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Children of Hurin Discussion, Part 1
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Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Jun 12 2007, 6:03pm

Post #26 of 72 (3390 views)
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trudging through the Sil [In reply to] Can't Post

1. Christopher Tolkien said "It is undeniable that there are a very great many readers of Lord of the Rings for whom the legends of the Elder Days ... are altogether unknown, unless by their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner.
What does he mean by "their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner," and do you feel that this notion is valid?

I can only speak for my own experience . . .

I have met a lot of people whole like or love LotR that don't even know of the existence of the Sil, let alone it's reputation as "strange and inaccessible in mode and manner." I don't have an explanation for this, unless perhaps, the 'reputation is among publishers of its 'inaccessibility' and so don't publish or promote it very much.

On the other hand, I see many, many people struggle along with the early chapters and I always suggest starting with the story Beren and Lúthien and that it is not necessary to read it in order, but reading it does enhance the LotR experience; at least it did for me.

Then one an even different hand…I met a few rare persons who love the Sil even more than LotR and raved about the grand tales in it. I met one such person while I was in the middle of reading the Sil for the first time and looked at him like he was crazy. Not because of the stories, but because it is written in a style hard to read. I was a bit overwhelmed by my charts and lists for the gazillion names (names overwhelm in real life).

To me, I got used to the style well enough…its all those names that make it extremely hard for me to get through. I had to make copious amounts of lists, charts & notes and enlarged Xeroxes of maps. Though it is a challenge, It is worth it. But most people don't want to have to work that hard when they read…or work that hard at anything. The only people I know who get through it do so because they love The Lord of the Rings and want to enhance their experience and are willing to bear the pain of trudging through the Sil and most, in the end say its worth it. Just don't read it from the beginning, and be prepared to take notes or go online to many websites that already offer lists.



3. The senior Tolkien desired to create a legendarium of the "cosmogonic to the level of romantic fairy-story"
Does every "people", the English in this case, need such a legendarium to validate their culture?


I am not sure that 'validate' is the right word. I believe very strongly that myth and legend provide a sense of unity & history. They also were traditionally a way of teaching. In some way, I think Tolkien felt England robbed of this heritage of myth and legend by invading cultures in its history and since other cultures still have theirs, he wanted that for England, too.

I agree with Drogo that his mythology is one of a kind and kind of exists unto it's own. It doesn't feel particularly attached to England. Though it does feel more like it belongs western culture more than eastern culture, I think we can all claim it.









...

Art Gallery Revised, Aloha & Mahalo, Websites Directory

Nienna: “ those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope . . . All those who wait in Mandos cry to her, for she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom." — Valaquenta


NiennaSorrowing
The Shire

Jun 13 2007, 2:03pm

Post #27 of 72 (3450 views)
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I might be a bit late to the party... [In reply to] Can't Post

1. Christopher Tolkien said "It is undeniable that there are a very great many readers of Lord of the Rings for whom the legends of the Elder Days ... are altogether unknown, unless by their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner.

Do you agree with this assessment? What does he mean by "their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner," and do you feel that this notion is valid?

I, personally, have always found the idea of the Silmarillion being "strange and inaccessible" to be incomprehensible to me, but I admit I am a bit of an oddity: my parents read the Sil to me as bedtime stories until I could read it myself; I knew the tales of the First Age by heart long before I even knew LotR existed. I do understand, however, that other people find the Sil to be so, and certainly its reputation is as such.


2. Also CT said: "...there was a good cause for presenting my father's long version of the legend of THE CHILDREN OF HURIN as an independent work... in continuous narrative without gaps or interruptions..."

Do you think THE CHILDREN OF HURIN fits this description and do you think it was a good cause compared with say, THE FALL OF GONDOLIN as the effort used to create an independent work?

As many people have pointed out, the Narn is the only one of the tales where it is possible to present it in such a manner. The others were not written with such "immediacy" (Beren and Luthien), or were left too unfinished (The Fall of Gondolin). Therefore CT was more or less stuck with the Narn.



4. Christopher declares that this legend could show readers a scene set in an "unknown Middle-earth" which was washed over and drowned long before the time of the Fellowship.

Do you think that this story is a fair showing to readers unfamiliar with the First Age what life was like in the First Age. If not, what would you pick to achieve this purpose?

Absolutely not. Given an ideal world, where all of the Great Tales were available in this mode, I think the Narn is possibly the worst one to choose, if you are attempting, as CT seems to be, to bridge the "reading gap" between LotR and the Sil. First of all, as a representative of the First Age stories -- or should I say, as a representative of the Quenta as a whole -- it more-or-less fails. The Quenta is primarily concerned with Elves and their actions; Men are important, crucial even, but despite the effort Tolkien poured into the Narn they are very much on the sidelines. The story of the Quenta is the story of the madness of Feanor, and it's outcome; this is not the story that is told in the Narn. Instead, the Narn tells the story of how Men, caught up in something bigger than they are, can be destroyed, which is a thematically crucial story in the sense of the larger mythos but does not bear any direct relation to the overarching tale of the War of the Jewels. Picking up the Narn, you would know nothing of the Rebellion of the Noldor, and knowing that, would know nothing of why Middle-earth was as it was at that point.

Which brings me to my second point. Where the Narn doesn't fail as a representative of the Quenta is twofold: its connection to the larger story as a whole; and its underlying themes of tragedy and ruin. Both of these, in my opinion, make the Narn bad bridge material. The Narn, as I said, does not contain enough background knowledge of the history of the First Age, and this both makes it a bad representation of that history and makes it impossible to remove from that history. Not knowing why Morgoth is at war with the Elves (and some Men) except "he's just evil" is, to my mind, completely remove the message the Narn is trying to tell. The Tale of Turin is already flawed because the hero is, well, not terribly heroic (see below for expansion on that issue), and to remove the larger story surrounding the tragedy of the Children of Hurin is to remove all the greatness from the tale and to leave only the burning desire to kick Turin in the head.

