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If Tolkien was alive, would he be angry at Christopher Paolini? (1 Viewer)

If Tolkien was alive, would he be angry at Christopher Paolini?

  • Of course! No one likes having their ideas being copied!

    Votes: 3 16.7%
  • Hmmm... Yes, I suppose he would. But fantasy is a wide genre and it's hard to be original.

    Votes: 7 38.9%
  • No! Tolkien would like him very much!

    Votes: 1 5.6%
  • No... Yes... I don't know...

    Votes: 4 22.2%
  • I don't care.

    Votes: 3 16.7%

  • Total voters


Senior Member
Sorry if this is in the wrong forum, but I was dying to ask this question. As lots of you know, Christopher Paolini is the author of Eragon and Eldest, the first two books of the Inheritance Trilogy. But more importantly, in his books, he's used Tolkien's version of Elves and Dwarves (at least that's what people say), and perhaps other things that I haven't heard about. Oh yeah, I remember, I think I heard that the dream Eragon has of him leaving the continent is very similar to the dream Frodo has of him leaving Middle Earth. I just read a biography of Tolkien and it says he wasn't afraid to be harsh in his criticisms. Now, the big question, if Tolkien was alive, do you think he would be happy with how much success Christopher Paolini was getting when he "borrowed" stuff from Tolkien?

Personally, I believe he would be mad. Tolkien was a rather pessimistic man, and he was harsh toward things he didn't like (at least that's what the biography said), and if I was in his shoes, I wouldn't be too happy. Though I'm not saying Christopher Paolini is necessarily bad, I wouldn't like having my ideas used like that. But if an event like that did occur to me, I wouldn't try to hunt Paolini down and kill him or something like that. I would just merely dislike the amount of success he's getting after borrowing so much. Don't kill me for saying that, I'm just that kind of guy.
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Senior Member
I'm not sure how to vote on this one, so I went with 'No... Yes... I don't know' (emphasis on the 'no' and 'I don't know').

If there were an 'it's essentially irrelevant' category, I'd have voted that one.

I haven't read Paolini, so I can't comment directly on how much 'borrowing' he's doing, but let's not forget that Tolkien didn't make all of this up on his own. Sure, he made them very unique to his world, but he was drawing from several sources of myth for the entire make up of Middle-earth: mostly Celtic lore (elves), Anglo-Saxon (specifically the epic of Beowulf), Germanic (dwarves), and a touch of the King Arthur legend (which is essentially a Christian-ized version of an Anglo-Saxon legend). 'Elves' and 'dwarves' are not entirely unique to LoTR, so I'm really not sure that Tolkien would be 'mad' about it... unless specific names and words (which Tolkien did invent) were used--now that would be plagiarism.

It is arguably easy to claim that just about any fantasy (particularly of the 'medieval' type) author is 'borrowing' from Tolkien, because his work is so vast and broad. It covers just about every possible sweeping thematic concept there is in literature about human (or roughly human) struggles and values: 'good' vs. 'evil', coming of age and consequent responsibility, the love story (not so much, but it's there), corrupting power of 'evil', nature vs. technology, 'feminist' equality... the list goes on. It's all there.

On the other hand, I remember smelling Tolkien vividly a number of times while reading, for example, the first book of Jordan's 'Wheel of Time' series. I'd have to read it again to point out specific examples, but I had to wonder just how 'borrowed' it was. At this point, although I did enjoy reading the book, that slight irritation has prevented me from reading any further books in the series, even though I bothered to buy the second volume--it's collecting dust now, plus I'm not an avid fan of the genre anyway (aside from Tolkien himself). I find it hard to read any fantasy (of that type) now without holding it up to Tolkien and seeing right through it.

I could go on and on rambling about Tolkien, so my answer to the original question is certainly not a yes, but an ambiguous shrug. I'm not even sure what reaction he had or would have to the sub-culture explosion his work has influenced, directly or indirectly.

Mike C

WF Veterans
Tolkein's been ripped off so many times it'd be hard to get mad at one mediocre writer over any other.

Hopefully, if he were alive today and was able to see what an industry of purile rip-off's he'd created, he'd do the decent thing and hang himself.


Senior Member
Eh, Tolkien's works were about 98% original...

Yes, he did draw off of mythology (who doesn't?). But the words "orc," "troll," "goblin," "elf," and "ogre" all basically meant the same thing before him. They could be used interchangeably to describe something nasty and inhuman, and he separated them all into their own defined groupings.

He also created the entire epic fantasy genre. There were fantasy tales before him (albeit few and far between that were more fantastical than fantasy), but he was the pioneer.

