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“A superb collection, a splendid and much-needed book. Anderson has cleared away the dross and shown us the golden roots of fantasy before it became a genre.” –Michael Moorcock, author of The Eternal Champion Many of today’s top names in fantasy acknowledge J.R.R. Tolkien as the author whose work inspired them to create their own epics. But which writers influenced Tolkien h “A superb collection, a splendid and much-needed book. Anderson has cleared away the dross and shown us the golden roots of fantasy before it became a genre.” –Michael Moorcock, author of The Eternal Champion Many of today’s top names in fantasy acknowledge J.R.R. Tolkien as the author whose work inspired them to create their own epics. But which writers influenced Tolkien himself? In a collection destined to become a classic in its own right, internationally recognized Tolkien expert Douglas A. Anderson, editor of The Annotated Hobbit, has gathered the fiction of the many gifted authors who sparked Tolkien’s imagination. Included are Andrew Lang’s romantic swashbuckler “The Story of Sigurd,” which features magic rings and a ferocious dragon; an excerpt from E. A. Wyke-Smith’s The Marvelous Land of Snergs, about creatures who were precursors to Tolkien’s hobbits; and a never-before-published gem by David Lindsay, author of A Voyage to Arcturus, a novel that Tolkien praised highly both as a thriller and as a work of philosophy, religion, and morality. 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.


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“A superb collection, a splendid and much-needed book. Anderson has cleared away the dross and shown us the golden roots of fantasy before it became a genre.” –Michael Moorcock, author of The Eternal Champion Many of today’s top names in fantasy acknowledge J.R.R. Tolkien as the author whose work inspired them to create their own epics. But which writers influenced Tolkien h “A superb collection, a splendid and much-needed book. Anderson has cleared away the dross and shown us the golden roots of fantasy before it became a genre.” –Michael Moorcock, author of The Eternal Champion Many of today’s top names in fantasy acknowledge J.R.R. Tolkien as the author whose work inspired them to create their own epics. But which writers influenced Tolkien himself? In a collection destined to become a classic in its own right, internationally recognized Tolkien expert Douglas A. Anderson, editor of The Annotated Hobbit, has gathered the fiction of the many gifted authors who sparked Tolkien’s imagination. Included are Andrew Lang’s romantic swashbuckler “The Story of Sigurd,” which features magic rings and a ferocious dragon; an excerpt from E. A. Wyke-Smith’s The Marvelous Land of Snergs, about creatures who were precursors to Tolkien’s hobbits; and a never-before-published gem by David Lindsay, author of A Voyage to Arcturus, a novel that Tolkien praised highly both as a thriller and as a work of philosophy, religion, and morality. 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.

