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

 26 Morwen Edhelwen, Mon, 11th Mar '13 2:39:53 PM from Sydney, Australia
Tolkien freak
@Ars Thaumaturgis: Those are great suggestions! Thanks!

edited 12th Mar '13 7:03:52 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
 27 Morwen Edhelwen, Tue, 12th Mar '13 7:28:34 PM from Sydney, Australia
Tolkien freak
Both of my urban fantasies (Fafnir's Bane and Perilous Realms) use the story of Andvarinaut as a bridge, but Fafnir's Bane seems more Tolkien like. I recently realised that in Chapter 2, part of my inspiration seems to have come from The Hobbit and LOTR.

Especially these points:

1.Sigurd is raised by a dwarf-prince wanting to get his kingdom back from an evil dragon, as Thorin does.

2. This kingdom is attacked by Tolkienesque Orcs, causing the death of one of the dwarf prince's relatives, and inciting a desire for revenge in him.

3. The exiled dwarves are semi-nomadic, and the kingdom, Nidavellir, has the same sort of significance as Khazad-Dum (Moria).

4. Also, the first king of Nidavellir is Durin, and there are a lot of kings called Durin, because once in a while there's a heir that resembles Durin I. There's also a tradition of naming heirs with names similar in meaning to Durin, like Svafnir ("Sleep-bringer").

5. There are dwarves named Dwalin, Nori, Ori and Glóin. (meaning "dawdler", "little scrap", "raging one" and "glowing one", but famously used by Tolkien.)

How would you get to the climax of a story gradually without possibly making readers wonder when it's going to happen? Eg. In Fafnir's Bane, Sigurd has to kill a dragon. After that, the rest of the plot concentrates on his finding Brynhild again and the two of them trying to change destiny. I'm reaching that point, but how do I get it there in enough time to "explain" everything else, like Sigurd's horse and sword) without leaving people thinking, "WHEN is he going to kill that dragon?!"

edited 13th Mar '13 4:45:40 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
 28 Ars Thaumaturgis, Wed, 13th Mar '13 6:42:25 AM Relationship Status: I've been dreaming of True Love's Kiss
I think that you'll not likely have much trouble there if the events leading up to the dragon-slaying are sufficiently interesting in themselves. Look, for example, at The Lord of the Rings: it only near the end of a rather long story that they actually achieve the goal of their quest, and I imagine that most who enjoyed it didn't sit there thinking "when are they finally going to throw that ring into the volcano!" — they were caught by Lothlorien, and Helm's Deep, and Path of the Dead (if I recall the name correctly), etc.

 29 Morwen Edhelwen, Mon, 25th Mar '13 6:47:32 PM from Sydney, Australia
Tolkien freak
Does anyone know why valkyries are called "shieldmaidens" if they don't fight, since that term is also used to describe women who don't have any supernatural powers at all, but who do fight battles/participate in raids? Right now, in-universe, "shieldmaiden" is a euphemism for "valkyrie."

edited 25th Mar '13 11:07:44 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
I think that if you want your story to be clearly distinct from the inspirations, then before building the plot details you should focus on worldbuilding.

For example: how to make "hobbits" more otherworldly? Well, start with asking yourself why are they hobbits at all? What about hobbits do you like? And independent of that, what purpose do they serve in your story, what place do they have in your world? Tolkien's Hobbits are very Human-like because they are fundamentally Human pygmies (unlike Elves, let alone Dwarves) and their behavior, culture, psychology is deliberately Human. JRRT's Elves and Dwarves aren't Humans, and everything about them is skewed from humanity in systematic, carefully-thought-out ways by how they differ from us. To the extent they feel "alien" it is as a gestalt feeling you get from reading their behavior, which was written based on that framework of how they differ internally from Humans.

As another example, the After Ragnarok series (possibly forgetting the name) has Elves which have a finite supply of souls. Those who die of old age get reincarnated, but those who die violently don't, so over time they're going extinct. Meanwhile Humans go to Hel if they die of old age, and go to Valhalla if they die violently. This difference will show clearly in the behaviors and thought patterns of Humans and Elves, and lead to conflicts and plot hooks. Human and Elven cultures will be radically different, even if the species were the same otherwise.

So what place do the Hidden Folk and Dwarves have in your world? Ask yourself about each race: Where did they come from? Are they Human? If not what are they? Did they come from the maggots in Ymir's flesh, or whatever? How do they differ from Humans? I don't mean superficial things like how they look or talk. I mean fundamental things that will shape their entire culture, worldview, psychology. How do they reproduce — live birth, eggs, pouches? Do they have two sexes in equal ratios, like Humans, or not? What do they eat — are they omnivores like Humans, or pure carnivores, or pure herbivores, or saprovores — and how do they get food? How long do they live? What is their life cycle? What happens when they die, and do they know? Is their primary sense vision, or hearing or smell? How social are they compared to Humans? How do they raise offspring? How are the structures of their societies, their day-to-day lives, similar to Humans or different? Do they comprehend the same moral concepts Humans do, or do they have Blue and Orange Morality? Do they have the same emotions Humans do? In reaction to the same things? Do they have a sense of humor? What is their history — how long they've lived where they are, where they came from, their past? Have they historically been independent, or economically dominant, or subjugated? Self-sufficient or dependent on trade? Do they have any senses or abilities Humans lack, or weaknesses to things that don't hurt Humans? What diseases are most common in their communities? What is their relationship to the land and water around them?

Answer these questions, and think about the narrative part you want them to play, and the consequences will start to show how they act and think different from Humans.

edited 26th Mar '13 3:46:19 PM by ArcadesSabboth

Oppression anywhere is a threat to democracy everywhere.
 31 Morwen Edhelwen, Wed, 27th Mar '13 4:58:26 AM from Sydney, Australia
Tolkien freak
@Arcades Sabboth: Very good points!

Here's what I've got down: Dwarves: Were created from stone and earth/Ymir's bones by Austri, Vestri, Nordri and Sudri, the dwarves/spirits who represent the four winds. Motsognir, Durin, Dwalin, Lofar, Ivaldi and Sindri were the first. Are ominivorous but eat mostly meat. Have a sort of rough attitude to raising kids. Dwarven children are expected to help their families by working on farms or in mines. Basically, the famous gruff attitude comes from years of persecution by other races. They are long-lived and all dwarves have beards, which are seen as a sign of adulthood. They stay hidden, especially the women, due to there being relatively few women among Dwarves in general. Are pretty mistrustful of everyone.

Hidden Folk: A small race loosely based on Huldrafolk. They live underground and are humanoid. They have large appetites and a moral code based on hospitality. Honour, family ties, and bargaining are important to them, but occasionally, if a family is unable to care for a child or a child is needed to seal an alliance, they will leave them with a foster family and/or take another one in its place. This is seen as a very drastic course of action, though.

edited 27th Mar '13 5:11:01 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
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