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JMS on LOTR and B5


I know this been bounced around But did JMS just admit he took stuff from LOTR?
>I know this sort of thing has been asked before and sometimes it's
>intentional and more often then not, it's a coincidence. But I just
>finished reading The Silmarillion and noticed "the Valar" and then it
>struck me that the word is similar to "Valen".
>Coincidence or hommage? ;)

Know often cited Zahadum, jumping down the pit and combing back to life. Then their the whole list of other with the extended Mythology of LOTR dose match with B5
Then their the deeper stuff like Elves and Minibari going out to sea for death, how basicly Gandalf, Sauron and all were higher beings (3rd Teir gods or rather 2nd teir gods of Middle earth) fighting a war manipluating lesser races like the Shadows and Vorlons. The scorging of the shire similiar to how Sheridan going to take back earth.The 3rd age of man kinda and begining of the 4th. So on know I butchered some and left some out.
There are more direct references too - the phrase 'Wheel of Fire', and the technomage's line about not trying the patience of wizards in Geometry of Shadows are lifted straight from Lord of the Rings..
OK, I have dug out the one and only article I had published in a magazine you could buy on the high street. One of my proudest moments was standing in WH Smiths and seeing my name in print.

Anyway, it was an article comparing B5 and LOTR. I post it here so you can make your own conclusions. Please don't sue me :D


Let me tell you a story, which may sound familiar.

It is the Third age. The old enemy is awake and on the move. A great war against the darkness is being fought. Playing an important part in this war is a small group of companions, from many races, brought together for this task. Included in this number is a Ranger who carries an ancient weapon.

Suddenly, one of their number is lost, presumed dead, in the depths of an abyss. The companions continue in their task, encountering the Ancient Ones in their travels, but the future looks dark.

Question. What have I just described? If you think that this is a rough outline for Babylon 5, then you are only partly correct. This is actually a very short description of the story line for The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, but the fact that it could serve just as well for B5 is no coincidence because a significant amount of what you see on the screen has been influenced by what is on the page.

Most shows have in jokes and references to other shows, people and books, but B5 has perhaps more than any other. There has been more than one incidence of The Prisoner, and ships and are constantly being named after sci-fi authors or historical figures. The occasional character gets the same treatment, such as Alfred Bester, and there has even been a reference to a certain little rival sci-fi franchise. The one single reference source that seems to pop up more than any other though, is Tolkien.

Sometimes it is a very obvious reference that makes me immediately shout at the screen, “That’s Tolkien!”, but quite often, it is only over a period of time that I can make a connection. It could be a similar sounding name, an incident, a dream, or just something that is said that echoes the book. What makes my task harder, is the fact that the references are usually in a completely different context, so you need a good working knowledge of Tolkien to spot them.

The Lord of the Rings is a three volume epic fantasy tale set in Middle Earth, which is populated by Hobbits, Dwarves and Elves. For the unfortunate few that have not yet read Tolkien, (And why not?), here is a brief outline.

Sauron, also known as the Enemy, has awakened from his long sleep and returned to his place of power in Mordor. He begins to assault the world, to dominate it, and also look for his Ring of Power, with which he would become invincible.

The Ring is held by Frodo Baggins, a Hobbit, who is unaware of its importance. His friend Gandalf, a wizard, knows what it is and urges him to travel to Rivendell, dwelling of the Elves, the Ancient Ones. There he is told of the great darkness that will engulf the land unless he travels to the heart of Mordor and destroy the Ring by casting it into Mount Doom. On his quest, he is joined by his Hobbit servant, Sam; Hobbit friends Pippin and Merry; Gandalf; an Elf, Legolas; a Dwarf, Glimli; and two men, Boromir and a Ranger called Strider, who carries an ancient sword.

Their journey to Mordor takes them through the Mines of Moria, called Khazad-dûm, where they fight a Balrog and Gandalf falls into the great abyss. The companions continue their quest.

This only takes you about half way through the first volume, but already you can see a number of the parallels between Tolkien and B5. Most obvious is Gandalf falling into the abyss in Khazad-dûm, which can easily be translated into Sheridan on Za’ha’dum. I am also interested in the choice of Morden as a name, as it is similar to Mordor.

Then there are the Rangers. To Tolkien, they are the remnants of a race of men, the Numenoreans, who are longer lived and greater than other men. They call themselves the Heirs of Elendil, or at one point, Valandil, which is another interesting name. The Rangers have, through the generations, patrolled Middle Earth secretly and guarded the innocent from the evil things that walked the land. At the time of the book, their role changes as they take up the battle against the Enemy.

For the next set of allusions, let me draw your attention to the Rings of Power, around which the whole tale is woven. The rhyme about them goes thus,

Three Rings for the Elven-Kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne,
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them,
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

From this, you can immediately perceive The One theme and the Shadows, before digging deeper to make more connections. The first line talks of three rings held by Elves. To me, this corresponds to the Minbari, one of the older races, and the Triluminaries. After all, they do everything in threes.