30 review for Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Werner

    Note, Aug. 28, 2020: When I read short story collections intermittently over a long period of time, my reactions are similarly written piecemeal, while they're fresh in my mind. That gives the reviews a choppy, and often repetitive, quality. Recently, I had to condense and rearrange one of these into a unified whole because of Goodreads' length limit; and I was so pleased with the result that I decided to give every one of these a similar edit! Accordingly, I've now edited this one. In all, edito Note, Aug. 28, 2020: When I read short story collections intermittently over a long period of time, my reactions are similarly written piecemeal, while they're fresh in my mind. That gives the reviews a choppy, and often repetitive, quality. Recently, I had to condense and rearrange one of these into a unified whole because of Goodreads' length limit; and I was so pleased with the result that I decided to give every one of these a similar edit! Accordingly, I've now edited this one. In all, editor Anderson has collected 21 stories here, mostly by British authors --though American fantasy is represented, and Ludwig Tieck was German. The arrangement of the stories here is chronological, and the editor contributes a brief introduction to the book and short historical/ contextual notes prefacing each story. An appendix gives mini-bio/ bibliographical notes for each contributor, and for a few other genre writers from that era. It could be argued that a few of these stories are out of place in a fantasy collection. Hodgson's surprisingly Christ-centered "The Baumoff Explosive" is science fiction --soft SF, but the agency of the protagonist's experience (which proves that it isn't wise for ordinary humans to try to relive Christ's spiritual-psychic experience on the Cross) is clearly natural science, not magic. And there is no clearly speculative element in Haggard's "Black Heart and White Heart: A Zulu Idyll," except for the minor one of a Zulu witch-doctoress who seems to wield some real powers; it's essentially a straightforward, excellent morality tale of adventure, rooted in a solid this-world historical context. (This was my first introduction to Haggard's work, though his major novels have been on my to-read list for a long time; I greatly appreciated his realistic evocation of his setting and his willingness to judge people by their character, not their skin color --the highly admirable hero and heroine here are black and the villain white.) "The Drawn Arrow" by Clemence Housman, though it's set in a historically and geographically unspecified ancient/medieval context, has no speculative element either; it's an emotionally harrowing tale of how absolute power and vanity can corrupt and warp a human being, but magic plays no part in the narrative. And some of the supernatural tales, like Richard Garnett's "The Demon Pope" and Lord Dunsany's "Chu-bu and Sheemish" are set entirely in this world. In fact, though, this isn't strictly a fantasy collection --it's a collection representing works/writers who influenced (or may have influenced) Tolkien, who happened to write fantasy but whose reading was broader, and who was influenced in some ways by writings outside his own preferred genre. Understood that way, the selections make more sense. (Also, while some of the stories, such as Stockton's, ostensibly take place in this world --or at least aren't explicitly set elsewhere-- they make their setting, in effect, a fantasy world, without a clear context in the real world, and with creatures like griffins, ogres and fairies treated as matter-of-fact parts of the fauna. Only two of the stories here are ones I've read before: Frank Stockton's "The Griffin and the Minor Canon," which I heartily like --he's best known for "The Lady or the Tiger?" (which I view as a gyp of the readers), but deserves to be better known for this one-- and Tieck's "The Elves," which in its tone and treatment of the theme reflects the fact that it was intended for children, but can hold the interest of adult readers, too. I didn't read the selection by E. A. Wyke-Smith, which proved to be an excerpt from his 1927 novel The Marvellous Land of Snergs (I prefer to read novels whole, not excerpted). Interestingly, Tolkien read MacDonald's "The Golden Key" at least twice in his life, with a very different reaction. In "On Fairy-stories," he praised the tale as one "of power and beauty" which "succeeded" in making the genre "a vehicle of Mystery." Rereading the work in 1964 as an elderly man, however, his critical judgment of it was the opposite; he now found it "ill-written, incoherent, and bad." (By 1965, he deemed MacDonald's whole corpus unreadable, and faulted the author for excessive preachiness.) Arguably, such a drastic 180-degree turnabout in Tolkien's reaction may say more about changes in his taste over time than about the story (and MacDonald, like E. H. Knatchbull-Huggessen in the following story, "Puss-cat Mew," was writing for children, not for adults in their 70s; both tales are British versions of the German idea of kunstmarchen). But my own judgment of this story would come closer to Tolkien's final opinion than his first. It certainly offers beautiful language and imagery, and originality; and the plot is clearly intended to embody a journey symbolism akin to that of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. But the metaphors are murky, we never get to know and feel the two main characters from inside as real people, and the telescoping of time in the fairy realm detracts from character development and ultimately (to this reader) makes the character's lives seem pointless. IMO, it is not the equal of the author's Phantastes (which I would exempt from Tolkien's harsh dismissal). "Puss-cat Mew," on the other hand, struck me as quite an engaging and entertaining story. The idea was suggested by a 19th-century nursery rhyme (quoted at the outset), but the novel treatment was the author's own. There is definitely some mayhem here (and the hero doesn't object to dispatching man-eating ogres and dwarves while they're unconscious or otherwise helpless --in one case, by bashing the victim's brains out). If you can tolerate that, however, the story offers flashes of dry wit (the tone is firmly tongue-in-cheek --especially since the unnamed narrator supposedly overheard the tale being told to a kitten by an older cat; he speaks animal languages, a couple of generations before Dr. Doolittle. :-)), the triumph of pluck, loyalty and virtue over mean-spirited malevolence, and a chaste romance between a couple you can willingly root for. (Here, as often in the actual folklore of fairies, the latter can be romantically interested in humans, and vice versa.) In fact, in their different ways, no less than three other stories all treat the theme of human man encountering female elf, with resultant romantic interest; but the authors' ways of handling this motif are very different. "The Thin Queen of Elfhame," by James Branch Cabell, is by far the least satisfactory of the trio; it's basically an expression of jaded total cynicism about the very possibility of fulfilling romantic or family relations, because it views the male nature as too inherently flawed to sustain them. But A. Merritt's "The Woman of the Wood" and the Appalachian-set "The Elf Trap" by Francis Stevens (whose real name was Gertrude Barrows Bennett, and whose work I encountered here for the very first time --hopefully not the last!) are powerful, beautiful, poignant and bittersweet masterpieces that fully realize the emotional possibilities of the motif. Andrew Lang's re-telling of "The Story of Sigurd" in modern English follows the outlines of the plot which I had read elsewhere; William Morris' "The Folk of the Mountain Door" (which is actually more of a vivid vignette than a plotted story with conflict and resolution) also evokes an early medieval, pre-Christian atmosphere, with the Old English-infuenced diction that characterizes his fantasy writings. "The Demon Pope" and "The Regent of the North" by Kenneth Morris also have a medieval setting. (The latter, set in Sweden on the cusp of the transition from paganism to Christianity, treats the former respectfully and sympathetically, while not denying the truth claims of the latter, and conveys an understanding of the psychology of some of the pagans who resisted the change, not necessarily for perverse reasons; his treatment of the Norse gods as real persons and Valhalla as a real place isn't incompatible with a Christian world-view, either --though his portrayal of healthy wolves attacking a human is incompatible with what we know about actual lupine behavior. :-)) On the other hand, Baum's "The Enchanted Buffalo," like all his fantasy, has a distinctly American --here, Native American-- flavor, bringing us into a realm of the supposed early world where anthropomorphic animals could talk, creating a tale reminiscent of the Indian mythology on which its clearly modeled; and Lord Dunsany's story takes place in an unspecified Third World milieu, probably Asian. (That story, too, presents pagan gods as "real" in a sense; the idols are sentient, and wield some power --but their power is so minute, and used in the service of such petty jealousy, that they come across as pathetic and ridiculous; and that's quite probably the perspective with which many ancient Hebrews, faithful to Yahweh, would have viewed them.) Buchan's "The Far Islands" (my first introduction to his work, too!) is set in the author's own time --but it suggests that beyond our everyday world, there are other dimensions that only some people are favored to see. "The Coming of the Terror" is actually a condensed version of Machen's novella The Terror (1916; original title, The Great Terror), the version Century Magazine created for the first American printing in 1917. Machen himself, however, allowed that their shortening of the original, which I haven't read, was done "with a skill that was really remarkable;" and I would say that for achieving the effect of concentrated terror (it's well-titled, believe me!), the length here is perfect. It's not really a work of fantasy (it's set in England, against the brooding, paranoid backdrop of World War I, mostly in the mountain-hemmed, lonely country valleys of a remote Welsh county), but since the lethal goings-on are never definitively explained --that's part of the horror, of course, as Machen well understood!-- it's hard to define the genre; the narrator's preferred psycho-spiritual explanation doesn't involve magic as such, but is so mystical that science-fiction purists wouldn't be apt to claim it either. (It's certainly not in the "hard" SF tradition.) What it is, though, is a very effective work (more effective, IMO, than the better-known "The Great God Pan," my only previous introduction to Machen's work) of mounting, claustrophobic horror, with a good philosophical point at the end. David Lindsay's "A Christmas Play" is indeed a play (though not really about Christmas --that day just happens to provide the setting), but it can be read like fiction; written apparently in the 1930s but never published or performed before, it's printed here for the first time. It's a sweet, delightful modern literary fairy tale of moral testing and virtue rewarded, perfectly crafted by the author. (I never got far into his novel A Voyage to Arcturus, being completely unable to get into it; but this shows a whole different side to his creativity. Altogether, this is an outstanding collection that I'd enthusiastically recommend! There's also a companion volume, Tales Before Narnia, which collects fantasy that may have influenced C. S. Lewis; I'm hoping eventually to read (and review) it as well.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Julie Davis

    I really like this book. It is the sort where I don't feel I have to painstakingly read every story if one isn't the sort I like. A quick skimming is perfectly adequate to give me the gist. I've been surprised at how many of the stories I have enjoyed and how many have a fresh, modern feel considering how old they are (most from 1919 and earlier). I also enjoy the author's story introductions and the fact that he doesn't try to force the idea that Tolkien read each of these or that each influence I really like this book. It is the sort where I don't feel I have to painstakingly read every story if one isn't the sort I like. A quick skimming is perfectly adequate to give me the gist. I've been surprised at how many of the stories I have enjoyed and how many have a fresh, modern feel considering how old they are (most from 1919 and earlier). I also enjoy the author's story introductions and the fact that he doesn't try to force the idea that Tolkien read each of these or that each influenced him. It is enough that this is the fantasy atmosphere which was floating around during his formative and reading years before he began writing.

