Most Obvious Tolkien Imitators

What are the fantasy books whose "debt" to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien verges on downright appropriation? Copyright infringment? Appalling lack of originality? You don't need to hate these books; just acknowledge them for what they are.
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4.36 avg rating — 2,241,380 ratings
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4.40 avg rating — 11,009 ratings
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4.17 avg rating — 78,377 ratings
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4.16 avg rating — 34,811 ratings
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3.44 avg rating — 4,190 ratings
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3.99 avg rating — 68,214 ratings
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4.22 avg rating — 115,743 ratings
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3.76 avg rating — 859 ratings
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3.29 avg rating — 256 ratings
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3.99 avg rating — 4,797 ratings
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38 books · 214 voters · list created August 11th, 2008 by Antoine (votes) .
17 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


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Comments Showing 1-28 of 28 (28 new)

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message 1: by Oscar (new)

Oscar Despite similarities between Rand and aragorn, the psyches of the wheel of time and tolkien are quite different.
The good/evil line is blurred much more in the former, and the main protagonists are much closer to evil and insanity.


message 2: by Antoine (new)

Antoine Given that all "fantasy" has to conform to at least some of a long list of genre conventions, many of which were pioneered or employed by Tolkien, I think the whole question is a tricky one. In making my list, I concentrated on those elements of Tolkien's mythos that can't be traced back further than The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. So Elves and Dwarves are legitimate, in my view; other smaller than average people are not so much. Quests to find something are obviously OK; quests to get rid of something or more questionable.

The only book on this list—that I have actually read—whose presence I would question is Eragon. It is totally derivative, but not really of Tolkien in my view. It is really a rewrite of Star Wars in the epic fantasy genre, although it also draws on wide array of other fantasy material. In fact, Paolini combines so many influences that the results are almost original.


message 3: by Oscar (new)

Oscar Always found that eragon was a conglomerate and that the results were underwhelming and predictable.

The wheel of time and works of david eddings have stereotypical exteriors but take deep thought to reach the depths. In the belgariad, for example, the historic technology and world styling is contrasted with the modern outlook of nations such as Drasnia. In my opinion, WoT doesn't really deserve placing there, seeing as the races e.g. Trollocs, myrdraal and ogier are all original.

IS difficult though.


Yourfisharemine Honestly i TRIED to read "the Sword of Shannara" years ago but how closely it followed the path of LOTR disgusted me. I had to put it down unfinished.
Reading Eragon was a joke.(seriously couldn't he come up with a better name?) I honestly just kept reading it to tick off on my mental list of "predictable".

'Wheel of time' and 'the seeker of truth' however Deserve their low ranking. the cultures behind them are enough to overhaul the plots. Though they should be in there own chatagory of repeating them selves.


message 5: by Antoine (new)

Antoine Haha! I can't remember why I forced my way through "Sword." But I do remember how I got through Eragon: my eight-year-old son was having me read it to him, and although I was not thrilled with it, I was thrilled with his excitement. I read all three of those damn books, and I can only hope that by the time the last one comes out, he will be able to read it to himself!


message 6: by Mark (new)

Mark I loved the part of The Wheel of Time, where Rand, the elf and the dwarf took the ring to Shayol Ghul and cast it in the magma (:


message 7: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Antoine wrote: "Haha! I can't remember why I forced my way through "Sword." But I do remember how I got through Eragon: my eight-year-old son was having me read it to him, and although I was not thrilled with it..."

Lol, Poor you. I used to love those books, but by the time the third came out, my admiration had diminished a LOT. So completely predictable, and the writing is kind of meh.


message 8: by Alexander (new)

Alexander Draganov The Sword is very close to LotR, but the Elfstones is a great novel!


message 9: by Jay (new)

Jay I think I can count myself lucky as I've only read one book on this list: Thomas Covenant. And I'll never read another word written by Donaldson.


message 10: by Alexander (new)

Alexander Draganov I like many of the books in the list, including Shannara, The Iron Tower and Eragon, but too hated the Covenant novels. Dull and depressing stories.


message 11: by Jay (new)

Jay Sometimes it seemed as if Donaldson's only goal in the story was to make the reader more depressed. He probably hates Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse), who's philosophy is to follow up any depressing moment with a joke, any joke with a real scare, etc... In the Covenant novels there's just no variation.

If I were Thomas Covenant the story wouldn't have gotten past the first 100 pages because I would have thrown myself off the first available cliff. And I'm not the least bit suicidal.


message 12: by Uk_id (new)

Uk_id Eragon is more a rip-off from Star Wars, with a sprinkling of other authors' work in a vain attempt at originality. Still, there are clear derivatives from LOTR, so it gets my number one vote. Sword of Shannara and Iron Tower are also near-clones of LOTR, so I gave them some votes too. I didn't mind Shannara too much, and the succeeding two books are more 'original,' but Iron Tower is menticidal.


message 13: by Alexander (new)

Alexander Draganov Uk_id, McKiernan too becomes more original in later Mithgar novels, although I do not like him as much as I like Terry Brooks.


message 14: by Uk_id (new)

Uk_id @Darth: I haven't finished Iron Tower yet, so I didn't vote fot it. I also think McKiernan gets a small pass for being upfront about the reason the series so closely resembles LOTR: it was written to be a sequel to it. His was the little fanfic that could, shooting for canon status, and then settling for a small "legitimate" niche all its own. I think he could have done a better job during the rewrite to make it more separate from LOTR, but that was ultimately his and his editor's call.

