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**CoH Discussion** I. The Childhood of Túrin: 1. Ancestry

squire
Half-elven


Jun 18 2007, 12:05pm

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**CoH Discussion** I. The Childhood of Túrin: 1. Ancestry Can't Post

The story opens with a detailed account of the ancestry and marriage of Húrin.

A. Many reviewers of The Children of Hurin have criticized this “genealogical” opening, as being both dull and confusing. Do you agree? How else, or where else, might the story have started, within the confines of Tolkien’s text? How important is “readability” to the Tolkiens, father and son?

B. How can Húrin be “fiery in mood” and yet have the “fire in him burn steadily”?

C. Isn’t it kind of comic to imagine Húrin as the shortest among his kin, while younger brother Huor is the tallest of all the Edain? Why does Tolkien create this visual image? Will you carry it with you as the brothers interact together later in the story? Should Alan Lee have drawn a picture of these two young men?

D. Ditto for Morwen. Isn’t she taller than her husband? Is the story telling us that she is “stern of mood and proud” because she is “saddened” by her family’s exile? Or was she always like that?

E. We learn that Urwen (Lalaith) will die young. Why give this away?

F. Although Rian’s (the wife of Huor) little story here is sort of touching (who does she remind you of? why?) in fact she will never be heard from again in this story. Is her inclusion in this introduction justifiable?



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


(This post was edited by Eledhwen on Jun 19 2007, 8:07pm)


a.s.
Valinor


Jun 18 2007, 12:21pm

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begats be boring [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
A. Many reviewers of The Children of Hurin have criticized this “genealogical” opening, as being both dull and confusing. Do you agree? How else, or where else, might the story have started, within the confines of Tolkien’s text? How important is “readability” to the Tolkiens, father and son?



It's thankfully short, anyway.

I don't find it necessarily dull or boring, and I don't find it confusing. I dislike the tone, though--that far remove and pseudo-archaic writing style is grating on my nerves a bit. But if this was a story told by another writer, it would open with something about the little boy we are going to learn about, the subject of the book, and go backward and/or forward from that incident. Something to make us interested in the sad little doomed child, something that would make us care to know his ancestry.

Face it: if we hadn't all read all the other Tolkien stuff we love so well--if this was a completely stand-alone novel introducing characters for the first time--this introductory passage would be off-putting. It's not an inspired beginning. The tale is full of sadness; maybe it should start with something to make us care about Turin and his fate.

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


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 18 2007, 4:27pm

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As usual, you Prepared! [In reply to] Can't Post

I'll save most of my comments for later, when I have more time, but a thought just occurred to me which I can't contain. Maybe Hurin is short and Huor tall because Hurin is more "dwarvish" in nature and Huor more "elvish." And maybe the same applies to their sons. I'll say more about this when I have time, but the more I think about the idea the more it excites me and seems to fit.


Menelwyn
Rohan


Jun 18 2007, 6:17pm

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not a big fan of the opening [In reply to] Can't Post

Not so much for my own sake--although it does seem a bit dull--but imagining the perspective of a newcomer to the First Age. If I had only read LOTR I think I would feel hopelessly lost just from reading the first paragraph. For goodness' sake, there are 12 distinct proper names just in that first paragraph, and the number multiplies as you go through the next few paragraphs! I can just hear someone thinking, Is the rest of the book going to be like this? And do I need to remember all these names? I'm going to have to take copious notes on this--oh, forget it.

I suppose CT is kind of stuck with what his father wrote, but it's really unfortunate to have to start the book this way. It's all too easy to envision people who gave up after just one page. At least in the Sil if you've made it as far as the Turin chapter you're at least somewhat accustomed to all the names.

I'm also not a big fan of the inclusion of Rian. Again, I suppose CT wanted to interfere editorially as little as possible, so he decided to keep it, but it's really unnecessary and it just adds to the volume of proper names right up front. It's also a bit confusing here to refer to the Nirnaeth Arnoediad when that battle hasn't taken place yet. It works in the Sil where the battle is in the preceding chapter and where you're eventually going to get to Tuor, and in UT you have probably just read the Tuor story if you read the tales in order, but here it seems extraneous. That's even suggested by the start of the next paragraph which begins, "But now the tale returns to Hurin and Huor...." In other words, let's get back on track with the actual story. Even the UT version doesn't have a phrase like that: there is a blank line, followed by a summary of what was going on in the years after the Dagor Bragollach. I like that somewhat better--it sets off the first few paragraphs as more of an introduction, and not necessarily very important to remember. Still not the most exciting opening but it's an improvement.

I'm not really sure what I would do as a better opening--I'm no writer!--but how about something with the young Hurin and Huor landing in Gondolin? That's exciting at any rate. And you could convey the background information through a conversation with Turgon about how the young men ended up in his city in the first place. (I am, by the way, thinking a little bit of the openings of The Hobbit and LOTR as examples of how Tolkien, as opposed to other writers, might begin.) But that's not what Tolkien wrote, and CT is giving us what his father wrote, so that's what we're stuck with.


Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Jun 18 2007, 7:35pm

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For me, a major flaw [In reply to] Can't Post

in this telling of the story was giving away all the secrets at the beginning. At the same time I was reading this, I was also reading HP6, and noticing how Rowling pulls us forward through volume after volume by giving hints and piling mystery on mystery. If she had started book 1, chapter 1 with all the previous history of Harry's family and Voldemort's family, the revelations in book 6 wouldn't be gripping at all.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"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."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chance Meeting at Rivendell: a Tolkien Fanfic
and some other stuff I wrote...
leleni at hotmail dot com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 18 2007, 7:38pm

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Or you could have the Gaffer [In reply to] Can't Post

at the local pub tell the locals about Turin's ancestry and Hurin's adventures on the occasion of Turin's birthday and Hurin's farewell party! Plus some introductory material from the narrator, and some more exposition by Sador talking with Turin, and save the rest of it for the appendices. Smile


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 18 2007, 7:48pm

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Seriously, I recently [In reply to] Can't Post

suggested that the story should put Hurin's story in the prologue, then jump straight to Nienor confronting Glaurung and losing her memory, then reveal everything else as Nienor/Niniel uncovers one dark secret after another, but always too late to do anything about it.


Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Jun 18 2007, 7:52pm

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I saw that post and thought it was a great idea.// [In reply to] Can't Post

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"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."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chance Meeting at Rivendell: a Tolkien Fanfic
and some other stuff I wrote...
leleni at hotmail dot com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 18 2007, 11:40pm

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All these names and thumbnail sketches [In reply to] Can't Post

of the stories and personalities that went with the names do give the story a sense of depth, the kind of depth found in myths and legends about people whose ancestors appear in other myths and legends. However we know that when Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and LotR he used different ways to introduce such facts. He paired down the discussion of ancestry to mother and father (Bilbo's in The Hobbit and Frodo's in LotR), and put much more information in the appendices. In addition in LotR he had The Gaffer discuss Frodo's ancestry and upbringing, and incidentally reveal Sam's ancestry and upbringing as well (although there is no mention of Sam's mother). In Children of Hurin Tolkien much more consciously adopted the tone of an ancient text from the beginning. Whether he would have retained that beginning if he had actually published the tale is unknown and unknowable.

What I like about it is Tolkien's habit of giving us a glimpse of all these people who are briefly named. It reminds me of the role call when various subjects of Gondor entered Minas Tirith, and we learned a little about their various leaders. It also reminds me of Tolkien's style in the appendices to LotR. All these brief descriptions give some life to a dry family tree. The way Tolkien describes them, I can see all these people passing before my eyes, much as Aragorn's ancestors pass before the hobbits' eyes in the House of Bombadil.

Why then is Hurin short and Huor tall? Tolkien tended to use height as a metaphor. Hurin does not remind me of a short hobbit at all, but he does remind me of dwarves, and so does his son Turin, while Huor and Tuor remind me of tall elves.

Hurin is much shorter than his brother Huor, but Hurin is "strong in body and fiery of mood" with a "great endurance of will." Hurin was slower than Huor over a short course, but a better marathon runner. Tolkien's dwarves are generally strong of body and fiery of mood with great endurance of will, and, although they are not swift, dwarves like to brag of their endurance. Although he goes to war on a horse with a sword, Hurin will use a borrowed battle-axe in his last stand against Morgoth's army. And Turin, who has a stormy relationship with most elves, will develop a close friendship with Mim the petty dwarf. Tuor, on the other hand, is the tallest of the Edain, marries an elf, and may even have become an elf.

On the other hand, perhaps Tolkien is just giving Hurin and Huor distinctive personalities like he does for all the people in the family tree, including many who are not important to this tale. So Hurin is the short but strong one and Huor is the tall and swift one. There you are.

Morwen may have been taller than Hurin, but that is not unheard of. Furthermore although Hurin was short compared to Huor and his other close kin, that doesn't mean he was short compared to most men. On his father's side, Hurin came from a family of giants.

Okay, now to any questions I have not addressed:


Quote

A. Many reviewers of The Children of Hurin have criticized this “genealogical” opening, as being both dull and confusing. Do you agree? How else, or where else, might the story have started, within the confines of Tolkien’s text? How important is “readability” to the Tolkiens, father and son?



