robertisenberg

Harry Potter and the Olympians: 2

In Uncategorized on June 16, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Photograph of artists sketching ancient columns in Roman ruin, Athens, Greece.

I don’t suggest that J.K. Rowling “ripped off” Roald Dahl, only that she continued a longstanding English tradition of luckless children wandering into surreal dreamscapes — and somehow Rowling’s version has dominated global bookstores. She’s hardly alone. Dahl, for that matter, might have felt inspired by Christopher Robin in a land of talking teddy-bears, or Alice stepping into her Looking Glass.
 
Half the pleasure of these novels are the funky names: Rowling’s Muggles and Dementors are only echoes of Dahl’s “Snozzcumbers,” Milne’s “Heffalumps,” Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” and Eliot’s “Jellicle Cats.” J.R.R. Tolkien described his Middle Earth as a kind of linguistic playground, where he could create languages and mythologies with impunity. The English language is already a patchwork of other languages, so why not make it wonkier? Mix the verbal acrobatics with millennia of folklore and you’ve got yourself a best-selling fantasy novel.
 
If I couldn’t care less about Harry Potter, Percy Jackson is already dead to me. If the “fantasy” genre is a realm where anything can happen, it’s remarkable how much we fence ourselves in — as authors and readers.
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