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‘China’s Tolkien’ aims to conquer western readers

26 November 2017

From The Guardian:

Guo Jing, a young soldier among the massed ranks of Genghis Khan’s invading army and son of a murdered warrior, may soon become as familiar a questing literary figure as Frodo Baggins from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, or Jon Snow from Game of Thrones. In fact, this Chinese fighting hero is already part of phenomenon that can match both of those epics in size. For the books of Guo Jing’s creator, the author known as Jin Yong, have already sold more than 300m copies.

The world’s biggest kung fu fantasy writer, Jin Yong enjoys huge popularity in the Chinese-speaking world. In the west, however, his name is barely known, largely due to the complexity of the world he has created and the puzzle that has posed for translators.

Now, for the first time, the beginning of his extraordinarily popular series, Legends of the Condor Heroes, has been translated into English for a mainstream readership. It is a task that has already defeated several translators, yet Anna Holmwood, 32, from Edinburgh has managed it – or at least the first volume. Her British publisher, MacLehose Press, plans a 12-volume series, with Holmwood’s first volume, A Hero Born, due out in February.

Link to the rest at The Guardian


8 Comments to “‘China’s Tolkien’ aims to conquer western readers”

  1. Here’s hoping what made it popular over there survives translation.

  2. Many times yes comes the big time donkey warrior to the western world, riding in his super karate monkey death car as he talks the tale from his English mouth.

  3. Yeah. Nothing will ever be as big as Lotr. Not because Lotr is so good (it is to me) but because it was first. First to market is almost always more successful. Not that I don’t want his books to be successful, and they obviously are, they’re just not going to replace Lotr.

    • L.O.T.R. was not “first to market.” The Well at the World‘s End by William Morris, published in 1896, is generally considered the first of the modern high fantasy epic novels. However, Tolkien’s writing style fit the modern mass-market audience better. Even then, his books did not catch fire right away. The first of the L.O.T.R. tetralogy, The Hobbit, was published in 1937 and did just fine but did not start to achieve its ultimate popularity until it could be read right along with the other three books, which did not happen until the 1950’s. Then it was in the 1960’s and 70’s that the series went ballistic. As for author Jin Yong and his Chinese books, the aspects of any particular story or series do not always carry across different cultures. It remains to be seen if his do. Personally, I have my doubts, but then I was wrong about manga novels.

      • Strictly speaking, LOTR isn’t a tetralogy. It is two linked novels aimed at slightly different audiences.

        The so-called trilogy is really a single mega-length novel that was split onto three two-section volumes. If Tolkien had more leverage or were Indie writing today it would have been released as a single volume.

        If he were tradpubbing today it would be released as six volumes. 😉

  4. For virtually everyone alive, lotr is the most famous high fantasy novel. HG Wells wrote Sci-fi in the 1800’s and while he’s popular among geeks you will note that RH and IA are more readily known. Perhaps first to market was the wrong turn of phrase but I suspect you knew what I meant. Lotr is a huge success, is the first high fantasy book many people have ever been exposed to, and continues to impact our writing and reading to this day. No other book will achieve that because Lotr already did that. Call it what you want, but Lotr achieved that popularity first, and like most things, first is best for a lot of reasons.

    Internet rule 999: No one is ever allowed to be right.

    • The primary reason high fantasy runs so strongly to trilogies is Tolkien. He set the standard for form, themes, and memes. He set the mold that shaped western high fantasy.

      That pretty much means nobody else will ever be as significant to the field as him. To be worthy of a proper Tolkien comparison an author would have to redefine the field for decades afterwards. Nobody active in fantasy since him has managed that yet. Not Jordan, not Martin, nobody.

      Odds are it can’t be done.
      The Tolkien legacy is that powerful.

  5. Legend of the Condor Heroes is old. There are movies. There are anime.

    I have to say that they all seem to have left out the connection to Genghis Khan, however. I don’t think I could have forgotten that bit.

    I thought Condor Heroes was by the author of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and that he was supposedly the top kung fu/wuxia author, though. His name is Louis Cha. (Googles)

    Okay, this is the same guy, but they’re calling him by a pen name (Jin Yong) instead of the birth name that most Westerners knew him by (Louis Cha). Bleh. Confusing.

    Anyway… the interesting thing is that most of his famous books were newspaper serial stories. Sorta like Dickens, but in the 1950’s.

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