Михаил Назаренко (petro_gulak) wrote,

Толкин, Дансени, Говард

Под катом - малоизвестный, но любопытный документ (на языке оригинала): письмо Л.Спрэг де Кампа в журнал "Mythlore" о том, как он пытался привить Толкину любовь к sword-and-sourcery genre. Вопрос о влиянии Дансени на Толкина - это, собственно, и не вопрос; а вот когда именно Толкин (как утверждают) с удовольствием читал "Конана", которого одалживал у Льюиса, - это интересно. Справочники и биографии молчат.

L. Sprague de Camp
Villanova, PA

In Mythlore 47, p. 53, in Mr. Christopher's review of Schweitzer's symposium Exploring Fantasy Worlds, the reviewer comments on the influence alleged by Moorcock of Dunsany on Tolkien: "This derivation from Dunsany seems absurd." Perhaps I can shed light on the Dunsany-Tolkien connection.
In the 1960's I corresponded with Tolkien. In 1983 I edited a paperbacked anthology of heroic fantasy, Swords and Sorcery, with stories by Anderson, Lovecraft, Howard, Kuttner, Dunsany, C.A. Smith, C.L. Moore, and Leiber. I flatter myself that this anthology and its three successors played some part in the striking revival of fantasy in the 80s.
I sent Tolkien a copy of my little book, on which he commented in his letter of 8/30/64. After saying that he was interested in practically everything save literary criticism, he said of contemporary fantasy that "I will not pretend that it gave me much pleasure." About my book he wrote: "Though I might say, I suppose, as a purely personal aside, that all the items seem poor in the subsidiary (but to me not unimportant) matters of nomenclature. Best when inventive, least good when literary or archaic. (For instance Thangobrind and Alaric, both singularly inapt for their purpose.)"
"Thangobrind" is from Dunsany's Distressing Tale of Thangobrind the Jeweler: "Alaric" from Moore's Hellsgard. Tolkien went on: "Also I do wonder why you chose that particular tale of Dunsany's. It seems to me to illustrate all his faults. And the ghastly final paragraph!"
The paragraph in question reads: "And the only daughter of the Merchant Prince felt so little gratitude for this great deliverance that she took to respectability of a militant kind, and became aggressively dull, and called her home the English Riviera, and had platitudes worked in worsted upon her tea-cosy, and in the end never dies, but passed away at her residence."
I suppose Tolkien meant by "ghastly" Dunsany's leaving his "secondary world" to drag in a dig at a type of contemporary person he disliked. The "Merchant Prince" is an obvious expression of the hostility of persons of Dunsany's class before WW1 towards pushy commoners with purchased titles, especially those of Jewish origin. Cf. "Lord Castlenorman" in How Nuth Would Have Practised His Art upon the Gnoles and The Bird of the Different Eye. I believe Dunsany later outgrew such attitudes.
Evidently Tolkien knew Dunsany's work pretty well and liked it well enough to have read a substantial part of it, even if he disliked features of it. It is rash to say of any such omnivorous readers, which most writers are, that they were not influenced by any given predecessor. It is a psychological commonplace that one's writings often include elements from things read long before but forgotten on a conscious level. Thus virtually all one reads is likely to influence one, either positively or negatively, sooner or later.
When I spent an afternoon with Tolkien at Oxford in 1967, by the bye, he said he "rather liked" Robert Howard's Conan stories.

(Mythlore, number 50 (Summer 1987 - vol. 13, # 4), p. 41.)

Tags: dunsany, fields, tolkien
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