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The Numenorean Kingdoms, part XI - bridge-film material?
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Feb 1 2009, 8:25am

Post #1 of 183 (6666 views)
The Numenorean Kingdoms, part XI - bridge-film material? Can't Post

Now let the fun begin! (Tom Bombadil, ‘The Old Forest’)
Not so long ago, when there was only one movie board, the concept of a bridge-film was taken for granted, and folk were discussing what exactly would it be based on. For instance, Ainurolorin said, in one of the earliest threads in which he promoted his idea for a plot: “Most fans who want to see a bridge film at all (not including those who just want a 6 hour Hobbit) fall into one of two camps. Camp A. wishes and desires to see Gandalf's deeds and the stratagems of The Council versus The Necromancer. Camp B wants an Aragorn love/action fest.
As I answered him there, I have absolutely no idea what most fans want to see; and I’m pretty sure my own preferences would not appeal to the marketing managers of New Line. However, let’s see what material we do have here, and whether it could make anything worth watching.
Ecthelion II, son of Turgon, was a man of wisdom... He encouraged all men of worth from near or far to enter his service, and to those who proved trustworthy he gave rank and reward.
1. Once again, I note the whole section until the end of part iv is in quotation marks. But just think of this opening scene! Can’t you see the sergeant-major passing up and down the line, and a clean-shaven Viggo with shining shoes easing his kitbag when he think’s nobody’s looking?

Anyway, let stop fooling around, and get down to business.
Much is said here of the mysterious Thorongil, of which no true name is given - although I think anyone who hasn’t started with the appendices, took about half a second to realise who he was! Tolkien seems indeed to take it for granted; when he mentions that later many believed Denethor saw through his disguise, he clearly assumes the reader has done so already.
Thorongil is mentioned for two things: his daring exploit against the Corsairs, inwhich he took a fleet to Umbar in a preventive measure, and for his counsles to trust Gandalf rather than Saruman. But after his (first) defeat of the Corsairs, he does not return to Minas Tirith, rather sending Ecthelion this message: “Other tasks now call me, lord, and much time and many perils must pass, ere I come again to Gondor, if that be my fate.
2. In the war against the Corsairs, Thorongil is said to have overthrown himself the Captain of the Havens. How many cases of duels between captains does Tolkien have? How many in LotR?
The ‘other tasks’ seem very interesting, as he last is seen facing the Mountains of Shadow. This brings to ming Aragorn’s words in ‘Strider’, about his knowledge of the Nazgul; I used to think he meant the hunt for Gollum, which in the Council of Elrond: “If one must... or tread the deadly flowers of Morgul Vale, then perils will he find”.
3. Was he going to spy on the Nazgul? Or was this his journey to the far country of Rhun?

Thorongil’s rival is Denethor, the heir to the black stone chair under the throne.
In my opinion (which I am sure few share), Denethor’s is the greatest drama of the years before the War of the Ring. Valiant, kingly, wise, far-sighted, learned in lore – he was placed second to this stranger in the hearts of men and esteem of his father. He becomes an autocrat, refusing counsel in case it might turn him to another’s tool (as he told Gandalf in ‘Minas Tirith’). He marries late, and greatly loves his wife; but she dies after less than a decade. Then he becomes even more grim and silent, and in his pride and strength of will – he dares to use the palantir, faring howeber even better than Saruman in using it – yet his despair increases, and he sees everything as a single combat between Sauron and himself. To which one should add the family drama between him and his sons.
The existing films make such a drama even more called for – since the Denethor John Noble portrayed was far away from such a person, yet gave glimmers of his former greatness (a greatness which was refered to in the commentaries), and it might also give a background to Aragorn’s reluctance to claim the throne.
Whatever. There isn’t a chance my preference will change the coming films. Let’s get back to our own business.
4. I quite dislike this part about Thorongil not trusting Saruman – why should he know better than Gandalf and Elrond?
5. Note that Denethor isn’t too trusting of Saruman either – he is merely stated to mistrust Gandalf, suspecting (truly) that Mithrandir planned to supplant him (note that bith ‘Gandalf’ and ‘Mithrandir’ are used in the same paragraph). What did Denethor think of Saruman?
6. Finduilas “withered in the guarded city, as a flower of the seaward vales set upon a barren rock”. Is the "barren rock" Minas Tirith, or a reference to Denethor himself?

