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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
**An Unexpected Party** - 10. A few thematic questions…simple stuff... the Narrator, Social Class, Anachronism, Fairy Tales...
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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 3:37pm

Post #26 of 91 (245 views)
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Is there really "nothing happy" about LOTR? // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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We're discussing The Hobbit in the Reading Room, Mar. 23 - Aug. 9. Everyone is welcome!

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Curious
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 4:36pm

Post #27 of 91 (257 views)
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Welcome to the discussion! [In reply to] Can't Post

Good point about the distinctions between the sexes back then, indicating the narrator is likely male. And of course there isn't even one female character in The Hobbit, unless you count the spiders, who are not, as I recall, identified as female -- and aren't very complimentary representatives of females at all.

What exactly do you mean by "The 1960 Hobbit"? I don't see reference to it in The Annotated Hobbit. Have you read it somewhere? I'm assuming it is different from The Quest of Erebor.

The first chapter is the most lighthearted, but I think the charm is still there until approximately the time that the dragon dies, and matters get all serious and political. Of course, perhaps I do not understand what you mean by "charm."

I also think you may overstate the case when you say that LotR "has nothing happy about it." Despite a strong undertone of melancholy, I think there is much happiness to be found in LotR.

What I wonder is if The Hobbit would have been better if the end of the book had been more consistent with the first three-quarters. As I understand it, Tolkien tacked on the last few chapters for publication, and they were different in tone from what he had originally written for his children. Can anyone confirm that?

The Annotated Hobbit notes that the Tolkien children especially loved Chapter 2, Roast Mutton, and were a little sorry that the trolls had to turn to stone.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 4:40pm

Post #28 of 91 (256 views)
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Where and when does "The Hobbit" take place? [In reply to] Can't Post

Does it take place in the same world as The Lord of the Rings? That book describes itself as being set in the northwest of Eurasia in the distant past. In such a a time --so the objections raised to both The Hobbit and LOTR run-- trains, clocks, and a postal service would be out of place, as would tobacco, which was only imported from the Americas in the 16th Century.


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Is a "red herring" some kind of RR slang or is it just the fish?


The expression red herring is defined as "something that draws attention away from the central issue".


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When I clean the house, do I have to feel lower class than my husband?


Of course not! No more than you feel superior to him when he cleans the house.


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Sam was a gardener. I also had a gardener. He was much better than me in tending the flowers. There is a person for each job.


What if Sam decided that the job for him was the squire's lifestyle of Mr. Bilbo and Mr. Frodo -- how would he go about achieving that position? Sure, he got there through Frodo's generosity following the extraordinary circumstances of LOTR, but then, what did Frodo or Bilbo do to deserve a life of luxury?


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But Tolkien argued that the classic fairy tale was always about a mortal who journeyed to Faerie...
Tolkien was right, and it was not his own conclusion but part of thousands of pages of work on fairy tales history -- fairy tales are about mortals journeying to Faerie.


Well, scholars of fairy-tales before Tolkien apparently didn't agree, given that he spends the first part of "On Fairy-stories" arguing that most of what appears in fairy-tale collections aren't aren't fairy-tales at all.

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We're discussing The Hobbit in the Reading Room, Mar. 23 - Aug. 9. Everyone is welcome!

Join us Mar. 30-Apr. 5 for "Roast Mutton".
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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 4:50pm

Post #29 of 91 (248 views)
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The "1960 Hobbit" was published in "The History of 'The Hobbit'". [In reply to] Can't Post

In 1960, Tolkien began a revision of The Hobbit to more closely match the tone of LOTR, but abandoned it after reaching only the beginning of "A Short Rest" when a friend told him it had lost what made The Hobbit special. These unfinished chapters were finally published in 2007 in the second volume of John Rateliff's The History of 'The Hobbit' (which I have only read in patches, so I can't answer your question about which material Tolkien added only after learning The Hobbit would be published).

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We're discussing The Hobbit in the Reading Room, Mar. 23 - Aug. 9. Everyone is welcome!