What reviewers do you have in mind? The opening is more typical of ancient tales than modern ones, but I don't find it dull. If we are expected to remember all these names I might get confused, but I think it quickly becomes apparent that we are not expected to remember anyone except Turin and his parents. However I would have started the story in the middle somewhere, and brought out the backstory later. The story takes a long time to get going, and maintaining suspense is a problem.


Quote
B. How can Húrin be “fiery in mood” and yet have the “fire in him burn steadily”?



He's manic at times, but never depressive. Like the Energizer Bunny, he just keeps going. The flame isn't always on high, but it is always present.

I must go. I'll get to the other questions later.



(This post was edited by Curious on Jun 18 2007, 11:41pm)


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 19 2007, 11:27am

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The rest of my reply. [In reply to] Can't Post


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C. Isn’t it kind of comic to imagine Húrin as the shortest among his kin, while younger brother Huor is the tallest of all the Edain? Why does Tolkien create this visual image? Will you carry it with you as the brothers interact together later in the story? Should Alan Lee have drawn a picture of these two young men?


Hurin is not the shortest among the Edain, just the shortest among his kin, who happen to be the tallest among the Edain. He takes after his mother's people, and would not be short among them. So he might not be that short after all. But no, I won't carry forward the image, and no, Lee should not have drawn a picture emphasizing the difference. It's a throwaway line by Tolkien, and not an important plot point. As I said in my previous post, Tolkien might be making some analogy to the dwarves, or he might just be adding some depth to the story by distinguishing these cousins who have so much in common.

Quote
D. Ditto for Morwen. Isn’t she taller than her husband? Is the story telling us that she is “stern of mood and proud” because she is “saddened” by her family’s exile? Or was she always like that?


Again, Morwen may be no taller than her husband, and still would be tall among women and short compared to Huor. But even if she is taller than Hurin, that isn't unheard of.

I don't recall Beren being described as stern of mood and proud, or Tuor being that way after he lost everything. On the other hand, Beren and Tuor are exceptional people. Perhaps most people would react badly to such loss.

I think this line about Morwen hints at her character flaws, but also at reasons for those flaws. Tolkien wants to make her hard, but sympathetic. It's a tricky process which continues throughout the book. I could easily see Turin on a couch complaining to a therapist about his stern, proud, sad mother, but then Morwen can't really be blamed for everything bad that happens to Turin. Actually Morwen reminds me a bit of Eowyn, another stern, proud, sad woman. It also makes me think of Tolkien's descriptions of his own mother.


Quote
E. We learn that Urwen (Lalaith) will die young. Why give this away?


There are lots of spoilers in this story. I think we soon learn that everything will come to grief, and the constant foreshadowing of that fact just adds to the atmosphere of doom and gloom. It is the other side of the coin from The Hobbit or LotR, which give away the fact that the hobbits will succeed and survive, although it holds back a few surprises. The surprise in CoH may be that Turin does kill Glaurung. So something goes right. But otherwise the fascination of this story, if you are fascinated by it, is seeing everything Turin tries to accomplish go bad in the worst possible way. It's the fascination of watching a train wreck in slow motion. And part of the fascination is knowing ahead of time that the wreck is inevitable, and that people will die.


Quote
F. Although Rian’s (the wife of Huor) little story here is sort of touching (who does she remind you of? why?) in fact she will never be heard from again in this story. Is her inclusion in this introduction justifiable?

Rian doesn't remind me of anyone that comes to mind. I'm sure you have someone in mind, but I can't guess who. But her little thumbnail personality sketch isn't much different from the others, and serves to make her memorable even though we never meet her again. It also reminds us that not everyone is like Morwen and Turin. On the other hand it is fair to ask whether introducing all these characters really serves the story well, or whether Tolkien would have been better off paring down the cast of characters to about a tenth of the names that appear in the appendices.

The long list of characters makes Children of Hurin feels more like an ancient tale or history. The problem is that ancient tales and histories are unfamiliar to many, and remind others of school. Tolkien does his best to give each name some life and personality, but I feel like the tale should either be much, much longer, so that each of these characters can get some time upon the stage, or much shorter, so that all the extraneous characters are removed from the tale altogether. Only if we read this as a history or a feigned history does a long list of names make perfect sense, for that is how many histories read.


Wynnie
Rohan


Jun 19 2007, 12:44pm

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untimely deaths [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Although Rian’s (the wife of Huor) little story here is sort of touching (who does she remind you of? why?) ...


Hmmm -- other Tolkien women who died untimely of grief, let's see:

Gilraen: Rian in slow motion. She loses her spouse, leaves the Elves, dies because she has no hope left. But since this happens over the course of many years, she's not deserting a young son.

Finduilas (of Gondor): Her grief is of a different sort; her husband Denethor is still around, but she's deeply unhappy with city life. She does leave young sons behind.

Arwen: This is probably the closest match, since it's clearly the impact of her husband's death that causes her to give up on life.





None such shall return again.



N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 19 2007, 12:56pm

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Not quite a throwaway line. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Húrin is not the shortest among the Edain... But no, I won't carry forward the image, and no, Lee should not have drawn a picture emphasizing the difference. It's a throwaway line by Tolkien, and not an important plot point.



A few chapters later, Morgoth calls Húrin "little among Men". Still probably not important.

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


Stanislaus B.
The Shire

Jun 19 2007, 5:17pm

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Childer of Hurin as a saga [In reply to] Can't Post

Does this quote remind you of something:

"There was a man named Mord whose surname was Fiddle; he was the son of Sigvat the Red, and he dwelt at the "Vale" in the Rangrivervales. He was a mighty chief, and a great taker up of suits, and so great a lawyer that no judgments were thought lawful unless he had a hand in them. He had an only daughter, named Unna. She was a fair, courteous, and gifted woman, and that was thought the best match in all the Rangrivervales.

Now the story turns westward to the Broadfirth dales, where, at Hauskuldstede, in Laxriverdale, dwelt a man named Hauskuld, who was Dalakoll's son, and his mother's name was Thorgerda. He had a brother named Hrut, who dwelt at Hrutstede; he was of the same mother as Hauskuld, but his father's name was Heriolf. Hrut was handsome, tall and strong, well skilled in arms, and mild of temper; he was one of the wisest of men -- stern towards his foes, but a good counsellor on great matters."

http://omacl.org/Njal/1part.html

This is the beginning of the Saga of Burnt Njal - usually thought of as one of the more interesting sagas.


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 19 2007, 7:03pm

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Yes, Beowulf starts out in a similar vein.// [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Modtheow
Lorien

Jun 20 2007, 2:26am

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Saga style, plus a question [In reply to] Can't Post

A. Many reviewers of The Children of Hurin have criticized this “genealogical” opening, as being both dull and confusing. Do you agree? How else, or where else, might the story have started, within the confines of Tolkien’s text? How important is “readability” to the Tolkiens, father and son?
E. We learn that Urwen (Lalaith) will die young. Why give this away?
F. Although Rian’s (the wife of Huor) little story here is sort of touching (who does she remind you of? why?) in fact she will never be heard from again in this story. Is her inclusion in this introduction justifiable?


As Stanislaus B. points out, the opening is written in the style of Old Icelandic sagas. My answers to the above three questions all follow from this fact. In the sagas, first you get a genealogy before you narrow in on the main characters of the story. The genealogy gives a sense of historical depth, as Curious says, and we start developing a sense of what kind of family we're dealing with or what kind of events they're involved in. In CoH, the details that are given are not irrelevant: Hador is well-beloved by the Eldar, so right from the start we have an Edain-Eldar relationship by which to measure what follows and to establish a theme. We get a sense of what Hurin might be like in the comparison to his brother. The details about Morwen, elven-fair but "stern of mood and proud," reveal a combination of light and dark, if you will, that will come into play in Turin's character as well. Morwen's and Rian's paragraphs emphasize how hard and sorrowful are the times this story deals with -- fate is harsh to many.

And sagas generally don't bother with modern notions of suspense; when recounting traditional stories, medieval storytellers could assume that their audiences knew the plot to the end. I think the suspense would lie in getting to see how the storyteller would get you to the ending that you already knew. (The same is true in Beowulf, where, for example, we are told near the beginning that Hrothgar's great hall is eventually going to be destroyed by the enmity of family members). In contrast, as Aunt Dora points out, J.K. Rowling is a master of suspense in the modern sense. So telling us that Lalaith had a short life is in keeping with saga style; it also emphasizes the sorrowful nature of the story as a whole, as the other paragraphs do.

The other suggestions that people have made for different openings sound to me much more like modern novels or even movie scripts -- nothing wrong with that, but that's not the style that Tolkien is opening with here. I think that Christopher Tolkien would like very much for this book to be thought readable by a wide audience, but clearly this style is not one that appeals to everyone.

Now here's my question about style. I'm very interested in trying to pinpoint what it is that people find archaic or long-winded about this style; a number of reviewers have complained about this. Is it the subject matter -- the fact that there are so many character sketches in a row with a lot of names -- that makes the style appear difficult or boring? Or is it something about the actual wording? When I look at the language of the first couple of pages, I find very simple words, on the whole, mostly basic Anglo-Saxon words, in fact. In two cases, I see expressions that could have been lifted straight out of medieval narratives: "He dwelt while his days lasted" and "But now the tale returns to" -- maybe these expressions make the style sound strange? Tolkien also says that X "wedded" Y instead of "married." Occasionally, Tolkien inverts usual sentence order: "Of all the Men of the North he knew most of the counsels of the Noldor" or "Two months only had she been wedded to Huor" -- but even in these sentences the words are quite plain and simple. This is all that I can find to try to explain this perception of Tolkien's style -- can anyone help me out with more specific examples that would explain these reactions?


