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Old 6th March 2012, 04:44 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Merrie England? Any like?

I am sorry if this has been asked before. I tried searching before posting, but could find no thread that matched, specifically, what I was thinking.

When I read Tolkein's The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings, it has a certain, I don't know how else to say this, 'flavor' to me. This feeling I do not get when reading other popular fantasy novels, like The Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, Sword of Truth, etc. The closest I can get to this feeling is reading certain CS Lewis novels, like Prince Caspian, Silver Chair, or the Horse and His Boy.

It is, specifically, the parts of the novels relating to Hobbits and the Shire. A whimsical, nostalgic view of rural life. In my minds eye, it is like seeing it through old timey film, with all the charm of the pops, crackles, and black spots, if that makes any sense. It comes closest, to describe, the idea of "Merry England."

wikipedia.org/wiki/Merry_England

This is the closest I can think of to describe the feeling I get. I know it seems quaint(especially this being a UK forum), but the feeling appeals to me greatly. I mean, I like a lot of the other ideas of the book, like the decline of elder ways, and the rise of new, and how sadness tempers beauty, and makes it greater, but the first idea, this nostalgic(and likely unrealistic) fantasy involving rural life I like the best.

Are there any other novels with similar prose? I don't mean straight copies, like the first Shannara books, but books that have a similar feel. Does that make any sense?

I hope I didn't do anything wrong by posting here.
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Old 6th March 2012, 05:44 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Merrie England? Any like?

You had a bit of a problem there because of the attempt at a link, which the spam filter caught (you need a certain number of posts to be permitted to post links -- see the Terms of Use).

The topic has occasionally come up, especially with regard to certain comments by Michael Moorcock on Tolkien, but I'm sure there will be plenty of others who would enjoy getting into such a discussion.

As for other writings of this sort... well, yes, quite a few; and I'm sure others will be better able to point you to them, as well....
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Old 6th March 2012, 05:59 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Merrie England? Any like?

nether the same 'flavor' or 'place' but Ann McCaffry's Pern books give over to the 'homeyness' of a rural life. The Once and Future King is a favorite of mine for escapism into an England that may never have existed, but I enjoy believing it did.
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Old 6th March 2012, 05:14 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Merrie England? Any like?

Yes. I saw the restriction on posting, but I thought it would be inappropriate to describe a genre, without at least posting where I got the description.

It's just...well, it reminds me of the small towns around Carolina, whenever I read it. Quiet, insular, slow paced, well run, and the friendliest people you will ever meet. I like it.

I am not a fan of the overly "realistic" fantasy, like Moorcock and Martin. I read a book to be entertained, not depressed and disgusted. I never understood the disdain writers like Moorcock had for these types of works. Sure, it may seem quaint(I don't think so, but I will give him the sake of the argument) in comparison to Moorcock, but his, in comparion, seem downright dreary. I'll take quaint any day.

Once and Future King is an excellent novel. As is the sequel, the Book of Merlyn.
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Old 6th March 2012, 05:21 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Merrie England? Any like?

Well as it's only Americans who've commented so far, I'll give you a recommendation from someone in merry old England. Rural England too.

How about Watership Down by Richard Adams? Or Stardust by Neil Gaiman. Or the Dunctan books by William Horwood - these especially fit what you're after, I think.
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Old 6th March 2012, 05:38 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Merrie England? Any like?

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When I read Tolkein's The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings, it has a certain, I don't know how else to say this, 'flavor' to me.
Agreed. The Shire is a little microcosm of Edwardian England. It's not Merrie Englande as such, but it shares many of the same characteristics. Most generations believe that we have just come out of some Golden Age. Tolkien was no different - the Shire is a romanticised and stylised echo of his childhood - how he would have liked England to have been, even if he knew it never was.

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The closest I can get to this feeling is reading certain CS Lewis novels, like Prince Caspian, Silver Chair, or the Horse and His Boy.
CSL was a pal of Tolkien's and lived through many of the same experiences, which perhaps also moulded his writing.

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I know it seems quaint(especially this being a UK forum), but the feeling appeals to me greatly.
It's a myth - but myths are designed to appeal. The simple, good, godfearing pioneer popularised by Little House on the Prairie is a popular American myth which is no less appealing - and no less quaint - for being broadly untrue. We know that our prettified, thatched villages and half timbered houses appeal to our visitors and the fact that places like Finchingfield or Chipping Norton would never have looked quite like they do now back in the day is something we largely hide from ourselves as much as anyone else. We know how folk like Robin Hood and Dick Turpin appeal, even though the former never existed and the latter was an unreconstructed thug who was brutal even by the standards of his time.

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this nostalgic(and likely unrealistic) fantasy involving rural life I like the best.
Me too. On a sunny day in one of our prettier rural counties, you can still almost believe it might be true.