  3. 4 out of 5

    PurplyCookie

    This anthology pulls together 21 short stories and one short play to explore the wide variety of influences on the writer who has long been regarded as the father of modern fantasy. Authors range from the iconic (L. Frank Baum) to the virtually unknown (Clemence Housman). Anderson includes commentary for each piece, highlighting possible connections with Tolkien's work. "The Elves" by Ludwig Tieck >> A "literary fairy tale" in the German tradition and illustrates the dangers of visiting with fair This anthology pulls together 21 short stories and one short play to explore the wide variety of influences on the writer who has long been regarded as the father of modern fantasy. Authors range from the iconic (L. Frank Baum) to the virtually unknown (Clemence Housman). Anderson includes commentary for each piece, highlighting possible connections with Tolkien's work. "The Elves" by Ludwig Tieck >> A "literary fairy tale" in the German tradition and illustrates the dangers of visiting with fairies. "The Golden Key" by George MacDonald >> A mystical tale of a boy and a girl who embark on a lifelong quest meeting several magical personages along the way. "Puss-Cat Mew" by E. H. Knatchbull-Hugessen >> A story of a young man and a cat (in reality the favorite daughter of the Fairy Queen) against evil ogres and dwarves. An added bonus is when the fairies deign to speak in prose rather than verse. "The Griffin and the Minor Canon" by Frank R. Stockton >> A delightful yarn about the friendship between a clergy man and a monster. "The Demon Pope" by Richard Garnett >> A tongue-in-cheek story of Satan and the Sacred College. What would happen if the Wvil Prince becomes the Head of Vatican? "The Story of Sigurd" retold by Andrew Lang >> An abbreviated version of the Nibelungenlied. "The Folk of the Mountain Door" by William Morris >> A mystical tale of a god and goddess attending a naming rite of a newborn prince in a Norse-like kingdom. "Black Heart and White Heart" by H. Rider Haggard >> A story of an English gentleman who tries to steal the lover of a Zulu woman. "The Dragon Tamers" by E. Nesbit >> Describes the trials of a poor dragon who is always outwitted by one family. "The Far Islands" by John Buchan >> Tells of a boy whose family is obsessed by the Western Isles and uses vivid descriptions of landscapes strikingly similar to that of Middle Earth. "The Drawn Arrow" by Clemence Housman >> A story of the gratitude of kings and the trials they delight in imposing upon others just to keep loyalty in check. "The Enchanted Buffalo" by L. Frank Baum >> A yarn about treachery and revenge within the Royal Tribe of the buffaloes. "Chu-bu and Sheemish" by Lord Dunsany >> A fable about jealous petty gods. "The Baumhoff Explosive" by William Hope Hodgson >> A cautionary tale about becoming too much like Christ. "The Regent of the North" by Kenneth Morris >> A tale about a Viking who will not forswear his religion for Christianity. "The Coming of the Terror" by Arthur Machen >> A suspense story about frightening events in England during World War I. "The Elf Trap" by Francis Stevens >> Relates the strange experiences of a Professor of Biology who meets a beautiful young lady in the back woods. "The Thin Queen of Elfhame" by James Branch Cabell >> The story of a man who unintentionally finds true love. "The Woman of the Wood" by A. Merritt >> Discloses the murderous actions of a man who loved a coppice. "Golithos the Ogre" by E. A. Wyke-Smith >> Tells of the vegetarian ogre who has two plump children as house guests. "The Story of Alwina" by Austin Tappan Wright >> An excerpt about the history of Queen Alwina of Islandia. "A Christmas Play" by David Lindsay >> Recounts the efforts of the fairy Emerald to find husbands for three sisters when there are only two princes available. Some of these authors are known to have influenced Tolkien, but all wrote on themes which Tolkien would probably have admired. All the authors were chosen to be at least five years older than Tolkien. Others are not actually mentioned by Tolkien but possibly had an influence on him, while still others were probably not read by him but are indicative of the state of fantasy at the time he was active. None of these stories really measure up to Tolkien's standards (but then, what does?) but many are quite interesting and enjoyable to read. Book Details: Title Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy Author Edited by Douglas A. Anderson Reviewed By Purplycookie

  4. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Berg

    This book was rather disappointing in many ways. For one, it didn't contain what it claims on the cover... "classic stories that inspired" Tolkien. In fact, the editor of the collection clearly states in the introduction to many of the pieces that there is no record of Tolkien ever reading such a story... but he might have, if he had known about it. Which is pure speculation at best. However, that is not to say this collection is terrible. Far from it! There are at least three stories in the book This book was rather disappointing in many ways. For one, it didn't contain what it claims on the cover... "classic stories that inspired" Tolkien. In fact, the editor of the collection clearly states in the introduction to many of the pieces that there is no record of Tolkien ever reading such a story... but he might have, if he had known about it. Which is pure speculation at best. However, that is not to say this collection is terrible. Far from it! There are at least three stories in the book that are must reads. But what this book does well is listing all the authors from before Tolkien's time which had influential and interesting stories - unfortunately, most of those stories are not in this volume, but are listed, if you want a supplemental reading list you will have to track down on your own. Some of the tales within are excerpts from longer tales - so why weren't there excerpts from A Voyage to Arcturus or The Princess and the Goblin which were known books Tolkien praised? Yes, those authors are included in this collection, but with other works which are perhaps not quite up to the standard you would expect. And a few of the Finnish myths that so influenced Tolkien's work would have nicely gone along with the one mythic tale that was included. All in all, I recommend reading this not for the tales, but for the list of authors at the front and back of the book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Molly G

