Thomas Honegger, Tweaking Things a Little: Essays on the Epic Fantasy of JRR Tolkien and GRR Martin, Walking Tree, “Cormarie”, 2023.
“World-building, name-finding, language-crafting; the flaws in chivalric practice, and the ethics (Machiavellian and otherwise) that produce the moral complexities of Middle-earth and the Known World are thus the topics that Tweaking Things a Little considers. The modest title belies what lies within these covers: nimble readings, profound knowledge of the medieval world, original and provocative reading of both books and the TV show await the reader here. Pointing both back in time to the medieval underpinnings of Tolkien’s creation and outwards to the contemporary world that informs Martin’s pragmatic and politically astute thinking, these essays enthral, astonish and challenge. Best of all, they encourage us to journey back into Middle-earth and the Known World, with newly opened eyes and ears, to rediscover their wonders anew.”
Thomas Honegger is Professor for English Medieval Studies at the Friedrich-Schiller-University, Jena (Germany).
Table of Contents
Author’s Preface xiii
Foreword by Carolyne Larrington xix
Part 1 : Worldbuilding, Icebergs, Depth, and Enchantment
Part 2 : Names, Onomastics, and Onomaturgy 81
Part 3 : Languages 131
Part 4 : Riders, Chivalry, and Knighthood 167
Part 5 : Ethics 293
Picture References 415
Début de la préface :
“Habent sua fata libelli – books have their destiny, indeed. The idea to write a volume with essays focussing on the epic fantasy of J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin, respectively, and to explore their shared themes, their similarities, and their differences, has its origin back in 2017. I had deepened my study of Martin’s epic and began to develop my interest in his work within the already existing framework of Tolkien studies. Martin has been influenced by Tolkien, as he readily admits himself, yet this does not mean that he imitates the Professor or even shares his approach to central questions. On the contrary, Martin often ‘tweaks things’ and subverts the clichés and tropes of the genre, thus consciously exploding the reader’s expectations. Additionally, exploring Martin’s treatment of common motifs and themes had the effect of further improving my understanding of Tolkien’s approach – a windfall effect I want to share with my readers. Establishing the proper textual framework for my study proved to be a bit of a challenge. For Martin, I opted for a catholic approach that would include the entire Martinverse, i.e. the fictional universe created by both A Song of Ice and Fire (1996- ) and its adaptation in the HBO series Game of Thrones (2011-2019) since the close involvement of Martin in the production and development of the HBO series gives it a special status and makes it a legitimate additional source of information.
I have always tried to indicate clearly the exact provenance of the elements but decided against restricting my investigation to either of the two components of the Martinverse. With Tolkien, things were easier since the movies may constitute a subject of academic discussion, but they are no legiti-mate part of the Tolkienverse which comprises not only The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings but also a sizeable number of posthumously published texts such as The Silmarillion and the multivolume The History of Middle-earth series.
As the title Tweaking Things a Little. Essays on the Epic Fantasy of J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin suggests, I aim at comparing, whenever possible and reasonable, the respective worldbuilding approaches of Tolkien and Martin by means of contrastive discussions of common themes. Both have succeeded in constructing complex pretechnological worlds on an epic scale, yet they do not always cover the same ground. It would be easy to write a substantial chapter on Martin’s use of sex and sexual violence in his work but hardly possible to do so for Tolkien. I therefore realised early on that if I wanted to treat the central themes of each author, I had to accept that some of the sections would be lopsided one way or another. In the end, however, I hope that each author receives an adequate and fair treatment.
Many of the texts have their origin in independent articles that were published in books or journals, and though I have tried to complement and to link them meaningfully, they have retained much of their original character. The book is therefore not to be approached as a traditional monograph, but rather as a collection of essays on shared themes which can, in theory, also be read independently of each other. To make matters worse, I could not resist going down a few scholarly rabbit holes that opened up along the way. I hope the reader will indulge me and find these Beowulfian and almost Mythenmetzian digressions worth reading. If the book were to be characterised in terms of architecture, then you are going to enter a Gothic castle in the tradition of Gormenghast rather than a classicist townhouse. My study lacks the balanced symmetry of the classicist building, and its parts have not all been constructed at the same time and according to the same masterplan and thus document the organic growth of my interest in the two authors.”