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  • The phrase "standing on the shoulders of giants" was famously used by Newton to Hooke (1676): "What Descartes did was a good step. You have added much several ways, and especially in taking the colours of thin plates into philosophical consideration. If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.", but actually it dates back to the 12 century, when John of Salisbury wrote

 Bernard of Chartres used to say that we are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than they, and things at a greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness of sight on our part, or any physical distinction, but because we are carried high and raised up by their giant size.

  • The expression "bust a cap" for "shoot" dates back to at least 1879: Andersonville, John McElroy, p. 510. It was first used in a crime drama no later than 1932. (An episode of the radio series "Police Headquarters".)
  • The Horcruxes from the Harry Potter universe are seemingly random, ordinary items in which the Big Bad has hidden part of his soul - permanently destroying him is impossible unless you first destroy all seven of these items. The idea goes back to the concept of the Lich (undead, skeletal magician of vast power) and his phylactery from Dungeons and Dragons, and that presumably goes back to Russian folklore and the character of Koschei the Deathless (an undead, skeletal magician of vast power), who hid his soul in a needle, and put the needle in an egg, and the egg in a bird, and the bird in a hare, and the hare in a bear, etc. etc, Russian-doll style. This is even found in Classical Mythology with characters such as Meleager (not the Heroic Age one) whose life was linked to a brand : when the brand was consumed by fire, Meleager died.
    • The Golden Bough lists several examples of external soul, few of them coming from Arabian Nights (containing stories from early medieval period).
  • A double literary example: J.K. Rowling is often asked (often enough for it to be in her official FAQ) whether she took the character of Nicholas Flamel in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone from The Da Vinci Code. In fact, Flamel was a real life historical figure, a philosopher from the 14th century rumored to have created a philosopher's stone and gained immortality. Additionally, Philosopher's Stone came out in 1997 (with the movie version coming out in 2001), while Da Vinci Code wasn't published until 2003.
    • Some people have accused Rowling of ripping off Neil Gaiman's Comic Book Books of Magic, which also features a young, dark haired, bespectacled wizard-in-training who has a pet owl, and is, indeed, a few years older. However, Gaiman has kindly explained that both books draw on the same wizardly archetypes and Rowling thus cannot be blamed for coming up with a similar concept and character. However, the idea for a Books of Magic movie has been pretty thoroughly killed because it would be universally derided as a Harry Potter ripoff.
      • Summer Magic, the first of the Journal of Luke Kirby series, debuted in UK comic 2000AD in 1988, two years before The Books of Magic. When the Luke Kirby stories were republished as graphic novels, a lot of people did assume that it was a ripoff of The Books of Magic.
    • Similarly, many people accuse Discworld's Unseen University of being a Hogwarts ripoff, and have pointed out that Ponder Stibbons looks an awful lot like the Potter kid. While Terry Pratchett does bury references to all sorts of things in the Discworld novels, and encourages fans to try and find them, this one is just plain untrue. See the quote on the main page for Pratchett's exact word on the subject. Like Gaiman, he has defended Rowling from the more rabid of his own fans, but has also said that he's afraid that Discworld movies would, if made, be confused with Harry Potter ripoffs. Of which there are a few.
      • The TV adaptation of Hogfather, despite portraying Stibbons pretty much the way he is in the books, managed to escape this sort of misunderstanding. Then again, that may be because it didn't see enormously wide release.
      • It certainly helps that as far as personality goes, Harry and Stibbons have almost nothing in common, as well as the fact that Stibbons is in his mid-twenties, as opposed to the teenaged Harry.
        • He was presumably a teenager in his first appearance in Moving Pictures, where he's a student preparing to sit for his final exams. Of course, he's also a very minor character in that book.