    The introduction explaining how stories were chosen is excellent in itself, and both satisfying and liberating to Tolkien scholars. (Iliad, Odyssey, and Beowulf are in the first sentence of the second paragraph.) "Liberating" because it does such a good job of expressing purpose of choice, Tolkienites are totally freed from continuing to mull it and so can simply read and enjoy the selected stories regardless of their degree of relation to LotR. Stories themselves are magnificent. Favorites are p The introduction explaining how stories were chosen is excellent in itself, and both satisfying and liberating to Tolkien scholars. (Iliad, Odyssey, and Beowulf are in the first sentence of the second paragraph.) "Liberating" because it does such a good job of expressing purpose of choice, Tolkienites are totally freed from continuing to mull it and so can simply read and enjoy the selected stories regardless of their degree of relation to LotR. Stories themselves are magnificent. Favorites are probably "The Griffin and Minor Canon" (Frank R. Stockton), "Black Heart and White Heart: A Zulu Idyll" (H. Rider Haggard), "The Far Islands" (John Buchan), "The Coming of Terror" (Arthur Machen—and I must wonder if M. Night Shyamalan has read this story) and particularly "Chu-bu and Sheemish" (Lord Dunsany). Though there wasn't a single story I didn't enjoy reading, and I should also mention "The Golden Key" (George MacDonald), "The Thin Queen of Elfhame" (James Branch Cabell) and "A Christmas Play" (David Lindsay) for sticking very much in the mind and continuing to thought-evoke. ...And I've just named just about every story in the book, so there you have it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jared Millet

    An interesting collection of mostly 19th Century fairy stories with a few "weird" tales of the era thrown in, but for the most part this anthology is only enjoyable from an academic perspective. These stories have not aged well. Most are trite, precious, wooden, and overly moralistic. Only a handful are genuinely good ("Black Heart and White Heart" by H. Rider Haggard and "Chu-bu and Sheemish" by Lord Dunsany are the best) but several are completely unreadable.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Micah and Laurie

    I really enjoyed this book. It really gave me the perspective that Tolkine had when he was a young writers as myself. I will continue to cherish the old tales even more now. Tokien remains to be one of my admired authors.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sue Ellen

    Most of these tales are great fun, but you have to be in the mood for traditional tales from "Faerie" and read them as much for the references they might contain to other texts you know and love as for the entertainment they themselves provide.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    Tolkien is often considered to be the father of modern fantasy, but it's not like he woke up one morning and thought, "I'm going to write this crazy story that takes place in a world that may or may not be our own and features Elves and Dwarves and wizards!" This anthology, compiled by Tolkien scholar Douglas Anderson, is a collection of stories from the 19th and early 20th centuries that either are known to have inspired Tolkien or are representative of the kind of (what we would consider) fant Tolkien is often considered to be the father of modern fantasy, but it's not like he woke up one morning and thought, "I'm going to write this crazy story that takes place in a world that may or may not be our own and features Elves and Dwarves and wizards!" This anthology, compiled by Tolkien scholar Douglas Anderson, is a collection of stories from the 19th and early 20th centuries that either are known to have inspired Tolkien or are representative of the kind of (what we would consider) fantasy fiction from that period. The problem with this anthology is that, while most of these stories are decent, none are very memorable. I've only disliked one or two of the stories, but I can't say that 6 months from now I'm going to remember the plot of any of these tales. Another reviewer noted that these are worth reading only from an academic standpoint - that is, they don't have a lot of merit outside of reading them through the lens of Tolkien's influences - and I have to agree with this statement. (Starred stories are the cream of the crop in this collection.) "The Elves" by Ludwig Tieck - 4/5. A fairly traditional story in which a young girl spends what she perceives to be a few hours with some elves and then returns to her family, only to discover that many years have passed. "The Golden Key" by George MacDonald - 4/5. A boy is given a key and spends a lifetime searching for the door it opens. A bit overly allegorical, but I enjoyed it. "Puss-cat Mew" by EH Knatchbull-Hugessen - 3/5. A man wanders into a forest with fairies, trolls, and goblins. This story would have worked better if it wasn't so long. * "The Griffin and the Minor Canon" by Frank R. Stockton - 4/5. A griffin comes to town and befriends one of the townsmen without realizing that he is feared by everyone else. "The Demon Pope" by Richard Garnett - 1/5. Awful. I don't know why this was included. The devil makes a deal with the pope to be pope for a day. "The Story of Sigurd" by Andrew Lang - 4/5. A Danish folk tale about a man who slays a dragon, rescues an enchanted maiden, etc etc. "The Folk of the Mountain Door" by William Morris - 2/5. I really liked this one until the ending, which is abrupt and inconclusive. It left me wondering what the point of this story is. Basically two figures wander into the hall of a king and chat with him for a while. Then they go away. "Black Heart and White Heart: A Zulu Idyll" by H. Rider Haggard - 2/5. Set in what is today South Africa, an English trader is hiding out from the government among the Zulu. This is an interesting story from the perspective of 19th century colonization and has an interesting message - the white man in the story has the black heart and the Zulu native has a white heart - but otherwise I found it a bit dull. "The Dragon Tamers" by E. Nesbit - 3/5. A dragon is captured by a blacksmith and confined to a castle. I liked this story at first, but now I just feel sorry for the dragon. * "The Far Islands" by John Buchan - 5/5. Easily the best story in this collection. A young boy living on the Scottish coast strives to see an island in the distance. As he gets older, the island becomes clearer until his death, when he is able to travel to the island and beyond. Allusions to Middle Earth are obvious here, and I was absolutely spellbound by this tale. "The Drawn Arrow" by Clemence Housman - 1/5. Like "The Demon Pope," I hated this story. "The Enchanted Buffalo" by L. Frank Baum - 2/5. This is basically Hamlet/The Lion King, but with buffalos. "Chu-Bu and Sheemish" by Lord Dunsany - 2/5. An idol name Chu-Bu becomes jealous when a new idol, Sheemish, is placed in the same temple. I didn't like this story but I enjoyed a few others from "The Book of Wonders," the collection that includes "Chu-Bu and Sheemish." I figure this particular story was included because it's known that Tolkien read it, although some of the other stories by Lord Dunsany might have been better choices for this anthology. "The Baumoff Explosive" by William Hope Hodgson - 4/5. A bizarre and downright eerie story about a man who performs an experiment to simulate the exact physical and environmental conditions that Jesus experienced when he died on the cross. In other words, Baumoff crucifies himself. As a work of horror fiction, this story works extremely well (I found it quite visually disturbing), but it feels out of place in this collection. "The Regent of the North" by Kenneth Morris - 4/5. A Swedish man becomes upset when Christianity comes to the land and replaces the old gods. "The Coming of the Terror" by Arthur Machen - 3/5. A condensed version of Machen's novel "The Terror," this story describes a series of unexplained events that happen across Britain during the summer of 1915. "The Coming of the Terror" has an Interesting premise with a weak pay-off; the explanation of the terror was a bit too illogical and boring for my tastes. "The Elf-Trap" by Francis Stevens - 4/5. This is similar to "The Elves," the first story in this collection, though set in Appalachia. * "The Thin Queen of Elfhame" by James Branch Cabell - 4/5. A renowned man leaves his home behind in search of an elf queen. This would have been an unremarkable story if not for the dash of irony at the end - the elf queen has no heart and love cannot exist in her wood, which means that no one can get hurt. * "The Woman of the Wood" by A. Merritt - 5/5. Although the introduction to this story notes that Tolkien probably had never read this story, the similarities between Tolkien's Ents and the trees in this story are eerily similar. This is one of the better stories in the collection - I was riveted the entire time. "Golithos the Ogre" by EA Wyke-Smith - 3/5. This is a chapter from Wyke-Smith's novel "Marvellous Land of Snergs," which directly influenced Tolkien's Hobbits. This particular except is weak, though; it doesn't focus on the Snergs (Hobbits) or their habits, but instead shows an ogre who has turned vegetarian. Fascinating. "The Story of Alwina" by Austin Tappan Wright - 3/5. Set in the fictional country of Islandia, this is the story of the land's first female ruler. Not a bad story, but it was written as too much of a history for my liking. No background was provided for any of the fictional names and places in the story and I found myself thinking, "What's the point?" "A Christmas Play" by David Lindsay - 2/5. I might have liked this one better if it wasn't written as a play; I've never been fond of reading plays. A fairy wants to grant three sisters each a prince, but her queen will only allow her to give two of the sisters princes. A bit too philosophical and preachy for my tastes.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Brian DeMarco

