Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fine Wine Versus Cheap Beer

In writing the Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien was not trying to alter a genre or create some crazy phenomenon that would eventual be known by children and parents, geeks and jocks, and everyone in between. He was only trying to create a bedtime fairy story for his children, but in writing this innocent story for his children, Tolkien did indeed create this genre changing trilogy. Not only did Tolkien create one of the best known, well written, and time tested trilogy’s, he also has become one of the most well-known authors in the fantasy world. Tolkien’s story has crossed so many media forms: literature, film, plays, and even more recently videogames.

What effects has Stephen Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever done? Has Donaldson changed a genre? Effected readers? Has this trilogy become a household name? How about crossing media platforms? Definitely not.

I almost feel bad for comparing these two authors and their trilogies; I feel that in doing this I am causing some sort of insult to Tolkien. I want to apologize before I go any further. With that said, let’s continue.

Comparing these two authors is not like comparing apples and oranges, but more like comparing fine wine to… ummm… Golden Anniversary maybe? Fine wine needs to be at the right temperature, let the wine breathe for a moment so that the complexities of the different flavors shine, and enjoyed slowly while being sipped; very much like Tolkien’s trilogy. Like wine, Tolkien’s fantasy story needs to be enjoyed slowly so that the “complexities of the different flavors shine”. There is so much time and attention spent on details and complexities of world building and plot structure within The Lord of the Rings that it is easily comparable to Dom. Romane Conti 1997 (which is a red burgundy wine that runs about $1,540 a bottle).

Unlike Tolkien however, Donaldson is more like a really cheap beer; something that you would drink underage because you can’t afford anything better and also because you have no experience drinking, so you have no idea what taste is all about. Just like cheap beer, Donaldson leaves you with a headache, nausea, and the spins (not to mention what I like to call the horrible feeling of “beer-s*** syndrome”).

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