5570Re: [mythsoc] Re: Why the middle ages are so popular in fiction
- Mar 12, 2002
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, March 11, 2002 12:19 PM
Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Why the middle ages are so popular in fiction
>I honestly think a lot of people assume Middle-earth is medieval
because they have been inundated with pseudo-medieval imagery for
decades by film and television (and other media). You'll never find
the word chivalry in Tolkien's fiction about Middle-earth, but you
may NOT be surprised to find many discussions about Tolkien which
refer to it. We tend to project many things onto the stories we love
which are really not there.
I think the influx of newbies and Tolkien virgins on the websites is bringing back more memories than I _want_ sometimes, but I did have one flashback that could be anecdotal support for what you're saying.
When I first read LotR in the mid-1960's, I was in junior high and knew nothing about the book or Tolkien. I was a human vacuum cleaner when it came to books, one of my college-student sisters left each volume of the Ballantine "purple emu" edition lying around the house as she finished it, and my fate was sealed. None of my friends had heard of Tolkien, either (and I did hang around with people who read a lot--the nerds of our day; but we lived in a somewhat small town in central Iowa and didn't pay a lot of attention to "popular culture" [yeah, like I said--nerds]).
I remember trying to describe this amazing book I was reading to my friends and having a difficult time because none of us had ever read anything remotely like it. One of them asked the seemingly simple question, "Well, when is it set?" I honestly don't remember how I finally answered the question, but I remember very well stumbling around it--starting to name one time period, but then thinking of something in the book that didn't fit there, and trying another one. I also remember being a bit perturbed at my friend for asking the question, because it went so far afield of what I felt was important in the book, and it seemed she was questioning its validity. It never dawned on any of us that there could be a book _not_ set in a specific real-world time period.
How I think this supports your idea, Michael, is that at that point there were no such things as imitations of Tolkien, and if there was such a thing as an adult "medieval" fantasy genre (i.e., outside of books for small children), I and my relatively well-read friends weren't aware of it (I did inhale quite a bit of science fiction at that age). And when my friend asked about the setting of LotR, I _didn't_ say something like, "Oh, you know, kind of medieval." The Shire and Bree affected my thinking about the time setting more than did the Rohirrim and the Elves (and things like the barrow wights on the other end of the timeline), so, if anything, I would have picked 19th century England. And, no, I didn't catch the Egyptian connection at that age, but I do remember thinking Gondor had a pretty weird-looking crown.
Possibly a bit OT, but I think the same would have been true of the Narnia stories. I didn't read them until some years later, but even then saw quite a bit of the classical in them, with the characters from Greek mythology, etc. If there hadn't been any illustrations, I very possibly would have pictured the children being kings and queens more akin to Midas than Henry V.
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