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Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy Mass Market Paperback – 29 Nov 2005

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4.2 out of 5 stars 9 reviews from Amazon.com |

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Mass Market Paperback, 29 Nov 2005
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From the Inside Flap

Terry Brooks. David Eddings. George R. R. Martin. Robin Hobb. The top names in modern fantasy all acknowledge J. R. R. Tolkien as their role model, the author whose work inspired them to create their own epics. But what writers influenced Tolkien himself? Here, internationally recognized Tolkien expert Douglas A. Anderson has gathered the fiction of authors who sparked Tolkien's imagination in a collection destined to become a classic in its own right.
Andrew Lang's romantic swashbuckler, "The Story of Sigurd," features magic rings, an enchanted sword, and a brave hero loved by two beautiful women-- and cursed by a ferocious dragon. Tolkien read E. A. Wyke-Smith's "The Marvelous Land of Snergs" to his children, delighting in these charming tales of a pixieish people "only slightly taller than the average table." Also appearing in this collection is a never-before-published gem by David Lindsay, author of "Voyage to Arcturus," a novel which Tolkien praised highly both as a thriller and as a work of philosophy, religion, and morals.
In stories packed with magical journeys, conflicted heroes, and terrible beasts, this extraordinary volume is one that no fan of fantasy or Tolkien should be without. These tales just might inspire a new generation of creative writers.

Tales Before Tolkien: 22 Magical Stories
"The Elves" by Ludwig Tieck
"The Golden Key" by George Macdonald
"Puss-Cat Mew" by E. H. Knatchbull-Hugessen
"The Griffin and the Minor Canon" by Frank R. Stockton
"The Demon Pope" by Richard Garnett
"The Story of Sigurd" by Andrew Lang
"The Folk of the Mountain Door" by William Morris
"Black Heart and White Heart" by H. Rider Haggard
"The DragonTamers" by E. Nesbit
"The Far Islands" by John Buchan
"The Drawn Arrow" by Clemence Housman
"The Enchanted Buffalo" by L. Frank Baum
"Chu-bu and Sheemish" by Lord Dunsany
"The Baumhoff Explosive" by William Hope Hodgson
"The Regent of the North" by Kenneth Morris
"The Coming of the Terror" by Arthur Machen
"The Elf Trap" by Francis Stevens
"The Thin Queen of Elfhame" by James Branch Cabell
"The Woman of the Wood" by A. Merritt
"Golithos the Ogre" by E. A. Wyke-Smith
"The Story of Alwina" by Austin Tappan Wright
"A Christmas Play" by David Lindsay

Once upon a time, fantasy writers were looked down upon by the literary mainstream as purveyors of mere escapism or, at best, bedtime tales fit only for children. Today fantasy novels stand atop the bestseller lists, while fantasy films smash box office records. Fantasy dominates the role-playing and computer gaming industries, and classic works in the genre are taught in schools and universities throughout the world. Credit for this amazing turnaround belongs to one man more than any other: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, the beloved author of "The Hobbit and "The Lord of the Rings.
Terry Brooks. Robert Jordan. Terry Goodkind. George R.R. Martin. The top names in modern fantasy all acknowledge J.R.R. Tolkien as their model and master, the author whose work first fired their imaginations and inspired them to create their own epics. But what writers influenced Tolkien? Sir Isaac Newton once wrote, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." As with the scientific genius of Newton, so, too, with the literary genius of Tolkien. Now internationally recognized Tolkien expertDouglas A. Anderson has gathered the fiction of some of those giants together for the first time in a collection destined to become a classic in its own right.
In "The Golden Key," the inspiration for Tolkien's short story "Smith of Wootton Major, George Macdonald tells the tale of a boy whose quest for the end of the rainbow leads beyond the borders of the world. Andrew Lang's romantic swashbuckler, "The Story of Sigurd," features magic rings, an enchanted sword, and a brave hero loved by two beautiful women--and cursed by an evil dragon. Tolkien read E.A. Wyke-Smith's "Marvelous Land of Snergs to his children, delighted with these charming tales of a pixieish people "only slightly taller than the average table." Creatures with a fondness for human flesh are featured in Lord Dunsany's "The Hoard of the Gibbelins," in which Alderic, a knight, sets out to rob the evil, man-eating Gibbelins of their fabled treasure-trove.
In stories packed with magical journeys, conflicted heroes, and terrible beasts, this extraordinary volume is one that no fan of fantasy or Tolkien should be without. These tales just might inspire a new generation of creative writers. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Douglas A. Anderson, a leading American Tolkien scholar, is acknowledged as the worldwide expert on the textual history of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and has contributed the textual notes for all Houghton Mifflin editions of these titles for more than a decade. He has been a bookseller, in Ithaca, New York and northwest Indiana. He now lives in southwestern Michigan. He is the editor of The Annotated Hobbit.

