The Influence of Tolkien

I honestly can’t remember if my dad read us The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia first. I’m pretty sure he read us The Hobbit more times… though even that, I’m not sure about. Either way, these were my very first forays into the realm of fantasy fiction, and both Tolkien and Lewis had a major influence on me from a very young age. It may perhaps be cliche at this point to say that The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia are my two most favorite fantasy series… but being cliche makes it no less true.

Bilbo Baggins taught me that even the small and the unskilled may get a chance at greatness, but that in the end, goodness of heart and friendship is more important than any treasure.

Gandalf taught me that sometimes even the very wise feel fear, and sometimes do not know which road to take.

Thorin taught me about perseverance and leadership and the importance of home.

Frodo and Sam taught me about friendship and loyalty and sticking by someone even if it means carrying them through Mordor.

Merry and Pippin taught me that sometimes a tense situation needs a dash of humor.

Boromir taught me about courage and also that the mighty can waver, but that no one is beyond redemption.

Eomer taught me to stay faithful and true even when false accusations are aimed at your heart.

Aragorn taught me about humility and wisdom.

Eowyn taught me that sometimes what we want is not the same as what we need.

Denethor taught me that a pessimistic outlook is about the same as giving up.

Legolas and Gimli taught me that friendship can spring from the unlikeliest of places and does not have to be limited by interests or similarities.

Smaug taught me never to laugh at live dragons.

Whenever I reread to these books, they continue to teach me. When I return to Middle-Earth to adventure with my dear friends, I always feel as though I’m coming home. These stories, these characters, have done much to shape the person I am. But more than that, I must admit that they have shaped the author I am. It has never been my intention to write “Tolkien-esque” fantasy, but I cannot deny that the influence of his stories has trickled through into my own, poor scribblings in a variety of ways:

My love of fantasy and stories set in fantastical realms with magic and dragons and quests and all the trappings that come with the genre.

Characters with mysterious backgrounds.

Characters who are more than they seem.

My firm belief in happy endings.

The propensity to include poems and snatches of rhyming lines in my books.

My enormous casts of characters (even my flash fiction stories tend to explode in character-count, no matter how hard I try to restrict the number… more characters always want to jump into the story)

A fairly obvious line between good and evil.

Characters worth rooting for, who might make mistakes but generally strive to be good and kind to the people they encounter.

Deep themes of redemption, loss, forgiveness, faithfulness, and grief.

My great hope that those who read my stories will not only make new character-friends and go on a fun adventure, but also that they will learn something about themselves, or about the world, or ultimately, about their own Author, our great Creator God.

Of course, there are other books and authors I’ve read that have also influenced my style and my voice, blending together in my heart and mind in order to result in books that are just mine. But the influence of Tolkien is solidly there, reflected in the stories I choose to tell. And this is why I still count it among the highest compliments my writing has ever received that one reader once described my books to someone else as, “Tolkien-lite.”

Mountain Segue

 

And now it’s your turn, dear Reader! What books have influenced you in some lasting way? What stories have taught you lessons that you have carried with you throughout your life? If you are a writer, what stories or authors have left an imprint on your soul and translated into your own tales?

~ jenelle

18 Comments

Allan James

Beautiful…….but I don’t see any comments about how Hank, Drover, Slim, High Loper, Sally Mae, Pete, Wallace, or Junior……have impacted your writing as well. I suppose some writing is meant to stay on its original page!

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jenelle

Bwahahahahahaha! I’m sure they have all impacted my writing as well… though perhaps not as deeply. Kiernan Kane and Brant tweaking each other surely came straight from Hank and Drover, though. :-D

And I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have written “Space Lanes” without having first listened to Hank: the Cowdog… :-D

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DJ Edwardson

You know, besides the usual suspects mentioned here, the Space Trilogy was a huge influence on The Chronotrace Sequence. It let me see that science fiction didn’t have to be strictly based on hard (or even possible) science and also how naturally the reality of the spiritual can be incorporated into what is generally a very materialistic genre. Icarus Hunt was also a significant influence on The Ascent of the Nebula and I have you to thank for recommending that one to me.

I’d also say that marvel comic characters (not the movie versions) were influences on both The Jammer and the Blade and The Last Motley, though I doubt many people would notice, especially in the latter case. It’s amazing, isn’t it, how inspiration can come from just about anywhere!

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jenelle

Oooh, I didn’t know Icarus Hunt influenced Nebula!!! That’s so cool!

I love how inspiration can spring from anywhere and coalesce into something totally different than what the original source looked like!

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Pam Halter

I adore Tolkien, too. But the book that has changed me in a permanent way is Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. It’s an allegory, so if you don’t like them, you probably won’t get anything out of the story.