The nine Mortal Men of the third line, were ensnared by Sauron and transformed into Ring Wraiths. Also known as the Black Riders, they pursue Frodo and the Ring, first on horseback and then on winged creatures, communicating via long drawn wails. This is more or less what happened to the crew of the Icarus when they encountered the Shadows and were placed into their ships.

What of the Shadows? The ships encountered in hyperspace are described as a cross between a spider and your worst nightmare. Tolkien does not give us a description of the winged creatures that the Ring Wraiths ride, but there is a creature called Shelob. She stalks the dark tunnels that are a back way into Mordor and, rumoured to be as old as Sauron himself, is described as ‘an evil thing in spider form’.

Sauron himself does not have a mortal form, but is symbolised as a red, lidless eye. Frodo becomes aware of this eye once when he puts on the Ring. He can feel it searching for him and it is only with a struggle that Frodo removes the Ring. This incident is reproduced in spirit when Ivanova is in the Great Machine searching for the First Ones. She is almost entrapped by glowing Shadow eyes and it is sheer will power that enables her to break free. The danger of the eye has recently been seen again, in season four’s The Hour of the Wolf.

These are the most prominent of the Tolkien references. There are many others that I have found, and continue to find. Some are very obscure and difficult to explain, but here are some of the ones that I can.

One of the grandest parallels, and perhaps consequently the subtlest, is that of fighting an enemy both without and within. In B5, it is the Shadows and the Psi-Corp. Tolkien pits his heroes against the open enemy of Sauron, and also presents them with possibly the more dangerous enemy of Saruman. He is a wizard, head of the White Council (another reference?), and supposedly a friend. Gandalf discovers, almost too late, that he has grown corrupt and is seeking to gain the One ring for himself to use for his own gains. He is finally defeated with the help of the Ents. These are a race, possibly the oldest living, that are in the form of trees. They dwell in Fangorn forest and usually take no interest in the younger races. Could they possibly be the Walkers of Sigma 957?

Of Tolkien’s other races, the Elves are the ones that have been borrowed from the most. At the time of the book, a number of the Elves have been leaving Middle Earth to pass into the West, never to return, which is exactly what the Techno Mages did in season two. This episode also has the only quote of Tolkien’s. Elric says, “Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.”, which was originally spoken by Gildor in The Fellowship of the Ring. I haven’t found any more quotes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Marcus spouted one soon.

When we first meet Draal, he tells Delenn that he will soon be going to the Sea. We discover this to be the Sea of Stars, but the Elves have an in born longing for the sea which it is perilous to stir. Once the Elf Legolas has heard the cry of seagulls, he says that he will no more have peace until he goes to the Sea and beyond, to the West.

If the Minbari can be likened to the Elves, what of the other characters?. I have tried to decipher who is who, but this is not an exact science so the list is very vague and short.

Gandalf has to be Kosh. They are both mysterious and powerful, never giving a straight answer to anything, though I would trust Gandalf much more than I would ever trust a Vorlon.

Frodo I can’t get a single character for, so I have decided that it has to be Sheridan and Delenn together as they are the ones that central to the struggle. This means that Lennier is probably Sam, the faithful servant who will follow his master through fire and darkness and danger.

Strider is likely to be Marcus, although Strider was the leader of the Rangers so this might indicate Sinclair. Strider is also Aragorn, the King whose return many have waited generations for.

I cannot find any other clear comparisons although Draal may be influenced by Tom Bombadil, a character over which the Ring has no power. Morden, especially in his season four appearance, might be Gollum, a miserable creature who once possessed the Ring, but after being held captive in Mordor is sent to bring Frodo to Sauron. He speaks to himself, more often as not in rambling phrases, not unlike Zathras.

One of the new characters in season four, Lorien, intrigues me immensely. The name is taken directly from Tolkien with only the loss of an accent. Lórien, or more properly Lothlórien, in The Lord of the Rings is the name of the Golden Wood, which is the dwelling of the High Elves. Very few men venture beyond its borders, as many do not return, and those that do are not unchanged. Does this sound familiar?

Checking further in The Silmarillion, I have discovered that Lórien is also another name for Irmo. He is one of the Valar, ‘Those with Power’, and their description reads much like Delenn’s explanation of the First Ones. They are older even than the Elves and are much like Gods, each one being the master or giver of something. Irmo is the master of visions and dreams, and it is in his garden that the Valar find rest and refreshment.

You might be thinking now, ‘Does this mean that B5 is just The Lord of the Rings in space?’ I can assure you that this is definitely not the case. This would make B5 predictable, something which it emphatically is not. Straczynski has not copied the plot from Tolkien. Rather, he seems to have used the book as a jumping off point, launching his story with his characters into its own war of good against evil, taking certain elements of the book with it. Echoes, or shadows, of the story that started the Fantasy genre. The majority of B5 is not taken from Tolkien, but is Straczynski’s own invention. On the other hand, there is a whole wealth of The Lord of the Rings that has yet to be touched upon. It will be interesting to see what Straczynski picks out next. His outline for The Babylon Project: Crusade is reminiscent of the end of The Lord of the Rings where Frodo and his friends have to rebuild their homeland after it has been almost destroyed by Saruman.

