It could be reaching except for the fact that there has actually been official confirmation by Sierra authorized source, with Roberta's blessings and assistance that states that the inspiration for the statues was a combination of Never Ending Story and the RotK material (The King's Quest Companion, 2nd Edition, pg 450).
So it's not actually my speculation. Its a bit more concrete than that. That's not to say it couldn't have had additional inspiration beyond those sources, in addition to those sources. Who knows, even the cobra motif might have some inspiration from something else.
I would argue that the darker tone and inclusion of more overtly "epic" Tolkein-esque high fantasy is part of what made KQ8 suck.
Lambonius, I thought the reason people thought it sucked was because of the combat and buggy game play? Not necessarily the story, which actually received quite a bit of praise.
Beyond that even Tolkien inserted quite a bit of whimsy and humor into his works, Hobbits in general. Especially Sam, Merry and Pippin. There is also Tom Bombadil (actually based off his children's doll), which later inspired another children's work, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. There is some humor from Gimli, akin to the dwarf humor seen in the Hobbit. The books are not entirely 'dark' in tone, although almost everything concerning the elves and the race of men is serious (although there are some humorous elements between Legolas and Gimli). The series progression gets more serious in tone as the series goes on. FotR starts largely similar in style as the Hobbit for example. Things get more dire by the end of RotK, ending on a bittersweet note (though no where as bittersweet as in the movie adaptation).
One can see a similar progression in fantasy such as Harry Potter where the series grew progressively darker as the books were released.
In any case it's interesting, but while Hobbit and LotR were part of his universe, he kinda of considered them diversions to the stories he really wanted to tell, the far more serious material that post-humorously became parts of the Silmarillion. The hobbits for example were inclusions essentially to make children's stories and 'fairy tales' (which he actually detested). LotR was written through demands of his publisher and the interest of his readership for more hobbit stories although it wasn't necessarily the stories he wanted to get published as it took time from writing the new English myth he wanted to create. He took the time to incorporate elements of that myth into the story as he developed LotR. He was sorta forced to include the whimsical elements including hobbits because that's what his publisher demanded. They never showed much interest in his more serious material. So essentially LotR itself is even in part developed as a children's work, that grew as he wrote it.
In any case I'd say that the LotR movies actually do a disservice to the books in part that they strip away many of the more whimsical elements from the novels themselves. Making the stories much darker tone than even the novels. Although, I've read some reviewers claim that the movies more serious tone actually improved the stories... Go figure. There is no accounting for taste...