Saturday, April 4, 2015

Sword and Sorcery versus High Fantasy

Just read an interesting fact (that Tolkien liked Robert E. Howard) in a recent Amazing Stories article about the difference between High Fantasy and Sword and Sorcery. Summed up well here by G. W. Thomas:

"In the final analysis, Sword & Sorcery and High Fantasy aren’t so very different. What has made them different at all is mere happenstance. Howard was an American Pulp writer, so therefore his Fantasy is short-story based and fast-paced. Tolkien wrote not for money and took an entire lifetime to craft one long tale. In spirit they are the same, Heroic Fantasy. In execution, tone and message, they differ as much as two writers should, each reflecting their own spirit. Lin Carter, in his book Imaginary Worlds, says that Tolkien had read Howard and liked him. This doesn’t surprise me at all. They were both inspired by the same sources of the fantastic and found their own ways of writing about it."

He also mentions that Sword and Sorcery tales have more to do with survival, and High Fantasy have more to do with redemption. Although I would agree this is often the case, it isn't always. Often the lines blur, and sometimes survival and redemption are one. Michael Moorcock's Elric saga (especially Stormbringer) has both High Fantasy and Sword and Sorcery elements, and although very much about redemption, it is also about survival.

I enjoy them both, but I tend towards the stories of more down-to-earth people trying to survive AND find meaning and redemption, as opposed to a fantasy version of the lifestyles of the rich and famous (which much fantasy nowadays seems to be about). Thus I will always be more drawn to a title like Cugel the Clever than to Game of Thrones. Put into a modern setting, it would be like the difference between reading about someone struggling to start a small business as opposed to reading about the lives of the Kardashians.

But now, I'm straying into a different blog topic...

Wishing you survival and redemption,
Robert Zoltan

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