien’s toy

  1. Kralin

    Like the idea of the Le Carre. The similarities continue as the three (main) Smiley novels were published as a trilogy.

    Maybe nobody’s compared them because the Le Carre novels wipe the floor with Tolkien.

  2. Greg

    Funny you should mention Bruno Schulz. He lies somewhere on the Kubin – Peake continuum …

    Suggestion: Alan Moore, From Hell: the dark lord as protector, of the queen, of society, especially women.

  3. Or maybe DWJ’s Dark Lord of Derkhelm in which the whole fantasy saga is laid on as a tourist trail.

  4. mikefleetham

    Does ‘best fantasy’ maybe lie somewhere on the locus that begins with our personal ‘here-now’ and disappears into a hazy ‘there-then’? Does it squat at a point where we most need it to be? I’m suggesting that mundane Geoff Ryman has tethered himself close to one end while Tolkien, unleashed, quests on towards the other. Aged 9 H. Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat romps sat at the right ‘there-then’ for me. Now I can understand LeCarre (closer in time&space) filling the same need. Just a thought, maybe way off the mark, but a possible frame for thinking about personal ‘best fantasy’.