The second place where the Narn does not fail to be representative of the Quenta as a whole is in its thematic content. Thematically, the Narn fits right in with the rest of the Quenta, which is essentially a tale of how all things come to grief in Arda Marred. (It does fail to fit in with the more subtle themes, that great deeds are no less great because they are in vain, and that grief in itself is a thing that can be made glorious, but more on that anon.) This is a fundamentally different thematic content than LotR, which is essentially about evil being defeated by the weak. LotR is a story about hope in a very immediate sense; the Quenta is a story about hope despite the inevitable ruin of everything. And of all the tales of the Quenta, the Narn is the most hopeless, the most filled with ruin and destruction without any mitigating factor. To hold the Narn up as representative of the Quenta is, I think, to turn many LotR readers away from the Quenta, because, being used to stories of hope and victory, they will rightly ask, "why would I want to read a bunch of stories where everyone is miserable"? And while it is true that the majority of the people in the Quenta spend the majority of the time we hear about them miserable, the other tales have redeeming themes of hope, and valour, and a sense that glory is no less glorious for being brief and easily overthrown, that in fact this impermanence makes it more glorious. The Narn, in contrast, has none of that, and therefore is the most removed thematically from LotR, and the tale most likely to alienate readers who are familiar only with the thematic content of LotR.

This is compounded by the fact that the Narn has no true positive characters. Turin, the erstwhile "hero", is selfish, whiny, and a coward, with no sense of responsibility nor any demonstrated ability to think things through to their logical conclusions. He tramps through Beleriand, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake, and blames the entire thing on the Curse, which he spends his entire time hiding from. Other characters are little better. Only in Beleg do we find some semblance of a "hero", and he is written somewhat remotely. Readers of LotR, who are used to Aragorn and Frodo and Faramir, will see little likable about a story that is filled with, essentially, nothing but a bunch of Boromirs. (I am not saying that this lessens the quality of the Narn. The Narn very specifically requires such characters; it is a tale about the downfall of men who could be great because of their flaws. But I am saying that LotR readers are not familiar with tales that have no equivalent of the incorruptible goodness of Aragorn, and therefore will be likely to be alienated by such a story.)

I think a much better Great Tale to bridge the gap between LotR and the Sil would be the Tale of Beren and Luthien. It is at once more self-contained and more involving of the greater mythos; there is a Silmaril at stake and it can be understood that the Wars of Beleriand have a purpose other than Melkor being evil without having to go into the detail told in the earlier Quenta. Moreover, its thematic elements are much more similar to LotR; it speaks of hope and the weak destroying the strong and the necessity of valour in the face of annihilation. It even has a happy ending, insofar as such are possible within the Quenta. Certainly, it is no more sad than Frodo being ruined by his burden and forced to seek peace in the West.

But all such opinions are irrelevant. The truth of the matter is, Beren and Luthien was never written down in the "immediate" form that is similar to LotR and which CT is trying to use to "bridge the gap", and therefore my disapproval of the Narn being used as such material and preference for B&L over it is of no matter.



squire
Half-elven


Jun 13 2007, 2:52pm

Post #28 of 72 (3427 views)
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*Mods way up* [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you for that!

I would only suggest that Tolkien changed his mind about whether the Quenta was about Elves or Men, as he developed his concept of the legendarium.

I think it started out being about the Elves, certainly. Your observations about Men's role is very appropriate to the Lost Tales, and to the Silmarillion to the extent that that later text retells the Lost Tales.

But I think Tolkien himself found that to write upclose and personal stories about immortal, superhuman Elves either left them too remote to be sympathetic to readers, or made them into Men by giving them the same weaknesses like vanity, cowardice, and bad judgement. The result of this change of heart is that the latter part of the War of the Jewels is mostly about Men's interference in the Elves' affairs, and the Silmarils are only redeemed by the passionate efforts of short-lived, weak and mysteriously-fated Men.

It is also notable that the tales of Men - Turin and Tuor and Hurin; the Lay of Leithian; and even Aldarion, Erendis, and Andreth - are what Tolkien spent his last years expanding and retelling in more detail after completing LotR. He could have treated Feanor's story, or Thingol's or Finrod's, as "Great Tales" and written them out in narrative detail, but he didn't.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
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


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 13 2007, 3:41pm

Post #29 of 72 (3430 views)
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Great post! And that's why we hear all about Beren [In reply to] Can't Post

and Luthien in LotR, and almost nothing about Turin -- except that Turin is ranked right up there with Beren as a hero and elf-friend, which is an interesting comment on how Tolkien viewed him.

For Tolkien did fall in love with Turin, even if many of us do not. I see the parallels between Turin and Boromir, but I think Tolkien meant for Turin to be far greater and more tragic than Boromir.

I also think Tolkien meant for the death of Glaurung to be Turin's one great success, almost redeeming his many failures. Perhaps killing Glaurung did not change anything in the end, but on the other hand perhaps it greatly weakened Morgoth himself, for just as the Ring contains much of Sauron's spirit, so Glaurung seemed to contain a strong portion of Morgoth's spirit. On the other hand, as you note, it is hard to appreciate this ultimate triumph over Morgoth when we see nothing of it in the tale presented to us.

The other redeeming factor is the power of Morgoth's curse, which should not be discounted in assessing Turin's character. But I understand why it is hard to sympathize with anyone who acts as Turin does. I'm just saying that Tolkien seems to have sympathized with him.

I'm fascinated by your parents' decision to read you The Silmarillion. Did it come after The Hobbit and LotR, and did you ask for more? I have a five-year-old daughter, and I can't imagine her sitting still for it.