From the Hardcover edition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars 9 reviews
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice book for the curious 4 Aug. 2008
By J. Elliott - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is more focused on what Tolkien might have been reading at the time and "might" have sparked the imagination for his stories on than anything else. He once said that he wanted to create a kind of modern mythology for his time. So this collection is a nice primer if you want to know about earlier stories we don't hear too much about today. Researching and finding all these in the library would be tedious. And it's nice if you are a writer or a fan who wants to know where many of our modern stories came from.

If you are strictly a Lord of the Rings fan, though and want to know specifically where Tolkien pulled much of his inspiration from, including the ring myth, I would highly recommend "Tolkien's Ring" by David Day and Allan Lee. It is packed full of the ancient mythology, names, etc. he most likely used.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction to pre-Tolkien fantasy 6 Aug. 2014
By Mike - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book contains a diverse selection of short "literary fairy tales" written before Tolkien published The Hobbit. It is not, however, aimed at the Tolkien scholar: while some of the stories in this book very clearly influenced Tolkien, many others did not. Some are quite different in tone and content, and are simply enjoyable for their own unique merits. This book mainly provides a very broad, and very enjoyable, glimpse of the world of pre-Tolkien fantasy - a time when fantasy was much more patient and poetic than it is today. Many excellent works from this time have been overshadowed by Tolkien and forgotten, and hopefully this book will aid in their re-discovery.

There is no annotation and only a very brief introduction to each story, but included at the end is an excellent list of popular pre-Tolkien fantasy writers and their famous works. If you enjoy the stories in this book, you can go on to explore some of the longer works from the period - of the ones I have read, my favorites are "The King of Elfland's Daughter" by Lord Dunsany and "Mistress of Mistresses" by E.R. Eddison. Pre-Tolkien fantasy works are often more challenging than most of today's popular fantasy - they are not driven by fast-moving plots and dialogue, but instead by elegant prose, poetic imagery, metaphor, irony, and ideas. The average difficulty is comparable to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein or the works of Edgar Allen Poe (or in the case of Eddison, Moby-Dick).

