Thursday, April 21, 2022

towering influence

Several Tolkienists have written about the influence on his writing that they see from the works of John Buchan. One of them led a discussion today of Huntingtower, a book deemed a particular influence on The Hobbit.

I read Huntingtower for this - first book by Buchan I'd read - and I don't really see it. There are certain parallels, to be sure - middle-aged business-like homebody goes out on long country walk, has adventures, gets kind of subsumed by the story as it reaches its climax - and some specific detailed resemblances - Huntingtower takes place in the Scottish district of Carrick, which means "rock", and Bilbo visits a Carrock, which is a large rock - but I'm not too impressed with claims that the Gorbals Die-Hards are like the dwarves, even though both sets are short and numerous, or that rescuing the Russian princess is like reclaiming the treasure of Thror. Nor do the prose styles seem at all mutually reminiscent. Huntingtower was entertaining enough and readable, but I think The Hobbit is much better crafted. For one thing it doesn't turn slack and lose interest when the battles begin and Bilbo recedes from the forefront of the story, whereas Huntingtower does at the equivalent point.

I tried my hand at tenuous parallels by proposing one between John Heritage and Gandalf. He's initially a guide, he's initially somewhat obnoxious, he becomes a friend and a commander of the expedition but disappears from the viewpoint for a large part of the middle of the story ...

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