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Thread: When reality faces fantasy

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I keep getting annoyed by both Tolkien and Rowlings huge spiders! I mean, the other mythological creatures are fine, cause they have no limits! Nothing is wrong, nothing is right, they dont exist, so no one can say theyre descriptions of them are wrong. I know the spiders might be "magical" spiders, but I still get a little bugged( :mrgreen: ) when I see them. And this is why:

Spiders dont grow so big. Its not because they dont have to, or want to, its because they cant. They have no skeleton made of bone. Theyre all held up by cartilage, which is not strong enough to keep heavy muscles and jaws and such above the ground!

I know im being picky, but if they are having actual animals in a story, they cant make them unrealistic without making them unreal.

Now I know there are such things as giant rats or anything else in some stories, but theyre not really unrealistic. It could work. But this one creature, the spider, cant. Its that easy.

Ehh...just in case...if anyone finds a place in The Hobbit or in LOTR where it says the spiders are magical or special in anyway, apart of being huge, please tell me and then delete my topic :mrgreen:
Well, there's no reason to delete this topic that I can see <img src='/images/smileys/wink.gif' border='0' alt='Wink Smilie' /> . But you have to remember is what separates Fantasy or Fairy Tales from Science Fiction. Science Fiction usually has to follow rules, even if they are made up, Fantasy doesn't (though many Fantasy writers still create rules for their magical systems anyway).

This is one of the reasons why literary charges of Deus Ex Machina and Shaggy Dog (literary devices to make a story work when there are plot gaps) don't work against Fantasy writers. Anything can happen. Giant Sand Slugs, Giant Spiders, little kids living on planets barely bigger than a beach ball (The Little Prince), Old Witches who melt when water is thrown on them, whole cities of people living on a speck of dust resting on a clover being held by an elephant sitting on top of a little tree, flame breathing dragons etc. etc. Granted some of those Fantasies are geared towards children, but Fantasy, aka Fairy Story, has always been considered a children's genre by the unimaginative anyway, much to the disgruntlement of Tolkien (and myself :lol: ).

But the main point is, in Fantasy anything can happen. And adults like us, who enjoy Fantasy, have the imagination to make these sorts of things work. Marvel comics always had a nifty way of fixing plot holes--asking the readers to invent a solution and make up a reason why it could work. This is all we have to do to make Giant Spiders work.

For example: most insects, arachnids and crustaceans have an exoskeleton. When they are tiny, they are, as you suggest, cartilagetinous. However, as larger crustaceans such as Crabs and Lobsters have Hard Exoskeletons, we can imagine that a Giant Spider might have an exoskeleton as hard as any of our bones. So it could work :ugeek: :mrgreen: .

what if the big spiders have an exoskeleton [i:kmcwaqog]and[/i:kmcwaqog] an internal skeleton?
It is fantasy, why not indeed?

Thanks for these explanations, now I can rest my mind. I guess I knew this already, I just had to hear it from someone else <img src='/images/smileys/bigsmile.gif' border='0' alt='Big Smile Smilie' />
Well, Lord of the Rings is really "High Fantasy" which is "a subgenre of fantasy that is set in invented or parallel worlds.". Well, there is all the reason where you can make spiders do anything you want them to, you're in an invented world in which you are the god, which is why so many authors have fun writing these things <img src='/images/smileys/wink.gif' border='0' alt='Wink Smilie' /> .
I would have to suggest you start by reading The Silmarillion. You can even just skip to the Darkening of Valinor. You meet a character name Ungoliont. This is esentially Shelobs mother. Not to mention the original stock that the Mirkwood Spiders are distant decendents off. And while magic held by the Mirkwood spiders may have been miniscule indeed. Ungoliont's magic and powers are big, very big.

