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United Kingdom Movies Television Entertainment

Why Are Fantasy World Accents British? 516

kodiaktau writes "An interesting article from the BBC News Magazine explores the reasons why most fantasy worlds use British as their primary accent. Citing specific examples from recent and upcoming shows and movies like Lord of The Rings, The Hobbit and Game of Thrones, the article concludes British accents are 'sufficiently exotic,' 'comprehensible' and have a 'splash of otherness.' It would be odd to think of a fantasy world having a New Jersey accent, or even a Mid-West accent, which tends to be the default for TV and movies in the U.S., but how do UK viewers feel about having British as a default? More specifically, what about the range of UK accents, like Scottish, Welsh, Cockney? The International Dialects of English Archive shows at least nine regional sounds, with dozens of sub-regional pronunciations in England alone. In the U.S., there have always been many regional accents that might be used in interesting ways. Filmmakers should consider looking at speech accents from other areas of the world to create more interesting dialects."
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Why Are Fantasy World Accents British?

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  • Old World (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Friday March 30, 2012 @03:50PM (#39527113)

    For Americans, I would assume it's because we associate fantasy with the Old World because that's where most of our myths and legends originate. And they have castles. And among the Old World, England is our closest tie (as well as speaking the same language). The majority of fantasy settings are basically just medieval-Europe-plus-wizards-and-dragons even if a location isn't given (or it takes place on another world)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 30, 2012 @03:50PM (#39527117)

    Of course the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit use British accents -- they're written by an English author and are fundamentally ABOUT England (a.k.a. the Shire).

  • Age (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 30, 2012 @03:50PM (#39527119)

    It's a question of cultural depth - America is largely a cultural offshoot of the UK. So when you want a voice for a 'centuries old' sort of tale, you go British. Conversely, the American accent has an association with Modern.

  • Medieval times (Score:3, Insightful)

    by neonv ( 803374 ) on Friday March 30, 2012 @03:51PM (#39527125)

    Most fantasy settings are based in medieval times, and America didn't have English, let alone feudalism and other aspects common in fantasy novels. British accents just fit the real world time period we associate with fantasy settings.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 30, 2012 @03:51PM (#39527135)

    Of course another main reason is that general fantasy is most closely linked with the European medieval period. In that period English speakers were generally going to be speaking with an accent from Great Britain. It would strike us as strange to hear someone in a historical medieval period using a NJ accent for much the same reason that it does in fantasy.

  • by mattdm ( 1931 ) on Friday March 30, 2012 @04:03PM (#39527337) Homepage
    Westeros is transparently (if not particularly faithfully) based on a fantastic reinterpretation of Britain, right down to the the Wall [] and the . And all the knights and chivalery (and non-chivalery) and so on are clearly Arthurian legend, which is unquestionably British even if it owes a big debt to France — which, speaking of, is of course right across the "narrow sea". Middle Earth is less literal with the geography, but Tolkien has said (were it not already obvious!) that the Shire is rural Britain in spirit, so of course the hobbits speak with the appropriate accent.
  • Re:Obvious... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Space cowboy ( 13680 ) on Friday March 30, 2012 @04:14PM (#39527521) Journal


  • Next question: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kwark ( 512736 ) on Friday March 30, 2012 @04:15PM (#39527531)

    Why are is the evil scientists always speaking with a German accent?

  • by H0p313ss ( 811249 ) on Friday March 30, 2012 @04:25PM (#39527737)

    Absolutely correct, and yet also so wrong. Yes, there are regional British accents, but when considered as a whole they are clearly distinct from American ones. Any fool can identify that someone from Cornwall or Glasgow is clearly not American, and if you take someone from New Jersey or Texas nobody is going to mistake them for someone from Yorkshire.

  • Re:Abstraction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Friday March 30, 2012 @04:28PM (#39527803)
    Well a lot of the fantasy films have a medieval themes to them. So it make sense that they would have an English accent. Because American, Australian, Canadian... Accents are post Medieval times, so you want to have an accent from an area that experience the medieval culture. You could use an accent from an other nation however. Their accent is more from not naively speaking the English language and putting their native languages inflections into the language. So for a movie that is in English British English will seem the most authentic.
  • One of my favorite fantasy movies was The Princess Bride. They had generic/American and Spanish accents. They worked really well for me.
  • by MrFlibbs ( 945469 ) on Friday March 30, 2012 @05:10PM (#39528407)

    Reminds me of a story I heard on NPR years ago. The Scottish speaker said he was at an American dinner party when someone used the term "you Brits". He kept looking around until he realized she was referring to him. He didn't consider himself British, so to answer the question, "Who is British?" he told a story that went something like this:

    As a young college student attending freshman orientation at Oxford, he met a nice fellow from Wales. They discovered that, if they both spoke slowly, they could just understand each other through their strong regional accents. They both needed a flatmate and so decided to room together. Finding a flat listed in the paper at a reasonable location and price, they set forth. The woman who answered the door spoke such a thick Irish brogue that neither of them could understand a word she said. So, she fetched a gentleman from down the hall to act as interpreter. But his cockney accent was so severe they couldn't understand him, either. Eventually, he pointed at the newspaper listing, she held out her open hand, and the two of them put in the first month's rent. So, which of them is British? His conclusion was that, technically, they all were, but in practice they were all something else. He supposed the Queen was authentically British, but if anyone asks, he's a Scotsman!

  • Re:Abstraction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by snowgirl ( 978879 ) on Friday March 30, 2012 @05:16PM (#39528501) Journal

    But British accents have undergone enormous amounts of mutation as well. In some ways, they have made more changes than American English since Victorian times.

    So, while Americans associate a British accent with what should be appropriate for medieval times, because they're living where the language was spoken during medieval times, the accent being used is still anachronistic, and just as inappropriate as a Jersey accent.

  • Re:Abstraction (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dhasenan ( 758719 ) on Friday March 30, 2012 @05:37PM (#39528811)

    Old English? Yeah, I liked it when Theoden-king stood up and said "Hwæt, we gardena in geardagum, eodcyninga rym gefrunon, hu ða æelingas ellen fremedon!"

  • by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Friday March 30, 2012 @05:42PM (#39528899)

    The bottom line is, if you can understand it, it's not Middle English. (Diachronous linguistics geeks excepted, of course.)

    And if you can't understand it even if you *are* a diachronous linguistics geek, it's Old English. That's simply a different language.

  • by LordOfTheNoobs ( 949080 ) on Friday March 30, 2012 @05:49PM (#39528987) Homepage
    I was wondering how to pronounce that until I realized it's just a clever bit of german with an outrageous french accent.
  • by 0111 1110 ( 518466 ) on Friday March 30, 2012 @07:42PM (#39530349)

    What would a Jewish accent sound like? Would it be the same for Australian, New Zealand, South African, West Coast American, Midwest, Chicago, Boston, New York, and Southeast American (deep south) Jews. And would British Jews also have this Jewish accent regaredless of which part of England they are from? How about Eastern and Western European Jews? Would Russian Jews sound the same as Italian Jews or Dutch Jews?

    I guess all Jews sound the same in the same way that all black people sound the same. Whether a black person is from Ethiopia or France or England or Germany or Spain or Australia or Canada or Costa Rica or Chile they all pretty much sound like they speak American Ghetto (ebonics) I suppose.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats