Tolkien and The Gilligan Effect

Just this last Friday we traveled to Seattle for one night to see Riverdance, which was awesome.  We booked a room at a lovely hotel and drove the seventy miles north for the event.   Because a granddaughter had a birthday party on Sunday, we drove on up to Woodinville which is another forty or so miles north and stayed in another great hotel.   Both places had internet, which was great because the business side of being an author doesn’t stop for vacations anymore than the writing side does.  While my publisher handles most of the business for me, there are certain things that I need to take care of.  They all take time and require a good internet connection.  Besides business, other aspects of life never seem to stop and they require answering emails.

So Friday morning my husband and I loaded up the old Forester with enough luggage to star in an episode of ‘Gilligan’s Island’ and off we went.  Two laptops, two lap desks, two Kindles, dress clothes for two, regular clothes for two, the digital camera, and the iPod… you get the idea.  Add in the separate suitcase that is also known as Grandma’s Beauty Supply Store, and a three-day trip begins to involve enough luggage for an expedition to Mount Everest.   I call this the Gilligan effect; and there must be some sort of Law of Physics that explains this phenomena.

While we were traveling I managed to write 6000 words on my work-in-progress and finish reading Danielle Raver’s epic fantasy  ‘Brother, Betrayed‘.  The most wonderful thing for me about reading the work of other fantasy authors is that moment when you say to yourself, ‘this book is definitely going to be a classic!’   That moment occurred when I was deep into reading the section where the Old King is rallying his men to fight what he knows without a shadow of a doubt is a losing battle.

It occurred to me that conveying the backstory,  atmosphere and mood should be the topic for this weeks blog-post, and that ‘Brother, Betrayed’ would be my source of inspiration.  Traditionally, high-fantasy as exemplified by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien are thick with atmosphere and backstory, and  Raver’s  entry into that arena is no exception.

The following is a quote from what I think are some of the most inspiring lines:   “… No Arnithan will ever speak of your courage, no bard will ever sing of your deeds. For no one but the enemy will survive. Therefore we will give them a battle so horrible that they will never speak of it. Today I ask you to join me out of vengeance. Let their memories of us be so terrible that they will never dare to sing of their victory for fear that they will wake our ghosts! Follow me,” the king proclaimed as he discarded cumbersome armor and shield, “into our enemies nightmares where we will never sleep!”

Raver has in that short paragraph done what a true story-teller tries to do.  She has given you the sense of desperation, determination and power that is embodied in the old King. He is desperate to draw the enemy’s attention away from the action that is happening elsewhere, and he does the only thing that a leader of his quality can do: he gives the enemy the juiciest visible target he can offer them – himself.  He is determined to take as many of them with him as he can, and also he is determined to leave the survivors so traumatized by their encounter with him that they will never brag or boast of having been there.  He will take to the enemy the dirtiest fight that he is able to muster.  His power is conveyed in the way that he presents this terrible solution to his men, and to the last man, they follow him, knowing that they will die.   It is a moving passage in a tale that is filled with moving passages.

Raver also gives you a sense of time, both present and future, for though their time on earth is ending they are going to live forever in the minds and nightmares of their enemies, and you as the reader are fully immersed in that sense of horrific glory that he is promising his men. She uses this speech to his men to convey the atmosphere and it works.

I love it when I come across an epic-fantasy tale that truly is epic; especially one written by a young new author, such as Danielle Raver.  ‘Brother, Betrayed’  by Danielle Raver is available at as a download for the Kindle and at Barnes and Noble for the Nook.

In the first book in my new series that takes place in World of Neveyah, ‘The Rose Tower’ we meet John Farmer, Edwin’s father whom we only get to know by others’ memories of him and one brief conversation with him on the morning day that Edwin fell through the portal.


“Even after all  the years that had passed, no matter how he tried not to see it, in his mind’s eye he saw Pauli’s body lying battered and broken as the rest of them made the escape that he had given his life to make happen.  John’s stark face stared at the road as he wondered what sort of trouble his son was walking into. ‘Garran or Marta will let me know what is going on…I hope. If I haven’t burned all my bridges, that is.’  

My intent with this was to convey John’s bitterness and sadness, and the burden of guilt without engaging in what some people refer to as an ‘info-dump’ and others refer to as ‘back-story’.  Rather than deal with the controversy of story-telling versus action I opted to have John introduce the inner turmoil that surfaces when Edwin finds that ‘a sheep is missing’ by his own voicing of his memories as he is driving away from the farm with a cartload of apples.  He knows his son will not be there when he comes home, and he is worried about  what he knows lies in store for Edwin.

Atmosphere and mood can be conveyed in many ways,  and so can the back story emerge in many ways.  I have always been a fan of Tolkien, but lately his style of ‘story-telling’ has fallen out of fashion; and some young readers on a website that I often mentor young writers on are regularly heard to remark that his works are ‘boring stretches of info-dump’.  I disagree most vigorously with that point of view, but I must try to tell my story in such a way that it is exciting to today’s reader, and my love of a good back-story is not so appreciated by as many people as I would like.


In my heart, Frodo Lives.



Filed under Adventure, Battles, Books, Dragons, Fantasy, knights, Literature, mythology, Romance, Uncategorized, writer, writing

2 responses to “Tolkien and The Gilligan Effect

  1. Incredible post, from an incredible writer. And yes, I completely agree about Raver’s book – my favorite scene was where one of the older soldiers describes his job and mission with such heartbreaking simplicity. Fantasy, especially classic fantasy, can be an amazing showcase for human emotions!


  2. Connie,

    Thank you so much for featuring my book on your site! I am glad you enjoyed it. That was an easy scene to write, but difficult to read.

    I actually dislike information dumps, but I think that expert writers can hide it within action 🙂 I’m a Tolkien fan too!