    Well, we've finally come to it. The pre-Tolkien half of my year of fantasy has concluded, and the only works left before moving on to the post-Tolkien era are two anthologies edited by Douglas A. Anderson: "Tales Before Tolkien" and "Tales Before Narnia". Both of these books aim to present, through a collection of chronologically placed short stories, a view of what the fantasy genre was like before Tolkien and C.S. Lewis came onto the scene. This is the review of "Tales Before Tolkien". Overall Well, we've finally come to it. The pre-Tolkien half of my year of fantasy has concluded, and the only works left before moving on to the post-Tolkien era are two anthologies edited by Douglas A. Anderson: "Tales Before Tolkien" and "Tales Before Narnia". Both of these books aim to present, through a collection of chronologically placed short stories, a view of what the fantasy genre was like before Tolkien and C.S. Lewis came onto the scene. This is the review of "Tales Before Tolkien". Overall, this is a good book, and it achieves what it sets out to do very well. Douglas A. Anderson's reason for placing each story in here is clearly defined and understandable. Each story serves a purpose of presenting a new angle or view on the genre (a lot of them directly influenced Tolkien) even if they're not all stellar in quality. I came away from this book with a clear picture of Pre-Tolkien fantasy, and I think it serves as a really nice summary on everything I've read up to this point. I can't give a commentary for each individual story in here, as their are far too many, but just know that I wouldn't call any of them "bad". The best are really good, the worst ones decent. It's tough when doing this review to not make it about Pre-Tolkien fantasy as a whole. I feel myself wanting to do that, but I'm trying to hold back. I could drone on and on about what I think of how the genre has changed and all that; however, I want to keep this brief, and just about this anthology. It's a good book. As a (relatively) brief introduction to the world of fantasy before Tolkien's massive influence, you can really do no better. Tolkien fans will delight at seeing some of the inspirations for the professor's work, and even Tolkien naysayers will get enjoyment out of this. And now, on to "Tales Before Narnia"

  11. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen

    Perfect for anyone who enjoys fantasy or fairy tale, this book really can be read without any serious connection to Tolkien. I can see how many of the stories were influential to him, but the bigger idea is that Fantasy existed before Tolkien and that he launched tales like these to the next level. Anderson included stories from all across the world, which makes an interesting compilation, but may or may not make the case that the tales were the kind that would influence Tolkien. In any compilati Perfect for anyone who enjoys fantasy or fairy tale, this book really can be read without any serious connection to Tolkien. I can see how many of the stories were influential to him, but the bigger idea is that Fantasy existed before Tolkien and that he launched tales like these to the next level. Anderson included stories from all across the world, which makes an interesting compilation, but may or may not make the case that the tales were the kind that would influence Tolkien. In any compilation like this, some of the stories will be 5 star, and others will definitely not be. In this collection, the best tales were "The Coming of the Terror," a story of the disturbance of the natural order--FANTASTIC!!!; "Golithos the Ogre," which was influential on Tolkien's tone/voice, as well as being hilarious in and of itself; "The Baumhoff Explosive," on the essence of light and darkness; "The Golden Key," the journey of life and death; "Black Heart and White Heart," a story of greed and goodness, "The Demon Pope," and "The Griffin and the Minor Canon." Duds in the collection include "Puss-Cat Mew," which just dragged on too long, though the idea was a good one (retelling a nursery rhyme); "The Story of Alwina," though it does sound a lot like the Silmarillion, in density and tone. The others are all good fantasy stories, so if you are in the mood for a wide range of fantasy, this book is for you.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Steven E

    There are quite a variety of tales in this book, ranging from Tolkienesque stories of elves and dragons to horror “The Baumoff Explosive”, comedy “The Dragon Tamers”, satire “Chu-Bu and Sheemish”, paradoxically violent children’s folktales in the Brothers Grimm mode “Puss-Cat Mew “, mythology “The Golden Key”, imaginary histories “The Story or Alwina”, strange little existential gems “The Thin Queen of Elfhame”, as well as a rather unsuccessful attempt to shed fantasy of its European roots “A Zu There are quite a variety of tales in this book, ranging from Tolkienesque stories of elves and dragons to horror “The Baumoff Explosive”, comedy “The Dragon Tamers”, satire “Chu-Bu and Sheemish”, paradoxically violent children’s folktales in the Brothers Grimm mode “Puss-Cat Mew “, mythology “The Golden Key”, imaginary histories “The Story or Alwina”, strange little existential gems “The Thin Queen of Elfhame”, as well as a rather unsuccessful attempt to shed fantasy of its European roots “A Zulu Idyll” (which is nonetheless told from the view of a European). Many of them combine two or more of these ideas. Some of them ring with the type of epic grandeur and deliberately archaic language that characterize Tolkien’s “High Style”. Every reader will probably like one or two of these stories and despise one or two others. I found the first several to be disappointing but began to like the ones near the end (I don’t know if this has anything to do with the chronological order in which the tales are presented). Anyway, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in fantasy writing, and specifically anyone interested in the roots of Tolkien’s ideas, though the editor leaves out that other epic about a magic (and cursed) ring, that one by Richard Wagner… --Steven E. Scribner, author of the "Tond" series https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Hayley