I also agree that Children of Hurin is very different from LotR -- in fact, in many ways it is the exact opposite, with Turin being everything the hobbits were not. But I'm not sure if it is as exceptional among the tales in The Sil as you make it sound. Instead I think Beren's story is the exception, the one success among many failures. Or perhaps one of two successes, with Earendil being the other. But as you yourself note, there is lots of failure, and there are many, many flawed characters in tales collected in The Sil.

As for Turin's story being about a man, and not elves, most of the tales in The Sil have men as their central characters, even though they are outnumbered by the elves. As Tolkien said in his lecture "On Fairy-Stories," fairy stories are usually about men who visit Fairie, and not about elves or fairies. He gave that lecture in the late 1930s, and I think by then, as squire says, he had reconsidered the idea of writing tales just about elves among elves. The long tale of the Fall of the Noldor became background material for the tales of Beren, Tuor, and Turin, which in turn became background material for LotR. Then, in the early 1950s, when Tolkien hoped to publish The Sil along with LotR, he began to elaborate not the Fall of the Noldor, but the tales of Tuor and Turin.

It sounds to me like you love The Sil, but don't particularly like Children of Hurin, and therefore find it frustrating that Christopher Tolkien is presenting CoH as a window on The Silmarillion. I think there are many who share that opinion. I don't happen to be one of them, and I'm not sure that the Tolkiens (J.R.R. or Christopher) are either. But you raise a very good point. To the extent that Christopher Tolkien invites new readers to judge The Sil based on Children of Hurin, he risks alienating more readers than he wins, including readers who might love the rest of The Sil, but not Turin.

And by the way, I see this is your first post. What a start! Welcome to TORn!


(This post was edited by Curious on Jun 13 2007, 3:44pm)


GaladrielTX
Tol Eressea


Jun 13 2007, 5:42pm

Post #30 of 72 (3398 views)
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I'm with you, sister! [In reply to] Can't Post

When The Sil came out I was so starved for beautiful language and a history of Middle-earth before LOTR I dove into this new world like Augustus Gloop into Willie Wonka’s chocolate river.

That said, the archaic words, baroque phrasing, and complex and compound sentences can slow you down. A year or two after I had read the book, my English class had a few weeks of speed reading sessions. I’m not sure if they used any of the big-name speed reading techniques like Evelyn Wood or whatever. The teacher basically told us to bring a book to class and read it as fast as we could, skipping prepositions and articles, and I think they had us run a finger down the center of each page. Never one to take a challenge lightly, I brought The Silmarillion, and I can’t say I was able to read it as fast as I would have other books. I’m not a super-speedy reader, but neither am I slow, and I was a big reader with lots of practice. I imagine someone who didn’t read as much or fluently as me would find this work of Tolkien's really frustrating.

Oh, and trying to read it that way was so unrewarding. During later readings, I took more time, savoring the words.

