every time I see the words “Tolkien ripoff” in reference to fantasy I laugh, because while there’s a lot of Tolkien ripoff in worldbuilding it almost never crops up in plot or theme or characterization
where are my stories about the decay of the world from the glory of days gone by?
where’s the motif of limb loss?
where’s the longing for the return of something worth following?
where are the bloodthirsty oaths that tear sanity to shreds?
where are the evil spirits who try and destroy the gods with steampunk V-1 buzz bombs (looking at you, The Lost Road)?
where’s my continent-wide dialectical shift ending in massive arguments over the proper pronunciation of a name? where’s my family drama centered around sparkly rocks? where are my dragons the size of mountain ranges?
Tolkienesque Fantasy™: there’s a quest, the elves are bitchy, the dwarves drink a lot, farm boy hero.
Tolkien’s Actual Writing: absolute power corrupts absolutely, a little bit of power corrupts a little, to what extent are people responsible for their actions? does God/the gods really answer our prayers? and pacifistic undertones.
Also actual Tolkien: The world is full of hope even in dark times. Kindness and friendship are what heroes are made of. Absolutely do not fuck with nature or you will regret it.
Also actual Tolkien: actual heroes are little people who band together because it is right, and because they must.
Actual Tolkien: write your spouse into the story as an Actual Demigoddess whose song can charm even the Big Bad and the Keeper of the Dead themselves. Write your best friend into the story as a longwinded shaggy tree who takes hours to get to the fucking point.