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Are there any other novels with similar prose? I don't mean straight copies, like the first Shannara books, but books that have a similar feel. Does that make any sense?
Plenty. Thomas Hardy gives the Westcountry a fairly easy ride in the Wessex novels and Sir Walter Scott does the same for Scotland in the Waverley novels. The Lark Rise to Candleford trilogy is unremittingly twee, as is pretty much anything by H E Bates. More realistic portrayals of English life can be found in Dickens and Fielding.

Regards,

Peter
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Old 6th March 2012, 09:22 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Merrie England? Any like?

Yup, that's why many Scots aren't too fond of Scott (sorry).

He was writing for a Victorian audience while the descendants of his heroes lived in filthy tenements, worked twelve-hour days and were denied their real history (and were too busy putting food on the table to waste money on his books).

Unfortunately, this view of Scotland (the Shortbread Tin) is the way that many abroad see us, relegating our brutal and violent (if rich) history to the realm of fantasy, so that hard-headed, practical people who seek to restore Scotland's independent status are seen as hopeless romantics at best, or monsters at worst.
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Old 7th March 2012, 05:09 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Merrie England? Any like?

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Yup, that's why many Scots aren't too fond of Scott (sorry).

He was writing for a Victorian audience while the descendants of his heroes lived in filthy tenements, worked twelve-hour days and were denied their real history (and were too busy putting food on the table to waste money on his books).

Unfortunately, this view of Scotland (the Shortbread Tin) is the way that many abroad see us, relegating our brutal and violent (if rich) history to the realm of fantasy, so that hard-headed, practical people who seek to restore Scotland's independent status are seen as hopeless romantics at best, or monsters at worst.
Could you be more specific, please?
I have only read a little of Walter Scott(Rob Roy, The Lady of the Lake, some of the Waverly novels), but I have a wholly positive view of him.

He, it seemed to me, saved Scotland. United it, even if in a exaggerated culture, helped the Scotts rise from the third class citizenship they seemed to share with the Irish. It seemed that the Scottish fortunes rose, when they were no longer seen as sub-human by the British. Similar to the "noble savage" view the French took to Arabs around the time of Dumas' novels, and how it improved trade and relations with them.

At least this is what I thought from what I have read. I will admit that I am an American, and don't know as much of Scottish history(more importantly, the mindset and viewpoint) as I should. Could you be more specific about what Scott did to the culture of Scotland, and how it is viewed by the world? Keep in mind that I bake my own scones and biscuits and shortbread, and have never seen a Scottish Tin. =p
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Old 7th March 2012, 09:58 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Merrie England? Any like?

I'm afraid that you may have fallen into a few traps here. Ace and I have very different views on nationalism, but I suspect he would agree that historical re-invention is a Bad Thing regardless.

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He, it seemed to me, saved Scotland. United it, even if in a exaggerated culture, helped the Scotts rise from the third class citizenship they seemed to share with the Irish.
Not true. You must understand that Scotland has always had serious, internal tensions. I'm often rude about the Stewarts, but in all fairness to them, governing Scotland is difficult. Not because Scots are tougher or more individualistic than other people, but because Scotland is geographically complex and politically parochial. The Highlands were dominated by the clan system, which is effectively a throwback to the Iron Age. Holding down mountainous terrain with bad communications and frequently terrible weather is virtually impossible - even the Romans couldn't manage it. The Scottish kings - who were trying to adopt the same feudal model as existed in continental Europe and England - could only effectively govern the central Lowlands and probably the Merse. Otherwise, they were wholly dependant on bribing or coercing the local leaders - clan chiefs in the Highlands and the family leaders in Galloway and along the English border - to do their bidding.

This led to a situation where Lowlanders frequently feared and hated their upland cousins. The historical apologists have conveniently air-brushed this in their quest for notions of Scottish one-ness.

By the time of Scott, things had changed. England and Scotland had been united under one crown and one monarch (Stewarts until Anne died in the early 18th century) for some time. Various Jacobite rebellions had failed - just - and the Highlands were under stricter control than ever before. The Anglo-Scottish border had been quieted and so the Lowlanders could breathe a sigh of releif. With the actual threat gone, the romantic image of the proud Highlander (a manifestaion of the "noble savage" myth which exists in your country too) was free to grow and flourish.


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It seemed that the Scottish fortunes rose, when they were no longer seen as sub-human by the British.
They were never seen as sub-human. Incidentally, for "British" I suspect you mean "English". Since the Conquest, the prosperous parts of Scotland were ruled by families of Norman French descent - just like England was. The contempt in which the lords held the peasants was not ordered on genetic lines.