FarFromHome
Valinor


Jun 20 2007, 7:01am

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Since I'm one of those people that has trouble with Tolkien's archaic style, I'll try to analyse just what it is that I find so distracting about it.

You're right that the words themselves are often simple, and are likely to be Anglo-Saxon ("wedded") rather than of Latin origin ("married"). The odd word-order usually isn't misleading or difficult to read, and in fact it often seems to give a kind of rhythm to the text that might lend itself to being spoken aloud. When I read his archaic prose, I can sometimes hear in my head that slightly chanting way of reading that Tolkien uses himself.

And yet, there's something artificial about the style, for me. It seems like a superficial, self-conscious effect imposed on the narrative just for appearance's sake - it doesn't seem to add anything in itself to the story. It's not a question of difficulty - Joyce's prose can be much more difficult to read, as can Proust's, for example. But in these examples, there's a feeling that the difficult style is the result of an attempt to express something new and inexpressible in any other way. Tolkien's archaic style doesn't strike me that way - it seems more like an unnecessary ornament, added to give a bit of the flavour of the ancient world without saying anything new or different about it.

Of course, it may be argued that Tolkien isn't interested in saying anything "new", but is trying to get back to an older style of story-telling. Perhaps in fact with his archaic style he's trying to recapture the effect of Anglo-Saxon story-telling as he imagines it. Still, for me, it's annoyingly distracting, especially as he seems to have a tendency to repeat the same stilted phraseology over and over - such as putting temporal expressions before the verb ("two months only had she been wedded to Huor", in your example). Perhaps this is typical of Anglo-Saxon? It strikes me as something you might still find quite commonly in modern German, so perhaps that's the key. I wonder if this style is more meaningful to readers who have some familiarity with Anglo-Saxon? All I can say is that for me, it works against the story, pulling me out of it time and time again with its artificial, self-conscious-seeming awkwardness.

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 20 2007, 12:19pm

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What I like about it in LotR [In reply to] Can't Post

is the way Tolkien uses his archaic style to distinguish between the language used by the hobbits, and by Gandalf and Aragorn when they speak with the hobbits, and the language used by the Rohirrim and Gondorians. He even makes distinctions between the Rohirrim and the Gondorians, with the Gondorians more likely to use Norman words like "puissant."

But of course in CoH and the rest of The Silmarillion stories there is no contrast of styles that I can detect. It is all archaic. As usual, I miss the hobbits and their friendly guides to the archaic world, Gandalf and Aragorn.

But then I have a hard time picking up Beowulf and reading it either. I can do it in school, or in the discussion I'm leading, but it feels more like study than pleasure reading. I like study, but somehow I don't find myself doing it on my own just for fun.

I believe Tolkien defended his archaic style in one of his letters, saying that it would be ridiculous for Theoden to speak in modern vernacular. We can see this dilemma in the movie, where the archaic "Forth the Three Hunters!" is changed to the too-modern "Let's hunt some orcs!" Perhaps there is a middle ground.

But I do know that when Ian McKellen declaimed in Tolkien's original language, it did not sound ridiculous at all. Somehow he could carry it off. It's that Shakespearean training, I suppose. I remember a story about McKellen trying to convince Jackson to use more dialogue from Tolkien by showing how he would say it -- and Jackson admitting that it of course sounded wonderful when McKellen said it.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Jun 20 2007, 2:23pm

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I enjoy the archaisms in LotR too [In reply to] Can't Post

The varied language is part of the richness of the world, and there it does have an important role to play in the story. And as for having the Gondorians using words like "puissant", or the ancient and classical Ithilien having a "dryad loveliness", I find that not just bearable but wonderful.

It's the Silmarillion that gets to me. I can read it successfully enough if I imagine that it's a kind of Old Testament history within the world of LotR, but as a style per se, it drives me up the wall! I'm guessing that it's something like this that critics have complained about with CoH, so my post was intended to try to shed some light on Modtheow's question, based on my own reactions to Tolkien's unrelieved archaic style in the Sil. (I haven't read CoH so far, as I don't like illustrated books in general and I'm clearly not a fan of unrelieved Tolkienian archaism. And since I don't even own LotR in hardback, I find I can't justify owning CoH in that format - maybe I'll spring for the paperback when it comes out).

I take your point about McKellen's delivery of Tolkien's formal language, and it may well be that he could make the Sil (or CoH) sound good too. I have a recording of him reading a translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight that is very enjoyable to listen to, so why not? I think Beowulf too could be read very successfully by a trained Shakespearean actor. I'd love to hear McKellen do Seamus Heaney's version, which really does roll beautifully off the tongue. Here's what Heaney says about his approach in the Introduction:

I came to the task of translating Beowulf with a prejudice in favour of forthright delivery. I remembered the voice of the poem as being attractively direct, even though the diction was ornate and the narrative method at times oblique. What I had always loved was a kind of foursquareness about the utterance, a feeling of living inside a constantly indicative mood, in the presence of an understanding that assumes you share an awareness of the perilous nature of life and are yet capable of seeing it steadily and, when necessary, sternly.

Now that's what I think of as a good, honest approach to style. I would highly recommend Heaney's translation of Beowulf, to you and anyone else who's following your very interesting discussion on the Off-Topic board, both for the Introduction and for the way the text comes across as a real, solid story. I consider my paperback copy of that a much better investment than CoH would be for me!

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 20 2007, 3:17pm

Post #19 of 135 (1340 views)
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CoH suffers for having multiple styles. [In reply to] Can't Post

While I competely understand the decision to reduce quotation of Tolkien's texts here, I think squire's tri-colored transcription of the first chapter showed something interesting (perhaps he will comment on this subject in lieu of risking the wrath of the Tolkien estate): CoH derives largely from two different traditions: the distanced "Quenta" material (as from The Silmarillion), and the immediate "Narn" material (as from Unfinished Tales). Both styles are more archaic than LotR, but the former in particular is meant for conveying a lot of history in a little space, and I suspect is usually the part that puts people off.

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


Modtheow
Lorien

Jun 20 2007, 4:07pm

Post #20 of 135 (1336 views)
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Still not satisfied [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for your replies describing what you like and don’t like about Tolkien’s style, but I’d still like to ask further questions – not because I'm trying to force people to say that they like Tolkien’s style but because I want to comprehend what it is that they’re hearing in his words, and there are some points that I still don’t understand. (N.E.B.: I see that you’ve replied but I haven’t had time to think about your response, so this message addresses FFHome and Curious’s posts.)

I agree that in LotR there’s a greater variety of styles that contributes to our sense of the richness of that world. I wonder if we’ll be able to detect any differences in style in CoH? Do the elves speak differently from humans? What about the dwarf and the dragon? I’m not going to attempt to answer that right now but it’s something I’ll be keeping in mind as we go through the book. Certainly, the narrative voice in CoH is not like that in LotR; the narrator seems very much like a saga storyteller to me in CoH. I’m also thinking about squire’s question in his post #4 about "Tolkienisms" in this first chapter and am waiting to see what others say there.

But here are my further questions: FarFromHome, you say that Tolkien’s archaic style sounds like a "superficial, self-conscious effect" to you. Aren’t all good writers, though, conscious of the style they deliberately choose to use? "Superficial" is another problem, of course. I can see FFHome’s point that Tolkien does not use language in a new way like James Joyce, for example. But how is giving us "the flavour of the ancient world" through this style a superficial move when Tolkien is trying to describe an ancient world? The style fits the subject, no? And doesn’t that make the style more than an ornamental addition? I agree that Tolkien is not using language in a new way; he is trying to get back to an older style of storytelling, but the fact that he’s using that style in the twentieth century to tell a fictional story of his own is a different use of the style – is it a new use of the style? I don’t know, though I'm guessing there must be some predecessors – I’ve read lots of late 19th and early 20th century adaptations and translations of medieval stories that attempt something like saga style, but does anyone know of a writer of original fiction who used this style before Tolkien? William Morris, maybe? I’ve only read Morris’s translation of Beowulf, which is so deliberately archaized that it’s practically unreadable; what about his prose?

When you say that Tolkien uses the "same stilted phraseology over and over again" I’m wondering what are the examples in the first few pages of CoH? I pointed out two examples of unusual sentence order in the first couple of pages, but do those sentences sound "stilted"? To me, the word order of a sentence like "Of all the Men of the North he knew most of the counsels of the Noldor" reads quite smoothly and beautifully emphasizes the point the narrator is trying to make.

I’ve also been thinking about that interesting quotation from Heaney that FarFromHome included in her last post. Although CoH doesn’t have, in my opinion, the ornate diction and as oblique a narrative method as Beowulf (and I disagree with Heaney’s assessment of Beowulf as being in a "constantly indicative mood"), I’m wondering nevertheless if Heaney’s description could be applied to CoH:

"What I had always loved was a kind of foursquareness about the utterance, a feeling of living inside a constantly indicative mood, in the presence of an understanding that assumes you share an awareness of the perilous nature of life and are yet capable of seeing it steadily and, when necessary, sternly."