I was much more attracted to the stories of the Valar and Elves than Men. When they started showing up I was like, eh, just more LOTR-level stuff. The exception was Túrin because his story was so…dramatic! *makes jazz hands* (Can I make jazz hands in the Reading Room?) Plus I like arrogant characters. What can I say? I struggled along with Túrin all the way, banging my head in frustration and loving every minute. It’s funny because I’ve read so many comments on TORN from people who didn’t like the highfalutin’ language of The Sil and really hate Túrin. So it’s nice to run into people who like some of the stuff I do.

~~~~~~~~

Coming up with reasons for changing my nick from GaladrielTX to Galadriel wore me out.



Curious
Half-elven

Jun 13 2007, 6:11pm

Post #31 of 72 (3366 views)
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I learned to speed read by reading when I shouldn't. [In reply to] Can't Post

I still find myself doing so from time to time in the bookstore, torn between buying a book and finishing it where I stand. I do believe there are some books I read and then bought, just out of guilt!

I find speed reading rewarding when I can go back and read the same material again later. That's how I read The Sil. But philosophy and law slowed my reading considerably. One does not speed read Hegel! Although Nietzsche reads pretty quickly.


NiennaSorrowing
The Shire

Jun 13 2007, 10:43pm

Post #32 of 72 (3485 views)
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This HTML editor is rather small. [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm fascinated by your parents' decision to read you The Silmarillion. Did it come after The Hobbit and LotR, and did you ask for more? I have a five-year-old daughter, and I can't imagine her sitting still for it.

They read it to me, or told me the tales contain therein, literally as bedtime stories, since before I could speak. (My parents are slightly odd. They are well-educated atheists who do not trust religious texts but believe that people need mythology as well as fact to be fully human. For their children, they chose Tolkien's legendarium to be the mythology, albeit while always stressing the difference between "fact" and "story".) They used a combination of the actual Sil, with its high language, and their own retellings of the tales, as much more "immediate" and dramatic, to hold our interest; it worked out well in the end. I was able to happily reenact Fingon's rescue of Maedhros using two stuffed animals, a piece of string, and my father's desk by the time I was three. (Maedhros was my favorite stuffed lion, I think -- the lion also did double duty as Feanor -- and my wolf pup was Fingon.) Of course, UT and HoME weren't published when I was very young, but when they were, things got even more exciting.

I didn't even know the Hobbit and LotR existed until my father (who always read out loud to us in the evening, although as we grew older it ceased being the Sil and became a variety of books) decided to read the Hobbit to us when I was about seven. A couple of years later (after he had finished reading us Watership Down), he embarked on LotR. I remember being rather disappointed by the Hobbit, and it was, comparatively, undramatic, and I wasn't terribly interested in "boring" Hobbits. It also ended happily, something that confused me greatly. "But all things come to grief in Arda Marred!" I said with the self-confidence of a seven year old who thinks she knows everything about the world, and my parents looked slightly worried that they had instilled this belief in one so young. "Not all great deeds are in vain," they said, and I thought that boring. I found LotR slightly more interesting, as it had themes I was more familiar with, but I've never found Sauron to be quite so thrilling after having grown up on Melkor. I have come to a greater appreciation of LotR as I have grown older, but it still does not compare to the greatness and tragedy of the Elder Days. My older sister, actually, prefers LotR, but she has always liked happy endings. (Her favorite story was always Beren and Luthien; I preferred battles.)

I see the parallels between Turin and Boromir, but I think Tolkien meant for Turin to be far greater and more tragic than Boromir.

Oh, I agree! I was simply pointing out that LotR readers will find more similarities between Turin and Boromir than between Turin and virtually any other LotR character, and that they might not be interested in a "tale full of Boromirs" when they are used to Aragorn and Hobbits.

I was not trying to imply that I dislike Turin or the Narn, or that I do not see the value of the tale. It is certainly not my favorite part of the Quenta (that would be the long and interwoven relationship between Fingon and Maedhros, and secondarily, the tale of Tuor in Gondolin), but I value it quite highly for the message it tells. What I do think is that thematically, it is the most grim and least hopeful of all the Quenta, and therefore the farthest in thematic content from LotR. Consequently it is possibly the worst of the Great Tales to use as "bridge material" if you are trying to get readers of LotR to read the Sil. (Heck, I think even the Akallabeth is better bridge material than the Narn.)

But I'm not sure if it is as exceptional among the tales in The Sil as you make it sound. Instead I think Beren's story is the exception, the one success among many failures. Or perhaps one of two successes, with Earendil being the other. But as you yourself note, there is lots of failure, and there are many, many flawed characters in tales collected in The Sil.

I agree that Beren (and Earendil) are the exceptions in the Quenta -- in my original post, I stated that the Quenta is essentially a story of how all things come to grief in Arda Marred. In that sense, the Narn fits right in. But the Quenta is also about hope despite ruin, personal responsibility, and the necessity of valour in the face of annihilation. The Narn has very little of these (especially of personal responsibility, which Turin more-or-less completely lacks). The only one of the more subtle themes of the Quenta, I would argue, that the Narn fully embodies is that great deeds are no less great because they are in vain. Turin's slaying of Glaurung is no less great because it ultimately changes little (and I would love to devote the time to compare Turin's slaying of Glaurung and Huan's slaying of Carcharoth with concerns to their ultimate effect on Morgoth, but I don't think this is the place), but it also does not negate the effect he has on single-handedly causing the destruction of much of Beleriand.

As for Turin's story being about a man, and not elves, most of the tales in The Sil have men as their central characters, even though they are outnumbered by the elves.

This is certainly true of the later Quenta, but I would argue that the main story of the Quenta is the story of the consequences of the madness of Feanor; the Wars of the Jewels were fought by Elves for Elves, and Men were only caught up in them by accident. (Of course, the "accidental" involvement of Men in the Great Wars is something that the Narn embodies more fully than any other tale; Turin is buffeted about by the Curse of Morgoth because his ancestors had the misfortune to be sucked into the ongoing animosity between the Noldor and Morgoth.) Men become crucial to the fight, and it is obvious that Tolkien ended up with greater sympathy towards them than towards his Elves (just look at the Athrabeth), but that does not change that the overarching tale of the Elder Days is one that is shaped primarily by the choices of Elves.

I do not suggest that the best "bridge material" between LotR and the Sil is one that involves more Elves than Men -- in fact, I think choosing something from the early Quenta, such as the story of the Rebellion of the Noldor, would be an even worse choice as "bridge material" than the Narn -- but the Narn is the tale which contains the least background information of all the Great Tales, and as such I think it is a bad representation of the Quenta. If you read only the Narn, you have no knowledge of the reason behind the destruction that was sweeping over Beleriand at that time; you will see Morogth only as a "great evil" and not as the complex character he actually is, and that, I think, takes away a lot of the power and message behind the Quenta. It's rather, I suppose, like reading LotR without any background knowledge of the History of the Elder Days, which I think is slightly horrific. But then, I realize I am in the (very small) minority on that one.


