This is the thread in which I post ideas and concepts for stories I’m working on (and ask for opinions and helps brainstorming)
So one I’ve been playing with for a while is a (loose) retelling of The Hobbit with elements of Oliver Twist in post-apocalyptic Iceland (I also have a number of saga retellings set in post-apocalyptic Iceland- one of them is Volsunga Saga, which The Hobbit is basically a very loose retelling of; in the Poetic Edda Sigurd’s foster father Reginn is identified as a dwarf. Thorin has certain similarities with Reginn in character and role in the plot; I would argue Sigurd’s role is split between Bilbo and Bard The Bowman. There is however, no Brynhild or Gudrun in the plot although Fafnir is basically Smaug.) I do know a bit about medieval and modern Iceland-- from research for the Volsunga Saga retelling I mentioned.
All I really know about this idea is that it’s set in a pseudo-medieval post-apocalyptic world where dwarves, elves and Orcs are the results of synthetic biology. Dragons are biological weapons. Thorin’s name is now Thorarinn and he’s a dwarven gangster. Bjarki (Bilbo) is a human boy from the thrall class and Fíli and Kíli are now Fjalar and Kjalar.
BTW, The Hobbit without the magical elements is basically a heist story about a guy who joins a group of outsiders led by a man whose family fortune and ancestral home were stolen by an enemy and who assembles a group to steal his property back with the help of a knowledgeable acquaintance. With some adjustments the basic plot could be a crime thriller or a cyberpunk or steampunk novel. (There are some AU fics on the Archive of Our Own site which are retellings of the story in various different settings and genres)
More notes on The Hobbit: Bilbo is Tolkien’s take on a stock character from Icelandic sagas; the coward who gains courage and becomes a hero eg; Hjalti, Bodvar Bjarki’s friend in Hrolfs saga kraka. Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter is another example of this type of character.
Tolkien’s main original contribution was to make the coward the protagonist and an audience surrogate so that the reader got to follow his transformation into a hero. He subverted folktale and saga conventions by making Beorn “under no enchantment by his own.”
That is what makes *The Hobbit * original. Not its plot.
@Grumman: The heist thing was there as a summary of the basic plot of The Hobbit because that’s whatThe Hobbitis. It’s a heist story.
Here’s how I would summarise the basic plot.
See what I mean? In fact I believe that if someone wrote a story based on that plot summary it would probably not be recognisable as The Hobbit unless the writer told you (in general) their inspiration or someone caught any references they made in the story itself. Even if the characters had similar personalities.
I get that. What I’m saying is that if someone wrote a story based on that plot summary, I think it would be a better story than the one you’re actually planning to write. The story is better before you start throwing in stuff like “synthetic biology”.
I’d also like to add here that my two inspirations were quotes from JRRT himself about the Khazad (Tolkienian Dwarves)
And you (in general) as a reader can see echoes of casual British anti-Semitism in attitudes to the Dwarves as undesirable, particularly in Lobelia Sackville-Baggins. I can, at least. (This is reflected quite well in the first Hobbit movie IMO). In particular my idea was that this was going to be a comment on the use of stereotypes in Fantasy Counterpart Cultures as well as the use of race, ethnicity and religion in fiction full stop.
The Hobbit was influenced by a lot of things. Norse mythology was one of them. I think it’s more accurate to say that it was influenced by Norse legends than by the Völsunga saga particularly. The Wikipedia subsection on the influences on The Hobbit doesn’t even specifically mention the Völsunga saga:
However you tell this story, I suggest that you do so in a way that most people will not immediately say, “Hey, this is just a retelling of The Hobbit.” If you actually got such a book published, you’d be sued into bankruptcy - not by the Tolkien estate, but by Tolkien Enterprises (a.k.a. Middle-earth Enterprises). This is the corporation that owns the movie rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. This company has been suing people right and left. Often it’s for things that they don’t really own the rights for, like items in Tolkien’s books that don’t originally come from the movies. Indeed, they’ve been suing people for items that really come from earlier sources that Tolkien drew upon. This is a big corporation willing to keep other people in court for long enough to bankrupt them.
Thanks, Andy. I note, however, that There and Back Again was published in 1999. Tolkien Enterprises only became aggressive in its court actions after the movies came out. Perhaps they don’t care about a book that’s now out of print. But now I’m only guessing. I don’t know what they would do now.
Yeah, I don’t know either. I had forgotten how long ago Murphy’s book had been written (time flies). She didn’t use any terms originated by Tolkien (Murphy’s hero is a “norbit,” not a hobbit), which may make a difference, I suppose.
Tolkien Enterprises doesn’t care that the word “hobbit” came from a much earlier work. They’ve sued a pub called the Hobbit and a cafe called the Hungry Hobbit for copyright infringement. Tolkien Enterprises is owned by Saul Zaentz. Zaentz ended up owing all the rights to the Creedence Clearwater Revival songs. He then sued John Fogerty for writing new songs that he claimed sounded like the songs he wrote for Creedence Clearwater Revival.
As time goes on, they have been gradually increasing the number of things that they claim to own the rights to. No, they haven’t so far sued anyone for using the bare plot of The Hobbit without any of the names from any of the books. That doesn’t mean that they won’t do so eventually.