Let me leave you with a quote that I discovered lately. It is spoken by Strider, about Gandalf, but it puts me in mind of Sheridan.

“The Dark Lord has Nine: But we have One, mightier than they: the White Rider. He has passed through the fire and the abyss, and they shall fear him.”
Wow, that's pretty comprehensive! I just remembered another one - the name Galen also appears somewhere in Fellowship of the Rings, but I think there it refers to a place (somewhere near Amon Hen?). I bet there are loads more..
Wow, that's pretty comprehensive! I just remembered another one - the name Galen also appears somewhere in Fellowship of the Rings, but I think there it refers to a place (somewhere near Amon Hen?). I bet there are loads more..

Impressive! :)

Chapter 10: The Breaking of the Fellowship
After resting on the grassy field of Parth Galen, the discussion resumes concerning where to go next. Frodo asks for an hour to think alone. He then makes his way up toward the abandoned watchtower of Amon Hen.

Just in terms of the original question:

did JMS just admit he took stuff from LOTR?
>Coincidence or hommage? ;)


No, that is not JMS "admitting" anything about source material.

"Frommage", besides rhyming (more or less) with the word used in the either/or question that was posed, is the French word for cheese. He isn't answering the question. He is commenting on the question .... and making a joke.
Though I made my reply-post off of your prior post, it wasn't directed specifically at you; there are quite a few people who get a bit of a hiccup on the spelling of Z'ha'dum.
Wow, that's pretty comprehensive! I just remembered another one - the name Galen also appears somewhere in Fellowship of the Rings, but I think there it refers to a place (somewhere near Amon Hen?). I bet there are loads more..
Don't Think so it not in the enclopedia of arda under G and its preety estensive though some time later i can probably search the lotr e books for it.
Though Galen dose say Gandalf quote "Expect me, when you see me" And said a few other places too i belive. [edit] Then their also the quote about Wizards being slow to anger or whatever forgot that one. That gandalf describe himself and belive Galen Technomage friend Alric? said too.

Ok well don't know french and didn't think Jms would admit taking it from it. and whenever its asked he ussualy says same source material for any thing in common like names
There was a Greek scientist way back in the day named Galen, but at the moment, that's the only person of significance I can think of associated with that name.
Galen is an oft used name. Aside from the historical references, the name was used to describe a "corrupt surgeon" in The Planet of the Apes. It was also the name of Roddy McDowell's character in the Planet of the Apes series, and was used by Picard in the TNG episode "Gambit" (Yo-ho, the pirate show).

I belive "Expect me when you see me" was also uttered by G'Kar at some point, but I don't know when.
I belive "Expect me when you see me" was also uttered by G'Kar at some point, but I don't know when.

It was a recording/message G'Kar had left to Na'Toth that, if my memory serves, she viewed either in "Crysalis" or "Points of Departure".
Galen is indeed a place name. It's Parth Galen, the open area where the Fellowship drags up their boats just prior to the last battle in FotR and their breakup. So the original poster was correct in saying it was close to Amon Hen, as Parth Galen is immediately below Amon Hen.

But as JMS has often said, "B5 is not LotR with the serial numbers filed off." There are common themes, and frankly, anything with a great evil in it is going to have Tolkienish overtones these days. Just the way things go.

But to look at it more precisely, the Shadows aren't out to destroy. They are agents of chaos, ostensibly interested in evolution. And the Vorlon rampage has no parallel in Tolkien.

Probably the best argument about B5 not being LotR is the latter three-fourths of S4 and all of S5, describing the problems our heroes face after the badnasties have been defeated. In LotR this gets one chapter, the famous Scouring of the Shire, a fair-sized chunk but miniscule next to the other books. In B5 the "what happened then?" section makes up about 40% of the total, 38 episodes out of 110.
The problem with all of these LOTR and B5 connections is that they are for the most part about the Shadow War. The shadow war is just one chunck of the show, not the whole thing. B5 deals with a lot of topics not in LOTR. (The whole second half of season 4 for example.)
I still suspect that the telepaths are the elves with Lyta being a mixture of queen and the fighter from the third film.
See the problem with this stuff is that people only know their own obsession and assume everything similar is stolen. Galen was a greek physician predating both LotR and Babylon 5. You can pull any number of characters in greek myth who seemed to be lost and returned from the underworld(Heracles/Orpheus ect.). Various ancient stories/religions contain similar themes.

You want to know the biggest problem with the LotR/Bab5 comparison, Sauron is pure evil devoted to domination while the Shadows want others to thrive by overcoming the chaos the Shadows create.

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