Quote:
Could you be more specific about what Scott did to the culture of Scotland, and how it is viewed by the world? Keep in mind that I bake my own scones and biscuits and shortbread, and have never seen a Scottish Tin.
He created this misty-eyed vision of romantic, foggy glens, mighty heroes and wicked lords. He kick-started the whole "Bonnie Scotland" industry of kilts, knitwear shops on the Royal Mile, the Skye Boat Song and tartan biscuit tins with a picture of Eilean Donan castle on the front. That industry sells - particularly to our North American friends - but it is pastiche every bit as irritating to the Scots as the idea of clog-wearing, pigeon fancying, blustering factory workers is to the northern English.

Regards,

Peter
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Old 7th March 2012, 09:28 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Merrie England? Any like?

Personally I think the 'nostalgia' comes from Tolkien writing as if he was penning a translation. Gives the impression of depth and comes, without a doubt, from his philological background.

I'm sure Tolkien would have admitted that William Morris and ER Eddison were his key influencers in this - other than the old sagas themselves. Their language is a bit more fanciful but if you can get round that they might appeal - would recommend Water of the Wondrous Isles by Morris first and foremost but others on the Morris thread might disagree.

Can't think of any post Tolkien writers that achieve this at all; not in fantasy anyway.

I'd check out Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra by CS Lewis as well, if you like the more famous Narnia books.
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Old 19th March 2012, 01:20 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Merrie England? Any like?

This idealization of the world continues today. I would point to the very entertaining mystery series "Midsomer Murders" indeed to most of those tales of murder and mayhem with authors have been penning that are set in rural England. There is no such place in the real world.

I suspect it has to do with the desire, both on the part of the author (who offers this idealized world and the reader (who seeks to escape to that world). I know when I read or watch television for entertainment, I am not interested in the harsh realities of the world as it is, I want to relax and bask in the fantasy.
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Old 19th March 2012, 02:40 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Merrie England? Any like?

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This idealization of the world continues today. I would point to the very entertaining mystery series "Midsomer Murders" indeed to most of those tales of murder and mayhem with authors have been penning that are set in rural England. There is no such place in the real world.
Leaving aside the heaps of bodies, there are still places in England which are not a million miles from the slightly snooty, self-satisfied, cake-baking world of Midsomer. Ironically enough (given your user name) many of those places are in the Cotswolds, where villages like Bourton have been primped and prettified by wealthy incomers from the cities into a sort of vision of a lost neverland. The Cotswolds is stone country and was wealthy wool country, meaning it has a greater density of good, surviving ancient buildings than many other parts of the country.

Some villages outside the (generally and relatively) wealthy south east have suffered a similar fate - Hawkshead, Clovelly and the downhill bit of Robin Hood's Bay all spring to mind.

Regards,

Peter
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Old 19th March 2012, 02:44 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: Merrie England? Any like?

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He, it seemed to me, saved Scotland. United it, even if in a exaggerated culture, helped the Scotts rise from the third class citizenship they seemed to share with the Irish.
Hee, I take it we're still down there....

Oh, and if it's old fashioned, olde world, we've barely made it to modern era charm you're after.....
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Old 19th March 2012, 03:57 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: Merrie England? Any like?

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This idealization of the world continues today. I would point to the very entertaining mystery series "Midsomer Murders" indeed to most of those tales of murder and mayhem with authors have been penning that are set in rural England. There is no such place in the real world.
As someone who used to live near Oxford I have visited lots of areas that crop up in the Midsomer Murders and as an Inspector Morse fan a trip to Oxford just set off memories of the books with every place name and street name I saw.
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Old 19th March 2012, 04:15 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: Merrie England? Any like?

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Originally Posted by Peter Graham View Post
Leaving aside the heaps of bodies, there are still places in England which are not a million miles from the slightly snooty, self-satisfied, cake-baking world of Midsomer. Ironically enough (given your user name) many of those places are in the Cotswolds, where villages like Bourton have been primped and prettified by wealthy incomers from the cities into a sort of vision of a lost neverland. The Cotswolds is stone country and was wealthy wool country, meaning it has a greater density of good, surviving ancient buildings than many other parts of the country.

Some villages outside the (generally and relatively) wealthy south east have suffered a similar fate - Hawkshead, Clovelly and the downhill bit of Robin Hood's Bay all spring to mind.

Regards,

Peter
Peter, thanks for the info. I was aware to some extent, but then what can a Yank really know from watching the tele? Love Morse, Midsomer, Creek, Rosemary and Thyme, et al.

As to the name, I admit, I filched it from Mercedes Lackey's book The Catswold Portal. I began using it back in the heady days of IRC chat channels and have hung onto it to the point that it has become my normal forum nome de guerre.

On a side note, I find the evolution of the word "wold" fascinating in that it has come to mean the opposite of its philological roots "wald" (wood in German).
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