And also remember what the Elves tell Sam of magic. What the Hobbits (and us) think of as magic is just normal to them. Elvish Magic isn't so much something studied like Harry Pottor. It is simply inate. It's just what they do.
The spiders could be something very similar. It just is.
I'm a bit surprised by the opinion in this thread that when a story is fantasy anything can happen. This might be the case in some fantasy stories, but it most certainly is not in [i:29npccic]The Lord of the Rings[/i:29npccic]. Tolkien ostensibly set [i:29npccic]TLotR[/i:29npccic] in the distant, mythic past of our own world, as he said in [b:29npccic]Letter 183[/b:29npccic]:
[quote:29npccic]I am historically minded. Middle-earth is not an imaginary world. The name is the modern form (appearing in the 13th century and still in use) of [i:29npccic]midden-erd > middel-erd[/i:29npccic], an ancient name for the [i:29npccic]oikoumene[/i:29npccic], the abiding place of Men, [b:29npccic]the objectively real world[/b:29npccic], in use specifically opposed to imaginary worlds (as Fairlyland) or unseen worlds (as Heaven or Hell). The theatre of my tale is this earth, the one in which we now live, but the historical period is imaginary.[/quote:29npccic]

(my bold emphasis)

Given this statement from Tolkien I see the statement that "it doesn't matter because it's fantasy" to be incompatible with [i:29npccic]The Lord of the Rings[/i:29npccic]. Not just anything can happen in Middle-earth. There are obviously some differences from our own world (Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Dragons, Maia, and others come to mind), but these occur within an internally consistent framework. Orcs do not magically sprout wings from one scene to the next, they are subject to the same laws of nature as other organisms. Even the "magical" elements have rules to follow.

Thinking specifically of giant spiders, I do not know enough about biology to comment on the plausibility of them. There were many large creatures with exoskeletons in the distant past though, so I don't see it as particularly implausible.
Well, my point about Fantasy is that, whether the story takes place in "Our" world or not, anything is possible. But that doesn't preclude a writer following internally consistent rules--I even made that point in one of my previous posts on this thread--but it's not an absolute necessity in Fantasy fiction (and even sometimes a hindrance). And the writer of Fantasy fiction is free to rewrite the rules at their convenience. For example...Tolkien posited a Flat Earth for part of Middle Earth's history, a physical impossibility in our Universe, then it changed to the globe we are accustomed to (I forget in which era myself, maybe Show or Beren can help me out here).

It's certainly true that Tolkien intended Middle Earth as a mythical past for our current world. And I totally agree that Tolkien strove for internal consistency and rules of magic. We aren't really in disagreement. I think maybe you just misinterpreted my point, or perhaps I wasn't clear enough :roll: (it's been known to happen :lol: ).

To complete Gandalf's Beard's comment. The reshaping of middle-earth coincided with the sinking of Numenor.
Thanks for the assist Show! <img src='/images/smileys/bigsmile.gif' border='0' alt='Big Smile Smilie' />

Apologies for the misunderstanding, [b:n4fp45rb]GB[/b:n4fp45rb].
No problem Eldorion 8-) . Sometimes nuance is hard to get across. I just used the exact same point at the Leaky Cauldron to counter charges of Deus Ex Machina on the part of Rowling. But I haven't had any replies yet, so I'll see how it works there when I get one :lol: .

But ultimately, as Show's signature Tolkien quote explains, its all in the hands of the reader. One person's brilliantly scripted save is another's random "And then God saved the day" moment <img src='/images/smileys/wink.gif' border='0' alt='Wink Smilie' /> .

The largest pre-historic spider was called Mesothelae, and was about the size of a human head(without the legs!). Invertebrates in the past were able to grow much larger than they can today because of a higher level of oxygen in the atmosphere - for example, there was a type of dragonfly called Meganeura which had a two-foot wingspan, and Arthropleura, a creature resembling a giant centipede, could reach 8.5 feet in length.
Just to complete zardOz' comment - spiders do not have lungs. The oxygen is transported in much the same way as with insects, through small tubes throughout their body. From here it is passed to the spider's blood and then to the organs. The system is more primitive than our system of blood vessels, and simply does not work if the body is too large. But of course, there is nothing to prevent a spider from evolving a more complex breathing system as it grows in size.
Speaking of reality, spiders grow continuously through their lives. The more food a spider gets, the bigger it grows. So it is possible to find spiders living that have exceeded normal parameters for their species, and have gotten to a sinister level of development. My own favorite for a mini-Shelob is an online pic of a black widow that had trapped a scarlet finch in its web, and was draining it. I believe the page was titled "spiders eating things they shouldn't", or the like. Members are willing to hunt it down if they like.