And by the way, I see this is your first post. What a start! Welcome to TORn!

I was heavily involved with movie discussion over at TolkienOnline/TheOneRing.com (where we regarded you over here at TORN as raving fanboys), but I got rather burned out by fighting on the losing side of the great Purist/Revisionist Wars of 2000-2003, and retreated to my own small corner of fandom at LiveJournal. I was linked to this discussion by one of my friends there, with the comment of "look, there is intelligent discussion of Tolkien going on on the internet, after all!". Hopefully the insanity from the movie has died down a bit, and I will be able to tentatively work my way back into the larger fandom world without suddenly getting the desire to throw myself off the highest peak of Thangorodrim


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 13 2007, 11:02pm

Post #33 of 72 (3377 views)
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Here's a link to fix that. [In reply to] Can't Post

Wynnie had a tip on changing the editing box earlier in this discussion.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Discuss The Children of Húrin in the Reading Room, June 11-October 14.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 13 2007, 11:25pm

Post #34 of 72 (3362 views)
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Not late at all. [In reply to] Can't Post

As you may have noticed, by default each page of this board shows fifteen threads. I think the consensus opinion is that anything on the first page is considered active, though any thread can still receive replies (that was not the case before the boards were upgraded in February). So you're in the thick of things.

Your points about the difficulties of this tale as a introduction for new readers are well taken, though I wonder if this material is any harder than a classical epic like the Iliad.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Discuss The Children of Húrin in the Reading Room, June 11-October 14.


NiennaSorrowing
The Shire

Jun 14 2007, 12:18am

Post #35 of 72 (3330 views)
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Thanks for the tip. [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you very much for the tip on changing the editing box; I'm new here and greatly appreciate no longer having my HTML editor contain less than one of my sentences.

The forcing subject lines is rather annoying, however. I keep forgetting.


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 14 2007, 12:21am

Post #36 of 72 (3381 views)
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That is so fascinating! [In reply to] Can't Post

I can't imagine what it would be like to be raised on the Sil like that. "'But all things come to grief in Arda Marred!'" That's classic! I have told my five-year old stories about Bilbo Baggins since before she could speak. It never occurred to me to begin with The Sil. But I'm sure Tolkien would be gratified by your reaction. In "On Fairy-stories" he quoted Chesterton's statement that "Children are innocent and love justice, while most adults are wicked and prefer mercy."

I do wonder, though, what Tolkien would think of your parents' reasons for teaching you tales from The Sil. They may be unusual in their choice of bedtime reading, but they are by no means unique in liking Tolkien in part because of their distrust of organized religion. Tolkien recognized that distrust and wanted to get around it with his spiritual message, but he did not share that distrust himself. I really wonder whether he was more pleased or dismayed by his reception among those who were not religious. I suppose there are some who came to Christianity through Tolkien, as C.S. Lewis famously did, but many more who prefer to stick with Tolkien.

Does Turin lack personal responsibility more than Feanor or his sons? I think not. Furthermore there is that curse of Morgoth to account for. It's a heavy burden to bear, and no one else, human or elf, seems to have received as much personal attention from Morgoth as Turin. Could Tuor have done any better if Hurin had died and Huor had survived? Of course one of the problems with reading Children of Hurin in isolation is that we cannot see what could have been without that curse. But compared to the stories of the elves, who generally got themselves into trouble without such a curse, Turin could be considered quite noble, if we give him the benefit of the doubt. The wisest characters in Middle-earth consistently give him the benefit of the doubt, even though he does not make any excuses for his behavior.

I think perhaps what you miss is not a different tale, but the whole of the tale. Those who read Children of Hurin in isolation miss so much. But that would be true of any tale in The Sil taken in isolation. And if the tales of elves would not work any better, then we are left with very few alternatives, even if all of them had been completed. How could one appreciate Beren and Luthien's tale without knowing the history of the Silmarils? How could one appreciate Tuor's tale without knowing the history of Gondolin? Because Turin was so determined to rely on no one, his tale stands in isolation better than most. And he spent much more time among men than the other human heroes of The Sil.

I'm so glad you found your way here!


Ataahua
Forum Admin / Moderator


Jun 14 2007, 2:26am

Post #37 of 72 (3363 views)
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Welcome, NS! [In reply to] Can't Post

It's lovely to see you here - and your childhood sounds wonderful, being filled with such rich stories.

I had to smile at your news of TORC's view of TORN. I had heard that we were dismissed as 'the tea party', which also made me laugh for some odd reason. Laugh

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


elentari3018
Rohan


Jun 14 2007, 2:57am

Post #38 of 72 (3375 views)
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Re: N.E. Brigand [In reply to] Can't Post


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But the stories of Beren and Lúthien and of Túrin did get the most attention of his First Age tales over the years; clearly, as you say, he cared a great deal about them. I find the latter a bit more unified. Do you prefer the former for any reasons other than its more hopeful end?

Yes, probably just because of its more hopeful ending...i tend to like happier and more hopeful endings. I liked Turin's story also because it's something different from what is conventional happier endings type deals and i also liked it because it presented something different from what i usually read so that was in part, the appeal of it. Turin's character intrigues me and i hope to talk more about the reasons for his downfall later on in the CoH discussion. :)

"By Elbereth and Luthien the fair, you shall have neither the Ring nor me!" ~Frodo

"And then Gandalf arose and bid all men rise, and they rose, and he said: 'Here is a last hail ere the feast endeth. Last but not least. For I name now those who shall not be forgotten and without whose valour nought else that was done would have availed; and I name before you all Frodo of the Shire and Samwise his servant. And the bards and the minstrels should give them new names: Bronwe athan Harthad and Harthad Uluithiad , Endurance beyond Hope and Hope Unquenchable.." ~Gandalf, The End of the Third Age , from The History of Middle Earth series


NiennaSorrowing
The Shire

Jun 14 2007, 3:09am

Post #39 of 72 (3376 views)
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I am disturbed by the screaming face of Elrond in the corner of my screen. [In reply to] Can't Post