And then we turn to the two sons of the Steward, in which I have a bone to pick with the author of this appendix (Tolkien himself discreetly hides behind quotation marks).
Boromir... beloved by his father, was like him in face and pride, but in little else. Rather he was a man after the sort of king Earnur of old (well, Elros, someone else also thought of the connection you’ve made Wink), taking no wife and delighting chiefly in arms...
Faramir... read the hearts of men as shrewdly as his father, but what he read moved him to pity rather than to scorn. He was gentle in bearing, and a lover of lore and of music, and therefore in those days his courage was judged less than his brother’s...
7. What was so wrong about Boromir not getting married until he was fourty-one? That was still five years younger than his father was!
8. Were do we see that Denethor’s reading other’s hearts moves him to scorn? Why make that assertion?
9. The part about Faramir’s love of music is interesting. Is Tolkien trying to make him elvish?
10. Ever since childhood, “Boromir was the helper and protector of Faramir”. Helper in what? Defender from whom?
11. It did not seem possible to Faramir that any one in Gondor could rival Boromir, Captain of the White Tower; and of like mind was Boromir. Yet it proved otherwise at the test”. Excuse me? What test are we talking about?
Well, every good thing must com to an end. Next, I’ll post a short summary (sadly, I had no time to prepare a proper one, like I did for ‘The Land of Shadow’) and thanking you profusely, take my leave.

"That is a chapter of ancient history which it might be good to recall; for there was sorrow then too, and gathering dark, but great valour, and great deeds that were not wholly vain."
Thus Gandalf. But Elrond was deflating:
"I have seen three ages in the West of the world, and many defeats, and many fruitless victories".

We've reached The Grey Havens last week, but the discussion still goes on!
Join us for appendix A, i-iv - the Numenorean kingdoms.

(This post was edited by sador on Feb 1 2009, 8:26am)


Feb 1 2009, 12:15pm

Post #2 of 183 (5874 views)
Would LotR be better without the appendices? [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien himself questioned the value of the appendices, with the exception of the story of Aragorn and Arwen. Most of Appendix A sets up Aragorn's story, giving us the long history of Numenor and Arnor and Gondor, and some background history for Aragorn himself. But LotR is not Aragorn's story, which is why this information did not make its way into the main text. And I've never been comfortable with the whole concept that Aragorn is better than everyone else because of his ancestry.

Plus, I think the appendices distract both fans and critics from the profound themes to be found in the story proper. Many fans, like Tolkien himself, don't want the fantasy to end, and delight in speculating as we have this week about the stories behind the fictional history found in the appendices. Many go to the extent of creating their own fan fiction set in that world. We may even get a "bridge movie" set in that world. The appendices encourage fans to treat LotR more like a game than a work of literature.

For the critics, it's even worse. How can they treat Tolkien seriously when he insists on following up his story with pseudo-historical appendices that for the most part have no literary value? Do we find such appendices in any great work of art?

As we discuss the many questions raised by the appendices, I find myself struggling to say anything profound. The fictional history inspires endless speculation, but what is the point? Does it shed light on the text? Does it say something important?

One could argue there's no harm in it, but I'm not even sure of that -- as I noted, Tolkien's focus on the long line of Numenorean kings strikes me as classist and perhaps racist. Tolkien does try to counter some of that with his account of the racial strife within Gondor, but then the northern line of kings is quite proud of its pure Numenorean blood. If the northern line marries outside of their kind -- which seems logical, considering their dwindling numbers -- Tolkien does not mention it. And the whole idea that Aragorn and Arwen reunite the two lines of the Half-elven seems elitist, borderline racist, and almost incestuous when Tolkien emphasizes Aragorn's pure blood, and when we consider that Aragorn was also Elrond's foster son.

