Questions tagged [inspiration]

For questions about the inspiration behind an object or concept in a work of literature: what it was based on or where the idea came from.

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Was Maupassant's interest in madness and the supernatural linked to his own mental health?

The French publisher Gallimard has a short biography of Guy de Maupassant on its website. The last lines read, Vers 1885, Maupassant ressent les premiers symptômes de la maladie nerveuse qui l'...
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Who was Mrs B.Lewis?

Colin Dexter's protagonist was Detective Chief Inspector (Endeavour) Morse, in many novels and the TV series where he was played by John Thaw. Morse was named after the polymath crossword puzzle ...
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Any inspiration for the statue revival scene in Shakespeare's “The Winter's Tale”?

Shakespeare's "problem play" The Winter's Tale is largely inspired by Robert Greene's Pandosto written a few decades earlier. One of the major differences between Pandosto and The Winter's Tale is in ...
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Is Marie's comment based on the existence of a two-tier justice system in French Algeria?

In Camus' novel L'étranger / The Stranger, Meursault gets arrested for shooting "an Arab". During his pre-trial detention, his girlfriend Marie pays him a visit in prison and tries to give him some ...
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How might Shakespeare have become familiar with Dante's work?

A recent question on our site asked whether Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing contained a reference to Dante's Divine Comedy. In his answer, Matt Thrower mentions Beatrice, the name of both a ...
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In what ways does The Moviegoer echo Kierkagaardian existentialist principles?

How does the plot of The Moviegoer show the influence of existentialist authors, specifically Kierkegaard, on Percy's writing. I've also noticed some similarities between the "leap of faith" between ...
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Was Frederick Lawley based on a real figure in British India?

The fictional character of Frederick Lawley, a prominent British figure in colonial India, is the main object of R. K. Narayan's "Lawley Road" (a short story first published in 1956 in the eponymous ...
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541 views

What is the origin of the Aullay in “The Sword in the Stone”?

In T. H. White's novel, "The Sword in the Stone", he describes a mythical creature, the Aullay: [It was] as much bigger than an elephant as an elephant is larger than a sheep. It was a sort of ...
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What is the source of Irving Babbitt's disctinction between supernaturalism, humanism and naturalism

In the chapter "Ideals of Life" of My Country and My People, Lin Yutang writes (emphasis mine), The Confucian conception of man's place in nature is that "Heaven, earth and man" are regarded as "...
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How Did Aldous Huxley Know So Much About Music?

Background: The song "Take 5" by Dave Brubeck is one of the more famous jazz standards (famous jazz songs) out there, and one thing any musician would point out immediately is the tune's 5/4 ...
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Is Dhalgren's “orchid” based on a real weapon?

With reference to Samuel R Delany's book, Dhalgren: When The Kid "first" crosses the bridge into the autumnal city, he's met by a group of women who are exiting. They tell him it's dangerous inside ...
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The origin of Tolkien's use of the term “hobbit”

In a footnote on page 29 of The Lay of Aotrou & Itroun Verlyn Flieger notes the word korigans appears in the 1891 compendium of folklore known as The Denham Tracts (Vol. II, p. 79) where it is ...
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What is the significance of naming the djinni Bartimaeus?

In the Bartimaeus trilogy, the main character is the eponymous djinni Bartimaeus, a demon/spirit from "the Other Place" who is cheeky, witty, boastful, and at times surprisingly deep. Bartimaeus, ...
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Was the assassination plot in The Thirty-Nine Steps based on any real plot?

In John Buchan's famous short novel The Thirty-Nine Steps, much of the plot (ha) revolves around a German plot to assassinate the Greek Premier, which is thwarted by the story's hero. All this happens ...
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What did Gray mean by “where ignorance is bliss,'tis folly to be wise”?

Here's the last stanza of Thomas Gray's 1742 poem, 'Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College': To each his suff'rings: all are men,       Condemn'd alike to groan, The tender for another's ...
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Is there any evidence Mat Cauthon was inspired by Matthias Corvinus?

Matthias Corvinus, also known as the Raven King, was King of Hungary and Croatia for a while in the 1400s. He was a noted general, and extensively made use of Hussite mercenaries in his battles. He ...
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Was Rowling inspired by the railway station scene in Prince Caspian?