Join us Mar. 30-Apr. 5 for "Roast Mutton".
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Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Mar 31 2009, 4:59pm

Post #30 of 91 (247 views)
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I should be grading algebra papers [In reply to] Can't Post

but these interesting questions keep coming.

A. Is the narrator male or female?

I've always assumed the narrator was male, and was Tolkien himself. I guess as a kid that was probably my default assumption, unless I knew the author was female (as in The Secret Garden or Little Women, which also have something of a narrator's voice.)


B. If the narrator’s personalized comments were eliminated from The Hobbit, would it be a better book?

Better for whom? It would be a different book, and I wouldn't like it as much.


C. Why do apparent anachronisms in The Hobbit like coffee, the morning post, the mantle clock, and tobacco arouse so many objections from readers? What are they anachronistic in reference to?

Good question. If we try to take seriously the conceit that the world of Middle Earth is our world in a long-ago time, we run into all kinds of problems. And certainly those details don't fit very well with The Sil. But in terms of The Hobbit as a self-contained work, I don't see any problems with them. If Dale has a toy market, the dwarves could just as easily have mandle clocks and a morning post.

D. Isn’t there a tremendous amount of fantasy literature, both before and after The Hobbit, in which modernity encounters antiquity for both comic and dramatic effect?

That's got me to thinking more than I have time to. Terry Prachett uses that to comic effect sometimes, though he tries to make the technology fit his fanasty world (as in the camera that works by means of a demon inside.) The Oz books have literature's first mention of a robot (Tic Toc) alongside a rather medieval society.

G. Did Tolkien employ household servants? Do you? Is the example of Sam enough to raise the question here, or should we not think about this level of reality in a fantasy story unless the author asks us to?

I don't know about Tolkien. We certainly don't in my immediate family, though after my mom became disabled, my parents hired a housecleaner to come in once a week, and as my dad got older they hired someone to cut the grass. I can easily see Bilbo hiring weekly help of that sort.

H. Is The Hobbit a fairy tale?


Sure. If there are rumors going around that Bilbo might have some fairy blood, presumably there are fairies in the vicinity. As for definitions of what a fairy story is, I read and re-read On Fairy Stories many times as a teen, and I'm still not sure I know what Tolkien's definition was. I always thought it was sort of the definition of pornography: you know it when you see it.

I. How would you describe it in a few short words to a friend who is interested in reading it? Would his or her having read The Lord of the Rings first make a difference in your description? Would knowing your friend wants to get it for his or her children make a difference?


I've never seen a better description than "Beowulf meets Winnie the Pooh." Sorry I don't have the source. I might also mention some of the similarities to the Oz books, if the person was familiar with those. If the person was interested in getting it for their kids, I'd mention that i read it to my son when he was five, and he sat entranced, even though there were no pictures.

This has been a great week, squire. Thanks!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Curious
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 5:00pm

Post #31 of 91 (238 views)
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I suspected as much. Thanks.// [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Compa_Mighty
Tol Eressea


Mar 31 2009, 5:33pm

Post #32 of 91 (240 views)
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Thank you! [In reply to] Can't Post

I think Brigand answered your question perfectly, and I too have read it only in patches, so I wouldn't be able to answer your questions about the last chapters.

Answering Brigand and yourself about "nothing happy" in LotR, perhaps it really is an overstatement, but I did find it a VERY gloomy book, there is little to be happy about. Even in the end, there is redemption, salvation, coming of age... but it is still filled with melancholy and nostalgia. You don't cheer when the Ring is destroyed, your relieved. You aren't joyful when Saruman gets killed, you simply get a sense of justice made. Then again, that might just be my perception.

About charm... the idyllic setting disappears really early, the jokes and sheer joy that can be read in the narrator's voice fade away quickly. I believe by charm I meant this child-like quality to Chapter 1 that only chapter 1 has, which keeps children interesting and adults smiling to themselves. Then, it becomes and engaging story, but perhaps not charming anymore. Have you read Peter Pan? That's a charming book throughout, but not necessarily engaging.