By the way, I second FarFromHome’s recommendation that people read Heaney’s translation of Beowulf as a good modern version that is far more readable than some of the older ones available on the Internet. Heaney’s not a bad reader either. You can hear him reading bits of his translation here:

http://www2.wwnorton.com/college/english/nael/noa/audio.htm


Stanislaus B.
The Shire

Jun 20 2007, 4:41pm

Post #21 of 135 (1346 views)
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Tolkien's style [In reply to] Can't Post

I think that no-one here is opposed to Tolkien's style simply because it is different from the easy and comfortable style of modern bestsellers.

The question is whether it is "imposed... for appearance's sake", "unnecessary ornament, added to give a bit of the flavour of the ancient world without saying anything new or different about it" or "the result of an attempt to express something new and inexpressible in any other way."

I must first say that I don't agree with this Kantian enmity towards ornaments. The book is an unnecessary ornament by itself, and for saying something new about ancient world, a history book would be more appropriate. I personally think that in book it is the appearance that counts, and so adding something for appearance's sake is the only good motivation.

But we must still ask whether this appearance is good or bad, and what makes it so.

I would say that the style of speaking is the style of thinking. Turin is not a modern man. Were he one, he would be incomprehensible. He must therefore speak as he thinks, if he is to be understood at all.

As for the question whether this saga-like style add something to the tale, I would suggest an experiment. Some interesting fragment be written in a modern style and compared to the original. This way we would see whether the "archaic" style makes any difference.

I have found an interesting opinion on this topic in a blog:

http://superversive.livejournal.com/#entry_49730

A critic, Tom Deveson of the Times, writes:

"Tolkien endorses this equation of archaism with beauty, but doesn’t show why it is more desirable to write “dwelt” than “lived”, to describe a sword that “would cleave all earth-dolven iron” or to have people say, “Await me here until haply I return.”

The blogger comments:

"The sentence Mr. Deveson objects to is as dry as ship’s biscuit. If you take it apart, and put it back together in purely modern English, it means: ‘Wait for me here until I come back — if that ever happens.’ That takes twelve words to Tolkien’s seven. Morwen’s almost parenthetical use of haply expresses all the fatality of her decision and the fatalism of her outlook, and does it in a way that no other single English word can match. She is fey, desperate, and almost hopeless, and Tolkien shows us the extremity of her plight without a word of narrative."

As to why the style of Childern of Hurin is different from the style of the Lord of the Rings - the style should fit the story. The difference between plots is the same.

Incidentally, E. R. Eddison, one of the best stylist of English, responded to the criticism of his style as follows:

‘The style of the book is not a mannerism born of caprice or of
perverse affectation, but the scent & breath & life of the whole thing... I look
upon it as a discovery: a place of prospect, if you like, from which I can look
and see those things I most desire to see.... I feel just as if, after you & I had
admired, say, the English Lakes together, you were to say: “It’s all very pretty,
but how much better if you could simplify these hills: cut them down to an
average height of 200 ft or so and fit them out with the popular, such as tea
houses & bandstands on the top of each.... ” When restraint hardens into
repression you get not strength but vacuity.’

http://www.ereddison.com/criticism.html (Heroic Hereafters by Jonathan Preece)


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 20 2007, 5:02pm

Post #22 of 135 (1315 views)
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But the first chapter... [In reply to] Can't Post

now that I take another look at the sourcing, doesn't bear out my guess. Most of it is from UT; the major exception is the visit to Gondolin.

Just looking at the first paragraph, I find seven people introduced who will get only a little further mention in the story (Fingolfin, Galdor, Glóredhel, Hador Goldenhead, Haldir, Halmir, Hareth -- quick: who's who?) and five further names of peoples and places that likewise will be new to many readers (Brethil, Dor-lómin, Edain, Eldar, Hithlum). There are several words not commonly seen in modern writing ("lord", "well-beloved", "dwelt", even "wedded"). And there are phrases unlikely to be found in most modern novels ("while his days lasted" and "that region...which was called"). All this, for starters, may present stylistic difficulties for modern readers.

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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 20 2007, 5:26pm

Post #23 of 135 (1308 views)
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Some really good comments at that link! [In reply to] Can't Post

Sharp work, on the whole, and I agree with much of it. However, Simon never does show why "dwelt" is better than "lived". Also at the end he moves from description of what Tolkien has done to assertion about its quality, without adequate support. And to repeat a concern I have with Shippey's J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, I am not convinced that Modernist authors refused to confront human wickedness. Nor that many of Tolkien's supporters are unwilling to grant his seriousness, a remark which comes out of nowhere to close Simon's essay.

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


Stanislaus B.
The Shire

Jun 20 2007, 5:27pm

Post #24 of 135 (1310 views)
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Not so difficult words? [In reply to] Can't Post

Umberto Eco said that he had written the beginning of the "Name of the Rose" in order to frighten away the immature readers. It is, in fact, much more difficult than Hurin - a discussion about the topos of the ideal horse in medieval Latin literature, and then a symbology of numbers. There is also a lot of Latin.

Despite that, the book sold well - similarly like Tolkien's Hurin. Perhaps we should give the common reader a bit more credit? "Lord" is not so difficult a word, I would think. We could try to translate it into modernese, perhaps as a "chairman", but I am not sure that the exact shade of the meaning would be the same.

"Well-beloved" - I think any moderately competent speaker of English should understand this, similarly "wedded". A simple Google check suggest those words are not as rare as it would seem.

Carcanet, habergeon etc, from the Lord of the Rings seem somehow more obscure.


(This post was edited by Stanislaus B. on Jun 20 2007, 5:30pm)


FarFromHome
Valinor


Jun 20 2007, 5:50pm

Post #25 of 135 (1300 views)
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I've just been reading through [In reply to] Can't Post

the Narn I Hin Húrin in the UT, since I don't have CoH, and from what you say it seems that should do to give me the right idea about what's being discussed.

I'm finding it very difficult to put my finger on exactly what it is that bothers me about this style. As both Modtheow and Stanislaus B point out, an archaic style suits the subject-matter, and I really have no argument with that. So why do I keep feeling that the style is mannered or affected, rather than an honest reflection of the story itself? I could understand Tolkien saying, as E.R. Eddison does about his own style, in the quotation given by Stanislaus B:

"The style of the book is not a mannerism born of caprice or of perverse affectation, but the scent & breath & life of the whole thing."

I'm sure Tolkien means his style to be the scent & breath & life of his story too, yet for me it doesn't come alive, although I've yet to figure out why.

Here's one possibility: Tolkien tries too hard. He uses a less-familiar word, like 'wedded' instead of 'married' or even 'wed', and that would be fine. But he does it twice in the same sentence in the first paragraph ("His daughter Glóredhel wedded Haldir...; and at the same feast his son Galdor the Tall wedded Hareth...") and then again at the start of the third paragraph ("Húrin wedded Morwen..."). The repetition sounds awkward, forced, just too insistent on using an archaism for archaism's sake, to my ear. One other 'Tolkienism' that bothers me is the pseudo-Biblical phraseology that begins sentences (and post-semicolon clauses) with And..., For..., or But... . A little of this would be fine, but too much again starts to seem like a deliberate attempt to imitate an ancient style, a piling-on of archaic decoration, that's trying a bit too hard to be convincing.

I suppose this is just me - I do seem to have a low tolerance for mannered or over-written prose, and there are some parts of LotR too that feel over-written to me if I'm being objective, although the story is powerful enough that I never am objective while I'm reading - once I'm in Faerie I buy everything!

I wonder if it would be fair to say that there's a kind of barrier that you have to get over with Tolkien? Once you're in Faerie, things look different than they do from the other side. Maybe when I'm reading the Sil, I stay in my left-brained, analytical world from where I can see Tolkien trying very hard - too hard - to conjure the magic. Maybe I just need to find my way into Faerie, and all will be well...

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Jun 20 2007, 6:01pm

Post #26 of 135 (521 views)
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I don't think it's about comprehension [In reply to] Can't Post

Actually, it might be interesting to compare the style of The Name of the Rose with that of CoH, just to see what the differences are. My Italian's not great, but I did read The Name of the Rose once in Italian (after reading it a couple of times in English) just to try to get the flavour of the original. I find Eco's style much more convincing, objectively, than Tolkien's "archaic" style. Yes, there's a lot of difficult stuff at the start of Rose, but the book itself doesn't have that mannered style that bothers me sometimes with Tolkien. Of course, Eco is more prepared to play with the modern/historical interface, while Tolkien, in his First Age stories at least, wants you to stay in historical mode with no nod to the modern at all (hmmm, maybe that's why I need hobbits - I need to feel that tension between the historical and the modern. I need to think about this some more...)