I was rereading Prince Caspian and noticed that in the start of the story they're in an empty, sleepy country station, and there was hardly anyone on the platform but themselves and then they're ...
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822 views

Who inspired Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem “Mother and Poet”?

"Mother and Poet" is an emotional and moving poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning about a woman poet who loses both her sons in battles in Italy. The emotions seem so raw that one might assume it ...
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What inspired E. M. Forster's short story 'The Machine Stops'?

E. M. Forster's short story 'The Machine Stops' was published in the 1909 edition of the Oxford & Cambridge Review and was prescient in terms of thinking about the downsides of the Internet - well ...
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Did Peddana create Pravarakhya and Varudhini?

When I was studying in my high school, there was a lesson in my Telugu textbook about the travels of Pravarakhya and the places he saw in the Himalayas. It was a part of Manu Charitra, written by ...
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Does “The Whalebone Parrot” draw inspiration from any specific Apache sources?

"The Whalebone Parrot" is a short horror story by Darcie Little Badger. In it, a parrot is killed, and then possesses Loretta to try to kill the cat that killed the parrot. Darcie Little Badger often ...
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Is Caliban of Shakespeare's “The Tempest” based on a real life character?

In the book ‘Over the Edge of the World’ the author Laurence Bergreen has described Ferdinand Magellan's daring circumnavigation of the globe in the sixteenth century was a three-year odyssey filled ...
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Relevance of the cloud chariot story to the rest of Midnight Robber?

Nalo Hopkinson's novel Midnight Robber contains a story entitled "How Tan-Tan Learn to Thief". It is one of the many elements from Caribbean culture that Hopkinson draws on in the novel. The story is ...
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Origin of Dry Bone in Nalo Hopkinson's Midnight Robber

Nalo Hopkinson's novel Midnight Robber contains a story entitled "Tan-Tan and Dry Bone". It is one of the many elements from Caribbean culture that Hopkinson draws on in the novel. Hopkinson's novel ...
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Did Virginia Woolf read The Yellow Wallpaper before publishing Mrs. Dalloway?

In a recent discussion in an online literature course, someone thought that the young woman in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper and the character Septimus Warren Smith in Virginia Woolf'...
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Was Stevenson's Captain Smollett named after Tobias Smollett?

The captain of the Hispaniola in Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island is a man named Alexander Smollett. There's also a Scottish writer named Tobias Smollett, and there's speculation that the ...
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Is there any direct evidence tying the D&D Underdark to Narnia?

I was re-reading The Silver Chair recently, the 6th book in the Narnia series. Towards the end of the novel, he says, "he had always reached these outlets by going in a ship across the Sunless ...
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What are the nets in Ender's Game? Are they based on anything in real life?

After reading Ender's Game, I liked the idea of "nets," and had some good ideas to put on there, but could never find them or what they are. Any idea, or is this just another fictional part of Ender's ...
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Was the Wood in Tales of Goldstone Wood inspired by the Chronicles of Narnia?

Golden Daughter describes the Wood as follows: The Wood is bigger by far than any mortal mind can comprehend. It is not a world in itself but rather the seat of worlds, containing with its vastness ...
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Was Ellsworth Toohey's public speaking style modeled after Harold Laski?

The first time that Peater Keating hears Ellsworth Toohey speak, it's described as follows: It was not a voice, it was a miracle. It unrolled as a velvet banner. It spoke English words, but the ...
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556 views

Was “All Summer in a Day” based on any real childhood event?

Ray Bradbury's famous short story "All Summer in a Day", which can be read online, is about a girl from Earth, Margot, who's ostracised by her classmates on Venus. They've never seen the sun, but she ...
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How did “Songs of Innocence and Experience” inspire “Airbag” by Radiohead?

Apparently, some of the lyrics to Radiohead's "Airbag" were found written in the margins of a volume of Songs of Innocence and Experience. Was this song inspired or influenced by Songs of Innocence ...
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Was Hardy's “A Few Crusted Characters” based directly on the Canterbury Tales?

I've just been reading Thomas Hardy's A Few Crusted Characters (full text available online), which is essentially a collection of short stories or vignettes loosely bound together by a framing story. ...
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What was the real-world inspiration for the Kingsguard?

