Saturday, August 29, 2020

Tolkien's influence on D&D art

So, here's something I noticed years ago but haven't ever seen commented on, so I thought I'd share.

Setting aside the many borrowings from THE HOBBIT and THE LORD OF THE RINGS in D&D, there's also evidence that Tolkien's short work FARMER GILES OF HAM (1949) influenced D&D. 

In a way this shd not be surprising -- in fact, I cd make a case that in plot FGH is more like a D&D adventure than either of Tolkien's major works available at the time. I think the borrowing has gone unnoticed because it's art, not text.

Here's a picture by Pauline Baynes of Tolkien's reluctant hero chasing a dragon (FGH page 44).

And here's a strangely familiar illo from CHAINMAIL (3rd edition, page 37), the work that preceded the first edition of D&D; the core that D&D grew out of.

Comparison between the two shows that the figure of the dragon in each are so similar that the later one might well be tracing.

But it doesn't end there. Take a look at the cover of CHIVALRY & SORCERY (1977), one of the first-generation D&D derivatives (along with TUNNELS & TROLLS, RUNEQUEST, ROLEMASTER, &c).*

Granted here we have similarity rather than direct copying, but I think the resemblance is striking. And partly due I suspect to the C&S artist basing his work on the CHAINMAIL art, not having seen the Tolkienian original.

--John R.
--current reading: THE LAST TSAR 1992

*Of these, CHIVALRY & SORCERY was notable for its appeal to those who wanted their fantasy roleplaying as realistic as possible. It's no surprise its title page bears a dedication to the Society of Creative Anachronism.


Zenopus Archives said...

Checking my copy of "D&D Art & Arcana: A Visual History" (2018) by Witwer, Newman, Peterson & Witwer, I do see a comparison of these two images on page 14. The Chainmail image is by Don Lowry, owner of Guidon Games, who also "swiped" art (by Jack Coggins) for the cover of Chainmail. This second comparison is also in the book, and was written about earlier on Peterson's blog.

Paul W said...

It puzzles me, looking at these tracings in early D&D and other game books. This appears to be pretty straightforward plagiarism to me, and I don't use the word often or loosely.

It seems that the only "defense" here is that the culprits are gaming legends and this occurred in the earliest days of the hobby.

But when I consider current rabid claims of plagiarism (for example, Moorcock fans erroneously claiming the Witcher is a plagiarized version of Elric) it feels off to see articles which just dismiss this tracing, which appears to be pretty straight forward.

Maybe i just am exposing my relative lack of knowledge regarding drawings and how they are produced.