Hope that was clearer!

Aunt Dora: I loved Beowulf meets Winnie the Pooh... clever. Smile

Here's to Del Toro becoming the Irvin Kershner of Middle Earth!

Essay winner of the Show us your Hobbit Pride Giveway!


sador
Half-elven

Mar 31 2009, 6:43pm

Post #33 of 91 (244 views)
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What about 'The Field of Cormallen' and 'The Steward and the King'? [In reply to] Can't Post

It's true that the joy of these chapters is overshadowed by the melancholy of the last four chapters, but these moments are all the more precious. Don't let the gloomy surrounding destroy your joy! (a sound advice to real life, too)

And welcome to the Reading Room! I hope we'll enjoy your thoughts as much as the frequenters of the other forums did!

"There's more to come yet, or I'm mighty mistook" - Tom


simplyaven
Grey Havens


Mar 31 2009, 7:43pm

Post #34 of 91 (246 views)
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Sam starting a new business? [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Does it take place in the same world as The Lord of the Rings? That book describes itself as being set in the northwest of Eurasia in the distant past. In such a a time --so the objections raised to both The Hobbit and LOTR run-- trains, clocks, and a postal service would be out of place, as would tobacco, which was only imported from the Americas in the 16th Century.



Yes, I believe it takes place in the same world as LOTR, also called Middle Earth. Cool Where does the book describes itself as set in northwest of Eurasia? I've read such comments here but I've never read anything by Tolkien. I'm sorry if I misse his comments on that, I haven't read his letters for example. Distant past for me is one thing. Distant past for you, or for Tolkien may be different things. As I said, tobacco was known very very long ago although in Americas. Still, it was known. Paper is so ancient that it looks Ok to me to accept the thought of the mail delivered. By the way, there was postal service even in old times although "letters" looked like rolls or were simply a small piece of paper scratched with runes. Trains and clocks are part of the world the author created to suit this particular character and as I said before, I accept the author's vision because it suits my idea of the place and the character too.

Thank you for the clarification of the "red herring" expression! Smile


Quote

What if Sam decided that the job for him was the squire's lifestyle of Mr. Bilbo and Mr. Frodo -- how would he go about achieving that position?



How about becoming a gardener of few more people, then founding the first in the Shire (and maybe in Middle Earth) nursery, cultivate an amazing rose bush and name it after the King of Gondor? It would sell well. Then the flower shop would be open, etc. I believe there is always a way. No one has ever said it would be easy but it is not impossible.


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Sure, he got there through Frodo's generosity following the extraordinary circumstances of LOTR, but then, what did Frodo or Bilbo do to deserve a life of luxury?



Why do they have to do something? Why wealth should be deserved? What does "deserved" mean in this case? I feel very uncomfortable with all these requirements towards wealthy people. Is it because not all of us are wealthy? Are we envious? It is my belief that if we used the same energy towards becoming wealthy ourselves, the world would be inhabited by far more millionaires. Besides, I don't see Bilbo as some kind of really rich hobbit. He has clothes, furniture, nice hole and food and drink - it's much closer to the middle, isn't it? As about Frodo, he inherited what his adopted father Bilbo left him and was probably rewarded by the Kings he knew with some jewellery or gold... I find it very appropriate. And to support what sador has written below, part of the defects in modern society is everybody discussing and looking into other people's plates.


Quote

Well, scholars of fairy-tales before Tolkien apparently didn't agree, given that he spends the first part of "On Fairy-stories" arguing that most of what appears in fairy-tale collections aren't aren't fairy-tales at all.