The appendices do give the story a sense of depth, of history rather than fantasy. They also give Tolkien a place to put explanations which didn't fit in the text, and which otherwise he might have been tempted to put in the text. But so far, I still struggle to find something profound in the appendices, and I worry that, on balance, they diminish the story of LotR, which I do find to be profound.

(This post was edited by Curious on Feb 1 2009, 12:17pm)


Feb 1 2009, 2:59pm

Post #3 of 183 (5810 views)
A good argument [In reply to] Can't Post

You make a clear distinction between The Lord of the Rings as a work of literature with "profound themes", and as a mock-history (or mock historical novel, as you discussed recently with FarFromHome) set in a fully-imagined fantasy world. It seems to me that the book, in Tolkien's intention, is both. If (as you argue) that weakens the former aspect, then so be it, because that's what LotR is.

Your primary discomfort, besides the lack of apparent support the appendices give to the literary quality of the main work, seems to be the "classist" and "racist" nature of the Numenorean idea as expressed in the histories of Arnor and Gondor. Well, yeah. I know you've never been comfortable with Aragorn's superiority through ancestry, but isn't it clearly part of the basic idea of the book? Most of the perceptive criticism I've read about Aragorn and his arrogance/superiority - and all the many other manifestations of racial discrimination - is solidly based in the main text. It's debatable on several levels (this is a fantasy; in LotR class and race exist as positives; Tolkien is fooling himself if he thinks he can separate his art from his times; etc.) but I don't think the appendices are the guilty party here. They are more like accessories after the crime. These matters are as profoundly part of The Lord of the Rings as any other aspect we could name.

Moving past that to your main point, "Do we find such appendices in any great work of art?" I would say, "yes, we do: in this one."

David Bratman, a first rate Tolkien critic, has characterized LotR and by extension the entire legendarium as a Gesamtkunstwerk or "total Art work". It is a phrase coined (unfortunately for you) by Richard Wagner in reference to his operas. What Bratman means, racial overtones aside, is that the story or literary quality of LotR cannot be separated from the world of Middle-earth that it takes place within. Middle-earth is a massive work of Art - if I remember, Bratman maintains that it is in its scope, completeness, and influence, one of the greatest works of Art of the 20th century. Mind you, he is not saying that LotR is one of the greatest books of the 20th century, like Tom Shippey does. He is saying that the multiple stories across three Ages and the histories and the maps and the languages and the alphabets and the poetry and the legends and the family trees and the seemingly infinite cast of gods, spirits, animals, plants, mountains, and characters of multiple races - all more or less coherently sketched in or painted in full - is Tolkien's true artistic achievement. Against this, the question that the critics debate, and that you wield against the appendices today - is LotR a "work of literature", does it have "literary value"? - is almost beside the point.

Which I think is just as well. It seems to me that LotR does have many great literary qualities, but there is a jumble of childishness, stereotype, and cliche in there as well that does indeed keep it from being a purely literary work of the first rank. Nor do I think Tolkien had a problem with this assessment - he knew he was not a litterateur. The amazing thing about Tolkien was that he was most definitely an "Artist", a very unique one who created an entire genre in one lifetime's work.

Thus, I would reply to you that LotR would not be better without the appendices. Such a publication would encourage those who see only the writing, and the not the world, as the whole point of LotR to focus on the many flaws in the writing. Only when balanced against the rest of Tolkien's achievement in creating Middle-earth do those many flaws subside into their proper place as relatively unimportant to a full appreciation of this book.

squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary

N.E. Brigand

Feb 1 2009, 3:41pm

Post #4 of 183 (5772 views)
Aragorn is not a pure-blooded Númenórean. [In reply to] Can't Post

He descends from Aranarth, first chieftain of the northern Dúnedain, whose mother was Fíriel of Gondor. From that line he descends from Eldacar, twentieth king of Gondor, whose mother was Vidumavi, a princess of Rhovanion.