Also, he was the first person to create a fictional language. Years before people spoke Klingon at Star Trek conventions, people were speaking Elvish at LOTR and D&D conventions.


Senior Member
In a way, this question is like asking: "If the Celts were still alive, would they be angry at Tolkien?"

I'm sure the answer to both questions is yes, though not emphatically...
No one likes being copied.


Senior Member
I thought I might mention this in the discussion since Christopher Paolini is in the spotlight.

I remember reading from Writer's Digest that he started off selling Eragon at a table(he self-published those copies). Not a lot of people bought his books. He even armwrestled a guy to buy his book. The guy lost and got a copy of his book.

Though he probably took more than enough influence from Tolkien, I must admire how he had a humble, rough start.


I don't really mind if a writer is clearly inspired by a certain other writer. The talent still needs to come within him(or her)self. I love a lot of fantasy that clearly has been inspired by LOTR, some even more than LOTR itself.
Whether Tolkien would be angry? No, I don't think so. I think he should feel honoured that his epic series has inspired so many writers around the world to pick up a pen and try and do some creating themselves.


Senior Member
I think Tolkien should be angrier at himself, as Mike C has already stated, for spawning a legion of unimaginative epics. Even though I'm not a fan of his fiction after reading Perdido Street Station, kudos to China Miéville for actually creating some fantasy that doesn't, as far as I know, bother with wizards and elves and dwarves and ogres and all the clichéd stuff that is, sadly, the bread and butter of many fantasy novels.


I don't think he'd be bothered. I'm pretty certain tolkien 'borrowed' a hell of alot of his ideas too.


yeha tolkien's probally turning in his grave because of all the writers he inspired to start writing. not gonna happen. but i mean if you right anything older than current times you might as well post a sign saying "tolkien wrote this first but i am diffrent." as long as the writing is your own and nothing but a vague bit is taken from someone else does it matter. if you write something current or futuristic your not copying but most likely its already been done. so should all we sci-fi/fantasy, mediveal fantasy, sci-fi,or fantasy witers chuck our pens and say we give up because tolkien already wrote it. hell no. we'll just find a new way to write it.
ok theres my two cents.


Tolkien cannot be mad at Christopher Paolini. I know everyone has been saying that Christopher has been copying Tolkien. Not true. A great tale needs elves, dwarves, dragons and everything else combined. A language just enriches it. But I consider Tolkien the Father of Fantasy. He was the one to first bring forth such a story as to begin the Fantasy writings. My idea is that if it sounds like Tolkien, you got ideas from him and that the glory is part his. Eragon is a great book, the more books are related to things I like, the better I like the book.


Names though?

I don't mind that he used some of tolkeins ideas, many books do now, but has anyone noticed how close the names are to LOTR? Eragon - Aragorn, Arya - Arwen, oh yeah, and the Council of the Elders as a chapter title - Council of Elrond? It all seems just a bit fishy to me.


Senior Member
Oh, for heaven's sake, stop it with the names! I am so sick of LOTR fans repeatedly writing Eragon = Aragorn. It's not, it's (D)ragon ~ (E)ragon.
Paolini may be a hack, and a plagiarist as well, but PLEASE stop these pointless name comparisons, I am really sick of them.

I mean, George RR Martin also has an Arya.
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Senior Member
Maybe not mad... but I'm fairly certain he wouldn't like it. He was friends with CS Lewis, yet when Narnia came out, he disliked it in part because he thought it was building too much of the success of The Hobbit. And Narnia has very little in common with The Hobbit. According to Humphrey Carpenter's authorized biography, anyway.


Senior Member
And according to Michael White's biography of Tolkien, he got angry at Lewis because, in Narnia, there was a guy with a name that was similar to the result of combining two names in Tolkien's works. Tolkien was a pretty paranoid guy.


Senior Member
I don't think he would be. But then again, I don't see the complete reason why everyone thinks he copied Tolkien's work. :S

Honestly, this topic shocked me when I saw it because I had no idea the guy was dead! I went and looked it up because I didn't believe it. I am waaaay behind in the news.


Senior Member
Any writer who claims to not have borrowed from other media is just a liar. Writers pull from everything, every book they have read, person they have met, every single memory. Then they warp it with thier own imagination and creativity, present it in a structured format and sell it. The difference between sucess and failure between two identical stories is the way in which it is written, the quality of the writing, and the work put into the project. Even if Paolini did copy a little bit so did Tolkein and every other writer on the face of the earth. The point is if you are a good writer, have you own voice, develop an idea on your own, and work hard your book will be original, no matter how many characters share the same name. (this statment excludes fan fiction)
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