I'm not sure when "On fairy Stories" was published but structuralism in tales theory happened about the same time when The Hobbit was published and of course raised quite a storm among scholars just like every innovative approach. However, the arguments were more about the dissection of a tale and the method that should be used than about the components. And I didn't say all scholars agreed. Fairy tales are about mortals journeying to Faerie according to thousands of pages I have personally studied written by probably 5-6 scholars in the beginning to middle of the 20th century. As far as I know there are not better theories today. Those I have read during tha pest 20 years are extremely weak cmpared to what has already been written. I will go back now to the discussion here and try to find what has been written in "On Fairy Stories" about fairy tales, I haven't read this essay.

Culinary journey through Middle Earth continues! Join us on the Main board!

I believe


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 8:35pm

Post #35 of 91 (237 views)
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It's in the Prologue to LotR. [In reply to] Can't Post


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Those days, the Third Age of Middle-earth, are now long past, and the shape of all lands has been changed; but the regions in which Hobbits then lived were doubtless the same as those in which they still linger: the North-West of the Old World, east of the Sea.


However, I prefer to think that The Hobbit, at least, and really LotR as well, are set in Fairie, i.e., once upon a time, i.e., in Tolkien's Secondary World. Therefore I agree that "Trains and clocks are part of the world the author created to suit this particular character ..."

Farmer Maggot is an example of social mobility modeled on 19th century rural England. He probably rents his land from the Brandybucks on a long-term lease, but has done so well for himself that he acts a bit like a squire himself, and associates with the landowning class as an equal, or at least a near equal. He might even sublease his land.

But Lotho is an example of someone who disrupts the social structure by using commerce with Saruman to accumulate wealth and grab land all over the Shire, becoming, apparently, a greater land owner than the Tooks and Brandybucks, let alone the Sackvilles or Bracegirdles, who apparently were not quite of the same class as the Baggins. I'm afraid Tolkien had a poor opinion of such enterprise.

A land grant from the King, on the other hand, such as that given to the Fairbairns, is a whole other matter. The way to rise in station is not through commerce, but through winning the favor of the King. Of course, it helps if magic gives you fair skin and blonde hair. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

What's really missing from the Shire is the laboring class, who should outnumber the landowners and leaseholders, and make their lifestyle possible. Even Sam doesn't really represent that class, since gardening is not usually a profitmaking enterprise. Who gathers tobacco from those southern plantations? And wheat? Who shears the sheep and spins the wool? They didn't have combines, or steam looms. Who repairs the road?

Maybe in Fairie such labor isn't necessary. Certainly we don't see the elves doing it. According to Tolkien's wonderful account of 1420 in the Shire, the only labor was an upper-middle-class kind of labor -- mowing the grass.

The wealth of the Tooks and Brandybucks is deserved. They explored and founded these communities, and they continue to stand ready to protect them in time of need. Bilbo's wealth before his travels with the dwarves is more questionable -- it seems likely that the Baggins earned their wealth in a more commercial and less adventurous manner than the Tooks, and Bilbo wasn't exactly living up to his Took heritage. With great wealth comes great responsibility.

Tolkien's essay "On Fairy-stories" was not a scholarly work, as he admitted. He did not study fairy-stories professionally, but as a fan -- although he did have more than a passing acquaintance with ancient tales. He was reacting to the collection of fairy-stories in Andrew Lang's wildly popular series, and noting that many of the stories collected therein were not about Fairie at all. He also was criticizing an O.E.D. definition, as I recall, which implied that fairy-stories are about fairies, instead of about mortals in Fairie.

I hope you do read "On Fairy-stories," and also our discussion of that essay. I would be very interested in the reaction of someone who has actually studied fairy-stories as a scholar.


Darkstone
Immortal


Mar 31 2009, 8:52pm

Post #36 of 91 (236 views)
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"...a Warwickshire village of about the period of the Diamond Jubilee..." [In reply to] Can't Post

[The Shire] is in fact more or less a Warwickshire village of about the period of the Diamond Jubilee…
-Letter #178

But, of course, if we drop the 'fiction' of long ago, 'The Shire' is based on rural England and not any other country in the world...
-Letter #190

There is no special reference to England in the 'Shire' – except of course that as an Englishman brought up in an 'almost rural' village of Warwickshire on the edge of the prosperous bourgeoisie of Birmingham (about the time of the Diamond Jubilee!) I take my models like anyone else -- from such 'life' as I know.
-Letter 181

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 8:52pm

Post #37 of 91 (226 views)
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In addition to what Curious notes [In reply to] Can't Post

...there is this quote from Appendix D:

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The Calendar in the Shire differed in several features from ours. The year no doubt was of the same length, for long ago as those times are now reckoned in years and lives of men, they were not very remote according to the memory of the Earth.