I have been enjoying this collection immensely - some stories are magical, some heroic, some mysterious, some hilarious; some take place in imagined worlds, some in this one; they are each wonderful in their own way. This collection shows just how diverse the fantasy genre can be. I hope it leads many more readers to explore the rich world of pre-Tolkien fantasy. As much as I love the entertaining fantasy of today, there is a certain feeling of wonder and grandeur that comes only from the fantasy works of old.
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fairy Tales and Other Fantasies 6 Sept. 2003
By Arthur W Jordin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Tales Before Tolkien is an anthology of fairy tales and other fantasy stories published prior to Tolkien's works. Some of these authors are known to have influenced Tolkien, but all wrote on themes which Tolkien would probably have admired. All the authors were chosen to be at least five years older than Tolkien.
"The Elves" by Ludwig Tieck is a "literary fairy tale" in the German tradition and illustrates the dangers of visiting with fairies. "The Golden Key" by George MacDonald is a mystical tale of a boy and a girl who embark on a lifelong quest. "Puss-Cat Mew" by E. H. Knatchbull-Hugessen is a story of a young man and a cat against evil ogres and dwarves. "The Griffin and the Minor Canon" by Frank R. Stockton is a yarn about the friendship between a clergy man and a monster. "The Demon Pope" by Richard Garnett is a tongue in cheek story of Satan and the Sacred College.
"The Story of Sigurd" retold by Andrew Lang is an abbreviated version of the Nibelungenlied. "The Folk of the Mountain Door" by William Morris is a mystical tale of a god and goddess attending a naming rite in a Norse-like kingdom. "Black Heart and White Heart" by H. Rider Haggard is a story of an English gentleman who tries to steal the lover of a Zulu warrior. "The Dragon Tamers" by E. Nesbit describes the trials of a poor dragon who is always outwitted by one family. "The Far Islands" by John Buchan tells of a boy whose family is obsessed by the Western Isle. "The Drawn Arrow" by Clemence Housman is a story of the gratitude of kings. "The Enchanted Buffalo" by L. Frank Baum is a yarn about treachery and revenge in the Royal Tribe of buffalo. "Chu-bu and Sheemish" by Lord Dunsany is a fable about jealous gods. "The Baumhoff Explosive" by William Hope Hodgson is a cautionary tale about becoming too much like Christ.
"The Regent of the North" by Kenneth Morris is a tale about a Viking who will not forswear his religion for Christianity. "The Coming of the Terror" by Arthur Machen is a suspense story about frightening events in England during World War I. "The Elf Trap" by Francis Stevens relates the strange experiences of a Professor of Biology who meets a beautiful young lady in the back woods. "The Thin Queen of Elfhame" by James Branch Cabell is the story of a man who unintentionally finds true love. "The Woman of the Wood" by A. Merritt discloses the murderous actions of a man who loved a coppice. "Golithos the Ogre" by E. A. Wyke-Smith tells of the vegetarian ogre who has two plump children as house guests. "The Story of Alwina" by Austin Tappan Wright is an excerpt about the history of Queen Alwina of Islandia. "A Christmas Play" by David Lindsay recounts the efforts of the fairy Emerald to find husbands for three sisters when there are only two princes available.
These stories are representative of the fantastic short stories written prior to Tolkien. While several are fairy tales, others come from a wide variety of cultural myths. Many of the authors are well known today, but others are known only to the students of literature. In any case, these stories are worth reading just for the pleasure of it and, if such reading gives us any insight into Tolkien's works, so much the better.
Since these stories span a broad spectrum of treatments, I liked several more the others; some I didn't much like on first reading. Since each presents its own emphasis and mood, however, I suspect that my list would differ upon subsequent readings in other circumstances. Moreover, other readers will probably find themselves liking stories that I didn't much enjoy.
Highly recommended to Tolkien fans and anyone else who enjoys short works of fantasy.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Look At Fantasy Stories Before The Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings 14 Sept. 2008
By Andrew Wyllie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book shows what was current and modern fantasy tales prior to Tolkien's writing. It shows how prior authors had described elves and dwarves before they became codified in Tolkien's work. The stories show the type of storytelling that was popular in the late 19th and early 20th century. The stories range from Europe to America and place people from various lands into very unusual circumstances.

The reason I only give this book four stars is that while some of the stories are entertaining, they lack the same kind of environment as Middle Earth provides and some even try to overlay modern (at the time) times into the stories. I think this takes away from their effect. Another reason that I give it only four stars is that a lot of the stories were admitted to have never been seen by Tolkien prior to his work, so it is doubtful that they had much effect.

I would still recommend this book to someone who is interested in literary history and how tales have changed in the last 100+ years. Also it does give a good comparison of the type of stories that Tolkien was up against in order to succeed. This is still a book that I will come back to on occasion just for a different type of story.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Stories in Particular 20 July 2009
By Thomas Nguy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Tales Before Tolkien collects popular fantasy fiction shorts that preceded Tolkien. The book's title implies that Tolkien may have incorporated borrowed elements in his work. That's hardly news. What drew me was the variety of stories and their undemanding lengths. A perfect bedside addition and great inducer of sleep. This book is also my introduction to the lyrical writings of George MacDonald and Frank Stockton; the author of 'The Golden Key' and 'The Griffin and Minor Canon'. 'The Golden Key' is one of the most atmospheric fantasy piece I've come across. I was also happy to discover an little known piece by Lord Dunsany, one of my favorite authors, titled 'Chubu'.
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