We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

Join us Jan. 26-Feb. 1 for Appendix A on Númenor, Arnor, and Gondor.

How to find old Reading Room discussions.


Feb 1 2009, 3:49pm

Post #5 of 183 (5779 views)
I agree [In reply to] Can't Post

Both with you, and with Bratman.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'


Feb 1 2009, 9:52pm

Post #6 of 183 (5788 views)
Sinister Nazi Tosh. Well two out of three ain't bad! [In reply to] Can't Post

I have been lurking around here for some time enjoying the discussions but I had to respond to this one.
It was Germaine Greer who I heard on the UK radio describing Tolkien's work with the first three words above.
It was of course on an "arts" programme discussing (and in her case disparaging) the films all those years ago. The remaining words were my immediate thought. I hope we all agree that "Tosh" is what LOTR isn't. So I must defend her position that it could be thought of as "sinister" and "nazi". Well without having consulted the dictionary I think I can say that "sinister" could mean something like "strange and different" which I think is a fair description of Tolkien from her point of view. It was, of course, this very strangeness and differentness that attracted me to the book that I found on my school library shelf at some now indeterminate time in the early 1960s.
What of "nazi"? Well here I am with Curious, I think, although he can clearly speak for himself. I too am "uncomfortable" with the notion of a "Master Race" of Numenorians who are entitled to rule by virtue of their ancenstry. I have tried to convince myself that, through Faramir who goes for the woman he loves despite her being "a wild shieldmaiden of the North", Tolkien is rejecting the notion that ancestry is all but Eowyn's grandmother was Numenorian. I wish I didn't know that.
Well I think I am with Curious on the "nazi" front but I do want to say, I think with you but correct me if I am wrong, that it doesn't matter. It is not our world that is being described. Tolkien liked to say that it was in the past. I prefer to think of it being in another (similar) place. In whichever case we are invited by the author to take what we wish as a "parable for our times" (which I cetainly do) but to enjoy the adventure story if we will.
All evidence from letters etc. indicates that Tolkien did not believe in a "Master Race" philosophy for the world in which he and Edith and his family lived.Yet he chose to include this theme in his writing. I think it is a difficult matter.
Sorry if this post is incoherent. I spent the afternoon in the pub!


Forum Admin / Moderator

Feb 1 2009, 11:35pm

Post #7 of 183 (5766 views)
I wouldn't call [In reply to] Can't Post

a hereditary monarchy a master race. Are the descendants of Jimmu (Japan's Chrysanthemum Throne) a master race? Or the Windsors for that matter?

Aragorn, Elrond or even Pippin tracing their lineage to significant forebears isn't much different from people today harking back to an ancestor on the Mayflower, the Tokomaru canoe or the Bounty. With Aragorn, his lineage gives him a right to rule over Gondor. It's a big step to say that a right to a throne is akin to being part of a master race.

The Numenoreans as a whole were certainly favoured by the Valar, but to the point of subjugating and wiping out other races? I don't see that in the story.

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded b*****d with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.

Ataahua's stories


Feb 2 2009, 2:05am

Post #8 of 183 (5779 views)
Since it's halftime [In reply to] Can't Post

I just thought I'd give one man's opinion in response, although I really don't wish to start a debate with someone like Curious, whose knowledge would squash me like a bug on the concrete.

That said, it has always irked me a little bit when Tolkien or anyone else who writes a fictional story is accused of racism. Perhaps Tolkien really does mean to degrade the other Men of Middle Earth by implying they are inferior, but after reading the Silmarillion, I've always took Tolkien's Numenor or Gondor-centric view towards the Men as a symbol of their accomplishments in the First Age compared to other Men. Just because it has in modern times become a negative, shameful thing in the eyes of some people to have been born into a family whose ancestors weren't persecuted or whose parents provided for them, doesn't mean every single story in the history of Mankind needs to be rewritten so all the characters have alcoholic fathers, dropped out of school, and rediscover Eru after their 5th arrest for selling drugs.

