121

Okay, I really didn't intend to end up answering my own question, but this really piqued my curiosity so I dug into it. The answer - weirdly - may actually be Spider-Man. There does not seem to be any association between goblins and the colour green before the early 1900's. Searching shows that the early examples are fairy stories, which peaked in the 1920'...


61

Tolkien, by his own account, had traditional images of the norse god Odin in mind when creating Gandalf, as we can see from his letter to Sir Stanley Unwin 7 December 1946 (107 in the collection) [On the subject of a German edition of The Hobbit..] I continue to receive letters from poor Horus Engels about a German translation. He does not seem ...


61

1884: Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, a novel by Edwin Abbott Abbott writing as "A Square", available at Project Gutenberg. Wikipedia plot summary: The story describes a two-dimensional world occupied by geometric figures, whereof women are simple line-segments, while men are polygons with various numbers of sides. The narrator is a square named ...


59

The origin of the dark elf / light elf trope can be traced back as far as the 13th century, where Dökkálfar (dark elves)and Ljósálfar (light elves) are mentioned in the Prose (or Young) Edda by Snorri Sturluson. Here, the Ljósálfar are described as "fairer than the sun to look at", while the Dökkálfar are "blacker than pitch". It is unclear whether the ...


53

A lot of cleric spells in early D&D were explicit Bible references; the one that comes immediately to mind is Sticks to Snakes, which is based on Exodus 7:12 (thanks to @RossThompson for this catch). It's possible that it originates in the Old Testament (which comes from Torah). In the Book of Numbers, Moses, who was the people's spiritual leader, got ...


49

The first example of the "dark elves" as a distinct dark-skinned, subterranean, evil sub-race of elves may actually be their appearance in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Prior to that, "dark elf" was largely just used as a synonym for evil creatures characteristic of Nordic/Germanic folklore; there was no particular distinction between the Döckálfar (...


43

The common popularity of the phrase "dwarf toss" can be traced back to a single Australian bar, the earliest reference to which that I can find online is: March 05, 1985 Chicago tribune under the headline "The Dwarf Toss" reports "the most unusual tavern competition has to be the one that was held recently in an Australian bar. You may have read about it." - ...


43

I Am Legend (1954), by Richard Matheson. At the end of the novel:


42

Wikipedia states that some Orc traits, notably their green(ish) skin color were later additions to the Orc archetype that was established by Tolkien. Edit: to prevent misinterpretation, I did not mean to imply that the green skin color was added at a later stage by Tolkien. But rather than it was added by another party, after Tolkien had established the ...


36

Your examples are different. The North - in our Northern hemisphere setting - is colder, and cold symbolizes death in a lot of our cultures, simply because winter means death : People becomes sick or die form the cold Food becomes scarcer. Plants die, including crops A lot of animals die, hide, hibernate or just leave until it's warmer The Sun doesn't ...


35

A lot of the material and references you mention are part of the Dungeons and Dragons game source material. In particular, Tales of the Sword Coast takes place in the Forgotten Realms setting, which is a campaign world designed by Ed Greenwood for his Dungeons and Dragons game, and which eventually became a licensed product that included source books, ...


35

The earliest magical sword I could find was Asi, from the Mahabharata The sword Asi, the first sword ever created, was supposedly made by Brahma (the creator of the universe in the Mahabharata) in a fire sacrifice ritual next to the Himalaya, as a tool for the Devas to fight back against the Asuras. It was a sentient weapon, derived from a being described ...


35

As pointed out in the comments to this question, there can't be a definitive answer because genres are a fluid thing. I wasn't aware that some commentators regard the idea of a link between the real world and the magical one as archetypal of high fantasy, and I'm not sure why,as for me at least, the distinction between high and low is about the dichotomy ...


32

It is said that a wise man can see more from the bottom of a well than a fool from the top of a mountain, but in reality many of the wise prefer the view from a mountain top. If there is no mountain, a tower will do. So I see the following reasons for a tower: It's a sign of power and wisdom (any fool can build a hut but a 200m tower takes some clever ...


32

This page has a depiction of a wizard from a late 19th century lantern slide: (some other magic lantern slides with wizards/sorcerers can be found here and here) It sort of seems like this guy is somewhere between the modern Merlin/Gandalf vision of a wizard and older depictions of the "renaissance magus" like the one shown here of Dr. Faustus from a 1620 ...