So if a reader's premise is that The Hobbit takes place in the same world as The Lord of the Rings, then The Hobbit would seem to be set in ancient Europe. In a late interview, Tolkien was more circumspect, identifying the world of Middle-earth as our world in a "different stage of imagination" (paraphrasing from memory). However, remember that the name "Middle-earth" does not appear in The Hobbit.


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Besides, I don't see Bilbo as some kind of really rich hobbit. He has clothes, furniture, nice hole and food and drink -- it's much closer to the middle, isn't it?


I think most people in the middle-class, as that term is generally used, work for a living. Bilbo apparently doesn't. (Perhaps, as Curious suggests, he is therefore not living up to his responsibilities.) Also, Tolkien says the Bagginses were "rich".


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Fairy tales are about mortals journeying to Faerie according to thousands of pages I have personally studied written by probably 5-6 scholars in the beginning to middle of the 20th century. As far as I know there are not better theories today.


Thanks for that. And I second Curious' wish for further comments from you on Tolkien's "On Fairy-stories" essay. Also, if you have the chance, could you provide the names of those scholars, or some of them? Also, perhaps you can answer a question that came up in our discussion last fall: have Tolkien's ideas about fairy-tales, which he first promulgated in the lecture version of that essay in 1939, have been taken up at all by specialists in the field?

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We're discussing The Hobbit in the Reading Room, Mar. 23 - Aug. 9. Everyone is welcome!

Join us Mar. 30-Apr. 5 for "Roast Mutton".
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Darkstone
Immortal


Mar 31 2009, 8:55pm

Post #38 of 91 (226 views)
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Europe. [In reply to] Can't Post

The action of the story takes place in the North-west of 'Middle-earth', equivalent in latitude to the coastlands of Europe and the north shores of the Mediterranean. ... If Hobbiton and Rivendell are taken (as intended) to be at about the latitude of Oxford, then Minas Tirith, 600 miles south, is at about the latitude of Florence. The Mouths of Anduin and the ancient city of Pelargir are at about the latitude of ancient Troy.
-Letter #294

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 9:05pm

Post #39 of 91 (229 views)
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What is this "Shire" you mention? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm having trouble finding it in The Hobbit. Wink

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We're discussing The Hobbit in the Reading Room, Mar. 23 - Aug. 9. Everyone is welcome!

Join us Mar. 30-Apr. 5 for "Roast Mutton".
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Darkstone
Immortal


Mar 31 2009, 9:15pm

Post #40 of 91 (238 views)
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Where is Byzantium? [In reply to] Can't Post

Istanbul Was Constantinople
Now It's Istanbul, Not Constantinople
Been A Long Time Gone, Oh Constantinople
Now It's Turkish Delight On A Moonlit Night

Every Gal In Constantinople
Lives In Istanbul, Not Constantinople
So If You Have A Date In Constantinople
She'll Be Waiting In Istanbul

Even Old New York Was Once New Amsterdam
Why They Changed It. I Can't Say
People Just Liked It Better That Way

So Take Me Back To Constantinople
No You Can't Go Back to Constantinople
Been A Long Time Gone In Constantinople
Why Did Constantinople Get The Works
That's Nobody's Business But The Turks
-Jimmy Kennedy

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



Dreamdeer
Valinor


Mar 31 2009, 9:42pm

Post #41 of 91 (239 views)
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A few explanations. [In reply to] Can't Post

Anachronism: That which does not fit its time. For instance, in showing Gondor and Rohan as early medieval in their technology, showing hobbits as having clocks seems anachronistic. In showing the rest of Middle Earth as belonging to a time before the discovery of the Americas, showing crops such as tobacco and potatoes, which originated in the Americas, seems odd. It's sort of like picturing Alexander the Great wearing sunglasses. (Of course, being the incorrigible rationalizer that I am, I just tell myself that these things are surviving fragments of the old Numenorean Empire.)

