J.R.R. Tolkien

Mr. Tolkien —

Greetings.

Will I ever forget these epic lines of yours?

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

Thank you for helping begin the proliferation of the modern fantasy genre

Thank you for getting me started in constructing languages and religions and maps

Thank you for showing me how a true leader ought to act — like a king such as Aragorn or Théoden

Thank you for the writing highest model of friendship — Sam and Frodo

Thank you for the beautiful tribute to love in the tale of Beren and Lúthien

Thank you for the Silmarillion, whose tragic beauty (“it has passed from the high and the beautiful to darkness and ruin”) will haunt my soul forever

Thank you for your warning on human folly and hubris, when you wrote about Númenor

Thank you for reminding me, before anyone else did, that “day shall come again” (Silmarillion); and that “faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens” (The Fellowship of the Ring); and also that:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost. (The Fellowship of the Ring)

And thank you for inspiring the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy that my brother and I must have watched over 50 times. This is still my adrenaline pill.

Many thanks, good sir. You are a most admirable man — a gentleman, war hero, and scholar of the highest caliber. I’m not blind to some of the criticisms of your works: its moral absolutism, the portrayal of non-Western humans, or of orcs, its excessive focus on description and travel, and so on. Or perhaps that criticism that too many works of fantasy were imperfect rip-offs of your work. These arguments all have validity. But on balance, admiration and appreciation win out.

Thank you.

-Akhi

Advertisements

In Defense of “Filmamir”

12019966_10153025170001502_6080297882256071044_n

Madeleine Cassier
Producer
Website | Twitter | GoodreadsBookTube

If you happened to read my previous post, “In the Shadow of ‘The Ring’,” you know I’m not the biggest fan of Tolkien. And, if you haven’t read that then, well, now you know: Tolkien and I don’t get along. But Peter Jackson and I? We have a much better relationship. Sure, his films can be overlong and easily criticized as “indulgent,” but there’s no denying he did something amazing with his film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings. In a time when fantasy was not selling well onscreen, Jackson undertook what could be lotrtwotowersconsidered one of the biggest and most ambitious film projects in the history of the business, to craft what would ultimately become both a critically and commercially successful fantasy film trilogy. With an overall budget somewhere around $300-million, The Lord of the Rings film trilogy grossed a grand total of almost $3-billion which, when unadjusted for inflation, makes it the bestselling film trilogy of all time. Not only that, the films walked away with a combined 17 Academy Awards; the third film, The Return of the King, currently sits in a 3-way tie with Ben-Hur and Titanic for most awards won for a single film.

But on a more personal note, Jackson made me actually enjoy Tolkien’s trilogy. Shocking, I know. But, as with any adaptation — especially of something perceived as a “classic” — there have been many controversies over the various adaptive changes from books to films within Jackson’s cinematic trilogy. One in particular even garnered its own, ire-filled name amongst purist detractors: “Filmamir.”

“Filmamir” — or, the film version of Faramir — as portrayed by actor David Wenham, represents one of Jackson’s greatest deviations from the source material: a combination of imagination and a need to balance the pacing of the storytelling within the cinematic trilogy. Faramir’s storyline, therefore, especially within the Two Towers film, is largely the invention of Jackson and the three other screenwriters.

And, quite frankly, not only do I like the change, but I think it improves upon the original material.

Continue reading

Levels of Magic

552353_3422252960261_735548649_n.jpg

Akhi Pillalamarri
Head Web Content Contributor
Twitter | Website

 

While the fantasy genre is often associated with the need for a presence of magic or the supernatural, I would argue that need not always be the case. Could a fantasy novel not, instead, solely feature complex world-building with different lands, societies, and customs without the presence of magic? I believe so. Recently, several members of Backroom Whispering Productions read The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson, a 2015 hard-fantasy novel from Tor Books that features neither magic nor the supernatural, nor are there strange beasts or creatures. It is, instead, merely a fictional world entirely separate from our own, with customs, cultures, and technologies not found on Earth. And, yet, it is fantasy, especially if one assumes that certain seemingly supernatural elements or sentient races can be explained by the physical laws of their respective fictional worlds.For example, the otherwise magic-free 2014 fantasy novel The Goblin Emperor contains species such as Goblins and Elves, which for all we know, could have evolved naturally in that world.

Continue reading

A Brief History of Modern Fantasy

 552353_3422252960261_735548649_n.jpg

Akhi Pillalamarri
Head Web Content Contributor
Twitter | Website

 

A COMPANION TO TBT 07

Our most recent podcast on the “Evolution of Fantasy” featured a spirited debate about our favorite genre, from how we each defined “fantasy” to what we consider its developmental timeline. One of our biggest points of disagreement was about when what is considered “modern” fantasy started. Despite this, we at least had some general agreement that the publication of The Lord of the Rings‘ first volume, The Fellowship of the Ring, in 1954 marked a significant turning point for the marketing and publishing of the fantasy genre.

To bounce off of this initial discussion, I wanted to write a brief history of what happened after 1950s, with some admitted speculation on my part.

Continue reading

In the Shadow of ‘The Ring’

12019966_10153025170001502_6080297882256071044_n

Madeleine Cassier
Producer
Website | Twitter | GoodreadsBookTube

A Companion to TBT Episode 07

Unpopular opinion alert: I’m not the biggest fan of Tolkien — specifically, of The Lord of the Rings.

516GyHY9p6LI know this is essentially heresy to admit to the teeming hordes of guys and gals who, like me, adore the fantasy genre. But, alas, ’tis true that I am not on the side of Mr. J.R.R. Despite this general dislike, I’m relatively fair-minded and can acknowledge that The Lord of the Rings is one of the most recognizable works of the fantasy genre — even with more modern series such as George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, The Lord of the Rings is the ultimate poster-child for marketing fantasy to a mainstream audience.

That being said: I don’t think that Tolkien “inventedmodern fantasy as we know it. This, I’m sure, is also going to rankle even more people, especially given that many people would argue that The Lord of the Rings “created ‘fantasy’ as a marketing category” (Yolen, After the King: Stories in Honour of J.R.R. Tolkien), despite the fact that fantasy existed long before Tolkien published his trilogy. 

But I don’t want to talk about the myriad of works previous to Tolkien…I actually just want to talk about one: Der Ring des Nibelungen, or The Ring of the Nibelung by Richard Wagner.

41Um5nZQuXL._SY355_For those of you unfamiliar with German opera: The Ring Cycle, as it’s frequently called, is a cycle of four opera seria (dramatic operas) written about a century before Tolkien, that’s loosely based on characters from Germanic and Norse mythological sagas, specifically the Volsunga saga and the Nibelungenlied. Its got giants, dwarves, gods, forbidden romances, action, adventure — basically everything you could ever want from an epic fantasy story, and all across four operas which, when performed, are staged over the course of several days.

Even with all of those elements, at the very centre of this massive tale is a magic ring fashioned from Rhine gold that allows its bearer to rule the world.

Sound familiar?

Continue reading

TBT 06: Sex in Fantasy Literature

In this special Valentine’s Day episode, a panel of Whisperers teases apart different ways sex is treated (or ignored) in fantasy literature. We cover works from Harry Potter to Anita Blake and all sorts in between. We recommend that only mature audiences join us for this lively discussion of “the juicy bits” of fantasy!

For listeners of The Book Table, Audible is offering a free audiobook and a 30-day free trial! Sign up at http://audibletrial.com/TheBookTable.

In this episode you heard from:
Stephen (Moderator)
Dorothy | @bwp_dorothy
Madeleine | @madnbooks
Rebecca | @rumy91989
Dave |
Akhi | @akhipill
Thomas |

The Book Table is a podcast from Backroom Whispering Productions. Our theme music is by Mark Wayne.

If you liked this podcast, rate us on iTunes! Or get in touch with us:
Twitter | @BackroomWhisper
Facebook | facebook.com/BackroomWhispering
Email | BackroomWhispering@gmail.com

 

What Fantasy Taught Me About Love

552353_3422252960261_735548649_n.jpg

Akhi Pillalamarri
Head Web Content Contributor
Twitter | Website

 

Hello readers and friends! Valentine’s Day is approaching and be sure to tune in to listen to our special Book Table episode about sex in fantasy, which will be released on the 10th! Plus, our very own Dorothy will have a special follow-up post for that day. We also had a nanosode about a married couple who write together- February seems to be the month for talk about romance.

Today, however, I’m going to talk about some of the lessons of romance, love, and moving on that I’ve gleaned from reading fantasy. One of the reasons I love fantasy so much is that as I immerse myself in worlds and their characters, I learn, through empathy or example, so much about life. These are not things one can learn from reading abstract philosophy or history that deals with power struggles and interstate interactions on a scale not relevant to daily life. There’s something about the struggle of a heroic character in fantasy, even when he or she is flawed, that inspires one to be a better person. When you live out a character’s struggles in literature, it sometimes makes you a stronger person.

Spoiler-warning

This post contains minor spoilers for both The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and the second Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson.

Continue reading

Setting the Story: Medieval vs Early Modern

552353_3422252960261_735548649_n.jpg

Akhi Pillalamarri
Head Web Content Contributor
Twitter | Website

Fantasy, as a genre, has largely been associated with the Middle Ages. While this is obviously not always the case, especially with those stories set in the real world (many of which, like Harry Potter, take place in contemporary times), there is some truth to this. The fantasy movement did grow out of the Romantic movement of the 19th century, which was, in part, a reaction against the science and rationalism of the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution. The “Medievalism” of fantasy is related the genre’s use of magic, awe, emotions, folklore and escapism, as alternatives to the increasingly rationality, homogeneity, and banality of modern existence.

Thus, most constructed fantasy worlds, both historical and mythical, are essentially Medieval European in nature. These can either be based off of the Dark Ages (500-1000) of early Medieval Europe, which gives off an “empty-world” sort of feeling, or the more crowded and better-historically documented High Middle Ages (1000-1350). Jump forward a bit, and you may or may not be in the fantasy genre anymore. This is when you get to Steampunk based off of the 19th century Victorian Era, or the slightly later Dieselpunk, based off of the “interwar period” (1918-1939) through the 1950s. Relatively little fantasy is set in worlds inspired by the ancient and classical periods of human history. 

Continue reading

Worldbuilding: A Look at the Empty Spaces

552353_3422252960261_735548649_n.jpg

Akhi Pillalamarri
Head Web Content Contributor
Twitter | Website

 

During this most recent Thanksgiving vacation, my brother and I ended up watching parts of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies on television. This is not an uncommon occurrence; we’ve immersed ourselves in the beautiful scenery from Middle Earth countless times.

While watching the third Hobbit movie, Battle of the Five Armies, this time, I happened to notice and remark on something that always struck me about Middle Earth: it is, for the most part, a vast and empty place. While there are some settled regions that give us either a stately (Gondor) or cozy (Shire) vibe, settlements are few are far between, and the breathtaking beauty can be quite lonely. Unlike in the real world, where there are people and tribes everywhere (like Rohan), the settlements of this world, like Bree and Dale, are few and far between.

Continue reading