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


Stanislaus B.
The Shire

Jun 20 2007, 6:09pm

Post #27 of 135 (520 views)
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Some more "over-written" authors [In reply to] Can't Post

If you think Tolkien has "a mannered or over-written prose" style, I can only suggest a few books:

From Elfland to Poughkeepsie by Ursula K. Le Guin
http://www.amazon.com/Elfland-Poughkeepsie-Ursula-K-Guin/dp/091401000X

The Fates of the Princes of Dyfed bu Kenneth Morris
http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/dyfed/fates-hp.htm

Book of The Three Dragons by Kenneth Morris
http://www.amazon.com/Book-Three-Dragons-Kenneth-Morris/dp/1593600275/ref=pd_bbs_1/103-1562206-5681412?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1182362170&sr=1-1

Jack Vance, The Dying Earth
http://www.sfsite.com/10b/tde91.htm

The Well at the World's End by William Morris
http://www.marxists.org/archive/morris/works/1892/wwend/

Lord Dunsany, The King of Elfland's Daughter
http://greatsfandf.com/AUTHORS/LordDunsany.php

And E. R. Eddison, Mistress of Mistresses
http://greatsfandf.com/AUTHORS/EREddison.php
http://ww2.wizards.com/books/Wizards/default.aspx?doc=main_classicworm
http://www.ereddison.com/criticism.html

‘Upon a table by the couch, in a golden bowl, were roses, withered and dead. She took one and held it, like Cleopatra’s aspick, to the flower of Her own breast. And, as if to show upon experiment that in that place nothing but death can die and corruption self-corrupted fall like a foul garment to leave perfection bare, all the starved petals of the rose, shrivelled and brown, opened into life again, taking on again the smoothness and softness of the flesh of a living flower; a deep red rose, velvet-dark that the sense should ache at it, with a blueness in its darkest darknesses, as if the heavy perfume clung as a mist to dull the red.... Upon the sudden, She put on Her full beauty, intolerable, that no eye can bear, but the heart of Her doves turns cold, and they drop their wings. So the eternal moment contemplates itself anew beside the eternal sea that sleeps about the heavenly Paphos. Only She was: She, and the hueless waiting wonder of the sea at daybreak, and Her zephyrs, and Her roses, and Her hours with their frontlets of gold.’


Wynnie
Rohan


Jun 20 2007, 6:28pm

Post #28 of 135 (485 views)
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*mods up* thanks for that blog link [In reply to] Can't Post

What a brilliant review!





None such shall return again.



N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 20 2007, 6:41pm

Post #29 of 135 (614 views)
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The words aren't difficult. [In reply to] Can't Post

They are uncommon, nowadays. I was trying to explain why Tolkien's style in the first paragraph might seem archaic and difficult to modern readers. It's difficult because of the many proper names. It's archaic because of the word choices: "dwelt" for "lived".

As for Eco, it sounds less like he's opposed to "immature readers" than to those who haven't read what he has. (Tom Stoppard is notorious for this also.) I daresay he too could be stopped cold by a text that went outside his expertise.

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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 20 2007, 6:45pm

Post #30 of 135 (495 views)
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Tom Shippey uses a similar argument. [In reply to] Can't Post

He responds to one of Christine Brooke-Rose's complaints --that LotR is bogged down in excessive realistic detail-- with the argument that other works, in this case Tolkien's own drafts for LotR, are even more so burdened (as with the "hobbit talk" excised from "Three is Company"). But it doesn't prove Brooke-Rose wrong about supposed faults in LotR to show that other texts are even worse.

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


Stanislaus B.
The Shire

Jun 20 2007, 6:56pm

Post #31 of 135 (498 views)
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Not difficult, by archaic [In reply to] Can't Post

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that Tolkien managed to write using an archaic style, but perfectly understandable words - the effect of archaism, but no need to reach for a dictionary.

That would mean that he succeeded.

Obviously, strange and alien style, even if understandable, may not be easy and comfortable to read. It may even (o horror!) require some attention and effort.

But Hurin in general isn't an easy and comfortable read, so it fits, I think. It would be dishonest if Tolkien began with Hobbit-style cosy talk, and ended with incest and suicide. Better to get rid of the "cosy" readers at the start - you won't torture them needlessly.

That is what Eco meant, by the way - he wanted to signal to his reader that the book will require some effort, and there will be some parts diffcult to understand.


squire
Half-elven


Jun 20 2007, 7:28pm

Post #32 of 135 (492 views)
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"easy and comfortable" vs "engaging" [In reply to] Can't Post

I think CoH may not be easy and comfortable to read, but it's a lot more easy and comfortable than this thread seems to assume. The rhetorical archaism is generally minimalized and modernized, just as it was in LotR.

The opening section is not hard to read, of itself, but the subject matter and overwhelming amount of unexplained information puts one off. It does not warn the reader of what's ahead: very little in the book is so strange and difficult as these opening sections where the reader is being brought "up to speed" in a story that, as originally written, was part of a long and integral cycle of history and legend. The incest and suicide at the end races along clearly and horrifically, and is probably the easiest and most engagingly-written part of the entire story.

My objection to the opening of the story is along the lines of Tom Simon in his blog: the saga-like geneology of the opening just does not engage the modern reader (the way it may well have engaged medieval listeners). This is something Tolkien knew perfectly well how to do when he felt like it, and it is usually what the opening of a book aspires to do. We don't need hobbits for this. Why, in fact, not open with the abduction of Hurin and Huor to Gondolin, which comes just a page later?

I think Christopher Tolkien was ill-served by his instincts or his editors when he chose not to take a slightly more aggressive stance towards rearranging or omitting elements to help this story stand on its own - if he was serious about wanting to get LotR readers (and viewers!) involved with the best that the Silmarillion can offer.



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


FarFromHome
Valinor


Jun 20 2007, 7:40pm

Post #33 of 135 (500 views)
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Well, Eco is a very interesting writer [In reply to] Can't Post

and certainly not averse to adding popular elements to his tales. The Name of the Rose manages to address the Inquisition, and the folly of attempting to control ideas, in a medieval detective-story format. I expect it was the detective story that made the book so popular, although as Stanislaus B says, there are some difficult ideas in there. For me, the biggest hurdle was trying to absorb the late-medieval history of Italy that formed the background of the story, and that was all presented up-front. In that at least, his approach resembles Tolkien's in CoH. (Although we don't really know whether Tolkien would have left in this opening as a challenge to the reader - the version we have, as I understand it, was not intended for publication but was still in a form that Tolkien presumably chose to please himself rather than with a readership in mind.)

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


a.s.
Valinor


Jun 20 2007, 8:34pm

Post #34 of 135 (513 views)
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The Worm Hour-oh-bore-us [In reply to] Can't Post

Wink It's not really boring, I just couldn't pass on the pun of "Ouroboros".

Here's an excerpt from "The Worm Ouroboros:, the only Eddison book I've read. It took me a while to get used to the flow of the language, but once you begin to read you get hooked. It's very interesting. It's also archaic, but not dry and not dispassionate:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/...o/two15.htm#page_143

At length, on an even, they came upon a heath running up eastward to a range of tumbled hills. The hills were not lofty nor steep, but rugged of outline and their surface rough with crags and boulders, so that it was a maze of little eminences and valleys grown upon by heather and fern and rank sad-coloured grass, with stunted thorn trees and junipers harbouring in the clefts of the rocks. On the water-shed, as on an horse's withers, looking west to the red October sunset and south to the far line of the Didornian Sea, they came upon a spy-fortalice, old and desolate, and one sitting in the gate. For very joy their hearts melted within them, when they knew him for none other than Brandoch Daha.

So they embraced him as one beyond hope risen from the grave. And he said, "Through the Straits of Melikaphkhaz was I borne, and wrecked at last on the lonely shore ten leagues southward from this spot, whither I won alone, having lost my ship and all my dear companions. In my mind it was that ye must fare by this road to Muelva if ye suffered shipwreck in the outer coasts of Impland.


Tolkien can write like this. Parts of the Sil and other stories read like this. But the beginning of COH is dry,

I'll see if I can compose my thoughts about why I find it "dry" later, when I have the book in front of me.

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


Stanislaus B.
The Shire

Jun 20 2007, 9:27pm

Post #35 of 135 (494 views)
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Childer of Hurin are a saga [In reply to] Can't Post

It is dry because it is not a novel, it is a saga. And sagas are comparatively dry. Asking why it isn't constructed as a novel is pointless - it isn't one.

Woudn't it be better as a novel? It certainly would be quite different. A saga is much terser. Childer of Hurin covers the whole life of Turin, and is not very long. A novel would have to be enormous, or select only a short period to describe.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 20 2007, 9:44pm

Post #36 of 135 (468 views)
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Why don't people write sagas anymore? [In reply to] Can't Post

Why has the novel superseded the saga?

Were they normally written anyway? Or are those which are written just oral compositions preserved by chance? (If so, was it a mistake for Tolkien to write what should have been an oral creation?)

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


a.s.
Valinor


Jun 20 2007, 11:04pm

Post #37 of 135 (488 views)
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yes, but the question is [In reply to] Can't Post

(or, I think the question is)

Why specifically do some of us find the writing dull? Or, as Modtheow asked "what it is that people find archaic or long-winded about this style; a number of reviewers have complained about this. Is it the subject matter -- the fact that there are so many character sketches in a row with a lot of names -- that makes the style appear difficult or boring? Or is it something about the actual wording?"



Quote
It is dry because it is not a novel, it is a saga. And sagas are comparatively dry. Asking why it isn't constructed as a novel is pointless - it isn't one.




I am not complaining that it's a saga. I'm complaining that it doesn't interest me, this writing, although I can't put my finger on exactly why. I don't mind all archaic-sounding text (not being a scholar I can't tell the difference between archaic-sounding and truly archaic, in actuality!). I don't think it's the archaic terminology or the fact that it's based on the way actual ancient sagas are told.