Red Herring: The accounts of this term's origin differs. In the version I heard, old ship captains used to keep sailors going by playing off a superstition, that the siting of a red herring meant that they were about to come across a huge school of fish soon, so the captain would secretly dye a pickled herring red, slip it into the net and pretend to draw it up. This would excite the sailors and distract them from any serious issues going on at the time.

The other version is that it's a kind of herring that hunters used to drag to train puppies on how to hunt by smell. The pungent odor of the fish would distract them from chasing anything else, and taught them to focus.

So to say that something is a red herring means that it is a deliberate distraction, an effort to mislead someone's attention. In literature, one "throws out a red herring", for instance, to mislead the reader into thinking that the story will go one way, only to have it go another. A red herring in discussion means to introduce a controversial idea that actually does not have much to do with the topic being discussed, diverting attention away from something else, such as the person's ignorance of a key issue.

Classism: This is often misunderstood. It does not mean awareness of class. Class differences do exist, in that different classes really are different subcultures. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging such differences as preferences for different hairstyles, for instance, or different tastes in food or music.

It only becomes classism when discrimination enters the picture, clinging to the notion that some people are born superior to others without having to do anything to prove it, and treating the rest with contempt. For instance, it used to be the custom in some of the most prestigious colleges in England to give people of noble birth a degree whether they passed their tests or not, just because of their birth. The lower in status a person was, the harder they would have to work to prove that they deserved the degee--if indeed they would be allowed to enter the college at all. We have a similar problem in the United States, where the children of alumni get preference in admittance to colleges, thereby making it easier for entrenched power to stay in power, and harder for the rest of us to break in.

There are people who would rather die than talk to me socially, because I am very low on the class scale. Obviously, we have no such snobs here in TORn, I'm happy to say!

Frodo was not a classist. He realized the high character of his gardener, became his friend, and eventually made him his heir. Sam's father, on the other hand, was a classist, getting upset at Sam for learning to read, and calling him insulting names to try and keep him from getting beyond his "place".

The alternative to classism is not envy--indeed, in a classist society, envy has no cure, because nobody has any chance to better their lot! In an egalitarian society everyone ought to have an equal opportunity to succeed or fail, which means taking responsibility for one's life instead of settling into one's "station" and accepting whatever one gets handed, be it a shovel or a crown. Where there is no discrimination, there are no excuses. We're not there yet, but we're getting there.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!

(This post was edited by Dreamdeer on Mar 31 2009, 9:43pm)


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 10:13pm

Post #42 of 91 (219 views)
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The Gaffer may have been an enabler, [In reply to] Can't Post

rather than a classist, strictly speaking, since he was not in the class that held the power. Tolkien may have been similar to the Gaffer in that respect, ironically. Tolkien seems exasperated with the Gaffer's biases, but was perhaps blind to his own. Most of us are blind to our own biases, of course.

Although I agree that Tolkien did not portray Frodo as a classist, that doesn't mean Tolkien himself was free of classist tendencies. The problem is not Frodo, it's Sam. I sometimes find Sam's dog-like loyalty disturbing, and it strikes me as the sort of illusion a master would enjoy holding about a faithful servant. The servant might encourage the illusion for his or her own reasons, mostly monetary, but might not share the illusion at all. The faithful butler Jeeves is similar, also the butler in the Arthur movies. Indeed this notion of the faithful servant, who is all too happy to serve, is quite common in English literature -- and I have a feeling that it is quite unrealistic.