My parents really have no one to blame but themselves for my attachment to tragic tales; one of my earliest memories is asking my mother what happened to two characters later on, and her voice, immeasurably sad, saying, "They came to grief in the end, as all things do." (Contrary to what this might imply, my parents have actually led a rather happy life.) Somewhat counter-intuitively, a deep-seated philosophical acceptance that sorrow is the way of the world has actually led me to be a generally cheerful person: sure knowledge that happiness is fleeting means that such happiness is sought and, when found, embraced fully. And there are always things to be happy about; we are alive, and the world is beautiful. I don't think Tolkien would object to that philosophy.

In a similar vein, I've often wondered what Tolkien would think, as you mentioned, of my parents reading the Sil to us as a sort of "counter-religion". Tolkien was not only deeply religious but Catholic as well, which my parents trusted the least (partly because they were raised Anglican, and distrust of Catholicism is deep-rooted in Anglicanism, and partly because they view Catholic dogma as "obeying rules simply because they are given by authority", which they have always objected to). But my parents are atheists only in the sense of rejecting the Western Christianity view of God as a personal, interfering, and selfish deity; they do subscribe to the more "mystic" (what a charged word! I use it in a historical sense) view of "God" as a creation of men's thought which, through contemplation of, we can become more fully human. (This is a view I share.) Because in essence this is a very spiritual matter, they are in tune with the "spiritual" side of Tolkien's mythology, if not the more literal "Creation God" aspect. And, as I stated above, it has led to a philosophy which I do not think Tolkien would object to. Still, it has not led to a cessation in their (or my) distrust of organized religion, and they are both scientists (as am I), and Tolkien, well, never did trust scientists. So I am not sure, at all, what he would think of the route my family has taken.

I do hope the above is not too off-topic; I am not sure of the rules governing discussions on this forum. (The Newbie Guide unfortunately does not give guidelines as to discussion of personal religious beliefs on a thread devoted to Turin Turambar.) [I suddenly realize why Firefox is not spellchecking "Turin". Turin, Italy, obviously. Ah, Juventus and your cheating ways. But I really am off-topic now.]


Does Turin lack personal responsibility more than Feanor or his sons? I think not.

The Sons of Feanor fall because they take personal responsibility for that which they have no right; it is a tale deliniating the limits of to what extent we have the right to take action when something concerns us. Turin falls because he refuses to take personal responsibility for something which is caused by an outside force, yet which is no less his responsibility; it is a tale demonstrating that simply because we do not cause something does not mean we do not have responsibility for it. I realize, as I argue this, that this means the Narn does contain within it the Quenta-wide theme of personal responsibility, despite what I said earlier, but I still do maintain that, as a negative example (Turin falls because he lacks personal responsibility), it is unique in the Quenta and therefore a bad representation of the whole. Nor, I think, can the understanding of how the Narn fits in to this theme be realized when reading the Narn in isolation, and therefore the entire theme falls by the wayside.

My main objection, I suppose, is that when reading the Narn in isolation, the only theme that is left is "all things come to grief in Arda Marred", and that is a very shallow (and hopeless) message to get from the Quenta. (Nor is it likely to endear readers of LotR.) The other tales, especially B&L, more clearly embody other themes -- e.g. hope in the face of ruin, valour in the face of annihilation -- even when taken in isolation, and are therefore more representative of the Quenta as a whole.

Because I do think that B&L especially is a good tale, if one is forced to take one of the Great Tales from context in the first place, to tell in isolation. There is a Silmaril present, and it can be understood that this a great thing, much as the Ring is in LotR, without knowing the (more theological anyway) details of its origins and exactly why the light is so sacred. It can be understood that the Silmarils are the cause of the Wars and hence of the destruction of Beleriand, which is not something that is explain in the Narn and which I think is essential. Morgoth becomes a character who, when placed in conjunction with the Silmarils, has motivations beyond simply being evil, which I also think is essential. (Sauron can get away with simply being evil. Melkor can't.) The more prominent place of Elves in B&L is more representative of the whole; this also gives it a connection to the grander history that the Narn does not have. (Besides, I think many readers of LotR would like to hear more about Elves, and less about Men, whom they can read about in any other book.) It also, as I said above, contains more fully the complexity of the themes in the Quenta, and knowledge of the outside tale is not necessary to comprehend the greatness of the story (as I firmly believe it is for the Narn). B&L is great in and of itself. Moreover, it bears direct relation to LotR in that the tale of Aragorn and Arwen is modeled directly on the tale of Beren and Luthien; this enables readers of LotR to see something recognizable immediately and therefore be more easily drawn in.

But, of course, all of this argument is irrelevant. Christopher Tolkien can't present the Tale of Beren and Luthien in the "immediate" form he wishes to use to draw in readers of LotR, because Tolkien never wrote it. He never even fully wrote the end in the final version, just wrapped it up with a hasty "and then they came back to earth, stuck their heads into Doriath to say good bye, ran off and had Dior, and then died, but we don't even know when because they didn't talk to people after that" and went on with the Nirnaeth. The only "immediate" writing of a Great Tale that Tolkien came close to completing was the Narn, so it is the Narn we are stuck with.


NiennaSorrowing
The Shire

Jun 14 2007, 3:28am

Post #40 of 72 (3373 views)
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And now the picture is of dying Arwen. Much better. [In reply to] Can't Post

We did tend to see you as uncritically accepting of the movies, whereas we had great battles like unto any of the Wars of the Elder Days over the changing of the line "you cannot pass" to "you shall not pass". And don't even get me started on Elves at Helm's Deep, Arwen at the Ford of Bruinen, or Faramir taking Frodo to Osgiliath. In some sense, I miss those days, as that passion shall never again be seen, but on the other hand, I am grateful, because it was exhausting. Especially because I chose the losing side, knowing full well that I was doing so. (I will say that the movies turned out much better than I expected. That doesn't mean I don't wish to expunge their existence from history, and other such distinctly uncharitable things.)

My rearing did tend to isolate me a bit from other children my age, as they tended to talk about cartoon shows (we didn't have a television (my parents believed television, as my mother once bluntly put it, "sucks the brain out through the eyes") so I never had any clue what they were talking about), whereas I wanted to discuss whether Tuor really was permitted to join the Eldar in order to remain united with Idril. I never minded, as what was going on in my head was always so much more interesting than what other children were doing. And once I got to uni, I found plenty of people like me, and have since never wanted for companionship.

I was able to bond with other children over my love of football (er, that's soccer), which my father abhorred and my mother secretly admired. So I did have that.

Edit: WHY DOES THIS KEEP CHANGING BACK FROM HTML. *kicks text editor*


(This post was edited by NiennaSorrowing on Jun 14 2007, 3:36am)