Eragon on the other hand ... its the fanfic that refuses to acknowledge its fanfictitude.


message 15: by Alexander (new)

Alexander Draganov Well, I liked Eragon too. You see, I don't want to see Tolkienisque fantasy gone and most of the epics today are kinda like "A Game of Thrones", which may not be a bad thing, but it's definitely not my cup of tea. So I enjoyed Paolini's first two novels very good. The third disappointed me bitterly, though.


message 16: by Uk_id (new)

Uk_id @Darth: To each his own. I will grant fans of Eragon that Paolini shows some technical skill. And no matter my feelings on the issue, the guy is published and I am not.

I'm not a huge fan of Thrones, either. As far as epics go, it was tedious and ponderous. The writer's prurience also turned me off. I couldn't get past the first two or three chapters of the second book in the series.


message 17: by Alexander (new)

Alexander Draganov Which are your favorite fantasy epics, then? :)


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Don't forget the Green Rider series! Those books are amazingly similar to LOTR. The characters might as well just have different names.


message 19: by Sonia (new)

Sonia  Grace Jay wrote: "I think I can count myself lucky as I've only read one book on this list: Thomas Covenant. And I'll never read another word written by Donaldson."

Thomas Covenant was the worst thing Donaldson did. I hated that series with a passion. Then my dad made me read Mirror of her Dreams and A Man Rides Through. They're two of the best-written, best-conceived fantasy books I've ever read, and I've read a LOT of fantasy. Give him the benefit of a doubt! They really are excellent.


message 20: by Uk_id (new)

Uk_id Casper wrote: "NAME ONE GODDAMN SIMILARITY BETWEEN THE ELFSTONES OF SHANNARA AND ANYTHING BY TOLKIEN!!!! I F***ING DARE YOU!!!!!!"

That is a constructive response.


message 21: by Giacomo (new)

Giacomo What a useful list, as if every novel wasn't inspired by other novels


message 22: by Iqra (new)

Iqra Sigh, the world will forever be filled with fools...
How sad to create such a pointless list.


message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

Goodkind is nothing like Tolkien. They are both fantasy and that's about it.

Eragon's similarities are the species and that is about it. In fact, it's magic systems are heavily influenced by Pern and Earthsea if anything. The one thing it shares with LotR and Star Wars is the Path of the Hero, which occurs in most things in most genres.

The similarities between Eye of the World and LotR were intentional as Jordan was boldly making references to both LotR as well as King Arthur legends (not that that is ever brought up in argument by the way and this very thing goes along with the Earthsea/Pern influences found in Eragon). Otherwise, the world, species, magic, characters, story and everything else are completely different. The settings and the name of ONE location pay homage to the genius behind the modern fantasy genre, not ripping him off. If it is ripping off Tolkien, then that means it must be plagiarizing the original crafters of the Pendragon and Companions mythos, as well as borrowing from Ghenji and Robin Hood and hints at Hua Mulan.

These are not rip-offs, the words you mean to say are "most obvious Tolkien-influenced" and "most Tolkien-Referencing" books.

And the generic fantasies on here I have not read, but I would like point out that they are not ripping him off, there is in fact: an entire audience, sub-genre and so on at which the core is heavily-influenced Tolkien works. Not rip-offs. It is not an audience I am a part of, but it exists, they like the stuff, and there is plenty of it that is good. Many people seek out heavily-Tolkien-influenced things, and so people who enjoy writing it put it out there for those who read it and it is no better or worse than the things that we read. Just because it isn't your cup of tea doesn't mean it is ripping anything off.

And if it isn't obvious yet, Finale (msg 24), Iqra (msg25) and Casper (msg26) are right: it is (not inspiration, but) influence. The list was pointless. And maybe, just maybe, broadening your tastes and accepting a few key points in literature, may be some aid in helping you enjoy many more things. But if you don't want to, it's fine but don't place blame where it doesn't belong.


message 24: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Niezgoda Yourfisharemine wrote: "Honestly i TRIED to read "the Sword of Shannara" years ago but how closely it followed the path of LOTR disgusted me. I had to put it down unfinished.
Reading Eragon was a joke.(seriously couldn't ..."


well he was 15 when he came up with the story you know


message 25: by Dana (new)

Dana Salman When you think about it Tolkien's story just built around a very basic plot-line of "journey-to-destroy-dangerous-object-and-by-extension-take-down-evil-dark-lord", which any other fantasy epic could be about at its core. The trouble I think is pulling it off so that not only is it epic length-wise but excitement-wise; Tolkien built an entire world, meticulously, and it might not have had the most interesting characters or the most fantastic scenery but it made that simple plot-line something gigantic and unforgettable.

So until some other fantasy author is able to pull that off as spectacularly as Tolkien, people will keep pegging these fantasies with similar plot-lines as rip-offs if they feel they fall short of the standards of LoTR.

I think what's really needed is a fantasy epic about a group of travelers on a quest, that may or may not contain elves or dwarves with made-up languages, that still manages to set itself entirely apart from Tolkien, whether in style or setting or delivery or whatever. All people would be able to say then is 'they both have elves, and long epic quests... but that's about it; they're both great in their own way'. The books on this list don't manage to do that - give themselves their own unique flavor non-reminiscent to LoTR.


message 26: by Alexander (new)

Alexander Draganov Dana, the Warhammer novels have similar races to Middle Earth, but the feel is very, very different. Nevertheless I still enjoy the Shannara books very much and likely I always will.


message 27: by Avaminn (new)

Avaminn F'nett How is Thomas Covenant ranked so high? Sure, there's a magic ring, but the characters are so different that they aren't really that similar at all. (Not to mention the magic ring is completely different from the Ring of Power)

Eragon is more like The Belgariad, Wheel of Time, Earthsea, and Star Wars than LotR.

Wheel of Time only opens similarly to LotR.


message 28: by Kay (new)

Kay Why is Fellowship of the Ring on here? How can Tolkien appropriate himself?


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