Monday, November 16, 2015

Why the Enduring Popularity?

Why is Tolkien's work still so popular? What is it about The Lord of the Rings that still speaks to so many different types of people? Is that popularity really warranted? Or not?

7 comments:

Yavanna said...

Forgive the more, contemporary speech, but Tolkien, is what, in more jingoistic terms, we can call the O.G. of fantasy. He is the grand daddy of Dungeons and Dragons, World of Warcraft, Warhammer, Dragonriders of Pern, The Inheritance Cycle...the list just goes on and on. I think many people still respect this fact; that he is the herald of an entire new genre of fiction, that of the 'adult fantasy' where as, before, fairy stories with elves and dwarves, goblins and trolls were a part of the simply 'childish' arenas of culture.

His stories also speak to underlying ideas and themes which we agree with; Glory, honor, brotherhood, all of which inspire us, guide us. The stories speak to mythological origins, as our class has discussed, and is therefore, timeless.

But the story is interesting, the characters captiviating. While the literary critics may deride it for its faults (which it does has), it doesn't detract from the fact that the stories are simply good.

Lórien said...

I think there are many reasons that Tolkien's works are popular. For one there is the applicability aspects. The characters, themes, and situations are so widely diverse that we as the readers are constantly able to find new meanings and new resonances in our own lives. The story is built upon basic human principle which will never change and thus will preserve the value of his writings for as long as the are read.

Another explanation of the enduring popularity is the enormous depth. The is so much fine detail that the world Tolkien creates is about as close to the real thing as a reader can get. Middle-earth feels like a real place in almost every way and I think people can't help but love that feeling, whether it is a form of escapism or whether it helps them understand their own world better. We have been able to have a semester long discussion of the scholarly and literary aspects of Tolkien. That in itself is a testament to the incredible amount of information to be found in Tolkien's texts.

Tolkien changed how people think about fantasy and he changed how people think about world-building and myth-making. I think therefore the popularity is certainly warranted.

Estë said...

I completely agree with my classmates on this one. The fact of the matter is Tolkien’s work is just GOOD. The amazing complexity of the world, the languages, the cultures, the history. But also the timeless relatability of the characters and their struggles: love, friendship, temptation, war, suffering. Of course the films have helped a lot with attracting a different portion of the population to reading his books as well. But I honestly think the answer to the question of why his works are so enduringly popular is very simple: he wrote and created a world that was wholly new but at the same time reminiscent of much mythology of the past and he did it with so much prowess and passion that the final product is just a genuinely enjoyable and deeply moving journey.

Nienna said...

I agree with my classmates on this one. Yavanna's comment made me laugh aloud. I agree Tolkien is the O.G. of modern fantasy. Tolkien's works are so intricate, complex, and timeless. I can't imagine a time when the themes of the book will ever be irrelevant. Love, sacrifice, loyalty etc. are all so salient no matter the time period. In addition, Tolkien produced so much material that one can basically never know all of the facts even after years of study so there is always something new to learn. Additionally, the Lord of the Rings offers a type of escapism and mystery that is perhaps not as present in our modern age. The idea of evil and war with swords and magic is so different from the world we live in that I think it naturally draws in people who are seeking something beyond the mundane. I am an avid fantasy reader because the genre is so different than the world we live in and Tolkien was certainly a pioneer in his craft. In my opinion the popularity is certainly warranted.

Ulmo said...

I, too, agree with the comments left here, and I think that another component that adds to the popularity of the work are the realistic characters. They make mistakes like us, we could use them as role models, and they oftentimes say exactly what we're thinking as we're reading. As the characters develop, we as the audience become attached and fear when they do, laugh when they laugh, and feel the weight of their responsibilities upon our own shoulders as well. Tolkien chooses many strong, colorful personalities that are exaggerated just enough to still be true to the reader. We can read the story over and over but still manage to find something new in the characters each time, and I think that's what keeps it timeless.

Nessa said...

When I first read The Lord of the Rings, I could not have cared less about the layers of mythology or the languages. I did not yet know that J.R.R. Tolkien had basically invented the modern fantasy genre. What I knew was that his works affected me emotionally. As Ulmo says, the characters are realistic and relatable--I relate especially to Frodo myself--and yet these are not characters that are meant to directly correspond with any current society. Thus, they have no expiration date.

However, I would say the power of his stories goes beyond the characters into his very writing. His diction is selected to place a longing in our hearts. His characters are always seeking, always searching, and they world is described as a fading beauty. These themes are so relevant to the human race, always fixated on the loss of what once was.

Manwë said...

I think that Tolkien’s works endure not only because he inspired so much of more contemporary mediums and works but also because the Tolkien estate works so diligently to keep Tolkien relevant and in the news. The Lord of The Rings movies are considered some of the best ever (!) and now there are rumors of a Silmarillion movie- whether these are true or not, it keeps Tolkien relevant and in peoples minds. I think at this point Tolkien has just become an icon- people know who he is, even a little, and even if they have not seen the movies or read the books, people know the general story, the characters, and even the theme music. Not only are Tolkien’s works great literature and a great story/universe, but the continued efforts by the estate also work to keep him relevant.