The report we got this week about the Tolkien's live-in help from Iceland also illustrates this notion. According to the report, the girl was supposed to consider herself a part of the family, and not a servant like the charwoman. Yet in fact the girl had no power, did not get any days off, and seemed quite frustrated with Edith Tolkien. It was, apparently, the Tolkien's illusion that they were treating her like a part of the family, and I wonder if they were surprised that she decided to move back to Iceland.


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Mar 31 2009, 10:17pm

Post #43 of 91 (218 views)
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Earning [In reply to] Can't Post

Earning is kind of complicated. Hey, I wouldn't mind winning the lottery and becoming effortlessly rich! But then I'd have to spend my money wisely to help out as many other people as I could, because all of that money would saddle me with responsibility--one should use whatever one has in service, after all, be it a handy way with words, or strength, or money.

What really needs earned is respect. If a rich person is simply lucky, well then, good for him! I cheer luck whenever I see it. But if that person then puts on airs and acts as though his good luck makes him better than me, or even treats me cruelly out of a belief that I was born without rights--and then expects me to respect him for it--then that's a problem.

I am more than happy to admire people who do more good than I do, or achieve greater things. And I will happily accept as a peer anyone who matches me in anything. And those who have not yet achieved things that I have achieved I will still treat with respect on spec, in the hope that if they live long enough, they could very well surpass me. But I will not respect cruel people, no matter what their bloodline or how rich they are.

Does that make sense?

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 10:28pm

Post #44 of 91 (207 views)
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Past, or passing, or to come. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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Dreamdeer
Valinor


Mar 31 2009, 10:31pm

Post #45 of 91 (214 views)
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On spec [In reply to] Can't Post

I just realized that a lot of TORnsibs who come from non-English speaking countries might not know what "on spec" means. It's short for "on speculation". Which comes out to, "in the hope or assumption that more or better will come from encouraging something or somebody now."

In business, I might invest in a small company on spec, in the hopes that they will pay back my investment with interest when they grow. In family life, most families do their best to educate their children, on spec that the children will then grow up to be knowledgeable adults. And so on, like that.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


simplyaven
Grey Havens


Mar 31 2009, 10:44pm

Post #46 of 91 (211 views)
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A few names and quick thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post

I will answer here your question on names and apologize for not being as detailed as all those people deserve: I have quoted before Vladimir Propp, often considered the father of structuralism especrially related to tales - he first explored the Russian folklore tales. In his next works he went further adding folklore tales from around the world - as many as he could find and it wasn't easy in the beginning of the 20th century to find many but he made quite a nice collection. Sadly, being a Russian, he is hard to find here. I have tried two libraries and found only one of his works. On the web I find very few pages in English. If anyone speaks Russian, there are many more materials.
Then come the most famous I guess in Europe - Ferdinand de Saussure, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Northrop Frye, Roland Barthes and of course Eco. These were the scholars and authors included in my literary theory program which included tales analysis based on different theories - structuralism among them.

On "On Fairy Stories" - I had only one hour to go back to your discussion and I find it very insufficient for a well based opinion but I got the impression Tolkien quite messed up with folklore and fairy tales. There are many tales, for example, including animals and even having one for a main character (the fox and the bear very common examples) who travel through a land full of magical creatures and powers. According to Tolkien these are not fairy tales. yes, but they happen in Faerie. I may get him wrong because I didn't read everything you have discussed but his categories seem to me really messed up. I got the feeling he was trying to make his works appear more unique than they really are. I stand behind my opinion that based on the structuralism approach toward folklore tales, the Hobbit is such a tale. Tolkien may dislike it but I hope he won't be terribly angry at me. Besides, there is Faerie in folklore tales too. I don't see him even touching on this... I will go back to your discussion later tonight when my son is sleeping and hopefully get some more details.

I can't really remember discussing Tolkien's approach towards tales in the university. Therefore, I can't say his ideas were taken into consideration as serious work BUT it's only one university. I've spent some time in French university too as well as in Russian but no, I haven't studied Tolkien's ideas on fairy tales as part of literary theory and analysis courses. Maybe an English university or a german one (they have wonderful programs in structuralism!) would be a better source of information on this.