The ancestors of Gondor and Arnor were the only Men to have crossed the mountains and stood up to Morgoth. That is something to be proud of, not ashamed of. Aragorn is given pretty good treatment by Tolkien, but he earns it by his actions, not just his ancestry. Even events like the Kin-strife, where the Gondorians do appear petty and classist, are included as an example of their decline, as you point out. The same could be said of the Elves and the Kin-slaying, yet I rarely see people complain when the Noldor are portrayed as more powerful than other Elves of Middle Earth. Why is that? Is it because we don't have any Elves here, so no one really cares about whether or not the Sindar got short-changed? If so, that seems pretty hypocritical to me.

I also think people need to realize that the entire reason Tolkien wrote his stories about Middle Earth, and I know that you are aware of this Curious, was because he felt England lacked quality legends or folklores of its origins. I'm not British or European, nor do I have a degree in European history, but I'm pretty sure their are teensy traces of social classes and monarchies sprinkled here and there. It would be impossible for that not to show up in Tolkien's writings, even subconsciously.

Finally, Curious, don't think this is all directed at you. It is just a pet peeve of mine, so I'm ranting a little bit.

N.E. Brigand

Feb 2 2009, 4:20am

Post #9 of 183 (5793 views)
Would it irk you [In reply to] Can't Post

...if on the basis of his fiction an author were accused of tolerance?

We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

Join us Jan. 26-Feb. 1 for Appendix A on Númenor, Arnor, and Gondor.

How to find old Reading Room discussions.

The Shire

Feb 2 2009, 7:44am

Post #10 of 183 (5766 views)
Racist, not Radical [In reply to] Can't Post

There's been a whole lot said about race and lineage in Tolkien's writings, and I think we all agree on a few things:

1) To Tolkien, race matters. Aragorn starts off fundamentally more powerful/better because of his race. This is, in fact, the definition of racism.

2)This was perfectly acceptable and just a part of the worldview in Tolkien's lifetime. It's a part of our history, and Middle-Earth's history. Being able to recognize flaws in art doesn't make it less beautiful, and refusing to believe doesn't make something less true.

An interesting side note - Tolkien definitely associates race with power, and authority, and the right to rule. But, he does not strongly associate race with being good/evil. There are some obvious associations, but there are also obviously evil elves and Numenoreans, and orcs are developed enough to give a glimpse of sympathy for their plight. I think that both the people who deny the importance of blood in ME and the those who refuse to believe that Tolkien was a mild racist are missing part of the complexity and worth of LOTR.


Feb 2 2009, 7:57am

Post #11 of 183 (5765 views)
I guess it depends where... [In reply to] Can't Post

I expect "tolerant" wouldn't be such a grave accusation as "racist", but once an author denies all distinctions, he might be accused of being a "godless anarchist" or something of the sort. I expect Elros would be annoyed by that.

For myself, I'm not. I consider authors as a part of the spiritual and ciltural landscape of their time, and therefore such accusations could be leveled at them to heart's content. Tolkien himself considered LotR "a fundamentally Catholic book", and of course I take this to account when evaluating it!

Calling Tolkien a Nazi is of course ridiculous; but calling him a "racist" is not. One has to consider carefully what ones means in this word, and then see whether it applies to Tolkien.
As a matter of fact, I think the issue is ambiguous; as perhaps the most iconic moment is Faramir and Eowyn sitting on the verge of doom, with Faramir speaking of Numenor and the Fall of Man - with the woman of an "inferior" race he is about to intermarry with! This becomes even more iconic, once we remember this is the setting for the eucatastrophe of what you called "the singing Eagle".

But all this thread belongs by rights to the next thread, that of the Summary. Pesrhaps Curious didn't trust me to cover that as well. Crazy

"That is a chapter of ancient history which it might be good to recall; for there was sorrow then too, and gathering dark, but great valour, and great deeds that were not wholly vain."
Thus Gandalf. But Elrond was deflating:
"I have seen three ages in the West of the world, and many defeats, and many fruitless victories".

