How Lord of the Rings still influences my fantasy


Once upon a time, during the Dark Ages otherwise known as Middle School, a time of overlarge glasses, untamed hair, and constant breakouts…

Hang on a second.

*looks at self*

Okay, well, the glasses are still there, they’re just a better size for my face. And the hair is still largely untamed; I just have better products and a better idea of what to do with it. And there’s a breakout in the works as we speak.

But all of this was a lot worse in middle school, which we are thus still going to refer to as the Dark Ages.


ONCE UPON A TIME, during the Dark Ages otherwise known as Middle School, I started writing fantasy. It’s embarrassing to consider, because it was middle school. But also because it’s really super painfully obvious what I was interested in at the time.

Pirates of the Caribbean.

The Chronicles of Narnia.

Lord of the Rings.


Maps of Middle Earth- or Narnia-ish fantasy lands filled my sketchbooks. Every other character was named Will. Talking beasts and dryads roamed the land. And every male lead was a Viggo-Mortensen-as-Aragorn lookalike.

It was almost like fanfic, but fanfic of the 50 Shades of Grey type, where it’s obvious that it’s fanfic but the world is different and all the names have been changed. Well, most of the names. The stories were my own—no pirates, no super-obvious Christian allegories, no distant, evil overlords with magical trinkets that must be destroyed—but it was clear where the world and characters came from.

Fast forward fifteen years later, and my stories look incredibly different. Take my current WIP, The Remarkable Retirement of Edna Fisher. No otherworldly fantasy realm, this, but the real world with the small added detail of magic’s existence and universal knowledge of magic’s existence. It’s considerably less thought-out than the fantasy worlds of the Dark Ages: no maps, no family trees of royalty or lines of descent direct to some important character, no detailed historical notes of the world.

I used to do a lot more pre-writing than I do now.

The characters look different, too. I’ve gone from knockoff Narnian princes and off-brand Aragorns and stoic Elvish queens in no way modeled on Galadriel to this collection of human disasters.

  • Edna Fisher, geriatric, handkerchief-conjurer, knitting enthusiast, Chosen One
  • Benjamin Cooper, panicky but loyal orderly, trash in non-medical emergencies, dork about all things magical
  • Clementine Rodriguez, resident teenager, insecure but will punch you if you say so, great with a sword, terrible with magic, ball of rage
  • Kiernan Abbott, secret elvish prince, easily distracted by cute guys, trying hard to convince himself he’s not a cinnamon roll, really the only sensible one in the whole cast
  • Redway, murderous ball of rage and barely-controlled magic who’s Doing His Best which unfortunately isn’t remotely good enough

It’s pretty satisfying to realize how far I’ve moved from my original influences.

Then I spent the weekend watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and??? It turns out the influence is still there. It’s just much subtler.

Here’s what I realized about my cast.

  • Edna: elderly Bilbo, 100% up for more adventures, 100% the type to vanish mysteriously from her own birthday just for the fun of it, loves her adopted children fiercely
  • Benjamin: Samwise Gamgee, soft, loyal, apprehensive about this adventure but your MC wouldn’t get far without him
  • Clem: Boromir, proud, rude, shows a softer side at times, jealous of someone else’s role in this adventure, and she even literally steals a ring, although in Clem’s case it’s actually a sword disguised as a ring
  • Kiernan: Aragorn if he were murdery and gay, seems a bit suspicious, cloak and dagger in a literal sense, protective, good hunter/tracker/fighter, probably the most skilled at everything tbh, better at thinking ahead and thinking things through than literally anyone else, family-based angst and a desire to help his people
  • Redway: Denethor, disaster, ready to murder someone, just the Worst response to problems, plus Denethor is even more of what Boromir is and Red is even more of what Clem is

Well, heck.

Admittedly, there’s bound to be a certain amount of overlap: tropes, nothing new under the sun, yadda yadda yadda. Still, for a girl who thought she got away from her Dark Ages fantasy influences…*sticks thumbs through suspenders* that’s an awful lot of Lord of the Rings characters who snuck on in there.

On the plus side, they’re not as obvious as they used to be—mostly because I didn’t lift them on purpose and rehome them like I did in middle school. If you weren’t me, and you weren’t watching Lord of the Rings, and you weren’t thinking about how much that trilogy used to influence you…you’d probably never notice how much it influences me now.

Anyway, it was an interesting, funny, slightly annoying realization.

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14 thoughts on “How Lord of the Rings still influences my fantasy

  1. Yep, old influences are still there, in the background, despite everything. Maybe Edna went to meet Bilbo somewhere in the dream realm. Who knows? Maybe that’s what happening in your head 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a fun and insightful post to read, E.! I found myself commiserating all the way through. I was drawing maps long before I read Tolkien. I still remember the first one I drew at the beginning of third grade. Now with Google maps I’m running amok! You have a great voice!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m pretty sure I still have my old maps somewhere around the house, but I’ve avoided online map-making programs specifically so I wouldn’t spend all my time doing that!


  3. I recently re-read an old favorite book of mine that I haven’t read in over 15 years. I was amazed, and a little amused, to notice elements that I used in my early days of writing since then, that I didn’t remember came from that book. It surprised me, but I suppose it shouldn’t have. When I can see elements of another work of fiction that I love come out in my own writing (made my own, of course), it just makes me love my own work more. And everyone needs a little Samwise Gamgee in their lives.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sam is my favorite! Which is probably why I write so many soft, loyal men (although I tend to forget how Not Soft he is about Gollum, but also he has a point). I read so much and so widely that I do sometimes wonder how much other works influence my writing in small ways that I’m never aware of.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello, E! What a great and well-thought out post. My writing started out based on the inspiring writing of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit (I read this while in high school). Then came Willow, the movie, of which furthered my epic fantasy writerly mind.

    My muse took me to paranormal mixed with contemporary but a book distributor proceeded to tell me since the market was saturated with fantasy that my book wasn’t marketable, hence, forcing my hand to write realistic fiction. It was heartrending to hear that piece of truth, but if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have experienced the learning curve of writing realistic fiction of which I’ve discovered I’m good at! Whew…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s great that you found something you’re good at, if through an unexpected avenue! Have you also found you prefer writing realistic fiction, or do you find yourself missing fantasy?


  5. I love your character descriptions – they make me want to read your book 🙂 I do wonder if any of us could somehow map our characters to Lord of the Rings in some way or another. Hmm…maybe I’ll have a look at mine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You should write up your own post or leave a followup comment here if you decide to examine your own characters! I’d be interested to see whether LotR characters can be found skulking in yours as well.


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