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Some of these stories were delightful. Some were pretty delight-less. On the good list are... * The Folk of the Mountain Door: the most Tolkien, you could really feel the inspiration he took here> * The Griffin and the Minor Canon: I have no idea why I liked this so much. It was silly, short, and just out of nowhere. It reminded me of an old church I found in a _tiny_ community in the mountains of Oaxaca - just plain unexpected. * Black Heart and White Heart: My favorite. Historical, old, but still Some of these stories were delightful. Some were pretty delight-less. On the good list are... * The Folk of the Mountain Door: the most Tolkien, you could really feel the inspiration he took here> * The Griffin and the Minor Canon: I have no idea why I liked this so much. It was silly, short, and just out of nowhere. It reminded me of an old church I found in a _tiny_ community in the mountains of Oaxaca - just plain unexpected. * Black Heart and White Heart: My favorite. Historical, old, but still plainly something that could exist in the world we know - no hiding behind elves, ogres, or fairies for novelty. A very different time, location, and context than almost all fantasy stories available now. * The Far Islands - If you like Tolkien's fixation on unknown isles to the West... I nearly included both The Elves and The Elf Trap, because of the similar-yet-totally-different way they treat elves, but they just didn't rank with the four above.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michael Brown

    As usual with collections like this there are a few stories I have read in the past and many new ones. Also we have so much dated material that some selections, while being called classics or best examples of their period, or just poor reads. And others are only okay. Despite a lot of misses in my opinion, the selection was a good cross section of material in print before JRRT and other of his writing circle raised the modern level of fantasy fiction. How much it really influenced Tolkien is jus As usual with collections like this there are a few stories I have read in the past and many new ones. Also we have so much dated material that some selections, while being called classics or best examples of their period, or just poor reads. And others are only okay. Despite a lot of misses in my opinion, the selection was a good cross section of material in print before JRRT and other of his writing circle raised the modern level of fantasy fiction. How much it really influenced Tolkien is just conjecture on the part of the editor.

  15. 4 out of 5

    robyn

    I think the main point of this collection is that you won't have read most of these anywhere else, and may want to use it as a reference list for authors you want to look up; fantasy from this time period can be heavy going, and this selection nicely highlights just how different and how accessible (and sadly, how crap, sometimes) fantasy IS, post-Tolkien. I think the book is worth owning just for the lovely little 'A Christmas Play' by David Lindsay that rounds it out, which at the time this boo I think the main point of this collection is that you won't have read most of these anywhere else, and may want to use it as a reference list for authors you want to look up; fantasy from this time period can be heavy going, and this selection nicely highlights just how different and how accessible (and sadly, how crap, sometimes) fantasy IS, post-Tolkien. I think the book is worth owning just for the lovely little 'A Christmas Play' by David Lindsay that rounds it out, which at the time this book was published couldn't be found elsewhere, and is still probably hard to come by.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I read this book in hopes of discovering some of the things Tolkien had read and how it might have influenced his writing. I was disappointed by how many of these stories were qualified with statements like “there is no reason to suppose Tolkien ever read this,” or “when asked about this author’s book, Tolkien said he’d never heard of it.”

  17. 5 out of 5

    Doug Adamson

    An interesting group of stories by different authors. Some were more enjoyable than others and some were very good.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Fuzeball

    Just like many books that compile short stories, about 60% of them are good, with most of the bad ones being put in the middle.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cleo

    I enjoyed many of the stories in this collection, though "The Elves" was not one of them. It was really strange and rather boring. However, many of these stories were really good. The title of this collection is kind of self-explanatory; it purports to include many stories that may have influenced J.R.R. Tolkien. I've had this one on my shelf for a long time, but since I just re(read) The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I figured now would be the time to actually finish it. Many of the stories one ca I enjoyed many of the stories in this collection, though "The Elves" was not one of them. It was really strange and rather boring. However, many of these stories were really good. The title of this collection is kind of self-explanatory; it purports to include many stories that may have influenced J.R.R. Tolkien. I've had this one on my shelf for a long time, but since I just re(read) The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I figured now would be the time to actually finish it. Many of the stories one can see how Tolkien would directly draw from, but there were some that he never even read, which makes the collection's description slightly misleading. There are a wide variety of stories in this collection; some are like fairy tales, others classic fantasy and fantasy. One, "Black Heart and White Heart: A Zulu Idyll" is set in Africa, and most of the others ones are set in fantasy lands. The first two stories, "The Elves" and "The Golden Key" are about the perils of Fairyland, and how the mortal can easily get lost and spend what seems like days there while years pass outside. It's a fascinating concept, yet these two stories were really strange and the most boring in the whole collection. So don't get turned off from reading this by the first rather uninteresting couple of stories. The third story, "Puss-Cat Mew", is much better. It's a rather violent tale, but it's really entertaining, and was certainly a welcome relief after the dullness of "The Elves" and "The Golden Key". The next story, "The Griffin in the Minor Canon", tells of a kind-hearted griffin who shows up at a village when he hears that there's a statue of him in front of the church. This story is really thought-provoking, because when the griffin takes over some of the town's duties, everything runs very smoothly because everyone is so afraid of him that they do their job well. "The Demon Pope" was rather confusing, but good. I loved "The Story of Sigurd"; it's one of the stories that Wagner drew off of to great the Ring cycle, which bears a lot of similarity to the Lord of the Rings. Tolkien definitely drew off of Wagner too. "The Folk of the Mountain-Door" was another dud; it made no impression on me whatsoever, and I confess to skimming through parts of it. "Black Heart and White Heart: A Zulu Idyll" was an interesting story which I enjoyed. "The Dragon-Tamers" was funny in a British sort of way. "The Far Islands", about a man who hallucinates about a fantasy land, was rather depressing but good. "The Drawn Arrow" was just kind of stupid and annoying, though it started out promisingly enough. "The Enchanted Buffalo", written by L. Frank Baum, is one of a series of animal tales, and was a fairly good story. There are many more stories, but I'm not going to go into them. Suffice to say, that this collection was pretty good, though as in most short story collections, there were some good and some bad. Still, I would recommend this book, and I may try Tales Before Narnia, edited by the same person. www.novareviews.blogspot.com

  20. 5 out of 5

    Max

    This is an interesting mix of stories. There's a lot of fantasy stuff here, as well as some literary fairy tales and weird fiction. Some of it is quite good and imaginative, such as the story about imprisoning dragons or some of the tales of trips to Fairyland. Other stuff is rather boring or awful, such as The Golden Key, which drags on and on to no real purpose - and Tolkien seemingly agreed with me. There's a sort of horror/suspense story about terrible things happening in England during the This is an interesting mix of stories. There's a lot of fantasy stuff here, as well as some literary fairy tales and weird fiction. Some of it is quite good and imaginative, such as the story about imprisoning dragons or some of the tales of trips to Fairyland. Other stuff is rather boring or awful, such as The Golden Key, which drags on and on to no real purpose - and Tolkien seemingly agreed with me. There's a sort of horror/suspense story about terrible things happening in England during the first World War that was pretty fun, even if the explanation was a bit of a let down. However, I overall can't rate this anthology too highly because it sort of fails at it's stated purpose. Yes, some of the stories here are definitely inspirations for Tolkien and have some nice parallels or things he borrowed, but much of the tales have very little to do with him. In some cases, the editor provides a story by an author that influenced Tolkien, but not the one Tolkien actually cared about, which is frustrating. It's even worse when he throws in stories and readily admits that as far as we know, Tolkien never even read them. I might be a bit more favorable towards this collection if it was branded as just a compilation of lesser known early fantasy works, but as it is, I found it rather oversells itself and suffers as a result. Still, there was some stuff worth reading here and it has given me a few authors to look into, so it wasn't a complete loss.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    I really enjoyed this collection of fantasy and - a few of them - almost "sci-fi" short stories. Contrary to what I thought I was getting into, Tales Before Tolkien presents a broad range of styles, subject matter and time periods: not everything reads like it influenced Middle Earth, and some stories are quite "modern" in flavor. In fact, my favorite were the more modern/metaphysical ones: -"The Baumoff Explosive," written in the early 1900s, is a fascinating story about a scientist trying to pr I really enjoyed this collection of fantasy and - a few of them - almost "sci-fi" short stories. Contrary to what I thought I was getting into, Tales Before Tolkien presents a broad range of styles, subject matter and time periods: not everything reads like it influenced Middle Earth, and some stories are quite "modern" in flavor. In fact, my favorite were the more modern/metaphysical ones: -"The Baumoff Explosive," written in the early 1900s, is a fascinating story about a scientist trying to prove the Darkness of the Cross of Christ. -"The Coming of the Terror," also written in the early 1900s, might have influenced Stephen King and M. Nigh Shyamalan with its suspenseful mystery of horrors besieging British towns during the World War. -Same time period - "The Elf Trap" - is a great story about a modern-day man (professor of science) encountering the mystical and inexplicable. -"The Woman of the Wood" was penned by an American writer in 1926 and again features a modern-day war vet having a metaphysical encounter with the forest. There are a number of delightful tales more in line with traditional fantasy such as "The Griffin and the Minor Ganon" and "The Dragon Tamers," among others. Whether or not you like Tolkien, if you are a lover of fantasy, myth and fairy-tale, this collection of little-known, amazing fictional works is a must-read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Shauna

    Although the cover says, "Classic stories that inspired the author of The Lord of the Rings." In fact, though, only some of the stories in this anthology are known for sure to have influenced Tolkien. The rest are stories by authors Tolkien liked or that were popular during Tolkien's life. Still, I understand much better the foundation Tolkien stood on, so I consider reading the book worthwhile for that alone. I would not recommend this book for pleasure reading. There are some good stories, parti Although the cover says, "Classic stories that inspired the author of The Lord of the Rings." In fact, though, only some of the stories in this anthology are known for sure to have influenced Tolkien. The rest are stories by authors Tolkien liked or that were popular during Tolkien's life. Still, I understand much better the foundation Tolkien stood on, so I consider reading the book worthwhile for that alone. I would not recommend this book for pleasure reading. There are some good stories, particularly in the latter half of the book. My favorite was "Black Heart and White Heart: A Zulu Idyll" by H. Rider Haggard, which could hold its own in today's market, I think. On the other hand, the book contains fifty pages of the dreadful "Puss-cat Mew: by E.H. Knatchbull-Hugessen. This story was a favorite of Tolkien's when he was a child, and echoes of it show up in The Lord of the Rings, so it has a legitimate place in the anthology, but it's not a fun read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    John

    The cover claims these are "classic stories that inspired the author of The Lord of the Rings." All the stories are by fantasy writers who were born at least 5 years before Tolkien and published fantasy before 1937. Some of these writers were real influences on Tolkien --George MacDonald, William Morris, H. Rider Haggard, E. Wyke-Smith, David Lindsay. Others such as A. Merritt and Austin Tappan Wright had no proven influence on Tolien, though they were good fantasy writers of the period. Some of the The cover claims these are "classic stories that inspired the author of The Lord of the Rings." All the stories are by fantasy writers who were born at least 5 years before Tolkien and published fantasy before 1937. Some of these writers were real influences on Tolkien --George MacDonald, William Morris, H. Rider Haggard, E. Wyke-Smith, David Lindsay. Others such as A. Merritt and Austin Tappan Wright had no proven influence on Tolien, though they were good fantasy writers of the period. Some of the stories are not, in my opinion, the writer's best fantasy work-- I would have chosen "The Magical Music" or "Ting-a-Ling and The Five Magicians" to represent Frank Stockton instead of "The Griffin and the Minor Canon" for instance.

  24. 4 out of 5

    L.

    Tales Before Tolkien is a nice collection of fantasy tales dating from the period just before Tolkien's birth to just before he began publishing his own works. Some of the stories, like Puss-cat Mew, Tolkien actually acknowledged having read and enjoyed as a youth. Others are not actually mentioned by Tolkien but possibly had an influence on him, while still others were probably not read by him but are indicative of the state of fantasy at the time he was active. None of these stories really mea Tales Before Tolkien is a nice collection of fantasy tales dating from the period just before Tolkien's birth to just before he began publishing his own works. Some of the stories, like Puss-cat Mew, Tolkien actually acknowledged having read and enjoyed as a youth. Others are not actually mentioned by Tolkien but possibly had an influence on him, while still others were probably not read by him but are indicative of the state of fantasy at the time he was active. None of these stories really measure up to Tolkien's standards (but then, what does?) but many are quite interesting and enjoyable to read. Each story has a brief sidebar giving some details about the author, and there is more information in a suggested reading section at the back. This is a very nice look at the state of fantasy writing just before Tolkien broke new ground.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nik

