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Tolkien and Cliches and Come on People, Please

PSA: The plot of a dashing young hero who turns out to be exceptionally powerful with magic and skilled at arms being the Chosen One to face off against the Dark Lord is not derivative of Tolkien. That plot appears nowhere in The Lord of the Rings. Frodo is not the Chosen One.

Frodo, the main protagonist of LotR, is a short, portly, middle-aged man possessing no magical abilities of his own, nor martial skill. He journeys to an evil land to destroy the Ring and with it the Dark Lord. The only battle he fights with the Dark Lord is one of willpower as the story progresses. There is no destined epic showdown between the two.

I don't say this necessarily in defense of Tolkien, as if the accusations leveled against other authors were somehow a slander to his writing. I say it mostly because it's frustrating to me that people can consistently get this wrong, as if they haven't actually taken the time to think about anything and just enjoy throwing words and phrases around to make themselves appear intelligent. It does a disservice to the fantasy genre as a whole, implying that the genre has been largely stagnant since Tolkien, that we can't seem to move on. In reality, the fact that this dashing, improbably powerful Chosen One cliche is even cliche proves that fantasy has not clung quite so tightly to Tolkien as is popularly spouted.

End of rant.

(If you're curious as to what set this off: I was reading reviews on another author's work who I'm interested in checking out, and several of the users were having quite the mutually-congratulatory discussion on how derivative the author's work was of Tolkien, in particular the Chosen One plot.)


you can't beat a good rant..i've not read any of them...but i feel your pain....

Although, I would have to say, the purpose of the story is not to be "realistic", but entertaining, and everyone enjoys an underdog story because up against the forces of the world, most of us are. Fiction is vicarious wish-fulfillment. So, there's really not a "correct" way to tell a story. It's just whether what you say appeals to people or not.

If you want to be innovative and progressive, I'd certainly welcome the read. But even Game of Thrones is simply a rehashing of the basic narrative with a the gritty, violent, not-so-happy-ending bent most media has taken on these days.

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