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Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy
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Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  1,166 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
“A superb collection, a splendid and much-needed book. Anderson has cleared away the dross and shown us the golden roots of fantasy before it became a genre.”
–Michael Moorcock, author of The Eternal Champion

Many of today’s top names in fantasy acknowledge J.R.R. Tolkien as the author whose work inspired them to create their own epics. But which writers influenced Tolkien h
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published August 26th 2003 by Del Rey (first published January 1st 2003)
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Oct 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fantasy fans; fans of 19th-century fiction
May 28, 2009
In all, Anderson has collected 21 stories here, mostly by British authors --though American fantasy is represented, and Ludwig Tieck was of course German. The arrangement of the stories here is chronological, and the editor contributes a brief introduction to the book and short historical/ contextual notes prefacing each story. An appendix gives mini-bio/ bibliographical notes for each contributor, and for a few other genre writers from that era.

Only two of the stories here are ones
Julie Davis
Oct 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really like this book. It is the sort where I don't feel I have to painstakingly read every story if one isn't the sort I like. A quick skimming is perfectly adequate to give me the gist.

I've been surprised at how many of the stories I have enjoyed and how many have a fresh, modern feel considering how old they are (most from 1919 and earlier).

I also enjoy the author's story introductions and the fact that he doesn't try to force the idea that Tolkien read each of these or that each influence
This anthology pulls together 21 short stories and one short play to explore the wide variety of influences on the writer who has long been regarded as the father of modern fantasy. Authors range from the iconic (L. Frank Baum) to the virtually unknown (Clemence Housman). Anderson includes commentary for each piece, highlighting possible connections with Tolkien's work.

"The Elves" by Ludwig Tieck >> A "literary fairy tale" in the German tradition and illustrates the dangers of visiting wit
Caroline Berg
This book was rather disappointing in many ways. For one, it didn't contain what it claims on the cover... "classic stories that inspired" Tolkien. In fact, the editor of the collection clearly states in the introduction to many of the pieces that there is no record of Tolkien ever reading such a story... but he might have, if he had known about it. Which is pure speculation at best.

However, that is not to say this collection is terrible. Far from it! There are at least three stories in the book
Molly G
The introduction explaining how stories were chosen is excellent in itself, and both satisfying and liberating to Tolkien scholars. (Iliad, Odyssey, and Beowulf are in the first sentence of the second paragraph.) "Liberating" because it does such a good job of expressing purpose of choice, Tolkienites are totally freed from continuing to mull it and so can simply read and enjoy the selected stories regardless of their degree of relation to LotR.

Stories themselves are magnificent. Favorites are p
Jared Millet
An interesting collection of mostly 19th Century fairy stories with a few "weird" tales of the era thrown in, but for the most part this anthology is only enjoyable from an academic perspective.

These stories have not aged well. Most are trite, precious, wooden, and overly moralistic. Only a handful are genuinely good ("Black Heart and White Heart" by H. Rider Haggard and "Chu-bu and Sheemish" by Lord Dunsany are the best) but several are completely unreadable.
Micah and Laurie
I really enjoyed this book. It really gave me the perspective that Tolkine had when he was a young writers as myself. I will continue to cherish the old tales even more now. Tokien remains to be one of my admired authors.
Feb 10, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tolkien is often considered to be the father of modern fantasy, but it's not like he woke up one morning and thought, "I'm going to write this crazy story that takes place in a world that may or may not be our own and features Elves and Dwarves and wizards!" This anthology, compiled by Tolkien scholar Douglas Anderson, is a collection of stories from the 19th and early 20th centuries that either are known to have inspired Tolkien or are representative of the kind of (what we would consider) fant ...more
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Perfect for anyone who enjoys fantasy or fairy tale, this book really can be read without any serious connection to Tolkien. I can see how many of the stories were influential to him, but the bigger idea is that Fantasy existed before Tolkien and that he launched tales like these to the next level. Anderson included stories from all across the world, which makes an interesting compilation, but may or may not make the case that the tales were the kind that would influence Tolkien.