    • While we're on the subject, the 1986 horror movie Troll -- no connection to Troll 2 -- contains a young boy named Harry Potter (played by Noah "Atreyu" Hathaway) who enters a world of magic, befriends a witch, and fights a troll. This is probably a coincidence, though. Rowling has explicitly said as much (regardless of what you may have heard) and stranger coincidences of exactly the same sort have happened. Excellent further reading on the matter would be the story behind the name "Eleanor Rigby" in The Beatles Anthology.
    • An isolated castle containing a magic school, with a forest nearby? A protagonist who has no prior knowledge of the magical world? A rival who comes from a leading magical family? A hook-nosed Potions teacher who favours the rival and despises the protagonist? A kindly, grey-haired Head who is fond of the protagonist? Classes in Charms and broomstick riding? Yep, that's Jill Murphy's The Worst Witch, six volumes published 1974, '80, '82, '93, 2005, 2007.
    • Many of Rowling's elements also appear in Eleanor Estes' The Witch Family, first published in 1960, and especially in Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earth Sea, first published in 1968.
    • There actually are people who think Rowling invented house elves, hippogriffs, or the concept of familiars.
      • There are doubtless people as well who think that Castlevania: Symphony of the Night invented hippogryphs. They go back at least as far as the early sixteenth century. See (ironically enough) the Newer Than They Think page for more on this.
      • Funnily enough, the concept of familiars in the Potter Verse is largely Fanon. While several characters own pets which have evident magical powers or at least Amplified Animal Aptitude, nowhere in the books are they called "familiars" nor do they seem to have any particular significance in wizarding culture. As far as the books are concerned, Hedwig, for example, is just a pet and not some kind of mythical animal companion as fanfiction would have you believe.
    • A really pathetic example is here. Unbeknownst to most, J. K. Rowling put Biblical scripture on the tombstones in Deathly Hallows. And now that website is citing J. K. Rowling as the author of a line spoken by Jesus.
    • Many people think that Wizard's Hall by Jane Yolen was ripped-off of Harry Potter despite being written six years earlier. Yes it has a wizard's school as its main setting, but the characters are much weirder... in only the best ways.
    • An episode of QI (with Daniel Radcliffe himself guest starring!) showed that several of Rowling's proper names can be traced back to real English words. "Hagrid" comes from "hag-ridden," to have dreams about witches and witchcraft. "Dumbledore" is an Old English word for a bumblebee. And "muggle" was originally jazz slang for marijuana! And it was most certainly not from "The Legend of Rah and the Muggles."
  • Some people seem to think that Diane Duane's Young Wizards books are ripoffs of Harry Potter, when actually Diane Duane began publishing her books in the early '80s. The only thing they have in common is "ordinary kid becomes a wizard and fights evil", but the reprints of the books have often been marketed as "something to read after you've finished Harry Potter." Duane has actually stated on her blog that she avoids reading the Harry Potter books in case anyone accuses her of ripping off Rowling's ideas for her latest books. The same has happened with the works of Diana Wynne Jones, Susan Cooper, and other young adult fantasy authors whose books went out of print for a while but experienced a resurgence in popularity after Harry Potter became a big hit, even though their books existed decades before Rowling began writing.
    • One of the most nonsensical plagiarism allegations ever must surely be Nancy Stouffer's claim that the Harry Potter series is ripped off from her The Legend of Rah and the Muggles because, amongst other things, "both works take place in fantasy settings". Presumably, Stouffer has never heard of The Hobbit, the entire Narnia series, or Gullivers Travels, to name but a few examples. My ('60s) childhood was filled with many more, most of which were long-established even back then.
    • Rowling has also been aaccused by rabid fantasy fans of "stealing" the idea of the Invisibility Cloak from Tolkien's Ring; they're clearly unaware that the idea of a magic ring, cloak, Tarnhelm or whatever is a staple of the folklore of many lands, and that Tolkien didn't invent this idea any more than Wagner did when he used it about a century before Tolkien.
  • Bizarrely, even Discworld itself has given us an example of this with the character of Genghis Cohen. Now, obviously, that's a reference to Genghis Khan, but most Pratchett fans don't know that "Genghis Cohen" is also the name of a philatelist in The Crying of Lot 49.