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 14 2007, 4:03am

Post #41 of 72 (3358 views)
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I see Boromir blowing his horn. [In reply to] Can't Post

The corner icon changes regularly. Before the switch to the new boards, it was stuck on an orc for a couple years, so dying Arwen and a screaming Elf are a vast improvement.

As for the subject lines, I'm glad you're having fun with them. Many people here read the discussions in threaded mode (I think that discussions with clear shapes, and discussions with expiration dates --practically speaking-- are two of this site's great strengths), thus the forced subject line. For the first few days on the new boards, that wasn't required, and seemingly every other post was titled merely "Re", which is no help at all when deciding which post to open.

I don't pay much attention to html, thus can't answer your question, but if you pop over to the Feedback board, you'll find that Pallando, when preparing his discussion last week, got some good advice on that subject, and you may find an answer posted there.


Quote
We did tend to see you as uncritically accepting of the movies, whereas we had great battles like unto any of the Wars of the Elder Days over the changing of the line "you cannot pass" to "you shall not pass". And don't even get me started on Elves at Helm's Deep, Arwen at the Ford of Bruinen, or Faramir taking Frodo to Osgiliath.



Yeah, that happened here too. I only joined the forum around the time of RotK's release, when one of the biggest debates concerned the sacrificial nature (or not) of movie-Faramir's charge on the Pelennor.

I suppose this discussion really is getting off topic (and we do have a forum for that) but to second the others: Welcome to TORN! There are a few good discussions underway. Here, in addition to The Children of Húrin, just begun, we are four-fifths of the way through being audited by a Tolkien class at the University of Vermont. On the Movie forum, there's a discussion of the Bakshi film of LotR, about two-thirds complete. And in the Off-Topic forum Curious is leading a discussion, about twice weekly, of Beowulf, still in its infancy (Beowulf is now dissing Unferth).



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Discuss The Children of Húrin in the Reading Room, June 11-October 14.


ponyhobbit
Registered User

Jun 14 2007, 5:22am

Post #42 of 72 (3362 views)
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Hope I'm not too late [In reply to] Can't Post

First let me just say thanks to everyone joining in on this discussion. I've been waiting a while, hoping that I discussion of The Children of Hurin would come up...I've been dying to discuss it.

1. Christopher Tolkien said "It is undeniable that there are a very great many readers of Lord of the Rings for whom the legends of the Elder Days ... are altogether unknown, unless by their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner.

Do you agree with this assessment? What does he mean by "their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner," and do you feel that this notion is valid?

I would agree with CT assesment. I think that what he means by "their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner is to many people other works of Tolkien may be too far-fetched, legthy, or they just can't follow Tolkien in depth writing style. Plus hobbits are a unique draw to Tolkien work and that's what people want to read about...even The Inkling thought so! Yes I think that it is a valid notion from the people I've talked to that call the Sim. a lesser known work.


2. Also CT said: "...there was a good cause for presenting my father's long version of the legend of THE CHILDREN OF HURIN as an independent work... in continuous narrative without gaps or interruptions..."

Do you think THE CHILDREN OF HURIN fits this description and do you think it was a good cause compared with say, THE FALL OF GONDOLIN as the effort
used to create an independent work?


Yes I think that presenting it as a independent work will again bring in the skeptics because it is a narritive story and does remind one of a combination of Greek tragedies (Promethus & Oeopis)


3. The senior Tolkien desired to create a legendarium of the "cosmogonic to the level of romantic fairy-story".

Do you think this is a valid effort, that is, does every "people", the English in this case, need such a legendarium to validate their culture?


The English don't really need another legendium to validate their culture, but 1 more couldn't hurt

A short answer to number 4 - yes, if you want a shorter read... although I think the Sim. is a better choice b/c it gives you a picture from the beginning and begins like the Bible, but if you're not up to the challenge then The Children of Hurin is also a good choice


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Jun 14 2007, 5:26am

Post #43 of 72 (3331 views)
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Welcome ponyhobbit... [In reply to] Can't Post

You're not too late at all. Smile


.

Art Gallery Revised, Aloha & Mahalo, Websites Directory

Nienna: “ those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope . . . All those who wait in Mandos cry to her, for she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom." — Valaquenta


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Jun 14 2007, 6:25am

Post #44 of 72 (3347 views)
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Aloha kâua! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I was heavily involved with movie discussion over at TolkienOnline/TheOneRing.com
(where we regarded you over here at TORN as raving fanboys), but I got rather burned out by fighting on the losing side of the great Purist/Revisionist Wars of 2000-2003, and retreated to my own small corner of fandom at LiveJournal. I was linked to this discussion by one of my friends there, with the comment of "look, there is intelligent discussion of Tolkien going on the internet, after all!". Hopefully the insanity from the movie has died down a bit, and I will be able to tentatively work my way back into the larger fandom world without suddenly getting the desire to throw myself off the highest peak of Thangorodrim



I think you will find a wonderful home here at TORn…and even while the crazy fan syndrome was raging during the height of the film era, there was "intelligent discussion of Tolkien going on", even amid the raging battles. I st uck pretty much to the Reading Room … it was saner and I learned a lot. I took a hiatus for a few years, came back and found the place the unchanged and different at the same time.

Everyone here seems to know a lot about Tolkien now, compared to before when the range was vaster with newcomers abound, and middle-bees like myself. I studied Art, so some of the discussions tend to get just a tad 'heady' for me…or at least beyond my exposure to heady education… I read those, but tend to not post. Regardless of how many Tolkien analysis books I read, I'm better at pictures and the intuitive side than the heady side. And people are a whole lot less defensive.

There is something for everyone here and lots of comradery, fun and learning too. The thing I love is the varied perspectives brought to the table.


welcome!
and
Aloha kâua!
(see footer link)


PS: I stopped using HTML with the new boards...I use Mark-up available in the pull-down menu in the editor window. For easy use...I keep a palette: I copied the Mark-up page and pasted it into a word file....I re-arranged it in order to what I used most on top...and made my common combinations already for drag-n-drop use (or copy-paste use). So, when I compose, I have what I want ready at hand for me in a previously created file. I trick I learned many years ago using graphics software. I'll do anything to keep from typing repeating things.

DoN
Smile






.

Art Gallery Revised, Aloha & Mahalo, Websites Directory

Nienna: “ those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope . . . All those who wait in Mandos cry to her, for she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom." — Valaquenta