Culinary journey through Middle Earth continues! Join us on the Main board!

I believe


Compa_Mighty
Tol Eressea


Mar 31 2009, 10:57pm

Post #47 of 91 (208 views)
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Thanks, sador! [In reply to] Can't Post

That was nice of you to say.

On the subject, I don't think I particularly mean the last chapters but rather the whole book... but I don't know, perhaps it really is just my perception. Besides, I don't think the fact of the lack of happiness in the book detracts from its quality. Books like Asimov's Foundation series or Crichton's Jurassic Park are built on other emotions and intellectual challenges, which make them as valuable as books that do transmit "more positive" emotions. In the end, you do experiment different moods while reading LotR in comparison to The Hobbit.

Here's to Del Toro becoming the Irvin Kershner of Middle Earth!

Essay winner of the Show us your Hobbit Pride Giveway!


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 11:18pm

Post #48 of 91 (209 views)
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Tolkien actually mentions de Saussure. [In reply to] Can't Post

But just once, so far as I know, and not in "On Fairy-stories" but in his survey of the philological scholarship of 1925, which I believe would be more than ten years after the death of the great French linguist and structuralist. (Correction certainly welcome!)

Thanks for that list! Frye certainly commented on Tolkien's fiction (see here) but I don't know if he ever encountered the fairy-stories essay. Eco likewise. And one critic who discusses Propp discusses Tolkien in the same work: Christine Brooke-Rose, in The Rhetoric of the Unreal. But if you follow the links here, you'll see she stumbles with Tolkien.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
We're discussing The Hobbit in the Reading Room, Mar. 23 - Aug. 9. Everyone is welcome!

Join us Mar. 30-Apr. 5 for "Roast Mutton".
+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=
How to find old Reading Room discussions.


simplyaven
Grey Havens


Mar 31 2009, 11:19pm

Post #49 of 91 (204 views)
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I answered to NEB below but [In reply to] Can't Post

I will add just a few words here. First, I have never been a scholar. Blush Studying tales in deptha and tales (and literary in general) analysis was part of my studies in philology. I went a little bit deeper as I chose a minor in literary theory which included mythology, folklore and more modern literary analysis but still, I have never reached a level to be called a scholar!

I will do my best to read Tolkien's essay. My problem now is the chronic lack of time. I will also go back to the RR discussion later and try to read more in depth. Please, see what I wrote to NEB on Tolkien's essay as I can't go back now and it doesn't make sense to copy and paste.


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Tolkien's essay "On Fairy-stories" was not a scholarly work, as he admitted. He did not study fairy-stories professionally, but as a fan -- although he did have more than a passing acquaintance with ancient tales. He was reacting to the collection of fairy-stories in Andrew Lang's wildly popular series, and noting that many of the stories collected therein were not about Fairie at all. He also was criticizing an O.E.D. definition, as I recall, which implied that fairy-stories are about fairies, instead of about mortals in Fairie.



So, O.A.D.'s definition was that fairy-stories were about faeries and Tolkien disagreed, is that so? Then of course Tolkien was right but I got a different impression from your discussion here. Again, I'll go back to it later and try to read more carefully! I will post again then.

Culinary journey through Middle Earth continues! Join us on the Main board!

I believe


simplyaven
Grey Havens


Mar 31 2009, 11:22pm

Post #50 of 91 (210 views)
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Thank you for all these! [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you for finding the time (and to all the others too, of course) and explain in such details. Smile

I agree with you that discrimination is the breaking point. maybe because I don't see it in Tolkien's works I am so passionate in defending him for not being a classist at all. On the contrary, I find his decision to write a beautiful book about the small people who can change the fate of all the "big ones" very bold, brave and deserving admiration. Which doesn't keep me from admiring his other characters too - even those with long bloodlines. Wink

Culinary journey through Middle Earth continues! Join us on the Main board!

I believe

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