I think it's the "far remove" I sense in the beginning of this story, in which Tolkien tells in a few short sentences the history behind this family and this time. The narrator is standing very very far away, somehow...the far-awayness of his sentences gets on my nerves sometimes. This bare recitation of factual information is fine for the battles and the begats, but when he turns to talk about love and loss it loses me. I don't feel it. I reads like a teenager writing about stuff he only knows from books. It's not so much "archaic" as falsely flowery: "Her love was given to trees and to the flowers of the wild, and she was a singer and a maker of songs" doesn't really tell me about a real woman. I'd prefer he stuck to bald recitation of who did what when and who wedded who and begat who (whom?) than digress into this precious treacle.

I'm not sure I can explain why I don't like the beginning any better than that. It's the same thing that bothers me about the Sil; this kind of writing leaves me cold unless I already know the characters and this kind of statement is turned into a song or even discourse. But from a narrator it is irritating (to me).

In fact, I'd prefer he said something like "they say that she was a lover of trees" or "she was a singer, or so the stories tell us".

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


Modtheow
Lorien

Jun 21 2007, 3:03am

Post #38 of 135 (487 views)
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terse and impersonal = saga [In reply to] Can't Post

The bare recital of facts and the faraway narrator are typical features of saga style. Usually, a saga narrator will give terse descriptions of characters, concentrating on what they say and do. So if you don't like those features of the story, it sounds to me as if you are complaining about the saga style. Not that everyone has to like the style, of course, but I agree with Stanislaus B when he says, "Asking why it isn't constructed as a novel is pointless - it isn't one." A lot of the reviewers' complaints and questions that I've seen seem to be asking that pointless question.

However, the "precious treacle" that a.s. identifies in the following sentence might be something different -- maybe it's more of a Tolkienian flaw:

"Her love was given to trees and to the flowers of the wild, and she was a singer and a maker of songs"

I'm not sure you'd see anyone quite like this in a saga, where time to spend hugging trees and loving flowers probably wasn't available among the daily chores of preparing food and clothing for the farmstead in Iceland, even if you were the senior woman and in charge of servants. It sounds too refined, too effete somehow, to fit the hard view of life, honour, and fate that we often get in the sagas. However, I disagree that this line doesn't tell me about a real woman. Rian doesn't like hunting or war; she's "gentle of heart"; she's an artist; she loves beauty and nature. That's a lot of information that allows me to imagine a certain kind of character. It's especially a "hard fate" for her to be born into such times because she is totally unsuited to them, unlike Morwen, whose pride and sternness are brought out all the more by the contrast with Rian.

If this is annoying preciousness, though, does it account for the dullness that readers complain of? How many such lines are there in the opening couple of pages? Is this what readers mean when they say that the style is "over-written"? I'm having a hard time with that one, since the word order and the word choice in that sentence is extremely simple. The only "flowery" thing I can see in the line is the actual subject matter being denoted.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Jun 21 2007, 9:15am

Post #39 of 135 (500 views)
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There's subject-matter and then there's style [In reply to] Can't Post

You may well be right that descriptions of people loving flowers and trees wouldn't normally belong in a saga, and this may be a flaw in itself if Tolkien really is trying to recreate the atmosphere of the saga, as several people in this thread seem to believe he is.

But there is also a problem for me, and apparently for others, in what a.s. calls "precious treacle" and I call "over-written". It doesn't mean the words have to be unusual or difficult. It doesn't even mean the word-order has to be particularly odd. It simply means that things are stated in a self-conscious, mannered way when they could be said more simply. "The flowers of the wild" only means "wild flowers". So why not use the simpler phrase? It would seem more honest, more immediate. I understand that an author must choose a style that suits his material, but I think his motivation should be to allow himself to communicate his material in the most effective and honest way he can, not just to embellish it.

As an example, I have recently been reading a book of Irish legends, Over Nine Waves by Marie Heaney. The stories themselves are strange and wonderful, and the teller uses a simple, unaffected style that lets all the strangeness shine through. She doesn't feel the need to embellish the stories with a veneer of faux archaisms, and for me that works much better than Tolkien's approach in the Sil and the UT. (As I've said before, if there's a reason for changes in style, as in LotR, I have no problem with it. It's the unremittingness of the archaic style in Tolkien's other works that bothers me.)

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


a.s.
Valinor


Jun 21 2007, 11:01am

Post #40 of 135 (462 views)
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hmmm, well. yes. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
The bare recital of facts and the faraway narrator are typical features of saga style. Usually, a saga narrator will give terse descriptions of characters, concentrating on what they say and do. So if you don't like those features of the story, it sounds to me as if you are complaining about the saga style. Not that everyone has to like the style, of course, but I agree with Stanislaus B when he says, "Asking why it isn't constructed as a novel is pointless - it isn't one." A lot of the reviewers' complaints and questions that I've seen seem to be asking that pointless question.



I don't like the saga style, if the beginning of COH is an example of saga style.

I am not suggesting or asking why he didn't construct it as a novel, though. I am just trying to explain why I find it irritating, which is what I said originally. If the "far-awayness" I feel is an example of saga style, I don't like it.

But mostly I don't like the effeteness (good word!) of some of the prose used in the saga. I don't think it's the word order, exactly, but the words chosen are made more awkward by that word order.

Let's try substituting other descriptors:

"His hatred was given to orcs and to the Men of the wild, and he was a warrior and a slayer of wolves"

I still dislike his hatred "being given" (how passive a voice can he achieve??) to orcs, but now I don't mind his having been a warrior and slayer. So maybe it's still not the word order exactly but the preciousness of his descriptions of women. Maybe I'm closer with that thought.

Maybe not. Maybe I can't really understand why I find some of the wording awkward to the point of laughabilty.

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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 21 2007, 11:59am

Post #41 of 135 (482 views)
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"Much have I seen, and much have I done." [In reply to] Can't Post

"I am Lothar of the Hill People!"

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


Modtheow
Lorien

Jun 21 2007, 1:23pm

Post #42 of 135 (480 views)
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ah, yes! [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks must be offered to Lothar and to other people of many thoughts. The problem vexes me, but it is good to receive enlightenment from those who speak of these things. Much have I read and much have I thought and now understanding has been given.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 21 2007, 5:49pm

Post #43 of 135 (499 views)
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The flowers of the wild, the Tigers of Detroit. [In reply to] Can't Post

I vaguely remember a critique of Hemingway's writing in The Old Man and the Sea that argued something similar: when translating conversations from Spanish for an English readership, possessive constructions using "of" make phrasing that would be commonplace to the speakers look unusual to the readers. Though maybe in both cases, Hemingway and Tolkien, the goal is to make us think differently about the Detroit Tigers and the wildflowers?

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


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 21 2007, 7:24pm

Post #44 of 135 (497 views)
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Stilted = artificial [In reply to] Can't Post

When people complain about Tolkien's "stilted" dialogue, I think they are complaining that it sounds artificial. It isn't what we would say now if we were talking with each other, and it isn't what people would say at another time and place either, because it is not authentic Old English or Middle English or English dialect of any kind. Instead it is Tolkien's attempt to make modern English sound old without using the authentic language we would find in the King James Bible or Shakespeare or Chaucer, let alone Beowulf. It is, I judge, an artificial style.

The question is whether an artificial style is necessarily a bad style. The word "stilted" is usually considered a criticism, just as the phrase "deus ex machina" is usually considered a criticism. Yet Tolkien consciously writes artificial dialogue that is not authentic to any age, and introduces improbable victories knowing that they come across as improbable -- i.e. deus ex machina. Tolkien is also criticized for being unrealistic, romantic, vague, non-topical, moralistic, and a number of other accusations that grow out of the modern infatuation with the realistic novel, and disdain for the heroic romance. Many of these accusations, including the artificial dialogue, are accurate as objective observations, but perhaps inaccurate as criticisms, unless we assume that heroic romances are bad.

Children of Hurin may in fact get less such criticism because unlike many romances it has a tragic ending and an unlikeable hero. In that sense it is more modern than many of Tolkien's tales, including LotR, but the dialogue and much of the narrative is still in an artificial, archaic style. So a number of critics -- in fact a majority -- have said that they like CoH, even while some complain about or gently mock the dialogue. Some, however, dislike the story as a whole, and so they do not hold back in their criticism of the archaic style, which they call impenetrable or embarassing or cringe-worthy.

The irony is that nearly all dialogue is artificial. No one speaks like they do in novels. If they did we would have to wade through lots of inane dialogue to find something worth hearing. But there are certain conventions about novelistic dialogue that feel realistic. Authors can play with those conventions, but abandon them at their peril. Some who abandon them, like James Joyce in Finnegan's Wake, are lauded as innovative, but rarely read. Tolkien, on the other hand, reaches back for a more traditional style, and is ridiculed by those who do not like it as little better than the geeks who dress up for the Renaissance Faire or the Society for Creative Anachronism. (To which a fan might say, but what is wrong with being such a geek?)

I don't think one can deny that Tolkien uses an artficial, anachronistic style. He does so quite deliberately, and with more knowledge of ancient literature than most authors dream of, but he still does it. Some people automatically dismiss it as bad. Others tolerate it. Some love it. But I think even the biggest Tolkien fans are sometimes disconcerted by the admittedly-artificial anachronisms.

