The Winter of the World Trilogy Critical Essays

Michael Scott Rohan


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Winter of the World trilogy was Michael Scott Rohan’s first major fiction work, and in many ways it is strongly Tolkienian. It makes heavy use of the concepts of ancient kingship regained, of final victory over an evil power in a world that is only a shadow of its former glory, and of the passing of even that shadow in the emergence of a new, more mundane age.

Rohan’s prose is definitely reminiscent of J. R. R. Tolkien’s. The same balanced archaisms are used, although, to Rohan’s credit, he does not overuse or mangle them as many other authors do. The Duergar and their tunnels are obviously, even etymologically, allusions to dwarves, and the Ekwesh are quite orclike. It is therefore easy to accuse Rohan of being overly cautious in creating this trilogy, imitating a sales-producing pattern, or simply derivative.

Like Tolkien, however, Rohan appears to be consciously drawing on a large set of mythic motifs to construct his plot. It is possible to analyze the “Tolkienianism” of the trilogy as being a product of a common cultural base and literary purpose rather than direct derivation. That it draws heavily on the literary tradition established by Tolkien is clear; much modern fantasy does. That the trilogy is a direct rehashing of Tolkien’s work is not at all clear.

Rohan has a background in religious studies, and the sheer number of mythic motifs incorporated in the trilogy is impressive, as is at times the originality of the ways in which he incorporates them. He draws most heavily on Germanic mythology but blends it with other mythoi and reinterprets it. Raven, despite his Amerindian name, has all of Odin’s traditional attributes—twin ravens, spear, and hat—but his role is primarily that of trickster, rather than...

(The entire section is 725 words.)