Andvari the shapeshifter dwarf, the King of the Marshes, and Tolkien:

Total posts: [31]
1 MorwenEdhelwen8th Mar 2013 10:21:22 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
So, does anyone have advice on how to clearly distinguish something from its source of inspiration? How do I make it so it's not a clear takeoff of something else, but loosely based?

For weeks/months I've been trying to make an Urban Fantasy project that I'm working on, called Perilous Realms, different from LOTR.

The plot involves a boy named Frodo (variant of Old Icelandic "Fródi" meaning "wise" or "clever" ) from a small, otherworldly hill dwelling race with huge appetites known as "the Hidden Folk" who's been raised by a dwarf mercenary named Thorin Eikinscialdi, who's related to a ruler titled "The King of The Marshes", after the marshy setting of the kingdom. Our hero and some classmates and friends try to keep a secret; a protective bracelet known as the Runeband that an evil necromancer tries to steal. He wants it because it has certain powers. If he finds a way to destroy it and remake it into something else, transferring its powers, he would be able to establish a new regime in an ancient human kingdom. Norse myth plays a role in the plot too- the dwarf Andvari turns out to have forged the Runeband himself as a talisman, and his descendants want it back.

So how do I clearly distinguish this from its inspiration?

edited 10th Mar '13 4:05:30 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
2 ArsThaumaturgis9th Mar 2013 09:07:21 AM , Relationship Status: I've been dreaming of True Love's Kiss
I may very well miss the mark here: I'm guessing somewhat at your process and desires, I fear.

That said, perhaps the problem is one of perspective: I seem to often see you asking something to the effect of "how do I adapt <insert feature here>", which seems to me as though it might hew a little closer to the original than you might want, given the question. Instead, perhaps it would be better to take the original, extract those elements that make it work well for you, write down those and then — without reference to the original — write your piece as a work of its own. In short: try to let the story grow into its own thing, rather than building it of pieces of the original translated to your setting.

You may well end up with something rather different to the original, but then that may well be what you want: something that clearly has the bones of the original, but which as grown into a creature all its own, shaped by the differences in setting and perspective.
I've actually been working on a re-imagining of Journey to the West so I've asked myself the same questions. I got two bits of advice.

First off, work on the setting. The setting can drastically change the story. Based on your description, I can't really tell if you story is suppose to take place on modern Earth or mythical Scandinavia so I can't give you any suggestions. Maybe you could replace your Dwarves with something else?

Second, don't be afraid to change the establish story. You can change or get rid of characters and plotlines that you feel won't serve your story. You got to remind yourself that this is your story and the original myth was just inspiration.

Also, it would probably help if you explain what the original myth is in your post.
You've been making an awful lot of threads on this single story. Maybe to avoid losing information you could make one major thread about it.

As for adapting it, I would say to use the original as a suggestion rather than a hard outline of how to flesh out the plot and characters.
Terracotta Soldier Man
[up] This. It might be easier to get help on your story if you collect everything in one place, so that you'll get consistent critiques.
6 MorwenEdhelwen9th Mar 2013 02:58:08 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
@WSM: It's set in a future Earth.

I hope it doesn't go too close to the original, because the original is The Lord of the Rings.

Actually I plan for this thread to be the major thread.

edited 9th Mar '13 3:29:45 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
7 MorwenEdhelwen9th Mar 2013 05:21:35 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
So, based on Ars Thaumaturgis' suggestion (thanks!) I'm trying to think about what I like about LOTR. The world, and how it's clearly inspired by Norse and Anglo-Saxon and Celtic myths, but it's still his own creation. And his characters and how they are pretty much the same, as in you (generic "you") can see how he was influenced and what his influences were if you look into them, but he doesn't copy them exactly. And that's what I want to do with this story.