George RR Martin's fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire takes a lot of inspiration from real-world history: Hadrian's Wall becomes the Wall in the North, Yorkists and Lancastrians become Starks and ...
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Was Jonas Willard inspired by anyone in particular?

In Isaac Asimov's short story “Gold”, Laborian is clearly a self-insertion of Asimov himself, and the story in the story is Asimov's own book The Gods Themselves. I'm wondering though, what about the ...
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Why are the U2 CDs named after “Songs of Innocence” and “Songs of Experience” by William Blake?

U2 has an album named "Songs of Innocence" and a second, more recent album named "Songs of Experience". These appear to at least be named after the William Blake poetry. What is the relationship ...
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Did Stevenson really claim to have been inspired by brownies?

Jorge Luis Borges claims, in his Book of Imaginary Beings, that the author Robert Louis Stevenson attributed some of the stranger ideas in his writing to fantastical creatures such as brownies who ...
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Is Snufkin based on Atos Wirtanen?

According to Wikipedia, the character of Snufkin in the Moomin series of children's books by Tove Jansson is based on her real-life friend Atos Wirtanen: Tove Jansson based the character of Snufkin ...
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Vision of the future in Max Beerbohm's “Enoch Soames”

Max Beerbohm's 1916 novelette "Enoch Soames" (available e.g. at Project Gutenberg) is the story of a man who sells his soul to the devil for the privilege of spending an afternoon in a library (the ...
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What/who are the exact sources of inspiration, deriving from Antiquity, for Fables, written by La Fontaine?

I know that La Fontaine's Fables is heavily inspired by Greco-Roman classic literature, especially Aesop's fables, but I'm sure there are other sources of inspiration for La Fontaine's 12 books of ...
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266 views

What Battle inspired Wilfred Owen's “Spring Offensive” poem?

Seems it was written about a military initiative in spring 1917 but was there a name for the battle itself? I can't seem to find a reference anywhere...
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What is the real “Consortium” as mentioned in Dan Brown's Inferno?

On the "FACT" page of the book Inferno by Dan Brown: "The Consortium" is a private organization with offices in seven countries. Its name has been changed for considerations of security and privacy....
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What parallels can be drawn between Hunger Games characters and their classical namesakes?

In the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar, the minor character of "Cinna the poet" is brutally killed by an angry mob who mistake him for Cinna the conspirator. When he protests, "I am Cinna the poet", ...
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To what extent was Catch-22 inspired by “The Trial”?

Bureaucratic logic is one of the primary themes in Catch-22. To what extent is this inspired by The Trial by Franz Kafka? Both have the sense of being caught in the cogs of a remote, irrational, and ...
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Literature and the work of David Lynch

About a year ago I discovered Twin Peaks on Netflix, and I am currently enjoying every moment of season 3. I've really come to appreciate the subtleties and nuances of David Lynch's style of ...
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What evidence is there for Tolkien's One Ring being based on the Ring of Silvianus?

I recently heard a theory that parts of Tolkien's legendarium and the Lord of the Rings story may have been inspired by the real-life Ring of Silvianus: As Wheeler consulted with J. R. R. Tolkien ...
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Is the song “Mabel Grey” by Brown Bird an allusion to a real ship?

The song Mabel Grey, by Brown Bird contains peculiar lyrics. The lyrics are awfully specific about what happened to this ship, which is a common pattern I see when a song is referent to a real-life ...
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585 views

Is the hook of Marethyu meant to evoke a scythe?

Marethyu is a central character in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. You can read more about him here, but that Wikia page contains major spoilers for the series, so follow that link at ...
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319 views

Who was Long John Silver based on?

In his little-known preface to Treasure Island (which I discovered while answering this question), Robert Louis Stevenson wrote rather persuasively on the possibilities for how a fictional character ...
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Which traits of Milton's Lucifer from “Paradise Lost” did Neil Gaiman carry to “The Sandman”?

Lucifer Morningstar, the Vertigo Comics character, was created by Neil Gaiman with influence from John Milton's Paradise Lost - at least that's what is written on his Wikipedia page, and even on the ...