11

Citing cracked.com "5 Pop Culture Classics Created Out of Laziness":

Lucas later repeated the same trick after failing to get the rights to The Hobbit: He made Willow, a film about short people in a medieval fantasy setting who succeed despite their physical stature thus proving that it's what's inside that counts. (He will kill you if you accidentally refer to them as hobbits)

Is this provably true? E.g. is there any evidence that this is the origin of Willow? Attempts by Lucas to get the rights? Analysis of Hobbit vs. Willow on a deeper level than "Fantasy, short people win"? Lucas copping to it in a bar while drunk or on a DVD special?

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    The plots are similar at the level of "regular Joe makes a Hero's Journey", but it's not like that's a unusual way to construct a story or anything... – dmckee Feb 19 '12 at 21:28
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    I heard it was based on a D&D campaign... Off to look. – Adele C Feb 19 '12 at 21:54
7

I'm going to say no.

The Cracked article links to an unsourced Wookieepedia claim.

George Lucas originally planned to film an adaptation of the novel The Hobbit. Unable to secure the rights, he wrote Willow, which shares many similarities with J.R.R. Tolkien's celebrated novel, and its sequel, The Lord of the Rings.

I'm unable to find any concrete evidence supporting Wookieepedia's claim, simply a few unsourced claims that state Lucas was inspired by and/or wanted to make a Hobbit film.

Additionally, Wikipedia has cited information that works against Cracked's claim.

George Lucas conceived the idea for the film (originally titled Munchkins) in 1972. Similar in intent to Star Wars, he created "a number of well-known mythological situations for a young audience".

3

Maybe this is true, but ultimately does it matter? Both the Hobbit and Willow contain a great number of elements that are common to fantasy stories in general, which is a genre that pre-dates both works by just a few years in the form of the myths and legends of the Norse people. The use of halflings aside, the two stories are only as similar to each other as they are to the source material. Did Lucas want to make a fantasy movie based on Norse folklore? Obviously he did, as we have Willow. Did he want The Hobbit to be that story? Maybe. That doesn't really matter, however, and here is why: If Lucas is somehow culpable for this, he is no moreso than Tolkien. The plot differences between Willow and The Hobbit are enough that he didn't do any worse to Tolkien by borrowing the concept of halflings than Tolkien did to Edward Wyke Smith when he borrowed the Snergs as the inspiration for Hobbits.

To wit: The creative process ultimately is about taking ideas from various sources and re-combining them to create new frames of reference for them. Harping on someone about an otherwise original work because he happened to use dwarfish, unassuming people and so did Tolkien seems counterproductive to the creative process. As a writer I actually like it when people can see where I got my ideas from, it shows that I'm accurately representing my sources in the new context I've created for them. I don't like it when people ask if I stole from my source material.

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    Just sayin': I find influences and their effect on fiction fascinating. If you wanted to ask specific questions about influences and sources in your fiction, we'd welcome it over on Writers. – neilfein Apr 16 '12 at 18:12
  • @neilfein, I just joined. Thanks very very much for showing me that! – Nathan C. Tresch Apr 16 '12 at 18:21

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