For example, Aragorn says "lo" several times in LotR, and I can never get used to it. I know the word "lo" appears in the King James Bible, a masterpiece of English prose. But it has been mocked many times since then, usually as part of the incorrect phrase "lo and behold" -- it should be, as in LotR, either "lo!" or "behold!", or in rare cases for extra emphasis both without the "and" in between, i.e. "And behold! Lo!" (from "The Field of Cormallen"). I cannot read "lo!" in LotR and forget all the mocking uses of the term. Tolkien may want to recapture the original sense of the word, but it has been a long, long time since anyone could use the word "lo!" in conversation with a straight face.

Similarly, even though I did not like the line "Let's hunt some orcs" in the movie, I cannot imagine movie Aragorn saying "Forth the Three Hunters" or "No niggard are you" and getting away with it. If someone does bring Children of Hurin to the screen, I will forgive them if they abandon Tolkien's archaic dialogue entirely. I have no attachment to it. I would not go to the other extreme and show Turin using hip street slang, and I might even recommend choosing words with Anglo-Saxon roots wherever possible, but there is a middle ground.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Jun 21 2007, 8:11pm

Post #45 of 135 (457 views)
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Yes, I thought about that [In reply to] Can't Post

I wondered briefly if "flowers of the wild" were something different - did Rian actually go out into "the wild" and put herself in danger for the sake of these flowers, for instance? But I couldn't see that any such thing was implied. It just seems to be wild flowers, as far as I can tell. That's what bothers me about "precious" language - it keeps misleading you into trying to find something beyond the ordinary in the words, and it's annoying and disappointing when you find there's nothing there. Or at least, if Tolkien really is trying to make us think differently about wild flowers with this construction, I'm afraid it's passed me by.

As for Hemingway, he seems to be using the Spanish constructions to give a flavour of Spanish within his English story. I wouldn't object to that - in fact Tolkien changes his style for the different modes of speech of the races in LotR, and I find that very effective. Actually, I sometimes wonder if Tolkien was striving for a "translated" feel in these tales - is the style meant to reflect the difficulty (or rather, the impossibility) of rendering the language of the Elves into Common Speech? That's something that's mentioned a number of times in LotR. Are we meant to see this rather stilted style as Bilbo's best efforts at translating tales from a language that is so much richer and more elegant than his own?

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 21 2007, 8:52pm

Post #46 of 135 (465 views)
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Of course we are. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Are we meant to see this rather stilted style as Bilbo's best efforts at translating tales from a language that is so much richer and more elegant than his own?


Tolkien consistently uses that excuse in LotR when his characters apologize for the quality of their translated poetry, but it doesn't wash when the "translation" becomes the whole tale.



N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 21 2007, 8:55pm

Post #47 of 135 (451 views)
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You can't write bad... [In reply to] Can't Post

...until you've written well?

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


FarFromHome
Valinor


Jun 21 2007, 9:21pm

Post #48 of 135 (492 views)
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But if the style is meant [In reply to] Can't Post

to put the reader in mind of a translation of the Odyssey, say, or Beowulf, or the Bible, might that not be a valid aim? A misguided aim, perhaps, since keeping up this kind of pretence through a whole tale is bound to be wearying for the reader. It's a bit like that annoying approach you sometimes see to non-standard dialect in dialogue, where the mispronunciations are all represented by mis-spellings. A little bit of this to give a flavour is fine, but keeping up the effect just seems annoying and distancing.

It's possible, I suppose, that Tolkien enjoyed writing in this style for his own amusement, imagining the ideal version of his story in his head and just writing his lesser "translation". But then he never was able to summon the intense imaginative and creative effort required to bring the stories up to the level that he achieved with LotR. He clearly had an amazing talent for dreaming up stories, but the honing and shaping was another job entirely.

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 21 2007, 10:17pm

Post #49 of 135 (464 views)
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It's worse than dialect. [In reply to] Can't Post

At least it is worse than authentic dialect, such as that found in Huckleberry Finn. The problem with Tolkien's archaic dialogue is that it is not only distracting, it is highly artificial. In LotR he gets away with it because it is used to distinguish between the hobbits and the men of Rohan and Gondor. But even there it can be distracting.

Note that the King James version of the Bible was not written in an artificially archaic manner, but in the formal language of the time. Beowulf and The Odyssey were written in different languages, and I cannot judge how archaic they sounded to the original audiences. Writing in formal language, though, is not the same as writing in artificially archaic language.

If I spoke exactly how I wrote I imagine it would sound quite formal. I would not use contractions, I would speak in full sentences, I would use parallel structure, all without sounding at all archaic. Some of our best orators speak formally when it is appropriate. People do not normally say things like "All we have to fear is fear itself" or "Do not ask what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

Some of Tolkien's dialogue is merely formal, and often quite beautiful. I love Faramir's speech about what he wants for Gondor, for example, or Gandalf's speech to Denethor about his duties as a Steward. But from time to time in LotR, and even more often in The Sil and CoH, Tolkien steps over the line into artificial archaisms that do get distracting and tiring.


squire
Half-elven


Jun 21 2007, 10:27pm

Post #50 of 135 (479 views)
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Tolkien liked to hone his writing style by reading it out loud [In reply to] Can't Post

At least, he did with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and even Farmer Giles of Ham. I don't suppose he had the chance with most of the material we're reading here. It might have made a real difference.

Nor did he ever get the chance to do what his son has tried to do, which is to make the tale of Hurin and Turin stand alone for publication. With the freedom to make real changes in approach and balance that only the original author could have, he might well have found a way to make it work. The Narn was, of course, his best shot at this -- but it is, as the phrase goes, "Unfinished"....



squire online:
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Curious
Half-elven

Jun 22 2007, 12:12am

Post #51 of 135 (504 views)
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At least he never wrote an epic [In reply to] Can't Post

in the style of Ghan-buri-Ghan.


Modtheow
Lorien

Jun 22 2007, 2:35am

Post #52 of 135 (514 views)
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natural and authentic [In reply to] Can't Post

All style is a product of artifice, so if that’s what you mean by "artificial" then I will agree that Tolkien’s style is artificial. But I don’t think that a lot of readers mean "artificial" in this way. What I’ve been trying to do is to get people to give me specific examples in the first two pages of CoH of what they would consider to be artificial in Tolkien’s style. So far, a.s. has identified the preciousness with which Tolkien writes about women and the use of passive constructions, and FFHome has identified what she sees as a mannered style of over-writing (saying "flowers of the wild" instead of "wild flowers"). Curious, all of your examples come from LotR; what about pages 33-34 in CoH?

In thinking about the way in which Tolkien’s writing is said to be artificial, I’ve been wondering about this: why is the opening of Tolkien’s story, written in the style of a saga, any more artificial than writing in the style of a stream-of-consciousness novel or a fairy tale or a newspaper story or a free verse poem? All of these types of writing have their own conventions which shape what the writer is going to say and how he or she is going to say it. Some genres, like the contemporary novel, might give us the impression that the words on the page sound just like the way we speak every day – I doubt most people would call this kind of story "artificial" (though Curious does point out how all novel dialogue is essentially artificial), but people do use the term "artificial" when they read something like a saga, which sounds different from contemporary everyday speech and from familiar genres. That’s why I’m suspicious when I hear readers say that the style is "artificial," and I’m compelled to ask for specific examples of what they mean. This is not to say that I think Tolkien is perfect in every line he writes, but I don’t want to settle for generalizations about "artificial" style without some examination of what that judgement is based on, because I think that all too often in the reviews that I’ve read judgements like "artificial" are carelessly thrown about to mean "this is not a style that I’m familiar with or a style that grabs me right away." Those reactions are honest impressions, of course, but they don’t necessarily make the style "artificial."

The charge of "boring" I can understand when looking at the opening paragraphs of CoH. If you’re not used to saga style or just plain don’t like it, then the first two pages will sound boring – though I have to say that, in my opinion, it might be more interesting if people tried to understand the saga conventions that Tolkien is using in order to see how an unfamiliar genre can work as a story rather than condemning it right away without giving it a try, which is what some of the newspaper reviewers of the "boring" opening sound like they’re doing, as if the contemporary novel is the measure of all good writing. But, of course, some people who do seriously tackle saga reading still don’t like the genre; readers’ tastes will differ, and that’s normal.

However, to say that Tolkien’s style is artificial because it’s not "authentic" language doesn’t make sense to me. It’s not written in the style of contemporary English speech, but it would be a pretty narrow literary world if all "authentic" texts were only written in such a style. In fact, Tolkien’s language and style more often than not sound completely natural and authentic to me – natural and authentic for a saga-style narrative. I wouldn’t say that Tolkien was trying to imitate a fictitious translation by Bilbo – I’d say that he was writing as if he himself were living, breathing, thinking, writing Old Icelandic or Old English and using the conventions of the medieval saga genre for this language. It’s hard to explain what I mean by this sense of a translation: to me, it’s as if you can hear the old languages just beneath the surface of his prose or ringing through his modern English words. It may be because in some passages Tolkien uses a high proportion of words deriving from pre-Norman words, but I haven’t really tested this theory beyond the first paragraph (which contains only two words that do not derive from pre-Norman Germanic languages). It may be that many of his phrases seem to reproduce the grammar of Old Icelandic or Old English. Again, I’m not trying to say that every sentence is perfect or that the prose doesn’t sound awkward or mannered or precious at some points. But I would argue that what Tolkien is giving us in the opening pages is generally an authentic language that is the natural mode of expression in a saga.