    • The character was originally introduced as Cohen the Barbarian, quite possibly a play-on of Conan the Barbarian.
    • Some fans thought that Inigo Skimmer of The Fifth Elephant was a reference to/parody of Inigo Montoya of The Princess Bride, as both are Career Killers. Pratchett corrected this, pointing out that Inigo is an old name and that if he was thinking of anyone, he probably got the name from Inigo Jones.
    • Terry also got a bit sarcastic with people commenting on The Wee Free Men who seemed to think the concept of sheepdog trials was invented by the film Babe.
  • Film novelizations have existed since the 1920s.
    • And novelizations of plays go back still further.
  • This has been a problem with The Lord of the Rings: people whose only exposure to work is the films have said that there were a lot of cliché elements (such as the Witch-king being prophecied not to be killed by a man, thus getting offed by Éowyn), not realizing that a great many of those elements became clichéd due to the influence of the original novels on later works.
    • Incidentally, the example of Witch-king is itself inspired by Shakespeare's Macbeth, in which a prophecy states that no man born of woman would ever kill Macbeth -- as it turns out, the guy who kills him was delivered via Caesarean, and thus technically not "born" of woman. Tolkien felt that Shakespeare had missed an opportunity, and so had a woman (and a non-human male) fulfill his version of the prophecy.
    • Another instance of Tolkien writing something as a specific modification of Shakespeare (and, specifically, Macbeth) is the Ents. Tolkien got all excited while watching the play after the witches predict that Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be/until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill/Shall come against him. When the great twist turned out to be "men with leaves in their hats", he angrily returned home and decided that he would write a story about walking trees, thank you very much.
    • The idea of a ring that grants invisibility while the user inevitably becomes corrupt was used 2000 years earlier by Plato in The Republic, as the Ring of Gyges.
    • All the Dwarves' names in The Hobbit were taken straight from a list in The Elder Edda, a collection of Icelandic poetry dating from the 11th century. And Gandalf's, too.
    • Tolkien was a professor of Old English, and much (and arguably, most) of his inspiration came originally from Anglo-Saxon poetry and culture. Apart from the obvious linguistic influences, the Ents, for example, were heavily influenced by the prosopoeic narrator of Dream of the Rood (a talking cross); you haven't lived until you've heard that poem recited in an Ent voice by an Oxford don.
  • Today, Sherlock Holmes is easily more well-known than C. Auguste Dupin, despite that Dupin was the first detective of his kind who solved crimes simply with his own superbrain, more swiftly and easily than the police department who would only very grudgingly come to him for help, who never had a love interest, and whose stories were told by his Sidekick.
    • Indeed, Holmes is heard at one point to belittle the Dupin stories, presumably as a backhanded homage to Poe by Arthur Conan Doyle.
    • Some believe Poe could have been inspired by Voltaire's Zadig (1747), who does detective-like work.
  • Yet another Discworld example: When a witch and a wizard dueled in Equal Rites by transforming into various things, each countering the other's form, some thought they recognized it as a reference to T.H. White's take on the King Arthur mythos, The Once and Future King. However, Terry pointed out that it was a much older folkloric theme; another well-known version appears in the song "The Two Magicians".
  • Gibson himself almost had this writ large; while writing Neuromancer, he went to see Blade Runner and was in tears by the end, because there was his entire milieu, on screen and before he was even done! He was very relieved when the movie tanked...
  • The Beam Me Up, Scotty trope page once claimed that "All that glitters is not gold" is a misquote of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, which has the line "All that glisters is not gold." Actually, the line didn't originate with Shakespeare. Both Chaucer and Cervantes used variations on it. The first version using "glitters" appears in John Dryden's 1687 poem The Hind and the Panther. When Shakespeare wrote The Merchant of Venice, the line was already a well-worn cliché (which is why the next line of the couplet is "often have you heard that told"), so there's no real reason his version should be considered authoritative.