edited 9th Mar '13 5:39:06 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
I've seen a couple of your other threads and I think I might now the problem. It seems to me like you like Norse stuff; you like Norse settings, Norse stories and so forth. You want to take stories in a Norse settings and change the setting but you still want them to have a Norse setting. It's kind of a catch-22; you want to change the story but they lose their appeal when you change them. What do you think? Does that sound right?
9 MorwenEdhelwen9th Mar 2013 07:38:18 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
@WSM: I want to do what Tolkien did, but as Urban Fantasy. Yeah, the Norse mythology inspired setting would lose its appeal if there was no fantasy element. Eg. Sigurd The Dragon Slayer/The Volsung Saga where Fafnir isn't a dragon. Although, I suppose I could do it so that say, Fafnir is part of a dwarven gang, and Regin used to work for him because he's the younger brother, but fell out with him because of his refusal to split smuggling proceeds or something. So in order to force his shapeshifting brother to pay him, he raises Sigurd to be an assassin.

edited 9th Mar '13 7:59:10 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
Terracotta Soldier Man
Taking a better look at your original question, one thing that might help: Ignore the names, at least for now.

Now I don't mean that you shouldn't use the original Norse names in the final story if you so choose. That's ultimately your own decision. What I am saying, though, is that you should focus less on the superficial trappings of the stories that inspire you — the names, the specific scenes, etc. — and more on the deeper themes, motivations, and meanings that run as a common thread through them.

To give a few examples:

How, in general, did the heroes of these stories view the gods, and how did the gods view the heroes? How did they view the world around them and their place in it? What sort of actions and attitudes are portrayed as virtuous or vilifying? Who or what are the heroes obligated to, and how do they fulfill those obligations (or if they didn't, how were they expected to)? How do people live, and how do they die — and does this affect their judgment in the afterlife? Can a hero change his fate, or is he doomed to follow the path marked out for him? If he's given the opportunity to try to change his fate, should he? If not, what is the proper way to face it with dignity?

Once you find the answers, use them as the spindle around which to weave the details of your tale. While keeping those themes in mind, strive to give the story your own voice. That's when you start concentrating on the external trappings and on how the details of the plot fit together.

It's probably not going to be an easy task to work all this out on your own. Fortunately, in a sense, a lot of the work is done already, since early Norse mythology and literature is only a little less popular than its Classical Greek and Roman counterparts in literary and scholarly circles.

To reiterate my point in another fashion: The best way to ensure your own work doesn't sound hollow is to take apart the originals and figure out what's hidden within them.

edited 9th Mar '13 8:43:54 PM by Specialist290

11 MorwenEdhelwen9th Mar 2013 10:02:38 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
There seems to have been a belief that fate was generally unchangeable. It was governed by the Norns (but some sources say that the Norns only wove possibilties for a person's life). Mostly, though, people in the legends seem to have "accepted" fate- although they did try to change it.

edited 9th Mar '13 10:26:46 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
Terracotta Soldier Man
That's exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about cool

Now start thinking about how your characters would be thinking in light of that, and how they'd act in that mindset.
13 MorwenEdhelwen10th Mar 2013 01:48:39 AM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
[up] Thinking out an answer to that right now. There's also the question of the fact that the Dwarf Thorin is related to Andvari the werefish (Andvari could turn into a pike) and the mention that Tolkien may have drawn his inspiration for Gollum from him:

He mentioned Andvari, the blunt axe in my family’s pile. Anyone who knew him would recognise Gollum.
and of course, the fact that the Gods are keeping tabs on humans through wizards from behind the scenes at Asgard, a futuristic Mega Corp..

edited 10th Mar '13 4:05:50 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
This kind of goes into what I was saying: you not going to be able to make the story your own if you keep saying "well, the source material was like this so my story has to be like this"
Terracotta Soldier Man
[up] Seconding this. Don't just think in terms of what happened in the original stories; think about what the heroes' actions meant to the audience, and try to capture that aspect of things first.

