Superwoman, excusues and a re-post…

“Well, some days you are Superwoman and can do anything…”

The electric wheelchair was stuck in deep gravel, unable to go either forwards or backwards. It needed to move the few feet to the concrete path, but each attempt only drove the wheels in deeper. It would…this wheelchair weighs nearly five hundred pounds. Thankfully, ‘Superwoman’ was on hand to effect a rescue.

Even aided by a handy bystander, I was outweighed by a ratio of over three pounds to one and currently find myself unable to move very much. At least, not without wailing like a hobbit-sized banshee and dosing myself with the strongest painkillers in the armoury. Which is why I am reposting an old post, originally written for Marcia Meara at The Write Stuff a couple of years ago.

“…and some days you are just old.”

I’m always old after shifting half a ton of wheelchair…

Superwoman turns the laser-gaze away from her son… incineration is too good for him…


Fantasy and the problem with Tolkien

castle of dreams

Painting: Sue Vincent

It has to be said that Tolkien causes problems. Quite apart from being so addictive that, once read, you are likely to go back and read the books again, you may never find anywhere quite as rich as  Middle Earth within the pages of another book.

Anyone whose introduction to fantasy is via The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, will have a fabulously detailed, multi-layered and multicultural world permanently established in their imagination. Especially if you go on to read The Silmarillion too and become aware of the rich complexity and authenticity of the languages, histories and mythologies he created as the backdrop for his world. Tolkien’s elves, orcs and wizards will quickly become the standard by which all others are judged. The sheer scope of the story means that just about every possible trope is used, and every mythical or magical species is covered, along with a goodly armoury of magical weapons and the central motif of the Ring of Power.

Is there any reason to read or to attempt to write fantasy any more? It is almost impossible to write high fantasy these days without being accused of stealing ideas from Tolkien. For aficionados of Middle Earth, it is even harder to read fantasy without drawing comparisons. While creating what is arguably the best fantasy ever, the author has also inadvertently ruined the very genre he brought to popularity.

Or has he?

Our teacher read The Hobbit to the class of eager listeners in junior school, but I did not read Lord of the Rings until I was in my teens. Even though the Narnia stories of C.S. Lewis were already so well-thumbed that the books were disintegrating, it was not until I read Tolkien that I heard of fantasy as a genre. There were only stories, fairytales, myths and legends. Oddly enough, that did not stop me from enjoying them all equally. I was reading tales of giants and talking trees, elves, trolls and goblins long before I came across hobbits. Although perfected by Tolkien, the lineaments of such characters were already drawn in my mind by the fairy-tales of early childhood. The quest is a familiar concept in myth and Excalibur is surely the most famous sword with which to prove kingship, even more so than Andúril, while the popular version of Merlin must surely outrank even Gandalf.

The first officially designated fantasy I read after Tolkien was Stephen Donaldson’s Lord Foul’s Bane, the opening book of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Lo and behold, the hero, Covenant, had a magical ring whose powers could save or damn the world. The ring was both feared and sought by the dark Lord Foul as Covenant traversed a land peopled with both characters and situations that could have been lifted directly from Tolkien. The parallels are striking in places, from the tree-city to the goblins, the extra-special horses to the healing vegetation. Yet the writer managed to make me forget all that by his creation of the Land. This is no Middle Earth… and the parallels that at first seemed gratingly familiar, soon diverged and developed into a rich tapestry of a tale with its own unique character and ‘feel’. Other fantasies followed, each creating a landscape and feeling entirely different from the last… and each sharing something with the reader that was unique in spite of a common heritage.

The truth is, we cannot blame it all on Tolkien. He himself drew heavily upon myth and legend, particularly the Norse myths. Most of the characters and storylines he uses so magnificently are familiar from our oldest tales. Even the Ring was not his idea. Odin, the Norse god, had a magic ring, although admittedly, Draupnir was an arm ring. Plato speaks of the Ring of Gyges that conferred invisibility on its wearer. Wagner’s Ring Cycle tells the story of a magical ring whose power resides in the ‘denial of love’ and can bring the entire world under subjugation. And every mythology has its Dark Lord in one form or another.

Fantasy is not just a way to escape reality for a while, it offers a means of exploring, understanding and explaining it. The battle between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ is something we see played out on both the world stage and within our own natures every day. The sustaining qualities of the Quest, such as loyalty, endurance and vision, are those that serve us, while the betrayals and obstacles mirror our own. Just as stories reflect our own so do our own lives reflect the greater life around us. Just as we played at being grown-ups when we were children, fantasy allows the mind to experience a new mode of being in a symbolic landscape that can enrich our lives and present us with questions we might never otherwise consider. Without realising, we may learn much from a well-crafted tale.