We've reached The Grey Havens last week, but the discussion still goes on!
Join us for appendix A, i-iv - the Numenorean kingdoms.


Feb 2 2009, 11:59am

Post #12 of 183 (5766 views)
And yet, I don't read the appendices [In reply to] Can't Post

Not agreeing with either side (if there are "sides"), but just pointing out that there are probably lots of repeat readers like me, who read the book over and over and just barely look at the appendices.

Rather the way I read the Bible, come to think of it: for every M-M-L-J chapter I've read, there are multiple others I've skimmed or read once. Yet dimly, as I read, I'm still aware there's a larger context to the parts I like!

Thus, I would reply to you that LotR would not be better without the appendices. Such a publication would encourage those who see only the writing, and the not the world, as the whole point of LotR to focus on the many flaws in the writing. Only when balanced against the rest of Tolkien's achievement in creating Middle-earth do those many flaws subside into their proper place as relatively unimportant to a full appreciation of this book.

So what is the value that repeat readers seem to find within the story itself, as a story or as literature? Am I on a third path, seeing LOTR as the best story ever written--without the appendices--but perhaps not the best-written story, containing the "many flaws" that can be found but which get subsumed in the storytelling?

Because I believe I would still re-read LOTR without any appendices, as I did the first many times I read it as a girl. They add nothing to my enjoyment of the story of LOTR--and LOTR is the only reason I read any Tolkien at all (I wouldn't bother, if there was just a Silmarillion or a Children of Hurin, or even just a Hobbit).

Maybe I'm on Curious' path after all...

Goes back to reconsider.


"an seileachan"

Some say once you're gone, you're gone forever, and some say you're gonna come back.
Some say you'll rest in the arms of the Savior, if sinful ways you lack.
Some say that they're coming back in a garden: bunch of carrots and little sweet peas.
I think I'll just let the mystery be.

Iris DeMent

Call Her Emily


Feb 2 2009, 1:45pm

Post #13 of 183 (5739 views)
Isn't that a backhanded compliment? [In reply to] Can't Post

Because "there is a jumble of childishness, stereotype, and cliche in there as well that does indeed keep it from being a purely literary work of the first rank" we shouldn't be concerned about whether the appendices weaken LotR as a work of literature. It wasn't that great to begin with, so let's celibrate what is great -- Tolkien's Secondary World.

I disagree. In my ranking of literature, LotR is right up there at the top, and I've read many of the books that the literati consider to be great. Tolkien's Secondary World, on the other hand, for me can be an awful bore. I work through what I can purely to see if it sheds light on LotR. If there were no LotR, I would never read The Silmarillion, let alone Morgoth's Ring, and I certainly wouldn't read the Appendices.

We've discussed the issue of childishness before. I think the hobbits are childlike, not childish. As for stereotype and cliche, I think Tolkien works with traditional elements of romance and fairy-stories, but his hands they are anything but stereotypes or cliches. Tolkien's archaic dialogue is a good example. Some critics, without much analysis, immediately dismiss it as tushery, without realizing that Tolkien was uniquely qualified to create archaic dialogue that was not tushery.

As for my concerns that the appendices reinforce LotR's classist and racist elements, your response is, well, yeah, that's part of the book. But it is not the primary emphasis of the book, because the story, unlike Appendix A, is not about Aragorn, it's about the hobbits. Yes, those elements are still there, but Appendix A underlines and highlights them, and I don't see how that helps the book.

(This post was edited by Curious on Feb 2 2009, 1:54pm)


Feb 2 2009, 2:00pm

Post #14 of 183 (5719 views)
I wouldn't go so far [In reply to] Can't Post

as to call LotR a Nazi book. Not everything tinged with racism is Nazism, and many great works of literature from Tolkien's time and before are tinged with racism, which at the time was considered a scientific theory.

