Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"The Pot of Soup, The Cauldron of Story"

(Hopefully this picture shows up well enough for you all to see it! Let me know if it doesn't.)

So, I've seen and read things like this throughout the years of being both a Tolkien and Harry Potter fan (in fact, someone from the last Tolkien class even wrote a paper on the similarities and differences between these two stories), and while they make me laugh, sometimes it really bugs me that people make out J.K. Rowling to be this complete idea thief. I think both her and Tolkien are brilliant in their own ways, plus, learning more about what influenced Tolkien is showing me how much he himself pulled from other stories and traditions to create his own world.

So, I have lots of thoughts and questions about this: what do you think Tolkien would say to something like this - is it theft of his ideas, or an example of the "cauldron of story" in which the most resonant themes or motifs survive in multiple forms and stories? What is it about some of these themes/archetypes that have such an impact on readers of both Harry Potter and Tolkien? And would Harry Potter be considered a fairy tale by Tolkien's standards? What do you think he would say about it?


Lorin said...

Yeah, that picture is tiny, sorry - here's a link to where I found it on Pinterest:

Austin M. said...

Lorin, this is awesome! I agree with you, there is no thievery being committed here. Just as many mythologies follow closely related archetypes, themes and patterns, the stories that touch us most deeply will always be related. It is this type of shared appreciation which knits us together and makes us human.

Megan said...

This is pretty funny, if of course, simplistic. I agree that Tolkien's Cauldron of Story is a better description of the parallels between Rowling and Tolkien. When I first read HP, I was immediately reminded of LOTR; but I think that has more to do with Tolkien's essentially single-handed invention of modern fantasy. You cannot read any modern fantasy novel without comparing it to Tolkien, consciously or not. And I think this is because Tolkien's "recipe" for high fantasy just works so well for modern and postmodern and whatever-modern-that-we're-in-now audiences, he can't not be an influence. So even if writers are drawing from the Cauldron not from Tolkien directly, they are using the same ingredients (archetypes in some cases) that Tolkien used.

Ashley Cauley said...

This post reminds me of a quote I heard in a film criticism class I took in high school by an American woman author: "There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before." -Willa Cather. There will inevitably be similarities between all stories of the same "type". The psychologist Carl Jung is the one who described archetypes and how they come from the "collective unconscious". All people are human, so all people have access to the collective unconscious and the many archetypes it contains. No one can be blamed for similarities between works because ALL works are similar in on or another fundamentally human way.