  • As it turns out, Homer's Iliad may well be the oldest example of the expression "to bite the dust", rather than the western movies and the song by Queen that people generally associate with the expression.
  • The first use of a ruined Statue of Liberty wasn't Planet of the Apes, but the novel The Last American by John Ames Mitchell, published in 1889 -- only six years after the statue was complete.
  • Some people think that the movie Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ripped off the name "Babel Fish" from the website.
    • Which is, of course, a reference to The Bible: In the "Tower of Babel" story, people are punished by God, and start speaking different languages. The Babel Fish from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is named as such, because it translates speech telepathically from any language, thus eliminating that particular effect.
    • Also on Hitchhiker's, some people have accused North London estate agents Hotblack Desiato of having stolen their name from The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy. It was actually the other way around.
  • Laputa the Floating Continent is not from an anime movie, nor is it from Dr. Strangelove. It's from Gulliver's Travels.
  • Let it be known that when the Lewis Carroll's poem Jabberwocky mentions "his vorpal sword", it is not a reference to Dungeons and Dragons.
  • The character name "James Bond" first appeared in the Agatha Christie 1930s short story "The Rajah's Emerald", though this may or may not be where Ian Fleming got the name -- Christie's character is almost the exact opposite of the more famous Bond. It's known that Fleming got Bond's number from the London-Dover coach which passed his door, which is numbered 007 to this day.
    • Fleming said that he took the name from the author of Birds of the West Indes, a book which he kept on his cocktail table at his house in Jamaica, where many of the Bond novels were written. The book is still in print.
    • Historical Real Life example: perhaps the most well known of the few American survivors of The Alamo (who made it because he was a messenger sent away to tell of what was going on, and therefore wasn't there for the carnage) was named James Bond.
  • It's flatly astonishing how many people think Bram Stoker invented vampires with Dracula. While less well-known, James Malcolm Rymer's Varney the Vampire predates Dracula by more than 50 years, and the original folklore is far older even than that. (However, several vampire traits commonly taken for granted are newer even than Bram Stoker's novel.)
    • Vampires whose bodies are largely composed of sparkly minerals? Check. Abusive vampire/human love affairs with nonstop bed-breaking sex? Check. Improvised cesarian section on a human who's impregnated with an unprecedented vampire offspring? Check. Actually a good novel? Check ... if it's The Stress Of Her Regard (1989) by Tim Powers, and not that crapsack series with the black covers.
    • There are probably many Harry Potter fans who think that J. K. Rowling invented veela. They are a staple of East European folklore.
    • For that matter, the Hate Dumb that blames Stephanie Meyers (and before her, Anne Rice) for "ruining" vampires by turning them into brooding sexpots. Varney hated his vampiric nature so much that he decided to fling himself in a volcano at the end, and both Stoker and LeFanu's Carmilla used the vampire as metaphors for dangerous sexuality. This stuff is as old as the gothic horror tradition, folks.
      • Aristocratic, jaded vampire socialite who likes to seduce and use people of both sexes? Look no further that Ruthven created by John Polidori, physician of Lord Byron (who Ruthven is based on).
  • Many people have criticised the new Sherlock Holmes film for its depiction of a boxing and flirting Sherlock Holmes, seemingly ignoring the fact that in the original books, he did all of those things and more.
  • Thoughtcrime is usually associated with Nineteen Eighty-Four, written in 1949. While Orwell may or may not have read it, the idea of punishing treasonous thoughts and encouraging people to report on their neighbours acting suspiciously was proposed as a serious rulership strategy in The Book of Lord Shang, written between 400 and 200 BC.
  • Many, many Animorphs fans seem to think that the concept of Puppeteer Parasite originated from the series. Examples can be found on this very wiki. The fact that it is a Characteristic Trope certainly isn't helping matters.
