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Talkin’ about Tolkien

By Karen Hansord.

A whole month has passed in the new year and millions of people, including myself, are counting down the months, days and minutes until The Hobbit: There and Back Again is released in December of this year.

The Hobbit and the sequel trilogy Lord of the Rings are masterpieces in literature written by J.R.R Tolkien, otherwise known to many writers as the ‘Godfather of Fantasy’. With only eleven months to go until the last Hobbit film is released, it seems to be the perfect opportunity to explore how Tolkien has influenced literature and pop culture nowadays in the 21st century.

Fantasy writers in general are influenced by the works of Tolkien. He had set an almost impossible goal of creating a universe that was as detailed, rich and immense as that of Middle-Earth.

When reading the Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling, one can instantly tell that she was inspired by some elements in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, most notably the similarities between Voldemort and Sauron.

How are they similar, I hear you ask?

Well, both villains are introduced as being very weak and in need of a specific object to regain power or to destroy their enemy. In Harry Potter, Voldemort needs the Philosopher’s Stone and later the Elder Wand to be able to defeat Harry.

In Lord of the Rings, Sauron needs the One Ring to be able to defeat the entirety of Middle-Earth.

Let us also not forget that both series contain giant spiders – Aragog in Harry Potter and Shelob in Lord of the Rings.

Another writer who was greatly influenced by Tolkien was the now-late Robert Jorden, author of the highly acclaimed Wheel of Time series.

In the novel The Great Hunt, Jorden names an inn ‘The Nine Rings’ – a direct reference to the nine rings that were given to the nine Kings of Men in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

It is so geeky, it’s cute.

The influence of Tolkien also extends to gaming and pop culture.

Video games such as World of Warcraft, the Elder Scrolls series and Dungeons and Dragons have Tolkien to thank for examples of what Dwarves and Elves should look like.

In pop culture, Lord of the Rings has been the subject of numerous parodies and songs. I don’t see how anyone could forget YouTube favourites; ‘They’re taking the Hobbits to Isengaurd’ and ‘Mashed Taters’.

When one tries to imagine a world where J.R.R Tolkien never existed and Middle-Earth was never created it seems almost unimaginable. Where would fantasy writers be without Tolkien? What would fantasy games be like without Lord of the Rings? And what would I watch for eight hours when I have nothing to do all day?

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