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Maybe “An American” but not “An American Tolkien”

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TIME’s Lev Grossman announced George R.R. Martin as “An American Tolkien” for his series A Song of Ice and Fire (popularly known as Game of Thrones because of the HBO adaptation). Here was his explanation: "What really distinguishes Martin, and what marks him as a major force for evolution in fantasy, is his refusal to embrace a vision of the world as a Manichaean struggle between Good and Evil. Tolkien’s work has enormous imaginative force, but you have to go elsewhere for moral complexity. Martin’s wars are multifaceted and ambiguous, as are the men and women who wage them and the gods who watch them and chortle, and somehow that makes them mean more." I’m only halfway through the second book of the epic series, and I haven’t seen the HBO adaptation, but I would agree with Grossman’s observation that Martin eschews the Tolkien worldview where there is Good to embrace and Evil to avoid. But wouldn’t that make him, well, not the American Tolkien? By the way, Grossman is off the mark to refer to Tolkien’s view of Good and Evil as Manichaean. The Manichaean worldview pits Good and Evil against each other as an eternal struggle against two equally powerful forces that have always existed in opposition to each other and always will. While pop culture often confuses the Christian story with this worldview, the biblical picture is very different in important ways. Much like the biblical story of God and his creation, Tolkien’s imaginary world was created and is ruled by the Eru Illuvatar, the “All Father,” and evil entered this world through the rebellion of one of his created Valar. The Lord of the Rings was one tiny part of the vast history of Eru Illuvatar’s restoration of his world. This is very Christian stuff. If Martin takes a more neutral view of what should be defined as the right side to be on and the right god to pray to, he may well reflect the spirit of the age. But this only makes him “An American,” not “An American Tolkien.” ___________ Cross-posted at www.anchorcourse.org/blog ___________ Grossman's article: http://time.com/3774280/george-r-r-martin-tolkien/