steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Under the influence?

In a recent post I recommended Tolkien and the Ring of Words. I still do, but the authors managed to annoy me just as they were entering the final straight, in a little epilogue discussing JRRT's influence on later writers. They begin by making the sensible point that, just because two writers coin the same word, we cannot assume that the second writer was influenced by the first, especially if the new word is formed by combining two fairly common existing ones. So, D. H. Lawrence used 'hill-brow' before Tolkien did, but we can't legitimately infer that Tolkien was a reader of Lawrence.

On the next page, however, they sneer at Alan Garner from a great Oxfordian height, finding it 'curious' [i.e. incredible, in Oxford-speak] that he managed to come up with 'lore-master' in The Weirdstone of Brisingamen when the only precedents were the medieval poem Cursor Mundi and Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring. Curious, that is, if (as Garner has always claimed) he had not read LOTR before writing his own book. But both 'lore' and 'master' are common words, so by their own rule this argument is pretty lame.

As for whether Garner had read LOTR, that's another matter (which I've discussed already in Four British Fantasists). There are plenty of similarities between the books, for sure, but I'm less inclined than many to see that kind of evidence as conclusive. I've heard about, and even experienced, some pretty weird coincidences of a similar sort, and on the whole I'm inclined to take Garner's word for it.
Tags: books, language
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