Don't just have your characters be "going through the motions" by merely imitating the events of the original plot; focus on the feel of the setting and the mindset of the characters, and let the events write themselves, so to speak. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is let your characters break script and give them a little room to improvise.

edited 10th Mar '13 2:34:11 PM by Specialist290

16 MorwenEdhelwen10th Mar 2013 03:57:23 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
[up] WSM: Can you please explain what you are saying? Andvari was very likely the inspiration for Gollum, being a hoarder who lived in water, ate fish, and guarded a precious (ha ha) ring. He even has a very similar personality, being malicious and hostile, and engages in a riddle contest. He blames the Norns that govern dwarves ("Dwalin's daughters") for his fate, so I would see him as someone in despair who forges a ring because he believes wealth will help him cope with his very bad situation, and growing twisted because he's caught the dragon-sickness, AKA gold fever.

edited 10th Mar '13 3:58:16 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
@Morwen Edhelwen

Ignore the characteristics for a second and think of the context: Andvari is backstory, meant to explain the history and power of the Andvaranaut and his gold stash. In the Hobbit, Gollum is the antagonist in an episode/chapter of the greater story. He's really not much different than those trolls earlier in the book. In Lord of the Rings, Gollum is a foil to Sam, a guide for Sam and Frodo and a minor villain/antagonist. In a story sense, his character demonstrates the evil power of the Ring while in a thematic sense, he is a cautionary tale about temptation and corruption (hence why most people compare him to a drug addict).

Their characteristics are the same but in the greater scheme of the story, they're different.

What I'm saying, it seems like you're trying to make it so both the characteristics (name, backstory, nature) and role in the story are the same when you should change something.

edited 10th Mar '13 4:18:00 PM by WSM

18 MorwenEdhelwen10th Mar 2013 04:30:59 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
@WSM: You mean LOTR or the Andvarinaut story?

EDIT: I think I know where you're coming from. You're saying that by making that comment about "anyone who knew [Andvari] would recognise Gollum", I'm trying to make my portrayal of Andvari more like Gollum in LOTR. Am I right?

edited 10th Mar '13 4:39:04 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien

Your writing YOUR story, not Lot R or Andvarinaut
20 MorwenEdhelwen10th Mar 2013 05:10:59 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
What I'm saying, it seems like you're trying to make it so both the characteristics (name, backstory, nature) and role in the story are the same when you should change something.

So if I see Andvari as a sympathetic figure cursed by fate and dealing with it through hoarding, does that mean I'm trying to make him like Gollum, or that I'm sticking too close to the stories?

What if his role in the story is different somehow?

edited 10th Mar '13 5:33:18 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
@Morwen Edhelwen

You can portray the character as closely or as loosely to the source material as you want. I'm just trying to give you some advice on how you can make your own thing using the myths as a foundation.
22 MorwenEdhelwen10th Mar 2013 05:32:54 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
Can you explain why and how you think I'm trying to keep it the same? BTW how would you make a hobbit-type race more otherworldly than the standard "hobbit"? I'm worried that the "hobbits" will be too human.

edited 10th Mar '13 7:13:41 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
@Morwen Edhelwen

I'm just trying to give you advice on how to make the story your own thing. I'm not trying to accuse you of anything. Sorry if it came across like that.

edited 10th Mar '13 7:11:52 PM by WSM

24 MorwenEdhelwen10th Mar 2013 07:14:18 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
[up] That's OK.
The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
25 ArsThaumaturgis11th Mar 2013 09:42:30 AM , Relationship Status: I've been dreaming of True Love's Kiss
Regarding rendering hobbits a little more Otherworldly, a few ideas, building off of the image that I have from The Lord of the Rings and, likely to a lesser degree, The Hobbit:

- Make them move entirely soundlessly: their feet are not just padded, but utterly silent, even to the most sensitive of ears, and their clothes do not rustle as they move.

- They might be preternaturally hard to spot: a hobbit wanting to go unobserved, might be passed over by a room full of people for hours, even in full light.

- They always have food on their person — no matter how long it has been since they had opportunity to replenish any stores that they might have. Thus a hobbit on a journey might never go hungry — although he or she may still find "trail food" less satisfying than a good feast!

Total posts: 31