TALES BEFORE TOLKIEN
The Roots of Modern Fantasy—
Classic Stories that Inspired the Author of The Lord of the Rings
Edited and with commentary by Douglas A. Anderson
Editor of The Annotated Hobbit
Once upon a time, fantasy writers were looked down upon by the literary mainstream as purveyors of mere escapism or, at best, bedtime tales fit only for children. Today fantasy novels stand atop the bestseller lists, while fantasy films smash box office records. Fantasy dominates the role-playing and computer gaming industries, and classic works in the genre are taught in schools and universities throughout the world. Credit for this amazing turnaround belongs to one man more than any other: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, the beloved author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Terry Brooks. David Eddings. George R. R. Martin. Robin Hobb. The top names in modern fantasy all acknowledge J. R. R. Tolkien as their model and master, the author whose work first fired their imaginations and inspired them to create their own epics. But what writers influenced Tolkien himself? Sir Isaac Newton once wrote, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” As with the scientific genius of Newton, so, too, with the literary genius of Tolkien. Now internationally recognized Tolkien expert Douglas A. Anderson has gathered the fiction of some of those giants together for the first time in a collection destined to become a classic in its own right.
In “The Golden Key,” the inspiration for Tolkien’s short story Smith of Wootton Major, George MacDonald tells the tale of a boy whose quest for the end of the rainbow leads beyond the borders of the world. Andrew Lang’s romantic tale, “The Story of Sigurd,” features magic rings, an enchanted sword, and a brave hero loved by two beautiful women—and cursed by a ferocious dragon. Tolkien read E. A. Wyke-Smith’s “The Marvelous Land of Snergs” to his children, delighting in these charming tales of a pixieish people “only slightly taller than the average table.” Also appearing in this collection is a never-before-published gem by David Lindsay, author of Voyage to Arcturus, a novel which Tolkien praised highly both as a thriller and as a work of philosophy, religion, and morals.
In stories packed with magical journeys, conflicted heroes, and terrible beasts, this extraordinary volume is one that no fan of fantasy or Tolkien should be without. These tales just might inspire a new generation of creative writers.
Tales Before Tolkien: 22 Magical Stories
“The Elves” by Ludwig Tieck
“The Golden Key” by George MacDonald
“Puss-Cat Mew” by E. H. Knatchbull-Hugessen
“The Griffin and the Minor Canon” by Frank R. Stockton
“The Demon Pope” by Richard Garnett
“The Story of Sigurd” by Andrew Lang
“The Folk of the Mountain Door” by William Morris
“Black Heart and White Heart” by H. Rider Haggard
“The Dragon Tamers” by E. Nesbit
“The Far Islands” by John Buchan
“The Drawn Arrow” by Clemence Housman
“The Enchanted Buffalo” by L. Frank Baum
“Chu-bu and Sheemish” by Lord Dunsany
“The Baumhoff Explosive” by William Hope Hodgson
“The Regent of the North” by Kenneth Morris
“The Coming of the Terror” by Arthur Machen
“The Elf Trap” by Francis Stevens
“The Thin Queen of Elfhame” by James Branch Cabell
“The Woman of the Wood” by A. Merritt
“Golithos the Ogre” by E. A. Wyke-Smith
“The Story of Alwina” by Austin Tappan Wright
“A Christmas Play” by David Lindsay
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Douglas A. Anderson, a leading American Tolkien scholar, is acknowledged as the worldwide expert on the textual history of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and has contributed the textual notes for all Houghton Mifflin editions of these titles for more than a decade. He has been a bookseller, in Ithaca, New York and northwest Indiana. He now lives in southwestern Michigan. He is the editor of The Annotated Hobbit.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The Elves by Ludwig Tieck
In his famous essay "On Fairy-stories" Tolkien wrote that "faerie is a perilous land, and in it are pitfalls for the unwary and dungeons for the overbold." Ludwig Tieck's story of the young girl Mary and her encounter with the Elves is one of the very best stories of the German kunstmärchen, or "literary fairy tales." Here the otherworldly and perilous nature of fa- erie that Tolkien later described is very evident.
"The Elves" was first published in volume 1 (1812) of Tieck's three-volume Phantasus. The translation into English by Thomas Carlyle first appeared in German Romance (1827).
Translated by Thomas Carlyle
Where is our little Mary?" said the father. "She is playing out upon the green there with our neighbour's boy," replied the mother.
"I wish they may not run away and lose themselves," said he; "they are so thoughtless."
The mother looked for the little ones, and brought them their evening luncheon. "It is warm," said the boy; "and Mary had a longing for the red cherries."
"Have a care, children," said the mother, "and do not run too far from home, and not into the wood; Father and I are going to the fields."
Little Andres answered: "Never fear, the wood frightens us; we shall sit here by the house, where there are people near us."
The mother went in, and soon came out again with her husband. They locked the door, and turned towards the fields to look after their labourers, and see their hay-harvest in the meadow. Their house lay upon a little green height, encircled by a pretty ring of paling, which likewise enclosed their fruit and flower garden. The hamlet stretched somewhat deeper down, and on the other side lay the castle of the Count. Martin rented the large farm from this nobleman; and was living in contentment with his wife and only child; for he yearly saved some money, and had the prospect of becoming a man of substance by his industry, for the ground was productive, and the Count not illiberal.
As he walked with his wife to the fields, he gazed cheerfully round and said: "What a different look this quarter has, Brigitta, from the place we lived in formerly! Here it is all so green; the whole village is bedecked with thick-spreading fruit-trees; the ground is full of beautiful herbs and flowers; all the houses are cheerful and cleanly, the inhabitants are at their ease: nay, I could almost fancy that the woods are greener here than elsewhere, and the sky bluer; and, so far as the eye can reach, you have pleasure and delight in beholding the bountiful Earth."
