Thursday, September 22, 2011

Holmes on Tolkien


Happy Hobbit Day!

Today I've gathered up various quotes from Dr. J. Eric Holmes about Tolkien's work:

Dungeons & Dragons Basic rulebook, 1977
"The imaginary universe of Dungeons & Dragons obviously lies not too far from the Middle Earth of J.R.R. Tolkien's great Lord of the Rings trilogy" (pg 40).

This is one of the stronger statements in an early D&D rulebook associating the game with Tolkien's work. Gygax generally tried to distance the game from Tolkien.

Basic D&D points of view, Dragon #52, August 1981
"[In the new Basic set] there is a page-long list of "inspirational source material" which is more complete than the one given in the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide. I didn't have such a list in the first edition; this is someone else's inspired idea. I wish I'd thought of it. Do you know there may be people out there playing a D&D game who have never read The Lord of the Rings?"

Fantasy Role-Playing Games (book), November 1981
"Literary inspiration for the worlds of the fantasy role-playing games comes from many sources. The fantasy worlds of Dungeons & Dragons and Chivalry & Sorcery are based on the myth and fairy tale. This field of literature is dominated by the work of one man in this century: J. R. R. Tolkien. Without the popularity of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, fantasy role playing would not have found the wide public it now enjoys. Despite this, most fantasy games are closer to the wild, blood-thirsty worlds of Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard, and L. Sprague de Camp ... As Dungeon Master, I have drawn extensively on the works of A. Merritt, Andre Norton, Clark Ashton Smith, Lord Dunsany, Edgard Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard" (pg 46).

"In the 1960's and 70's another phenomenon occurred which was to change the face of wargaming forever. J.R.R. Tolkien's wonderful book The Lord of the Rings was published in paperback and was discovered by an immense audience of young people. This epic adult fairy tale, without doubt the greatest work of fiction produced this century, inflamed the imagination of an entire generation. The story, as most readers now, involves the clash of great armies of men, elves, dwarves, goblins and magical creatures. The prelude to the epic, a children's classic, The Hobbit, is the tale of a quest to steal a dragon's hoard of gold. It wasn't long before wargamers were introducing armies of orcs and dwarves into their medieval battle plans" (pg 63).

The comment regarding the "greatest work of fiction" is prescient in view of LOTR winning readers' polls for the best book of the 20th century.

"The world of D&D is based on the legends, fairy tales and literature of Western Europe, with a scattering of items from other cultures. To some extent it resembles the Middle Earth of J.R.R. Tolkien's grand epic, The Lord of the Rings. The D&D world is filled with far more marvels than Tolkien's classic, however ... In many ways it is more like the ancient Hyperborean world of Robert E. Howard's Conan or the magic-ridden universe of Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser than it is an imitation of Tolkien. The rules of D&D conform to Tolkien, however, and to a lesser extent to a common background of myth, fairy tale and literature" (pg 70-71).

3 comments:

  1. Great quotes. I like his take on the early influences of D&D and what he says is quite true. It was a great time when a lot of different things were being mixed together - there wasn't just one concept.

    I have a post from a while ago about the cultural stew of the time: http://warlockshomebrew.blogspot.com/2010/03/cultural-stew-that-birthed-dungeons.html

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  2. Great quotes, indeed. I didn't realize you'd created a blog as well as the archive -- good news!

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  3. BI: here is a direct link to that post of yours (which I read & commented on). Good stuff.

    Theodric: Thanks. I just started the blog a few weeks ago & am still trying to get the word out to anyone interested. Glad you found it.

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