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Similarities of the Secondary Worlds Created

Both Middle-Earth and Osten Ard have been created in such a tremendous amount of detail that every stone and blade of grass has a realistic feel of an historical background to it. This must be the first step to creating a good fantasy epic: to give the word a history. Tolkien, as we know started to create Middle-Earth long before he wrote The Lord of the Rings. Tad Williams, however, does the same thing in a different manner, by giving the reader time to get the feel of Osten Ard:

In MS&T(sic), I deliberately took my time, wanting readers to understand Osten Ard (and especially the Hayholt) as it had been, before everything changed, so they could share a real understanding of the loss.(26)

The reader develops more feeling for the world of Osten Ard through this approach, which similarly to Tolkien’s beginning of The Lord of the Rings, portrays a time of perpetual spring or summer, when everything is happy, with no thought or hint of darkness anywhere. Both authors shatter this image soon enough, Tolkien more dramatically than Tad Williams, by bringing in the Black Riders and showing them as a direct threat to the protagonist of the quest. Tad Williams adopts a more subtle (and perhaps more modern) approach by dropping hints of growing evil and tension in the realm; the disappearance of Josua heralds dark rumours and happenings. When he is discovered to be held prisoner by Pryrates, the bubble of serenity and peace is burst abruptly, and the reader finds himself plunged into the dark and frightening depths of As’ua, as Simon’s only companion.

There are many physical similarities in the secondary worlds and their histories. There is an ocean in the west from whence the Elves or Sithi came; there are unexplored wastes to the east of the known lands; there is a great forest in the centre of the continent, or in that general vicinity. Both worlds have a history before the quest, that continues after the period of the quest is finished. Both authors obviously reject the idea of a world where ‘the magic and the strangeness sudd~niv (sic) stops just because this particular adventure has ended.’(27)

Similarities of the Supernatural limitations of each world

The main similarity to be found here is the point that magic is not ordinarily available to everyone. In Middle-Earth only Wizards and Elves have the possibility of performing magic. In Osten Ard, the members (and former members such as Cadrach and Pryrates) of the League of the Scroll have access to the secrets of the Art. The Sithi, Tad Williams’ Elven counterparts can perform their own sort of natural magic, in much the same way as in Middle Earth. No other races in either of the two worlds can perform magic, yet there is no limitation on using magical artefacts, of which there are not many easily to be found in either world.

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