GREATEST CORRECTION EVER ///

Correction, Jan. 2, 2014: The caption for this story originally stated that Arwen and Aragorn are half-elf and half-human. Aragorn is three-fourths human and one-fourth elf. Arwen is 3/16 human, 25/32 elf, and 1/32 Maia. Thanks to reader Auros Harman for the genealogical analysis.

THE GOOD CATASTROPHE ///

"To make a Secondary World inside which the green sun will be credible, commanding Secondary Belief, will probably require labour and thought, and will certainly demand a special skill, a kind of elvish craft. Few attempt such difficult tasks. But when they are attempted and in any degree accomplished then we have a rare achievement of Art: indeed, narrative art, story-making in its primary and most potent mode." J R R Tolkien

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VERY LONG, VERY TRICKY, VERY STRANGE ///

"It is still one of the finest jests of the modern muses that this fogged-in English don was going home nights to work on perhaps the most popular adventure story ever written, thereby inventing one of the most successful commercial formulas that publishing possesses, and establishing the foundation of the modern fantasy industry. Beginning with Terry Brooks’s mid-seventies “The Sword of Shannara”—which is almost a straight retelling, with the objects altered—fantasy fiction, of the sword-and-sorcery kind, has been an annex of Tolkien’s imagination. A vaguely medieval world populated by dwarfs, elves, trolls; an evil lord out to enslave the good creatures; and, almost always, a weird magic thing that will let him do it, if the hero doesn’t find or destroy it first—that is the Tolkien formula. Each element certainly has an earlier template and a source, but they enter the bookstore, and the best-seller list, through Tolkien’s peculiar treatment of them. Of all the unexpected things in contemporary literature, this is among the oddest: that kids have an inordinate appetite for very long, very tricky, very strange books about places that don’t exist, fights that never happened, all set against the sort of medieval background that Mark Twain thought he had discredited with “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.”"

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