Who had a bigger impact on fantasy literature?

Tolkien: used linguistics extensively to make fictional languages which added to the cultures of the different kinds of beings in a unique way,used loads of stuff from Northwestern European mythology,has a more black and white morality,made a whole fantasy world heavily based on like Early Medieval Northern Europe,antagonists where ussually significant threats to many,lots of stuff on the history of certain families and the stuff they went through

Howard:focuses more on personal struggle and adventures with his character does a lot with the theme of the dangers of man’s less “civilized” nature on “civilized society” or vice-versa,made a whole lost land in a time of myth prehistoric world based on archtypical descriptions of various European civilizations (mostly),has notable amounts of debauchery,more expository writing style (IMO),has unique horror elements because of the Lovecraftian stuff and more of a grey and black morality

A load of Western fantasy media has been heavily influenced by these two guys in other books,games like Warcraft and board games like Dungeons and Dragons.

Who cares?

I guess Tolkien, because I had to look up who Howard was. Why did you choose those two authors, and not, say, HP Lovecraft vs CS Lewis, or Lewis Carol vs Edgar Rice Burroughs?

I know more about those two even though I wish I could say that I knew* at least* just as much about the guys you stated:o.For anyone who doesn’t know Robert E.Howard made Conan the barbarian.

I certainly do.

Both Tolkien and Howard represent two halves of the whole that modern fantasy has come to be. And in my opinion, I think this debate will be evenly divided. Tolkien coined the race we call orcs, that much is certain. However, from there we can see that he had much influence also in shaping up the, what I call, staple races of modern fantasy. Elves, dwarves, and humans are races present in a majority of popular fantasy universes. Halflings/Hobbits are prevalent as well.

On the other hand, I’ve always had difficulty in pinpointing which genre (high fantasy or swords and sorcery) was responsible for popularizing the wizard class and the depiction of magic as a heavy replacement for technology.

I mean, it’s clear that in Tolkien’s work, magic is highly exclusive to very few individuals such as the elves and then the Istari (the order which Gandalf belonged). Therefore, use of it is rather minimal (although grandiose all the time). Reading up Swords and Sorcery on Wiki, it says that heavy use of magic is more prominent so it does seem to point my guesses in that direction. Still, I don’t remember Conan the Barbarian having the kind of wizard protagonist who likes chucking a whole fireworks display of fire, ice, and lightning if anyone gets my drift. (Feel free to correct me though because I don’t know much about Howard’s universe.)

Howard and Tolkien had vastly differing outlooks on life and the universe. Tolkien of course was famously motivated by his faith in much of his writing whereas Howard’s vision of the universe is generally far bleaker. Whilst there is a melanchonic tone in Tolkien’s work and a sense of the ages declining which borrows heavily from classical myth there is also an ultimate hope and a vision of the weakness of evil in the longer term. This for me is summed up in a passage from ‘The Children of Hurin’ published longer after Tolkien’s death where Hurin tells the first Dark Lord Morgorth who informs him that there is no God and that he Morgorth is Eru (the one true God as seen via the Middle-Earth mythos) and Hurin informs him that men were fooled in the past by such lies and may be yet again but not all men will be and that Morgorth is the creator of nothing. Evil cannot consciously create in Tolkien’s work, it merely mocks or perverts what pre-existed.

Howard’s view of the universe is more dark and in some respects closer to Lovecraft’s, whilst all Howard’s main figures such as Conan, Kull etc. are honourable men (indeed Conan the so-called ‘barbarians’ sense of honour is set against apparently civilised society again and again) they are not believers generally in a destiny where man will be perfectly fulfilled. There is a feeling of bleakness in Conan’s world particularly. When he informs the reader at the close of ‘Beyond the Black River’ that barbarism is man’s natural state and he will always return to it it serves as a view into not only Conan’s outlook but Howard’s as Howard very much shared that view.

Also Howard was writing for the pulp magazines on deadlines and was been paid by the word. The stories show it, as in the same story passages of well-written work are interposed with filler. Tolkien had the relative luxury of working out his mythos over many, many years and his life was not cut short by a suicide as Howard’s sadly was.

They are both heavily influential but Tolkien (and I suspect Howard as well) would have pointed out to you that neither could have existed without those who came before. Tolkien commented in particular that his predecessor Lord Dunsany was hugely influential. Both Howard and Tolkien’s work tends to be used in a bastardised way at times that stresses the superficial qualities of it. Such as girls with heaving bosoms aspect of the Hyborian age or wizards with staffs flinging firebolts in the case of Middle-Earth.

The magicians in the Hyborian age and other times in Conan’s world tend to use spells that raise the dead more or cause horror but there are some capable of massive displays of power. Xaltotun from ‘the Hour of the Dragon’ the only full length Conan novel Howard wrote is capable of slaying thousands using his own personal power. Most of the wizards though in the Hyborian era and later do operate at a level lower than that and have distinct limitations and magic is often portrayed as something inherently corrupt or at least with a tendency to corrupt men very quickly. There are often hints of greater powers at work behind the scene who care little for humankind except as tools and this is in part a deliberate attempt to evoke a shared universe with HP Lovecraft whom Howard was in contact with.

One thing many readers of today would find difficult is Howard’s view on races, Tolkien has been accused of this also but I’ve never found that accusation to have any real merit when looked at closely. However Howard is fairly blatant (again like Lovecraft) about what he views as the ‘essential’ qualities of each race, although he does allow exceptions to appear to prove the rule at points.

That’s actually my point in terms of Howard’s work specifically. I’ve seen clips of the Conan movies when I was a kid and I never really saw magic depicted in the way it is now. It’s why I really have doubts if he’s the cause as to why magic in modern fantasy these days is so flavorful and frequently used (both by good guys and bad guys).

