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Epic Pooh is a 1978 article by the British science fiction writer Michael Moorcock, which reviews the field of epic fantasy, with a particular focus on epic fantasy written for children. The article has proven controversial amongst fans and writers of fantasy literature, particularly for Moorcock's critique of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
Moorcock criticises a group of celebrated writers of epic fantasy for children, including Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Richard Adams. His criticism is based on two principal grounds: what he sees as the poverty of their writing style, and a political criticism. Moorcock accuses these authors of espousing a form of "corrupted Romance", which he identifies with Anglican Toryism. The defining traits of this attitude are an anti-technological, anti-urban stance which Moorcock sees as ultimately misanthropic, that glorifies a vanishing or vanished rural idyll, and is rooted in middle-class or bourgeois attitudes towards progress and political change.
The title arises from Moorcock's argument that the writing of Tolkien, Lewis, Adams and others has a similar purpose to the Winnie-the-Pooh writings of A. A. Milne, another author of whom he disapproves: it is fiction intended to comfort rather than challenge. Writer M. John Harrison, originally a member of the same British New Wave in science fiction which emerged around Moorcock's New Worlds magazine, has expressed similar views about Tolkien's fantasy as a 'literature of comfort' and about epic fantasy in general as a literature of escapism which refuses to deal with the issues raised by the real world.
Moorcock's most recent revisions to the piece add mention of such authors as Pratchett and Rowling and drop those whose names would be less familiar today (Moorcock also has claimed that Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials deserved credit, though the essay was written and revised before those books were published). As an example, from the original "...are successful. It is the tone of Warwick Deeping's Sorrell and Son, of John Steinbeck at his worst, or, in a more sophisticated form..." and from the revised version "...are successful. It is the tone of many forgotten British and American bestsellers, well-remembered children's books, like The Wind in the Willows, you often hear it in regional fiction addressed to a local audience, or, in a more sophisticated form..."
Moorcock's essay has drawn criticism for its portrayal of the themes in The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien's other works. Epic Pooh accuses Tolkien of glorifying war, preaching "cowardly self-protection," avoiding the subject of death, and forcing a happy ending upon the reader.
- Moorcock, Michael (1987). "Chapter 5. Epic Pooh". Wizardry and Wild Romance: A study of epic fantasy. Great Britain: Victor Gollancz. p. 181. ISBN 0-575-04324-5.
- Michael Moorcock. "RevolutionSF - Epic Pooh". RevolutionSF. Retrieved 2010-06-14.
- Murphy, Brian (January 28, 2014). "Knocking some stuffing out of Moorcock's "Epic Pooh"". The Cimmerian.
- Epic Pooh, Revised version. Michael Moorcock, (British Fantasy Society, 1978)