Few would argue against the formative role played by the fictional writings of J.R.R. Tolkien in the genre of contemporary fantasy. The success of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy among Western audiences sparked a conflagration of inspired fantasy authors ever after, writing their own modest tales for decades thence, spun around seemingly-alien or once-upon-a-time worlds peopled with elves, dwarves, dark lords, wraiths, goblins, trolls, wizards, on and on, the likes of which had little part in modern literature up until Tolkien’s intervention. A few such common staples to the genre today — orcs and hobbits/halflings, for instance — were entirely the original creation of Tolkien, whereas many other tropes, while not originating in his work, often resemble his iteration more than they do anything described in their source material of folk legend (elves as wise and immortal/long-lived humanoids, or dwarves as a similar racial — rather than spiritual — species of clever, diminutive, subterranean artificers).
“Here, then, on all sides, this irreducible affinity, this tragic proximity between the warrior and death becomes clear. Victorious, he must immediately leave again for war in order to assure his glory with an even greater feat. But in ceaselessly testing the limits of the risk confronted and forging ahead for prestige he invariably meets this end: solitary death in the face of enemies. …There is no alternative for the warrior: a single outcome for him, death. His is an infinite task, as I was saying: what is proven here, in short, is that the warrior is never a warrior except at the end of his task, when, accomplishing his supreme exploit, he wins death along with absolute glory. Read More »