Morgan vs. Tolkien

“It’s no game serving down in the city”: Richard Morgan had a really interesting post last week on, regarding the essentially simplistic nature of Lord of the Rings, and the flashes of tantalizing complexity we nonetheless see from time to time beneath that surface. Inevitably, he ran into all the usual trouble from the legions of Tolkien fans who can’t stand the idea that the books might be anything less than perfect.  Which is something that Morgan may even have anticipated:  die-hard fantasy readers are a notoriously excitable bunch, so what better way to promote your own epic fantasy than to start lobbing stinkbombs at the Big Enchilada?  I’m guessing THE STEEL REMAINS sales are up this week. . . .

Still, putting aside all vitriol and speculation, I think Morgan’s fundamental point is an absolutely valid one—and it made me check out the orc captains’ dialogue that he cites at the end of TWO TOWERS.  He’s right; it’s fascinating—four pages of sheer brilliance utterly at odds with the overall tone of the work—and it makes one wonder what the series would have been like had the whole project been shot through with that kind of world-weariness and complexity.  My honest guess is that (Morgan’s hopes aside) it probably would have been a lesser book, as I don’t think that’s where Tolkien’s heart was at.  Ultimately, we need fairy tales, and he provided us with what I would continue to maintain is one of our greatest.

As for all the crap it spawned, I’ll save that for another post.

3 Responses to “Morgan vs. Tolkien”

  1. John C Says:

    Man those books by Richard looks like good shit to grab a drink and read. I will be getting these. Thanks for the tip. What’s up with Mr. Kitty? Is he proofing your 3rd book?

  2. Mike Collins Says:

    I absolutely love it when Richard stirs shit up.

    I tried to read the LOTR books when the movies were coming out since I enjoyed the film versions so much. I absolutely struggled with the third book. I did finish it but I didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as the films.

    I totally get where Richard is coming from. His Steel Remains has his trademark noir sensibility applied to a fantasy setting which is written for adults. It’s not just the violence or the sex, it’s the grayness surrounding everyone.

    I’m not normally a fantasy fan in general but I loved this one.

  3. jW Says:

    While Tolkien is certainly not above criticism, Morgan ignores the fact that aesthetics (like everything else) change and evolve over time. Modern works like “Wicked” owe their success to deconstructing the pillar that was “The Wizard of Oz”.

    In equal fashion, Tolkien set the foundation for us in black & white (over 50 frackin years ago), so decades later we can appreciate Morgan’s shades of gray. I would argue that the process cannot succeed in reverse…children need to understand “good” and “bad” before they can handle “it depends on how you look at it”.

    So agree with Morgan’s point if we ignore the 50+ years difference between the two works, and also think the LOTR fanboys need to harden up.