And honestly, this should be considered if we’re talking about impact. Much of the fantasy genre isn’t just being shaped by books but also games, art, comic books, and television shows. The influences of all the mediums are intertwined. In Tolkien’s case, the influence is more evident given the popularity of the staple races. However, the same goes for the use of magic. The wizard/archmage/sorcerer has become just as much a popular member of your typical adventuring party as the knight, barbarian, archer, and rogue. Heck, the spellcaster in question doesn’t even need to be an old man anymore! Sometimes it’s a brooding mage. Other times it’s the hardheaded prodigy. Sometimes it’s even a little girl!

The thing I don’t get is who first popularized the higher frequency of using magic? Tolkien doesn’t sound like the type. Howard doesn’t seem to fit that bill either but it’s his sub-genre that’s been described as having more cases of this. There are even moments when I wonder if this trend is a lot younger than I think it is. I admit that the only works I know of that feature magic frequently are a bit modern in comparison to either Howard or Tolkien (e.g. Diablo, World of Warcraft, Harry Potter, Skyrim, Fate/Stay Night, Slayers, Mahou Sensei Negima, Touhou Project).

You know I would have put in a third person.Someone who is said to be the root of modern urban fantasy and paranormal romance.I’m not talking about Stephenie Meyer and the Twillight novels for the paranormal romance part.II’m more wondering who established urban fantasy which has gotta be younger than high fantasy or sword and sorcery and decades before Meyer’s series.Whoever did that I gotta say whoever finally managed to integrate fantasy elements in a more “real” setting is an interesting difference from the usual setting of a “fantasy world”.It fairly common in pop culture like with anime and manga for one thing.

That would be a hard one to pin down, any number of fantasy writers in the early 20th century did set fantasy works in worlds more close to our own in many respects. C.L. Moore who is one of the outstanding authors of the pulp era and one of the few women writers of importance in the genre in that period had fantasy works that were set in what was recogniable as medieval France. Howard’s own Solomon Kane might count as a form of urban fantasy as it is set in a distinct and real time. Also earlier writers like Swfit and others might be viewed as precursors to this as their works are at least partially set in the real world of their time.

HP Lovecraft’s works are mostly set in the era contemporary to when he was writing, a few are partially set in the far distant future or in a numinous era or place where time does not count but most are set in a recognizable time and place.

I didn’t look at the poll choices right away. When I read the question, my very first thought was the Grimm brothers.

I also think that a lot of fantasy literature is heavily-influenced by the various tellings of the religious mythologies of the different countries, especially the Norse/Germanic mythology (Wotan, Siegfried, Freya, etc.). Wagner’s tremendous Ring Cycle opera (21 hours) is a masterpiece, and I wish with all my heart that it would be made into a series of movies, not as opera, but as really well-written screenplays. When my daughter was 5 years old, she watched the entire 21 hours (on PBS), and was absolutely fascinated by the characters and story. There are other renderings of the mythos of these countries.

I also think that the Arthurian legend and its various tellings has been hugely influential in all of fantasy literature.

Certainly the Norse sagas are a huge influence on Tolkien and to a lesser extent Howard also. That sense of a pre-ordained doom is present in both men’s work although Tolkien uses that device in a far more profound manner. The brothers Grimm are of course an influence as are others before them back to the nameless bards and minstrels of many centuries ago and back before them to our distant ancestors. Fantasy at it’s best reveals something of ourselves and is truth in myth. Howard occassionally rises to that level but not as consistently as Tolkien and Howard’s characters are not as good role models. Conan whilst been honourable and brave and not needlesy sadistic is not averse of course to famously been ’ a thief and reaver’ and working through many, many bedmates although in fairness he never forces himself on a woman and would never dream of doing so. Aragorn or Faramir represent the best virtues of civilisation and were Conan to exist in the world of Middle-Earth he might well see that in them.

You are quite right when you mention Arthurian myth, that certainly had an impact on much of modern fantasy literature either in the form of direct retellings of that mythos or indirectly where tropes and types are used by other wrirers.

As I pointed out both Tolkien and Howard acknowledge Lord Dunsany as been one of their key influences and in many ways he could be said to have shaped the sword and sorcery genre before Howard and others came along. I read his work when younger primarily because he was a relative of one of those individuals who signed the Irish declaration of independence but I was most glad I did as his books deserve to be far, far better known than they are. I can understand why Tolkien cites him as a major inspiration.

The thing I don’t get is who first popularized the higher frequency of using magic? Tolkien doesn’t sound like the type. Howard doesn’t seem to fit that bill either but it’s his sub-genre that’s been described as having more cases of this. There are even moments when I wonder if this trend is a lot younger than I think it is. I admit that the only works I know of that feature magic frequently are a bit modern in comparison to either Howard or Tolkien (e.g. Diablo, World of Warcraft, Harry Potter, Skyrim, Fate/Stay Night, Slayers, Mahou Sensei Negima, Touhou Project).

Jack Vance’s ‘Dying Earth’ series had the idea of spells of varying levels of which a mage can only learn a certain amount at a time. This was of course famously used by Dungeons and Dragons many years later. L. Sprague De Camp’s ‘The Compleat Enchanter’ series (of which the first volume was published in 1941) has a fairly high incidence of spells been flung round the pages. That’s two I can think of straight away that pre-date Harry and co. by many years.

Mentioning DIablo I am dissapointed by Diablo 3 - not up to what I was expecting. I will download the expansion pack for Skyrim instead I am thinking.

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