The giant spiders of Middle-Earth were meant to be perversions of nature, descended from Ungoliant. However, even in their exaggerated size and capabilities, they acted like spiders. to see what "normal" spiders would be like at a larger size, watch [i:3dk1mzvv]Eight Legged Freaks[/i:3dk1mzvv], then imagine those larger "normal" spiders with some malign cognitive intelligence and a capability for communication, and you have the giant spiders of Mirkwood. Anybody still disappointed that reality can't match fantasy? :lol:
I read somewhere that in a fantasy novel anything can happen and should.

That's less fantasy than a drug trip. :roll: Fantasy actually needs to go to greater lengths to maintain internal consistency and believability (taking for granted certain fantastic elements, of course) because the it takes place in new and alien worlds.
It really depends on the fantasy. The point is anything can happen in a Fantasy if the author wants it to.

[quote="Gandalfs Beard":2c2mktty]The point is anything can happen in a Fantasy if the author wants it to.[/quote:2c2mktty]

I agree on that GB, but I think the author should follow certain certain consistencies within his own work so it's not just a string of random happenings.
I think that should be 'absolutely certain certainties' - but I shouldn't be so pedantic, Eldo! Mind you, at least I'm being consistent.

On a serious note, I agree, fantasy must be internally consistent, nonetheless anything can happen and should (no matter how much logic is required to achieve that consistency!)

[quote="Odo Banks":32mnw73l]I read somewhere that in a fantasy novel anything can happen and should.

Based on their works, I'd say Piers Anthony, David Butcher, James Green, and William S Burroughs all agree with that statement.
I've got this theory I call the RULE OF APPROPRIATENESS. The foreafter may sound a bit twee, but here goes anyway - if something works it works, and in fantasy that could mean the wildest things imaginable. The trick is to go wild but not lose your audience. If what you end up with works, it works; so try anything and only get rid of it if it doesn't work. The degree of fantsticness doesn't matter, as long as it works! THE RULE OF APPROPRIATENESS.


Must try those authors (though I'm familiar with Piers). Have you tried Jack Vance, Zeonista? No one on this forum but me seems to have. :cry:
I like that RULE OF APPROPRIATENESS. May I have permission to quote it to others in the future? <img src='/images/smileys/smile.gif' border='0' alt='Smile Smilie' />

Durn it, I got Butcher's first name wrong.... *sigh* Go read [i:2atai5dg]Storm Front[/i:2atai5dg], and [i:2atai5dg]Something from the Night Side[/i:2atai5dg] Odo, and see if that sort of oddity-spawning story background doesn't catch hold of your sense of wonder some. I have read [i:2atai5dg]The Dying Earth[/i:2atai5dg] some years ago, as well as a couple of Vance's short stories. He had a great sense of heroic fantasy as a world where wonders could be readily encountered...if you wanted to seek them, or sometimes even make them.
By all means do so, Zeonista. I know the RULE OF APPROPRIATENESS, when dissected, just states an obvious fact of 'good' fantasy fiction (and other things), but I find it useful when I write. If people like anything I've come up with, its proof enough to me to keep it. Sometimes you can suspend disbelief and sometimes you can't. It's all in the wrist-action (metaphorically speaking). The best writers create the most outlandish and (when analysed) unbelievable things - and yet get away with it! I cite JRRT (and Jack Vance - among others) of course!

Btw I feel Jack Vance is only "Heroic fiction" in the very widest sense. He's far more Wodehouse than Robert E. Howard. I love most of his books: "Planet of Adventure" series, "Demon Princes" series, "Durdane" series, "Araminta Station" series (especially the first book), "Lyonesse" series.... Need I go on?!?!