"And whenever you cross the stream," said Brigitta, "you are, as it were, in another world, all is so dreary and withered; but every traveller declares that our village is the fairest in the country far and near."
"All but that fir-ground," said her husband; "do but look back to it, how dark and dismal that solitary spot is lying in the gay scene: the dingy fir-trees with the smoky huts behind them, the ruined stalls, the brook flowing past with a sluggish melancholy."
"It is true," replied Brigitta; "if you but approach that spot, you grow disconsolate and sad, you know not why. What sort of people can they be that live there, and keep themselves so separate from the rest of us, as if they had an evil conscience?"
"A miserable crew," replied the young Farmer: "gipsies, seemingly, that steal and cheat in other quarters, and have their hoard and hiding-place here. I wonder only that his Lordship suffers them."
"Who knows," said the wife, with an accent of pity, "but perhaps they may be poor people, wishing, out of shame, to conceal their poverty; for, after all, no one can say aught ill of them; the only thing is, that they do not go to church, and none knows how they live; for the little garden, which indeed seems altogether waste, cannot possibly support them; and fields they have none."
"God knows," said Martin, as they went along, "what trade they follow; no mortal comes to them; for the place they live in is as if bewitched and excommunicated, so that even our wildest fellows will not venture into it."
Such conversation they pursued, while walking to the fields. That gloomy spot they spoke of lay aside from the hamlet. In a dell, begirt with firs, you might behold a hut, and various ruined office-houses; rarely was smoke seen to mount from it, still more rarely did men appear there; though at times curious people, venturing somewhat nearer, had perceived upon the bench before the hut, some hideous women, in ragged clothes, dandling in their arms some children equally dirty and ill-favoured; black dogs were running up and down upon the boundary; and, of an evening, a man of monstrous size was seen to cross the footbridge of the brook, and disappear in the hut; and, in the darkness, various shapes were observed, moving like shadows round a fire in the open air. This piece of ground, the firs and the ruined huts, formed in truth a strange contrast with the bright green landscape, the white houses of the hamlet, and the stately new-built castle.
The two little ones had now eaten their fruit; it came into their heads to run races; and the little nimble Mary always got the start of the less active Andres. "It is not fair," cried Andres at last: "let us try it for some length, then we shall see who wins."
"As thou wilt," said Mary; "only to the brook we must not run."
"No," said Andres; "but there, on the hill, stands the large pear-tree, a quarter of a mile from this. I shall run by the left, round past the fir-ground; thou canst try it by the right over the fields; so we do not meet till we get up, and then we shall see which of us is swifter."
"Done," cried Mary, and began to run; "for we shall not mar one an- other by the way, and my father says it is as far to the hill by that side of the gipsies's house as by this."
Andres had already started, and Mary, turning to the right, could no longer see him. "It is very silly," said she to herself: "I have only to take heart, and run along the bridge, past the hut, and through the yard, and I shall certainly be first." She was already standing by the brook and the clump of firs. "Shall I? No; it is too frightful," said she. A little white dog was standing on the farther side, and barking with might and main. In her terror, Mary thought the dog some monster, and sprang back. "Fy! fy!" said she: "the dolt is gone half way by this time, while I stand here considering." The little dog kept barking, and, as she looked at it more narrowly, it seemed no longer frightful, but, on the contrary, quite pretty; it had a red collar round its neck, with a glittering bell; and as it raised its head, and shook itself in barking, the little bell sounded with the finest tinkle. "Well, I must risk it!" cried she, "I will run for life; quick, quick, I am through; certainly to Heaven, they cannot eat me up alive in half a minute!" And with this, the gay, courageous little Mary sprang along the footbridge; passed the dog, which ceased its barking and began to fawn on her; and in a moment she was standing on the other bank, and the black firs all round concealed from view her father's house, and the rest of the landscape.
But what was her astonishment when here! The loveliest, most variegated flower-garden, lay round her; tulips, roses and lilies were glittering in the fairest colours; blue and gold-red butterflies were wavering in the blossoms; cages of shining wire were hung on the espaliers, with many-coloured birds in them, singing beautiful songs; and children, in short white frocks, with flowing yellow hair and brilliant eyes, were frolicking about; some playing with lambkins, some feeding the birds, or gathering flowers, and giving them to one another; some, again, were eating cherries, grapes and ruddy apricots. No hut was to be seen; but instead of it, a large fair house, with a brazen door and lofty statues, stood glancing in the middle of the space. Mary was confounded with surprise, and knew not what to think; but, not being bashful, she went right up to the first of the children, held out her hand, and wished the little creature good-even.
"Art thou come to visit us, then?" said the glittering child; "I saw thee running, playing on the other side, but thou wert frightened at our little dog."
"So you are not gipsies and rogues," said Mary, "as Andres always told me? He is a stupid thing, and talks of much he does not understand."
"Stay with us," said the strange little girl; "thou wilt like it well."
"But we are running a race."
"Thou wilt find thy comrade soon enough. There, take and eat."
Mary ate, and found the fruit more sweet than any she had ever tasted in her life before; and Andres, and the race, and the prohibition of her parents, were entirely forgotten.
A stately woman, in a shining robe, came towards them, and asked about the stranger child. "Fairest lady," said Mary, "I came running hither by chance, and now they wish to keep me."
"Thou art aware, Zerina," said the lady, "that she can be here but for a little while; besides, thou shouldst have asked my leave."
"I thought," said Zerina, "when I saw her admitted across the bridge, that I might do it; we have often seen her running in the fields, and thou thyself hast taken pleasure in her lively temper. She will have to leave us soon enough."
"No, I will stay here," said the little stranger; "for here it is so beautiful, and here I shall find the p...
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