Old School Writing Style

J. R. R. Tolkien had an old-school writing style. He studied mythology and Old English extensively, and his prose in Lord of the Rings reflects a high, mythic sound reminiscent of older books and stories. A sound I don’t run into anymore in the world of literature. That is, until now.

Imagine my surprise when I ran across a modern book (copywright 2002) with a high wordy sound like Tolkien, and in a very similar universe. The Namingby Australian poet Alison Croggon is my newest summer read, and a good YA fantasy at that.

I must admit, there’s something charming about that style of writing. Though modern readers like things quick and snappy (heck, so do I), we can also find value in a slower pace, in intricate description and high language. It puts us in mind of times long past, and helps draw the setting and action clearly in our mind’s eye.

I’m now in the mood to read Shakespeare, the King Arthur legends, Greek and Norse mythologyand to finish The Odyssey, for heaven’s sake, which I’ve been working on for a solid six months now and haven’t even gotten a third of the way through.

So just for the heck of it, let’s all go pick a good old-school book and have a reminiscent summer read.




Filed under General Writing, YA lit

4 responses to “Old School Writing Style

  1. Hil

    Have you read any fiction by Lord Dunsany? He really helped shape that kind of mythology the generation right before Tolkien with the added benefit of being completely readable still even without the refinement of the later writers.

    The King of Elfland’s Daughter was written back in the 1920s and I found it pretty easy to get into back in the day. Pretty cover too: http://www.amazon.com/King-Elflands-Daughter-Del-Impact/dp/034543191X/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1247202682&sr=8-3

    I also liked The Charwoman’s Shadow, but the one I listed above is what I started with.

    If you want to go back even further into the past George McDonald is amazing. It is hard to believe he wrote Lilith (1895) when he did because it could easily have been written one hundred years later and a lot of the world building strikes a familiar chord when thinking about the recent Johnathan Strange novel. It involves a strange library, talking raven, a portal to a parallel universe, and epic journey. You might remember McDonald from the more poplular The Princess and the Goblin. Lilith is his darkest (and to me) best work though:


    • rachelhestondavis

      I feel like Lord Dunsanay was mentioned in the Tolkien biography I read. I would not be at all surprised if Tolkien was reading him before he wrote his own epic.

  2. Dr. D

    You might also try Duncton Wood by William Horwood. Imagine a cross between Watership Down and Moby Dick for moles.

    For something completely different, there’s Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett or The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde. Definitely not old style, but a lot of fun!

    • rachelhestondavis

      A cross between Watership Down and Moby Dick for moles…….that is a hilarious description. And makes me want to read the book.

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