Sunday, November 8, 2009

Grandpa Tolkien Passes Down Bedtime Storys to Future Generations

J.R.R. Tolkien has been considered by many to be the grandfather of the fantasy genre. His world of Middle Earth and his characters that inhabit the land have been an inspiration to many authors. R.A. Salvatore is one of today’s most respected fantasy authors. He has sold over 10,000,000 books, been on the New York Times best-seller list several times, and has had his books translated into fourteen different languages. R.A. Salvatore lists Tolkien as one of his influences. Salvatore changed his major in college to computer science to journalism after he had been given a copy of Lord of the Rings. The Spearwielder’s Trilogy was dedicated in memory of Tolkien for inspiring Salvatore. It is easy to see influences of Tolkien in R.A. Salvatore’s work, especially in The Cleric Quintet.

The Cleric Quintet centers on a cleric, Cadderly. Cadderly is a brilliant thinker, easily translating and memorizing complicated text. He is a scholar and makes an unlikely hero like Frodo Baggins. Neither character is a warrior with the knowledge of battle to take on evil. Cadderly, although a master at creating war technology, is no fighter. If anyone looks like the likely hero it is his girlfriend, Danica, who can wrestle people several times her weight, break boulders with her head, and even stop the beating of her heart and remain alive for a time. Frodo is not educated in battle and would be considered too small by many to take on an enemy (he can't do much but kick evil in the shin, although Merry and Pippin prove this wrong later). Both Frodo and Cadderly must leave the only home they have known to go fight evil. Frodo must leave the Shire. Cadderly leaves the Edificant Library where he has lived since he was five. Neither Frodo nor Cadderly are able to stay and enjoy the victory they helped accomplish. Frodo has been too hurt by the burden of the ring. Frodo says, “It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.” The act of destroying the evil in the Cleric Quintet literally steals the years from Cadderly. A man who was in his early twenties has been turned into an old man. His destiny after is to rebuild a place like the Edificant Library that was destroyed but Cadderly will only live long enough to see it built before he dies. He must lose everything, his youth, his friends, and his love, to defeat the evil and will not be there to enjoy it.

Both series have a fellowship. The Fellowship of the Ring is made up of men, elves, hobbits, dwarves, and a wizard. In the Cleric Quintet it is made up of men, dwarves, and elves. Just like in Lord of the Ring, the elves and dwarves do not get along in the beginning, although they later find respect for each other while in battle. This mirrors the relationship between Gimli and Legolas. R.A. Salvatore uses the two dwarves, The Bouldershoulder bothers: Ivan and Pikel, as comic relief in his book. They are no where near as dignified as Gimili. Ivan fills the role of a normal surly dwarf but his brother Pikel dyes his hair green in hopes of being like the druids and only speaks in sounds like "oo oi" and "boom". The brothers have competitions to kill the most orcs which often ends in each brother exchanging insults which leads to rough housing. The elves still hold themselves above the other races being proud of their heritage and the forest. R.A. Salvatore clearly follows the relationships and types of races as Middle earth (including evil orcs).

In the Cleric Quintet, Elvin forest Shilmistra comes under attack from orcs, giants, and orogs. Cadderly and his friends are quickly running out of ways to defend the forest, especially since evil has started to set the forest on fire. In a last defense Cadderly translates an ancient Elvin text that will bring the trees to life. (Sound familiar?) The trees come to life and fight to save the forest alongside Cadderly and his friends. This echoes the Ents except that these trees are “alive” but don’t have a personality like the Ents. So the trees in the Cleric Quintet are like the ones the Ents herd.

The comparisons don’t end there. There is the Barad-dur, “the dark tower”, which could easily be compared to Castle Trinity, the home of evil in the Cleric Quintet. It’s easy to see the influences and many people believe that R.A. Salvatore creates convincing worlds that are similar to Middle Earth. Tolkien influence is still continuing to be seen in works by authors today. My guess, Tolkien will continue to inspire authors for years to come.

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