  • Guess what I'm describing here: years after a world-changing event, a mysterious group causes humankind to evolve into a single entity, with sides of Apocalyptic imagery. I'm describing Childhoods End, a 1953 novel by Arthur C. Clarke, which Hideaki Anno admitted was an inspiration for Neon Genesis Evangelion.
  • The Book of the Named predates Warrior Cats by about twenty years, though it has the disadvantage of having been almost entirely out of print from the mid nineties until recently. While most fans of the latter who get around to reading the former pick up on the differences very quickly, that hasn't stopped some who Did Not Do the Research from crying foul against Clare Bell.
  • David Gerrold had to get clearance for the original Star Trek episode The Trouble with Tribbles (1967), from Robert Heinlein, whose 1952 novel The Rolling Stones had a quickly reproducing Martian species known as 'flatcats.' Heinlein pointed out that the idea had been used much earlier, in Pigs is Pigs by Ellis Parker Butler. "A story about guinea pigs, beaurocracy [sic] and multiplication. First published in the September 1905 issue of American Magazine."
  • Isaac Asimov popularised the idea of robots which by their design are incapable of harming humans (in sharp contrast to the usual clichéd depiction of robots as mechanical Frankenstein's-monsters), but there was at least one earlier depiction of such robots, in the Adam Link stories of Eando Binder.
  • People have accused the Dragonriders of Pern of being a rip-off of the Inheritance Cycle / Eragon books. However, "Weyr Search," the short story that forms part of the first Dragonriders book, was published in 1967, 16 years before Christopher Paolini was born. Also, Anne McCaffery is quoted on the back cover of Eragon, praising it.
  • Younger fans of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games don't always seem to be aware of the existence of earlier dystopian Deadly Game stories like The Running Man and Battle Royale.
  • Don Quixote:
  • Some people accused The Dresden Files of mocking Twilight's beautiful sexy vampires with the White Court, which are...beautiful sexy vampires that actually feed on emotions, including lust. This of course leaves out that the first appearance of a White Court vampire was in Grave Peril, which came out several years before the first Twilight book.
  • Speaking of Twilight, lord help you if you're an author who wrote a Young Adult Paranormal Romance before Stephenie Meyer published hers. Fans and detractors alike tend to dismiss these novels as ripoffs. This hasn't been entirely bad, as some teen paranormal series written in the 90s got rereleased in an attempt to cash in on the growing vampire trend. The most notable example is The Vampire Diaries by LJ Smith, which was rereleased in 2007, as well as receiving a reboot and a TV adaptation in 2009.
  • Many people think that Plato was the first to use the word "Atlantis". While most historians agree that Plato created the legend of the lost island of Atlantis, which first appeared in the dialogue Timaeus, there was a book called Atlantis that predates the dialogue by about one hundred years. Only fragments remain of this book, which was written by Hellanicus, and there is no evidence that this book had anything to do with the legend of a lost civilization.
  • Bumping into anything done by Rudyard Kipling is unavoidable even if you're not reading people as strongly influenced as Robert A. Heinlein. Tractor Beam? As Easy as ABC -- for that matter, one of the first Sci Fi as we know it, and the articulate re-introduction of Mundane Fantastic as an approach outside of mythology and its derivatives. More Deadly Than the Male -- Trope Namer. Stiff Upper Lip, one of Trope Codifiers. The Vamp -- probably the Trope Namer (The Vampire). POV Sequel? Among the first known outside of Japan. Steampunk? Was predicted in the last few lines of The King. Trolling? He got more advanced variations from XX century Trickster arsenal described (Stalky series) and actively used them. Use of The Raj setting? Mostly have to either follow or dispute with him.
  • Fan Fiction goes far back long before the Internet. In fact, the practice is Older Than Print when a poem called Troilus and Criseyde by Geoffrey Chaucer came out in 1380s inspired Robert Henryson to write The Testament of Cresseid.
    • In 1740, Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson inspired many fan-made sequels thanks to the early copyright laws weren’t easily enforced at the time.
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