In any compilati
Luciana Darce
E, finalmente, após uma longa pausa, voltamos ao velho projeto dos Mestres da Fantasia antes de Tolkien! Ultimamente andei variando um pouco mais o cardápio de leituras (ou não..., depende do ponto de vista), de forma que deixei um pouco o gênero de lado... até decidir tirar da estante esse Tales before Tolkien, uma coletânea de contos fantásticos escritos antes da publicação de O Hobbit.

Tinha comprado esse livro ano passado, como parte do meu presente de aniversário de mim para mim mesma, tenci
Apr 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed many of the stories in this collection, though "The Elves" was not one of them. It was really strange and rather boring. However, many of these stories were really good. The title of this collection is kind of self-explanatory; it purports to include many stories that may have influenced J.R.R. Tolkien. I've had this one on my shelf for a long time, but since I just re(read) The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I figured now would be the time to actually finish it. Many of the stories one ca ...more
Aug 26, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, anthology, kindle
This is an interesting mix of stories. There's a lot of fantasy stuff here, as well as some literary fairy tales and weird fiction. Some of it is quite good and imaginative, such as the story about imprisoning dragons or some of the tales of trips to Fairyland. Other stuff is rather boring or awful, such as The Golden Key, which drags on and on to no real purpose - and Tolkien seemingly agreed with me. There's a sort of horror/suspense story about terrible things happening in England during the ...more
Jun 14, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Sadly a disappointment. Why?

I saw this as an introduction to Tolkein & his influences. The cover blurb stated "...internationally recognised Tolkein expert Douglas A Andersen....has gathered fiction of...the authors who sparked Tolkein's imagination."

Great you might think & the chronological delivery of stories, each with an introduction by the 'internationally recognised' Andersen, the right way to go. However, a great number of these introductions stated that actually the represented a
Sep 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this collection of fantasy and - a few of them - almost "sci-fi" short stories. Contrary to what I thought I was getting into, Tales Before Tolkien presents a broad range of styles, subject matter and time periods: not everything reads like it influenced Middle Earth, and some stories are quite "modern" in flavor.

In fact, my favorite were the more modern/metaphysical ones:
-"The Baumoff Explosive," written in the early 1900s, is a fascinating story about a scientist trying to pr
Jul 14, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tolkien fans, people interested in the history of fantasy literature
Although the cover says, "Classic stories that inspired the author of The Lord of the Rings." In fact, though, only some of the stories in this anthology are known for sure to have influenced Tolkien. The rest are stories by authors Tolkien liked or that were popular during Tolkien's life.

Still, I understand much better the foundation Tolkien stood on, so I consider reading the book worthwhile for that alone.

I would not recommend this book for pleasure reading. There are some good stories, parti
Jun 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tales Before Tolkien is a nice collection of fantasy tales dating from the period just before Tolkien's birth to just before he began publishing his own works. Some of the stories, like Puss-cat Mew, Tolkien actually acknowledged having read and enjoyed as a youth. Others are not actually mentioned by Tolkien but possibly had an influence on him, while still others were probably not read by him but are indicative of the state of fantasy at the time he was active. None of these stories really mea ...more
Mar 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tolkien fans and fantasy fans in general!
I bought Tales before Tolkien b/c I love the universe Tolkien has created and was interested what might have influenced this amazing writer. In actuality there aren't that many short stories in this book that Tolkien came into contact with. I'm guessing the title was mostly choosen to sell the book.

Good thing is that the short stories in this book are all really great and enjoyable! Most of the authors I had never heard of and it was nice to see that while Tolkien probably shaped the Fantasy ge
Jul 02, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tolkien fans, early fantasy fans
The cover claims these are "classic stories that inspired
the author of The Lord of the Rings." All the stories are by
fantasy writers who were born at least 5 years before Tolkien and published fantasy before 1937. Some of these
writers were real influences on Tolkien --George MacDonald,
William Morris, H. Rider Haggard, E. Wyke-Smith, David Lindsay. Others such as A. Merritt and Austin Tappan Wright
had no proven influence on Tolien, though they were good fantasy writers of the period. Some of the
Sep 06, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A collection of fairy tales and fantasies from the late 1800s and early 1900s, some of which Tolkien is known to have read and admired, and others which the compiler of this anthology believes (based on some likeness to aspects of Tolkien's work) Tolkien might have read and been influenced by. For the most part, the connections are thin or could be accounted for by coincidence, although in the cases where Tolkien is on record as having read and admired the work, the connection is more credible. ...more
Oct 20, 2009 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasysci-fi
Finally found a cheap copy of this-- they've started offering it in a smaller size. Looks fun so far, just a collection of pre-Tolkien fantasy which may or may not have influenced him-- with some it is clear he had at least read the authors, with others it's speculation, but in any case it seems very nice as a reader of early fantasy (as in, from the Romantic era with one German tale right up until the first half of the 20th century). Have only read the first so far, Ludwig Tieck's "The Elves" ( ...more
Randal Schmidt
May 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A pretty good collection of short stories showcasing Pre-Tolkien fantasy literature. Very refreshing to read fantasy that is not a ripoff of Tolkien, as so much of modern fantasy seems to be. In some ways, Tolkien's immeasurable influence has its disadvantages. Most modern fantasy literature is derivative. Fantasy literature before Tolkien shows so much variety.