Does it matter if it has been ‘done before’ no matter how brilliantly, when all our stories follow threads that lead back to the beginning of mankind’s fascination with storytelling? Stories have always taught through entertainment, by capturing the attention and imagination, engaging the emotions and settling themselves firmly in memory. Each tale appeals to something within us that answers with its own voice. Every storyteller brings something of themselves, something unique, to the tale.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
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45 Responses to Superwoman, excusues and a re-post…

  1. angloswiss says:

    The first part got my attention. I too go for wheelies in my electric chair. Generally I know where to go and what to avoid, but once I got stuck in gravel and the gravel gets deeper when you try to get out as the wheels turn. Luckily two supermen managed to lift the chair (also a heavy one) onto a safe path whilst I waited supported by my stick which is always attached to the chair. Thank goodness for today’s heroes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jenanita01 says:

    Would those people who arrange ramps and things be able to help? All it needs is a few well placed paving stones…

    Like

  3. Bravo, Sue, on this fantastic post.

    Like

  4. Reading the comments about the situation makes it even more frustrating! I hope the neighbors are at least nice, even if they’re kind of lazy and/or cheap about their gravel pit.

    Like

  5. Oh, no, I do hope you are okay…And, I do love that painting of yours ❤

    Like

  6. Adele Marie says:

    I was lucky as in primary school, in Orkney, we were told the Norse legends and our own culture so when Tolkien came into my world, via the Hobbit, these things were already in my imagination. The best fantasy book I read after Tolkien was Raymond E Feist, Magician, and I continue to read fantasy. xxx

    Like

  7. There are many, many “following the path to destroy evil” tales, both mythological and occasionally, having a hint of truth to them. I’ve read many, but still, the one that stands tallest is “Lord of the Rings.” I used to read, write and speak Elvish. I spoke it the way it looked, so basically I spoke “Ameican Elvish.” Of course, I’ve forgotten it all by now.

    We used to have a “Fall of Sauron Day” festival every year. I and a friend (or two) wrote the “service” and either I or my friend Susan cooked the dinner (heavy on barley and mushrooms). We argued about Boromir, wondered if we could all find our way to the Grey Havens.

    I think I read the book every year for at least five or six years, then found the audio version and listened to that half a dozen times, including last year. And for my birthday, I got to watch the entire set of movies and Garry had to watch them with me, though he had seen them in the movies anyway.

    Like

  8. willowdot21 says:

    Sue the blog is as ever a joy to read but I most concerned about the gravel and Nick’s wheelchair. Is there anyway you could use ramp which could be removed or planks of wood. I really cannot understand why the owners of the land cannot be more helpful. Some people are just so mean. I hope you are feeling better today. 💜

    Like

  9. V.M.Sang says:

    I can’t understand how people can be so uncaring of someone else. Especially someone in a wheelchair who will be stuck if something isn’t sorted out.
    As to fantasy. I was introduced to the genre by a 9-year-old boy called Fred Spittal many, many years ago. He said “Have you read Lord of the Rings, Miss?” I said no, he told me I should, but to read The Hobbit first. I’ve been hooked on fantasy ever since.
    I read The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and C.S. Lewis, but it was an age before I read Magician. This was because I felt Pug was such a stupid name. I did read it, and all Feist’s other books, eventually, and am glad I did. But I still think Pug is a stupid name. 🙂

    Like

  10. V.M.Sang says:

    I can’t understand how people can be so uncaring of someone else. Especially someone in a wheelchair who will be stuck if something isn’t sorted out.
    As to fantasy. I was introduced to the genre by a 9-year-old boy called Fred Spittal many, many years ago. He said “Have you read Lord of the Rings, Miss?” I said no, he told me I should, but to read The Hobbit first. I’ve been hooked on fantasy ever since.
    I read The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and C.S. Lewis, but it was an age before I read Magician. This was because I felt Pug was such a stupid name. I did read it, and all Feist’s other books, eventually, and am glad I did. But I still think Pug is a stupid name. 🙂

    Like

  11. Widdershins says:

    Oh dear, your poor Hobbit body does regularly take a bit of a thrashing. doesn’t it … may you be un-ache-y soon. 🙂

    Like

  12. Susan Scott says:

    Your painting is gorgeous! I’ve read a few of Stephen Donaldson’s novels, I thought they were good. Hope that gravel story gets sorted Sue –

    Like

  13. dgkaye says:

    You are a true Warrior Woman Sue. I sure hope you had a long hot bath at the very least. ❤

    Like

  14. Deborah Jay says:

    What a great post, Sue. I know my own writing was heavily influenced by Tolkein’s worldbuilding when I began, and although I have put my own spin and individualities in there it’s always going to be subject to that comparison.
    I was introduced to fantasy at twelve, by our teacher’s reading choice of A Wizard of Earthsea, and I followed that with the Narnia chronicles, long before I got around to Tolkein, and I think that informed my tendency to focus more closely on individuals than the ‘big picture’ plot. I admit I started the first Thomas Covenant but never got beyond chapter one. On the other hand, I adore the Magician books, and am particularly in love with Robin Hobb’s Farseer and Liveship series.

    Like

  15. noelleg44 says:

    You named such wonderful storytellers, Sue and you are following in their path. With regard to the wheelchair, ugh! Perhaops you should bring some short boards along that you could push the chair up onto? Or hire King Kong as a companion? 🙂

    Like

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