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 14 2007, 10:57am

Post #45 of 72 (3327 views)
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Once weekly. [In reply to] Can't Post


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And in the Off-Topic forum Curious is leading a discussion, about twice weekly, of Beowulf, still in its infancy (Beowulf is now dissing Unferth).


Thanks for the plug. I started doing it twice weekly, but reduced it to once weekly, what with everything else going on. I add a new post every Wednesday morning, Chicago time.


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 14 2007, 12:05pm

Post #46 of 72 (3346 views)
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Feanor and his sons [In reply to] Can't Post

take personal responsibility? Far from it, I would say. They blame everyone and anyone, including Beren and Luthien, for depriving them of their rights. They suffer from classic victimitis.

Turin, on the other hand, blames no one for his mistakes, even though he has every right to do so -- although he may not know it, since he is not aware of his father's fate. On the contrary, Turin consistently blames himself, and punishes himself by exiling himself from one home after another and isolating himself from all who love him and putting himself in the path of danger and eventually by killing himself. Now maybe it is an example of misplaced pride to preemptively punish yourself before others can punish you, or to refuse help freely offered, but if anything Turin takes too much personal responsibility, not too little.

By the way, please let me know if I get too argumentative. It's hard to judge how people are taking it when you aren't face to face. But I'm very much enjoying this conversation.


a.s.
Valinor


Jun 14 2007, 12:32pm

Post #47 of 72 (3301 views)
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Welcome to Torn, and the RR [In reply to] Can't Post


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"look, there is intelligent discussion of Tolkien going on on the internet, after all!".




Well, others have already beat me to the explanation of the intelligent discussion you can find here, so I'll just say "welcome". I didn't find Torn until after all three movies had been released, and I saw the little "theonering dot net" lapel pin on PJ's jacket in a post-Oscar picture in People magazine, of all places. That's how I know there is power hidden in serendipity.

Cool

Wonderful posts. You'll find a lot of thoughtful posting here on Torn, in the RR and elsewhere. Take a look around!! And welcome aboard.

a.s.




"an seileachan"

"Some say once you're gone, you're gone forever, and some say they're gonna come back.
Some say you rest in the arms of the Savior if sinful ways you lack.
Some say 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


Beren IV
Gondor


Jun 15 2007, 10:54pm

Post #48 of 72 (3302 views)
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I'm still waiting for my copy of the book [In reply to] Can't Post

and then I will be gone next week. I'll join the discussions then!

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


Saelind
Lorien


Jun 17 2007, 11:55pm

Post #49 of 72 (3317 views)
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CoH part 1 [In reply to] Can't Post

My late two cents...

Christopher Tolkien said "It is undeniable that there are a very great many readers of Lord of the Rings for whom the legends of the Elder Days ... are altogether unknown, unless by their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner.

Do you agree with this assessment? What does he mean by "their repute as strange and inaccessible in mode and manner," and do you feel that this notion is valid?
*I suspect the “reputation” The Silmarillion has probably scared off more people than any actual attempt at reading it. I agree that there are a great many readers of LOTR who are not familiar with the material from the Elder Days except for the brief references in LOTR. All it may take is some gentle guidance from more knowledgeable fans to help these folks get through the material. There have been some great suggestions posted. I also have gone through and attempted to link references in the books and movies (sorry Nienna Sorrowing) to their Elder Days sources in an attempt to show how the works are related and provide depth to Lord of the Rings. I actually read the BoLTs before The Silmarillion by accident. They didn’t make a lot of sense to me at the time but were a nice distraction during some excessively boring nursing school lectures.

2. Also CT said: "...there was a good cause for presenting my father's long version of the legend of THE CHILDREN OF HURIN as an independent work... in continuous narrative without gaps or interruptions..."

Do you think THE CHILDREN OF HURIN fits this description and do you think it was a good cause compared with say, THE FALL OF GONDOLIN as the effort
used to create an independent work?
*I do think that the CoH is a more complete story with characters that are fleshed out better than the Fall of Gondolin. The Fall of Gondolin also drops you into the middle of a story. There’s not a lot of background to help you understand what led up to the events in the story. There are multiple versions of Beren and Luthien. B and L also has a rather frantic “Perils of Pauline” quality that makes it difficult to connect with emotionally. CoH does have some pacing with cycles of action and exposition.

3. The senior Tolkien desired to create a legendarium of the "cosmogonic to the level of romantic fairy-story".

Do you think this is a valid effort, that is, does every "people", the English in this case, need such a legendarium to validate their culture?
*Validate is a rather strong word. I think “sense of identity” would be a little more accurate. Myth-making seems to be a universal human activity. And I agree with Drogo that Tolkien’s mythology stands alone. It has elements from other European mythologies but it is a unique creation.

4. Christopher declares that this legend could show readers a scene set in an "unknown Middle-earth" which was washed over and drowned long before the time of the Fellowship.

Do you think that this story is a fair showing to readers unfamiliar with the First Age what life was like in the First Age. If not, what would you pick to achieve this purpose?
*No. It is a tale from the First Age that is briefly referred to in LOTR. My hope is that it will get people more interested in the material from the First Age and gain a deeper appreciation for the world Tolkien created. I’m not really sure what story I would have picked over CoH. I will say CoH does do a good job illustrating the theme of the intersection between fate and free will. This theme runs through the other two Great Tales as well as to some extent in LOTR. I think the other stories would require too much background material to follow properly.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 18 2007, 1:27am

Post #50 of 72 (3295 views)
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LotR difficult? [In reply to] Can't Post


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Nearly all of my friends have not read LOTR, for two reasons: The genre doesn’t interest them, and they find the writing too difficult for it to be an enjoyable read. I’d say the latter is what Christopher is referring to when he talks about LOTR and The Silmarillion having a reputation for being ‘inaccessible’.



Actually, Christopher says that "many readers of" LotR only know the "Silmarillion" material by its reputation as inaccessible. I'm surprised to hear of readers who find LotR difficult, since critics have complained for years that it's too childish. Perhaps the repeated defense of LotR's more serious aims, dating to Tolkien's own comments about its linguistic inspiration, have caused some people not to realize that it is foremost a rousing adventure story?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Discuss The Children of Húrin in the Reading Room, June 11-October 14.

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