31

If an illustration of a dubious event counts as fiction, then this late 1500s sketch could be the first reference to familiars: The author is unknown, but there is a description here: An image of a witch and her familiar spirits taken from a publication that dealt with the witch trials of Elizabeth Stile, Mother Dutten, Mother Devell and Mother Margaret ...


28

The trope possibly arose out of 2 sources: The term "Ivory Tower" The fact that medieval court wizards would be reputed to be allocated a tower in the castle (ala Merlin in some versions). Ivory Tower: From the 19th century it has been used to designate a world or atmosphere where intellectuals engage in pursuits that are disconnected from the practical ...


27

I think the prime example of this is Douglas Adams. The three versions of the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - radio, book, TV, and indeed four if you include the movie, which was made well after his death but based on his plans - all gleefully contradict each other. Was the Restaurant at the End of the Universe on Magrathea, or the Frogstar? Did the ...


26

Merlyn from The Once and Future King does a pretty good job of hitting all your bullet points: The old gentleman that Wart saw was a singular spectacle. He was dressed in a flowing gown with fur tippets which had the signs of the zodiac embroidered all over it, together with various cabalistic signs ... He had a pointed hat like a dunce's cap, or like the ...


24

There are almost certainly much older examples, but this was the one I first thought of- slightly older than the stories of Excalibur: The sword Beowulf uses to kill Grendel's mother. According to wikipedia: c. 700–1000 CE (date of poem), c. 975–1010 CE (date of manuscript) As readable on Project Gutenburg (chapters XXIII - XXIV), Beowulf goes to slay ...


21

Yes. But not to screw with the consumers of the product. It is done to ease the creation of the character(s), either because of limitations in production, but usually due to a divergent or vastly different media environment. Other times to create economic transformation in a character or series. At first glance, I mentally answer this with a resounding no. ...


21

Being stuck in an infinite time loop is the original normal. Indigenous cosmologies tend to have time itself as a regenerating cycle, and indigenous people often relate to their current existence as just part of a cycle. Most non-Judeo-Christian-Islamic world religions similarly involve a cycle of life, death and rebirth. So the concept of people being "...


19

Kirill Yeskov's The Last Ringbearer turns Tolkien's account on its head (under the premise that "history is written by the victors") and portrays Mordor as a peaceful and prosperous civilization threatened by the barbaric Men and Elves. DVK UPDATE: To relate to the OP's question, one of the 2 main heroes (well, probably more of a major rank sidekick) is an ...


16

It was apparently a real pub "sport" that originated in Australia in the 1980s according to this page, and has since been banned in a number of areas due to the possibility of injuries according to the wiki article. It's referenced in this story from the April 2, 1985 edition of The Weekly World News, not exactly a trustworthy source but looking at the other ...


16

The OED gives 1583 as the first instance of this noun usage in English, by Arthur Golding, in a translation from Jean Calvin’s French: 1583 A. Golding, tr. J. Calvin Serm. on Deuteronomie cviii. 661,  A Sorcerer, or a charmer, or [he] that asketh Counsell at spirites that are called familiars [Fr. esprits familiers]. As a translation, this comes ...


16

The SF encyclopedia lists a 1932 fantasy-comic "The Prince's Birthday Present" as one of the earliest examples. [1] Note that the canonical physics-version of this, the "closed time-like curve" was first coined in 1937. Meanwhile, wikipedia claims that its opposite, the grandfather paradox, first appear in fiction in 1933. [1] http://sf-encyclopedia.com/...


16

I do not know which story was the first, but I do know of a story decades earlier than the examples in the question that made a big impression on me, a short story by Lord Dunsany. The story is "Mgamu" published in The Fourth Book of Jorkens (1948). A monster called the sivver-verri is feared by all the tribes in Kenya, and known only by the carnage it ...


16

This is the woman who lives in the house … a woman about to face terror, which is even now coming at her from - The Twilight Zone. The Invaders - The Twilight Zone S02E15 (1961) A woman hears noises and finds a UFO lands on her roof. Small aliens (looking about 6" tall) come into her house and start attacking her. She beats one and throws it into the ...


15

Edmund Spencer’s Fairie Queene, set in a magical “Fairie Land”, was published in 1590. Though the setting is an allegorical representation of England, within the work’s fiction it is its own magical kingdom.


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