Re: Illustrated Edition of Fouque's "The Magic Ring"
Your clarification is well taken. "The Magic Ring" is
emphatically _not_ a book for young children. Although
appropriate for some younger folk, I'm guessing the language
alone, to say nothing of the themes with which the book deals,
would be enough to discourage readers younger than, say, of high
school age. That said, the previous edition was, according to
one source, "eaten up" by high school kids, who were thrilled
by the adventure, complexity, and epic nature of the tale(!).
One of our intents in producing and illustrated edition was to
make the tale more accessible in general and more acceptable
to non-scholar readers.
Regarding the "influence on Tolkien" aspect, yes, I think
Jason got it partly right with his reference. Fouque was as
well known in his day as Goethe, amazing as that might be to
us in the 21st century. His novels were _very_ popular and
_very_ highly regarded. Sad to say, today we primarily remember
him only for his extended short story "Undine".
But, back to the influence on Tolkien. That really is claimed
by virtue of Fouque's popularity _and_ the acknowledged influence
he had on folk like William Morris and George MacDonald. That
Tolkien would have known of Fouque's works seems quite likely, but
Amy makes a more extended case in her introduction to the scholarly
edition of the book.
Here are the relevant paragraphs, from Amy's introduction:
- - - - -
"Scholar Richard Mathews lists "The Magic Ring" as one of
Fouque's most influential works because its blend of allegory
and chivalric romance helped to pave the way for authors such
as William Morris, who created the modern genre of high literary fantasy. According to scholar Frank Bergmann, Morris first came
to read Fouque through the author and translator Charlotte M.
Yonge. Fouque became one of Morris's inspirations for writing
Nordic tales based on Scandinavian, Icelandic, and Germanic
legends -- especially those tied to the Nibelungen myth, from
which the magic ring motif emerged -- and Morris in turn
influenced both C.S. Lewis and his fellow Inkling, J.R.R.
Tolkien, the master of epic fantasy.
"Bergmann also follows J.R.R. Tolkien's theoretical understanding
of genre fiction from his 1947 essay "On Fairy-Stories" back
to George MacDonald's 1893 essay "The Fantastic Imagination,"
and from that text back to one of MacDonald's great
influences, German Romanticism. MadDonald references Fouque
by name. That MacDonald knew of "The Magic Ring" in particular
is evident; he quoted directly from the novel for the introduction
to the sixth chapter of his "Phantastes" (1858). Moreover, "The
Magic Ring" exemplifies the 'merging of story and history, of
fact and of imagination born of desire,' and especially
'a transcendental rather than a conventional happy ending,'
which Bergmann finds at the heart of Tolkien's defense
and understanding of fantasy. Works such as "The Magic Ring"
(and Fouque's "Undine", as Bergmann explains), interpreted by
minds such as George MacDonald's, laid the foundations for
Tolkien to develop his conception of the "eucatastrophe" --
the joyous turn that is the "highest function" of the
genre -- and the liturature that followed from it."
- - - -
Apologies for any typos, but I think the above is the
heart of the case for Fouque's influence on Tolkien. Hope
--- In email@example.com, Sue Bridgwater <suebridgwater@...> wrote:
> Thanks all for pulling me up on my over-hasty reaction. How unclear one can be! No, I'm not in favour of Bowdlerising but John Rateliff has expressed what I really meant by his phrase about certain texts having a restricted audience. I can choose to regret the connotations within this work yet go on to read it for its other interesting aspects, whereas a very young reader may still be at the stage of taking everything literally. It's not an easy issue at all, I have 35 years of Librarianship behind me, much of it in work with children, and I can't say that I want to stop children reading, say, Narnia because of all the various objections many have raised to its assumptions, or Swallows and Amazons because it's middle class, or - well, enter as appropriate. But - oh, but - there are works within every culture that assume without question the total wrongness and strangeness of other cultures, and they are the tricky ones. No, you should not
> alter a text and then never allow the original to be read; but think how many 'children's versions' of things you may have read as a child - were they all wrong? A very old kettle of fish, and I have lifted the lid again. Better hide, I suppose.
> from Sue
- And of course George MacDonald's brief answer to the question "What is a fairy-tale?" was "Read 'Undine'" (in "The Fantastic Imagination," I believe).