(This post was edited by Curious on Feb 2 2009, 2:02pm)


Feb 2 2009, 2:05pm

Post #15 of 183 (5709 views)
But race and lineage were less important [In reply to] Can't Post

for the hobbits than for Aragorn. It's still there if you look hard enough, but even among the hobbits Frodo and Sam are not of the very best bloodlines. So in the story proper, which is hobbitcentric, race and lineage takes a back seat. In Appendix A, which is Aragorn's story, it is front and center.


Feb 2 2009, 2:12pm

Post #16 of 183 (5765 views)
No offense taken. Except that you apparently don't like [In reply to] Can't Post

Bruce Springsteen or the Super Bowl commercials!

As you will see in my response to squire, I consider LotR a great work of literature -- in the very top rank -- and I also believe it has racist and classist elements. And sexist elements too, while we are at it. And also lots of smoking and drinking. Tolkien was a man of his times. I don't believe in disposing of all literature written before today's sensibilities were formed. But I don't see any point in denying the elements that make me uncomfortable.

(This post was edited by Curious on Feb 2 2009, 2:13pm)


Feb 2 2009, 2:28pm

Post #17 of 183 (5716 views)
Sorry for jumping the gun. Your [In reply to] Can't Post

mention of bridge-movie material set me off. And some discussion leaders don't ask questions or call for comments in the summary, so I thought this might be my last chance.


Feb 2 2009, 2:40pm

Post #18 of 183 (5682 views)
That's ok, of course [In reply to] Can't Post

I usually do; but of course, I can't expect you to remember each leader's style!

But I still think the Faramir-Eowyn moment is one of the most meaningful in LotR (with only the cock crowing as Gandalf confronts the Witch-king on par; Aragorn speaking with the Uruk-hai is similar, but we know as well as he does, that Theoden is about to ride forth).
And having Faramir speak of Numenor with Eowyn at such a moment, casts a different light on the race issue.

"We are not bound forever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory" - Aragorn


Feb 2 2009, 3:00pm

Post #19 of 183 (5676 views)
Which is another reason [In reply to] Can't Post

Appendix A detracts from the main text, which emphasizes Faramir's romance over Aragorn's. I think Tolkien's racial theories are more pronounced in the appendices than in the main text, where the characters tend to be real people instead of racial abstracts, and if anything often defy their racial stereotypes.

The Shire

Feb 2 2009, 3:02pm

Post #20 of 183 (5738 views)
Not necesarily. Hobbit culture = quiet context culture, which is unique in LOTR [In reply to] Can't Post

Race and lineage seem less important to the hobbits - until you realize that Shire culture is all about already knowing what's going on, and relating stuff back to it. The Shire is context-central, as opposed to the Elvish culture which doesn't really seem to use literary devices beyond metaphors and some occasional acknowledgement of proto-irony.

When the hobbits speak - and when Tolkien speaks about them - there is all kinds of stuff going on in the background that just doesn't get put up front and center like the Men's stories are. Physically and mentally, Hobbits are about camouflage, safety and not making waves. This can be seen in the Hobbit. I mean, someone you haven't seen in a long time randomly shows up, damages your door, and orders you to travel through untold dangers because he said so. Bilbo's reaction? "Sure!" with some irritation. Said person than abandons you right at the start of the most dangerous part of the journey, and tell you you're the leader. Bilbo's reaction? "Rats." I imagine any of us would have some stronger words to say.

There are more examples in LOTR. Even when Frodo has been practically spitted by a boar spear and should be dead, he basically says "I'm fine! Don't make a fuss." The strong emphasis on normalcy and groupthink is another part of it. It's probably a survival strategy - when everyone else is bigger, you'd better be able to cooperate - but it means that we see .001% of what's actually going on with hobbits, as opposed to 50% of what's going on with the men. Hobbits also have a clan-based sense of community instead of the human family-unit/bloodlines, so that's a big difference. Pippin is always a Took, and Merry makes a point about being a Brandybuck, and that's the important part of their identity instead of being the son of Paladin Took or X Brandybuck.