    I bought Tales before Tolkien b/c I love the universe Tolkien has created and was interested what might have influenced this amazing writer. In actuality there aren't that many short stories in this book that Tolkien came into contact with. I'm guessing the title was mostly choosen to sell the book. Good thing is that the short stories in this book are all really great and enjoyable! Most of the authors I had never heard of and it was nice to see that while Tolkien probably shaped the Fantasy ge I bought Tales before Tolkien b/c I love the universe Tolkien has created and was interested what might have influenced this amazing writer. In actuality there aren't that many short stories in this book that Tolkien came into contact with. I'm guessing the title was mostly choosen to sell the book. Good thing is that the short stories in this book are all really great and enjoyable! Most of the authors I had never heard of and it was nice to see that while Tolkien probably shaped the Fantasy genre and made it more popular than it was for a while, there were others before him that had similar skills. The stories are all very different, come from different countries and viewpoints which is really interesting and entertaining. My favorite one is probably "The Dragon Tamers" by E. Nesbit b/c it involves dragons cats and was just a joy to read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Carl

    Finally found a cheap copy of this-- they've started offering it in a smaller size. Looks fun so far, just a collection of pre-Tolkien fantasy which may or may not have influenced him-- with some it is clear he had at least read the authors, with others it's speculation, but in any case it seems very nice as a reader of early fantasy (as in, from the Romantic era with one German tale right up until the first half of the 20th century). Have only read the first so far, Ludwig Tieck's "The Elves" ( Finally found a cheap copy of this-- they've started offering it in a smaller size. Looks fun so far, just a collection of pre-Tolkien fantasy which may or may not have influenced him-- with some it is clear he had at least read the authors, with others it's speculation, but in any case it seems very nice as a reader of early fantasy (as in, from the Romantic era with one German tale right up until the first half of the 20th century). Have only read the first so far, Ludwig Tieck's "The Elves" (trans. Thomas Carlyle), and it was as awkward and stilted as you would expect from that era-- which is fine, I'm happy for it to be representative of the time. Anyway, seems like a decent collection for someone who isn't writing their dissertation in this field.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Al

    A collection of fairy tales and fantasies from the late 1800s and early 1900s, some of which Tolkien is known to have read and admired, and others which the compiler of this anthology believes (based on some likeness to aspects of Tolkien's work) Tolkien might have read and been influenced by. For the most part, the connections are thin or could be accounted for by coincidence, although in the cases where Tolkien is on record as having read and admired the work, the connection is more credible. A collection of fairy tales and fantasies from the late 1800s and early 1900s, some of which Tolkien is known to have read and admired, and others which the compiler of this anthology believes (based on some likeness to aspects of Tolkien's work) Tolkien might have read and been influenced by. For the most part, the connections are thin or could be accounted for by coincidence, although in the cases where Tolkien is on record as having read and admired the work, the connection is more credible. Regardless of whether of not there is any Tolkien connection, many of the stories are very enjoyable, and some prominent authors find their way into the collection. Definitely recommended for fans of the genre.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    1. The Elves * 2. The Golden Key ** 3. Puss-cat Mew ***** 4. The Griffin and the Minor Canon ***** 5. The Demon Pope * 6. The Story of Sigurd *** 7. The Folk of the Mountain Door ** 8. Black Heart and White Heart A Zulu Idyll *** 9. The Dragon Tamers ***** 10. The Far Islands ***** 11. The Drawn Arrow **** 12. The Enchanted Buffalo ** 13. Chu-bu and Sheemish *** 14. The Baumoff Explosive ***** 15. The Regent of the North **** 16. The Comingof Terror **** 17. The Elf Trap **** 18. The Thin Queen of Elfhame * 19. T 1. The Elves * 2. The Golden Key ** 3. Puss-cat Mew ***** 4. The Griffin and the Minor Canon ***** 5. The Demon Pope * 6. The Story of Sigurd *** 7. The Folk of the Mountain Door ** 8. Black Heart and White Heart A Zulu Idyll *** 9. The Dragon Tamers ***** 10. The Far Islands ***** 11. The Drawn Arrow **** 12. The Enchanted Buffalo ** 13. Chu-bu and Sheemish *** 14. The Baumoff Explosive ***** 15. The Regent of the North **** 16. The Comingof Terror **** 17. The Elf Trap **** 18. The Thin Queen of Elfhame * 19. The Woman of the Wood ***** 20. Golithos the Ogre ** 21. A Christmas Play *

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Fascinating collection of fairy stories and other fantasy tales by authors that J.R.R. Tolkien may have read or certainly read, as evidenced by his letters and papers. Douglas Anderson (of The Annotated Hobbit) collected and introduces these 21 stories or parts of stories. Authors include George MacDonald, Andrew Lang, William Morris, Rider Haggard, E. Nesbit, L. Frank Baum, Lord Dunsany, E.A. Wyke-Smith (chapter of The Marvellous Land of the Snergs), and others. Quite a range of tastes and styl Fascinating collection of fairy stories and other fantasy tales by authors that J.R.R. Tolkien may have read or certainly read, as evidenced by his letters and papers. Douglas Anderson (of The Annotated Hobbit) collected and introduces these 21 stories or parts of stories. Authors include George MacDonald, Andrew Lang, William Morris, Rider Haggard, E. Nesbit, L. Frank Baum, Lord Dunsany, E.A. Wyke-Smith (chapter of The Marvellous Land of the Snergs), and others. Quite a range of tastes and styles, mostly Victorian but some a bit later. Reading these was both delightful and broadened my understanding of the 19th century roots of fantasy literature.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Randal Schmidt

    A pretty good collection of short stories showcasing Pre-Tolkien fantasy literature. Very refreshing to read fantasy that is not a ripoff of Tolkien, as so much of modern fantasy seems to be. In some ways, Tolkien's immeasurable influence has its disadvantages. Most modern fantasy literature is derivative. Fantasy literature before Tolkien shows so much variety. Some of the stories in this anthology were out of place, however, most especially "Black Heart and White Heart: A Zulu Idyll." Unfortun A pretty good collection of short stories showcasing Pre-Tolkien fantasy literature. Very refreshing to read fantasy that is not a ripoff of Tolkien, as so much of modern fantasy seems to be. In some ways, Tolkien's immeasurable influence has its disadvantages. Most modern fantasy literature is derivative. Fantasy literature before Tolkien shows so much variety. Some of the stories in this anthology were out of place, however, most especially "Black Heart and White Heart: A Zulu Idyll." Unfortunately, this was also one of the longest stories in the book. Overall, the collection is hit and miss. Worth reading, but I certainly won't read some of these stories again.

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