Boy, am I going to get hate-mail for this.
But that's OK--you can call me many things, but
not a hypocrite. I have written a fantasy novel,
despite the fact that I don't like fantasy at all...
this little joke I invented some time ago: the "Generic
Fantasy Title Generator." Use this handy device
to randomly generate titles for books, games and
films! Just combine words from the following lists
into fantasy titles:
WIZARD, WARLOCK, ELF, HOBBIT, KING, QUEEN, ORC,
SWORD, DAGGER, SCEPTRE, SPEAR, STONE, JEWEL, CROWN,
Relevant Astronomical Object:
SUN, EARTH, STAR/S
SHADOW, NIGHT, LIGHT, DAWN, SILVER, GOLD
THE, OF, OVER
"A Dawn of Unicorns"
"The Sun Dagger King's Quest"
"Fall of the Hobbit-King's Shadowquest of the Moonsword
it? It's just as easy to write the content of the
book to go with the title--in fact, easier. Too
much fantasy is a third-rate rip-off of Tolkien's
The Lord of The Rings.
in the post-World War era of popular literature,
Generic Fantasy became the be-all and end-all escape
device. It was so easy to write. No bothering with
grounding your book in reality, with all its annoying
demands. Just assume that everything in your book
takes place in a "Secondary World", and you can
write anything you want... that is, rigidly repeat
the same old pattern "Quest For Magic Object X,
to kill Evil Badguy Y and free Princess/Country/Whatever
OK... granted, there is a very real need for mythology
and fairytales in all cultures. There is a hidden
wisdom in fairytales and myths. However, Generic
Fantasy involves something that does not contain
any wisdom at all. The Standardized Genre Book Industry's
purpose is not to educate, but to pander. You notice
quickly the basic difference between a genuine fairytale
and a Generic Fantasy book.
TALE MORAL: Do Not Go Alone Into The Forest, Unless
You Absolutely Have To.
FANTASY MORAL: Buy the next volume in the exciting
Trilogy of the Second Part of the Fourth Saga, and
postpone the much-awaited resolution forever!
to the demands of the mass market -- simply put:
"Make'em buy the next book" --Generic Fantasy has
become a perpetual "Coitus Interruptus." The "Big
Saga" will never be resolved, unless the sales figures
go down. The same phenomenon is present in science
fiction. Another "DUNE" book by another team of
hackwriters? What next? Will they dig up Frank Herbert's
corpse and stick a typewriter under his crumbling
skeletal hands to make it look like he's still writing?
Let him rest in peace! OK?
is no wisdom in that--just arrested development.
Speaking of which-- and now I'm gonna stick my neck
out against legions of passionate fans--I think
The Lord of The Rings is too long and boring.
happen to love fairy tales. I listened to them a
lot as a child. My grandmother used to tell me stories
about the mythical giants of ancient Sweden, and
the man who tricked them to get the secret of the
copper mines (as retold by Nobel Prize-winning author
Selma Lagerlöf in The Amazing Journey of Nils
The Lord of The Rings (TLOTR) is not a genuine
fairytale, though. Fairytales are the products of
entire cultures, created over generations as people
pass them on from mouth to mouth. Tolkien's book
is the archetypal "Generic Fantasy," the product
of a well educated academic of British middle class
society. He may talk the talk, but Tolkien can't
walk the walk.
things in TLOTR are conspicuous by their absence.
Grownups, for instance. The Hobbits act in every
way like children (their refusal to wear shoes is
symbolic in this respect, I think). The authority
figures (read: Gandalf) are described the way you'd
expect little children to think of their parents:
physically larger, possessing mystical knowledge,
secretive, at once benevolent and intimidating.
And I demand to know, "WHERE ARE ALL THE WOMEN?"
I'm not going to be so low as to suggest that Frodo
is gay (like certain academics love to)", but he
certainly has a problem relating to females. The
whole world of the book seems frozen in time. No
one is ever born, and it appears hobbits never really
genuine archaic folk myth like King Arthur and
the Knights of the Round Table (or the Celtic
myths it stems from) contains sex and death. That
means, the characters are born, grow old, procreate,
die, and they are capable of emotional complexity.
That is why they feel real, and their tragedy moves
"took" the old myths, "stripped" them of love, sex,
death, complexity and anything that smacked of depth.
We are left with a hollow myth. For God's sake,
what's the "message" at the heart of the book? What
do the enchanted rings represent?
maybe. In Tolkien's world, all change is bad. Frodo
and his fellow Hobbits are utterly reluctant to
leave their village and get on with their quest,
which makes the first 100 pages of the book painfully
slow to read, but also suggests that Tolkien would
have preferred a story where nothing at all happened.
critics have interpreted TLOTR as an anti-technological
metaphor. Mordor and the Rings represent the big,
bad machines and factories of the Industrial Revolution,
and the Hobbits are the nice rural squires who fight
for the preservation of traditional culture. I would
have agreed, if the book had been more mature--but
it isn't. What truly creeps me out about TLOTR are
the many metaphors for child abuse.
Gollum character (especially in the much superior,
shorter "prequel" The Hobbit) speaks and
acts like a caricature of a perverted old man or
mental degenerate who preys on children (i.e. little
Hobbits). Indeed, Gollum is killed at the end of
the story, just because of his perverted desire
for the Ring--desire so insistent, one can't help
but think it is a sexual fetish.
act of putting the "magic ring" on one's finger
can, with little effort, be read as a metaphor for
the sexual act itself. It is striking how often
Frodo is warned not to "wear the ring," and how
this act is supposed to "corrupt its owner." Make
of it what you will, but all fairytales reek of
subtext, and here it seems to read:
up is bad."
must not thread my 'Little Finger' through the 'Golden
must destroy the 'Golden Ring' before it destroys
People who lust for the 'Golden Ring' die, people
like nasty old Gollum."
there's a scary subtext.
apologize if I hurt the feelings of all the Tolkien
fans out there, but those are my honest opinions,
based on reason and feeling.
rather read real fairytales and old legends than
any Generic Fantasy novel.
some recommended reading, as an alternative to Generic
Thomas Malory, Le Morte D'Arthur (The King
The Brothers Grimm Tales
mythology (as collected in The Elder Edda
by Snorre Sturlasson)
1001 Arabian Nights (not the censored version)
mythology (Old Testament, Hindu, Native American,
© A.R. Yngve 2000 All Rights Reserved
in 1969, A.R.Yngve was a cartoonist before turning
to writing in the 1990s. He currently publishes
his (illustrated) novels on his website, at: