Monday, 17 September 2012

Tolkien, Asimov Etc

The Broken Sword, based on Icelandic sagas and both contemporary with and independent of Tolkien, established Poul Anderson as a writer of fantasy in the same year that Brain Wave established him as a writer of science fiction (sf). The Broken Sword was followed by several other fantasy novels by Anderson and influenced Michael Moorcock's Elric series.

Despite all this, Tolkien and Moorcock remain better known names in fantasy than Anderson, just as Heinlein and Asimov are better known in sf. Heinlein's Future History is a major work. Anderson's History of Technic Civilisation is a major, larger scale successor, superior in every way to Asimov's Foundation Series. Like many sf writers, Anderson is a successor of Wells and Heinlein. Like Tolkien, he is a successor of the Edda and saga writers.

Some people reread The Lord Of The Rings repeatedly. I have read it twice, once way back and a second time after seeing the first film. I notice that Tolkien offers no explanation for the origin of the various races. They awoke. That is it. At one stage, the characters fight what sounds like a winged dinosaur, described as left over from an earlier age, as if to make a single concession to Darwin. A former acquaintance who was a critical reader told me that he stopped reading The Fellowship Of The Ring after about 100 pages because it seemed to be a uni-dimensional narrative without any deeper layers of meaning.

I find Anderson endlessly re-readable, also that the more often his texts are read, the more there is to be found in them.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

First, I agree with you in finding the works of Poul Anderson perennially rereadable. I'm now rereading the collection called NEW AMERICA. And I plan to reread GOING FOR INFINITY after that book.

Second, however, I disagree with your former acquaintance's comment about Tolkien's THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING being "unidimensional." Like Anderson's works, I find find many layers and depths of meaning in THE SILMARILLION, THE CHILDREN OF HURIN, THE HOBBIT, and LOTR, which makes them amply worth rereading.

Commentators like Paul Kocher, Tom Shippey, Lin Carter, Peter Kreeft, etc., have found many layers of thought relating to philosophy and theology in THE LORD OF THE RINGS. i esp. recommend Kreeft's THE PHILOSOPHY OF TOLKIEN. And see Poul Anderson's essay "Awakening the Elves" (in MEDITATIONS ON MIDDLE EARTH, 2001)to see how Tolkien had affected him.


Paul Shackley said...

Thank you. I expected some informed disagreement with that judgement about Tolkien.