It’s taught me about loving Jesus unconditionally. It doesn’t sugarcoat life – life is HARD – and that’s evident in the story. But the main character’s determination to get to the High Places and learn to be able to love … wow! That’s what I want, too.

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jenelle

Hind’s Feet on High Places is one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS as well!!! Love that so much!!! That was one my mom read to me, and another book where I get something totally different out of it or notice something I’ve never noticed before every time I read it. I’m planning to read that one to my kids after we finish the Wayside School trilogy (because while Wayside School is fun… it’s not very…. “substantial” and I like to make sure they get plenty of both kinds of books). :)

One of my favorite moments in that book is when Much Afraid determines that following the Shepherd for HIMSELF is more important to her than anything he’s promised and she begs him, even if none of the things he’s told her are true, “Only entreat me not to leave you.” Oh! To have faith like that!

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Nancy

One of my all-time favorites as well! And I also like the sequel “Mountains of Spices,” also by Hannah Hurnard. :)
I really like this post of yours and reading about all the influencers and what you’ve picked up from them!
(Leave it to Allan James to remind you of the Hank stories! ha ha!) :D

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jenelle

I love the sequel, too! I meant to mention it and then I think I got distracted… :)

Yes… can’t forget the influence of dear old Hank. :-D hahaha

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Heidi Pekarek

LOVE THIS AND YES YES YES AND YESSSS!!! <333

Seriously, I'm not trying to butter up or anything, but this is *so* much my experience with Tolkien & Middle Earth, right down to my father first reading them aloud multiple times.

So eeeesh, thank you, this is just beautiful.

*goes off trying to wipe away very happy tears*

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Christine

I HAVE SO MUCH LOVE FOR THIS POST THERE AREN’T EVEN WORDS. Just…YES. YES YES YES YES YES!!! To all of it! If I had not read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings as a child, I honestly think my ENTIRE life would be different. They introduced me to everything I love today and influenced me in so many ways.

In addition to The Hobbit and LotR, fairy tales was the other thing that really shaped my writing. In fact, I was into fairy tale before I even knew about Tolkien. :O But both combined is basically everything I love. And that prooobably shows in my writing. XD

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jenelle

Isn’t it amazing how the stories we grow up with shape the people we become? And it’s also neat how growing up with the same stories can create a kind of “shared soul” between people, even if you didn’t grow up in the same house?! I am so grateful to my parents for reading us kids good books and having a weekly family movie night in which we all watched movies together and then animatedly discussed them afterwards…. I think it has gone a long way towards creating the bonds of friendship I still enjoy with my siblings and parents to this day.

I love fairy tales, as well! (I’ve only read what you post on your blog and so I would say….. yeah…. fairy tales seem to be a pretty big influence) :-D But that’s not a bad thing. Fairy tales are awesome!

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beckythemothling

I’d say the two biggest influences on my writing would be a book called Cruel Beauty and alll the fairy tales I read growing up, but this is making me wonder if Tolkien and Lewis had a bigger impact on my writing than I realize. I read those books such a long time ago that I’m not sure if I even remember what I learned from them, but The Fellowship of the Ring was the first ‘big’ book I read and what really got me into reading novels. I find myself kind of wanting to reread all those books now.

It’s funny, I’ve noticed I tend to have teeny tiny casts for my stories, even including my novels. I have kind of a big cast this time around, and boy is it not what I’m used to. XD

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jenelle

I have not heard of Cruel Beauty, but I love fairy tales and retellings!

You should totally reread them! They are ultimately re-readable! (Of course, I could be a teensy bit biased) LOL

You must teach me your ways! Large casts make shorter stories more difficult. Even my most recent piece of flash fiction had 3 named characters with lines, 5 characters total (6 if you count the chickens… 7 if you count the space ship) and that was about the smallest cast I’ve ever had. :-D I might have a problem.

Hello, my name is Jenelle Leanne Schmidt and I’m addicted to adding characters to my stories…. I’ve had this problem… er… forever… and I probably… can’t break the habit.

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R.M. Lutz

What a fun post! I think it’s incredible how many people Tolkien was able to impact with his work. I hadn’t thought about some of those lessons you listed, but I especially enjoyed the one you drew from Denethor.

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jenelle

Denethor is such an interesting character! I love how Tolkien’s characters are all so complex… even the “bad guys” can teach us some lessons.

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hamlettethedame

I love this! I think my writing has been influenced a lot by reading mysteries and historical fiction of all sorts — I love historical settings, love learning details to use in them, love doing the research. And I love stories that have a firm grasp of right and wrong, with the good guys winning, which mysteries have so much of.

A lot of that is why I love Tolkien too :-)

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