Also, hobbits are all about geneaology. They really, really are and this is mentioned several times in Tolkien's published works. However, they don't make a big deal about it in front of others because part of hobbit culture is not making a visible issue out of anything, especially in front of Big Folk. Also, they might just assume everyone else already knows. There's a very interesting fic that looks at this in terms of Hobbit and Big Folk aiming abilities, but I can't find it right now.


Feb 2 2009, 3:48pm

Post #21 of 183 (5716 views)
I did say [In reply to] Can't Post

the hobbits' race and lineage is still there if you look hard enough -- but not so much in the text, and more so in the Prologue and Appendices. But even when we look hard, we find that Merry and Pippin are the hobbits with the best bloodlines, yet they take a back seat to Frodo and Sam.

As for the hobbits' unassuming nature, I think that reflects the difference between a modern-day English villager and the hero of an ancient romance. And it is the inclusion of those unassuming hobbits based on modern-day Englishmen which, in my opinion, turned LotR into a masterpiece.

Beren IV

Feb 2 2009, 4:23pm

Post #22 of 183 (5712 views)
This is fantasy, folks. [In reply to] Can't Post

Given his time and upbringing, it would be somewhat remarkable if Tolkien were not a "mild racist" as you put it - the idea that people of different ethnic groups are genuinely equal is actually a pretty new idea, at least as far as the general populace are concerned.

However, none of Tolkien's superior or inferior races in his world are real. Elves and Orcs are not Humans, and Númenóreans are sufficiently different from real Humans that they're not real either. You can't call Tolkien a racist for having real racial distinctions between races that are fictional. Now do these races represent real ethnic groups? Given what he wrote about people in his later years, I would say that the answer is 'no' - we all have some Elvish blood in our veins, and some Orc blood as well.

The paleobotanist is back!


Feb 2 2009, 4:48pm

Post #23 of 183 (5732 views)
Why not? [In reply to] Can't Post

You can't call Tolkien a racist for having real racial distinctions between races that are fictional.

I agree that the fictional nature of Tolkien's races makes them far less offensive than if the story were set in the Primary World, but I still find a fantasy founded on racial distinctions disturbing and, at the very lease, tinged with racism (or mildly racist, if you prefer). But don't ignore the classism, something that may seem less offensive to contemporary readers but might have seemed more offensive to Tolkien's contemporaries. Nevertheless, I don't think either of those charges, or the charge that LotR is sexist and promotes tobacco, mean that it isn't great literature.


Feb 2 2009, 5:20pm

Post #24 of 183 (5697 views)
Isn't it bizarre that Aragorn's mixed blood [In reply to] Can't Post

comes from Gondor by way of the tribes near Mirkwood, rather than from the non-Numenorean women of the North Kingdom? I find it particularly strange considering the dwindling numbers of Aragorn's clan. Were they all marrying their cousins, in an attempt to keep the bloodlines pure? Tolkien recognizes the folly of that in Gondor -- why doesn't he mention that the North Kingdom kings and chieftans long ago started marrying women from outside the family? That would have softened the racist and classist overtones of Appendix A. Instead we have Aragorn strengthening the bloodlines by marrying his first cousin 60 or so times removed, and only one recorded marriage between a king or chieftan of the North or South Kingdom and a so-called "lesser" woman.

White Gull

Feb 2 2009, 5:32pm

Post #25 of 183 (5728 views)
Not for me. [In reply to] Can't Post

To consider LOTR without the appendices leaves me feeling rather empty. I would extremely miss Sam's 13 children, Merry & Pippin's end in Gondor, tale of Aragorn & Arwen (though you did except that), Sam's (reported) following of Frodo, Glorfindel's prophecy, and much, much else. Maybe not profound reasons, but meaningful to me.

I, an average reader, am glad the appendices are there!


Poetry has been to me an exceeding great reward; it has soothed my affliction; it has multiplied and refined my enjoyments; it has endeared my solitude; it has given me the habit of wishing to discover the Good and Beautiful in all that meets and surrounds me.
-Samuel Taylor Coleridge

White Gull's Fanfic

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