Some of the stories in this anthology were out of place, however, most especially "Black Heart and White Heart: A Zulu Idyll." Unfortun
Feb 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating collection of fairy stories and other fantasy tales by authors that J.R.R. Tolkien may have read or certainly read, as evidenced by his letters and papers. Douglas Anderson (of The Annotated Hobbit) collected and introduces these 21 stories or parts of stories.

Authors include George MacDonald, Andrew Lang, William Morris, Rider Haggard, E. Nesbit, L. Frank Baum, Lord Dunsany, E.A. Wyke-Smith (chapter of The Marvellous Land of the Snergs), and others. Quite a range of tastes and styl
Mar 15, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tolkien
1. The Elves *
2. The Golden Key **
3. Puss-cat Mew *****
4. The Griffin and the Minor Canon *****
5. The Demon Pope *
6. The Story of Sigurd ***
7. The Folk of the Mountain Door **
8. Black Heart and White Heart A Zulu Idyll ***
9. The Dragon Tamers *****
10. The Far Islands *****
11. The Drawn Arrow ****
12. The Enchanted Buffalo **
13. Chu-bu and Sheemish ***
14. The Baumoff Explosive *****
15. The Regent of the North ****
16. The Comingof Terror ****
17. The Elf Trap ****
18. The Thin Queen of Elfhame *
19. T
Mar 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. This book is filled with several short stories, fairy tales, legends, and other tales of wonder, that predate Tolkien's The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit. It is a delightful selection of stories.

Each story is accompanied by a description of where it is evidenced that it influenced Tolkien's writing.
May 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy-sci-fi
This is a collection of stories that predate Tolkien. Some he read, others he may or may not have read. Anderson clearly explains the inclusion of each story and suggests what the influence on Tolkien could have been. If you enjoy fantasy, this is an interesting look at its history!
Mark Myers
Feb 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
A collection of short stories that came before Tolkien, some directly influenced him, some were contemporary with Tolkien but had influence. They flow from fairy tales to full-scale fantasy. All in all a good collection of early fantasy.
I think my two favorites were "The Coming of the Terror" and the "Christmas Play" at the end, which reminded me a lot of Midsummer Night's Dream, as it was probably meant to.

And I don't like horror stories or anything but "The Coming of the Terror" was fascinating.
Jayalalita devi dasi
I learnt that dragons are covered in soft fur underneath their hard scales, and too much bread and milk has caused the species to evolve into cats. Most enlightening. Also, some cats are fairies. Keep this in mind.
Sue Ellen
Dec 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most of these tales are great fun, but you have to be in the mood for traditional tales from "Faerie" and read them as much for the references they might contain to other texts you know and love as for the entertainment they themselves provide.
Erin Webber
A wide variety of fantasy short stories written in the decades before Tolkien began writing his own fantasy literature. I especially enjoyed the lighthearted tales "Puss-Cat Mew" and "The Dragon Tamers," as well as the more haunting "The Elf Trap."
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Douglas Allen Anderson (born 1959) is an author and editor on the subjects of fantasy and medieval literature, specializing in textual analysis of the works of J. R. R. Tolkien.

His first published book was The Annotated Hobbit (1988), which grew out of a study of the revisions made by Tolkien. The Annotated Hobbit won the Mythopoeic Award for scholarship.

Anderson has also edited modern editions o
More about Douglas A. Anderson...