J.R.R. Tolkien: The Founder of Modern Day Fantasy World Building
Dwyer, Shayne A., 1993--
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This paper explores why J. R. R. Tolkien’s works have proven so influential on modern fantasy authors through analyzing one critical, and understudied, component of his works. Among the most beloved twentieth century novels, his works have become a benchmark for measuring excellence in fantasy literature. However, there is little criticism that actually explores the reasons for his impact on the fantasy genre as most critical conversations generally focus on the contexts for his writing. I will explore one of the reasons why his works have been so influential. Epic and High fantasy worlds all partake in world building, but Tolkien was the first great world builder. I suggest that his groundbreaking world-building techniques have served as the models for modern authors’ creative practices. In particular, I argue that Robert Jordan’s world-building systems were greatly influenced by Tolkien’s own. Jordan wrote The Wheel of Time, a fourteen volume Epic fantasy saga that has become a standard in modern fantasy. In the world of fantasy literature, this work is similar to Tolkien’s works in the way that the worlds have been established. I will analyze these two authors in comparison as a means to understand both writers’ world-building practices better, thereby throwing light on an important and understudied element of Tolkien’s creative process and on how it has influenced others, Jordan in particular. In this way, the project attempts to enhance our understanding of two influential authors.