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 22 2007, 3:06am

Post #53 of 135 (509 views)
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Well, here's how the [In reply to] Can't Post

the first two paragraphs could have read:

Hador Goldenhead was a lord of the Edain and a friend of the Eldar. Fingolfin, the High King of the Eldar, gave Hador lands in the region of Hithlum called Dor-lomin. Hador's daughter Gloredhel married Haldir, the son of Halmir, lord of the people of Brethil. It was a double wedding, for Hador's son Galdor the Tall also married Hareth, the daughter of Halmir.

Galdor and Hareth had two sons, Hurin and Huor. Hurin was three years older than Huor. Hurin was shorter than the other men in his family, taking after his mother's people, but otherwise was like Hador, strong and hot headed. But despite his temper he had great will power and endurance. He also knew as much as any man about the counsels of the Noldor. Hurin's brother Huor was the talles of all the Edain except for Huor's own son Tuor. Huor was a fast runner, but Hurin was a better long-distance runner. Hurin and Huor loved each other and were always together in their youth.

Now I'm not saying this is a better version, but it is less artificial. Tolkien's archaisms are the equivalent of soaking paper in tea so it will look like it came from an ancient manuscript -- or drawing a picture of the ancient paper with runes on it, as Tolkien did for LotR.

But there are better examples of artificial language to come. Much of the problem with this opening has less to do with the artificial language than with the dry and confusing subject matter. Get on with the story already!

Sagas start with family trees because the original audience cared, often because they had heard the stories behind the stories, the whole legendarium, and wanted to know where this story fit in with the others. Those of us who have read The Silmarillion resemble that audience, for we may need reminding of where Hurin and Turin fit into the stories of The Silmarillion, and these first paragraphs serve that purpose.

The other audience that finds the family tree fitting are those modern readers of sagas who know the convention of how they start, and immediately think "saga!" when they read Tolkien's opening. But a new reader may well go "Who?" "What?" "Who?" "Where?" and "Who cares?"


(This post was edited by Curious on Jun 22 2007, 3:08am)


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 22 2007, 5:29am

Post #54 of 135 (505 views)
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More good comments by Simon... [In reply to] Can't Post

indirectly on Húrin, appear here.

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


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Jun 22 2007, 7:30am

Post #55 of 135 (498 views)
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laughter & song will be short-lived in this tale [In reply to] Can't Post

The story opens with a detailed account of the ancestry and marriage of Húrin.

A. Many reviewers of The Children of Hurin have criticized this “genealogical” opening, as being both dull and confusing. Do you agree?

My experience of this long listing of characters has changed. I was stuck on the first page of The Narn in UT for a year or two…I couldn't remember who was who from the Silmarillion. And having a list of names simply throws me through a loop. Now I am more familiar with the names, I finally got through the greater portion of that version this spring. So, I am more familiar with the cast of characters and can plunge right in more easily.

But that is me, I have difficulty with remembering names, period, and numbers too. This version doesn't seem so heavily dependent on learing all those names.


C. Will you carry it (imagine Húrin as the shorter) with you as the brothers interact together later in the story? Should Alan Lee have drawn a picture of these two young men?

I just know Men are tall and generally don't think much about the differences . . . till now, since you mentioned it. I would love to see an Alan Lee drawing the two brothers.


D. Is the story telling us that she is “stern of mood and proud” because she is “saddened” by her family’s exile? Or was she always like that?

I think she is like that and her loss of Hurin just deepens that aspect of her. She seems to me someone not capable of moving through her emotions well and doesn't allow the grief to just happen naturally in order to heal…she's more likely to hold it in and stew on it.


E. We learn that Urwen (Lalaith) will die young. Why give this away?

I noticed that that comment is made right after we get her name "which is Laughter". It seems to me that Tolkien is trying to keep the mood dark and grim, and laughter kills the dark & grim. It is also increases the sense of foreboding in keeping, I think, with tales tragedy. This is preparing us that anytime anything wondrous or hopeful, such as laughter or joy is going to be short-lived in this tale.


F. Although Rian’s (the wife of Huor) little story here is sort of touching (who does she remind you of? why?) in fact she will never be heard from again in this story. Is her inclusion in this introduction justifiable?

This version of Rîan does not remind me that much of anyone, But the image of her in the Sil of throwing herself on the Mound after Huor's death in the Battle, always reminded my of Arwen going to the hill in Lorien after Aragorn dies. But that is not mentioned here. The description of here character seems kind of typical. But it does serve to set out Morwens' character more by way of contrast.


Is her inclusion in this introduction justifiable?

This paragraph about Rîan demonstrates many things:

- This paragraph about Rîan demonstrates many things.
- That these are harsh times.
- That one gentle of heart does fit, making the harsh times really seem harsh.
- That not only does laughter (Lalaith) die young, so does song (Rîan) and therefore joy and hope does too.
- This family is doomed to sorrow, loss and hard times.
- That Morwen is the more likely to outlive them all as a reflection of the hardness of what the world has fallen to.







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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 22 2007, 7:46am

Post #56 of 135 (484 views)
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story-tellers of old [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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And sagas generally don't bother with modern notions of suspense; when recounting traditional stories, medieval storytellers could assume that their audiences knew the plot to the end. I think the suspense would lie in getting to see how the storyteller would get you to the ending that you already knew.



I was thinking that earlier...This reminds me exactly of how I imagine the story-teller of old tell a tale. (i have seen them in old movies of ancient times...they all seem to tell tales that give away some foreboding of doom. I intended to say something like that in my post below...but my brain is fried.







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


FarFromHome
Valinor


Jun 22 2007, 8:19am

Post #57 of 135 (521 views)
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Now that's very interesting to hear [In reply to] Can't Post


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to me, it’s as if you can hear the old languages just beneath the surface of his prose or ringing through his modern English words


I've sometimes felt the same effect in LotR, based on the general style of medieval texts (I'm mostly only familiar with Old French, unfortunately). Sometimes something that seems rather odd to the modern ear suddenly comes into focus as an echo of something from the past that has since been lost to modern English. If Tolkien's style seems to you to be echoing the rhythm and modes of expression of Old English, then it seems that the problem isn't what we non-connoisseurs diagnosed at all, but an attempt at an authentic and faithful "translation" of the saga style that is simply falling on deaf ears (except for the few fortunate enough to be familiar with the saga in its original form).

As a translator myself, I can see two basic ways of translating - one is the pragmatic modern way that I use myself, in which you try to disguise the awkwardnesses born of the source language's quirks, so that the reader in the target language will get an impression as similar as possible to the one that the reader of the source language version had. The other way would be to try to preserve the oddness in the expressions, so that non-readers of the source language can still get a sense of how that language sounds. And that, I guess, is what Tolkien believed in doing, as you pointed out yourself recently in the Beowulf thread:


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In any case, Tolkien had quite conservative views on translation. As you might expect, he thought it was no substitute for reading the original language.

I do like how he describes the sounds of Old English in his essay "On Translating Beowulf":

"And therein lies the unrecapturable magic of ancient English verse for those who have ears to hear: profound feeling, and poignant vision, filled with the beauty and mortality of the world, are aroused by brief phrases, light touches, short words resounding like harp-strings sharply plucked."


But the question then becomes, was Tolkien mostly indulging his own interests in writing in this way, and should he (would he) have made more allowance for the fact that most of his potential readership would not have understood what he was doing with the language? Because unfortunately, if you don't have a sense of the Old English underlying the style, you just hear the awkwardness, and equate it with the kind of pseudo-archaic language that was being sent up by SNL in NEB's link.

I think your point about the origin of the vocabulary (pre- or post-Norman) is interesting too. In the phrase I objected to, "the flowers of the wild", "flowers" is of Norman origin, although "wild" is Germanic. That might be an interesting reason for the particular construction he used. The post-Norman "flowers" refers to something that saga-writers would not normally be interested in anyway (according to what I've gleaned from other posts). But "wild" is pre-Norman and Germanic, and it does have connotations of something dark and dangerous. So "flowers of the wild" could imply going out into dangerous places to find the softer, beautiful things that survive there. But truth to tell, I don't get that when I read the sentence. It's too bland, and gives no further hint of any such sense. Still, it's clear that there's more to this style than meets the eye.


...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.

(This post was edited by FarFromHome on Jun 22 2007, 8:23am)


squire
Half-elven


Jun 22 2007, 10:34am

Post #58 of 135 (496 views)
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Fascinating! and depressing [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't read fantasy any more, but I can't help but notice the size of the books in that section of the stores.

I also have noticed that some mainstream fiction books are quite bulky -- but others are not, really. And when I buy 'chick lit' as gifts, the books seem quite moderate in heft. Simon is on to something, though, when he points out the intersection of computer-based writing and the decline of the publishing market.

It's funny that the three individual volumes of LotR are quite moderate in size; yet the one-volume version is undeniably awkwardly big. The book is not a "trilogy", technically, but it seems to have inspired so many other fantasy authors to write multi-volume epics. Are they actually all one continuous story, too? Or are they more like closely-connected sequels?



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


Wynnie
Rohan


Jun 22 2007, 12:17pm

Post #59 of 135 (487 views)
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I see [In reply to] Can't Post

he shares my enthusiasm for the map:
    Christopher Tolkien has drawn a new map for the book, a tipped-in foldout on sturdy paper that should serve as an exemplar for all other publishers of books containing maps.





None such shall return again.



Curious
Half-elven

Jun 22 2007, 1:53pm

Post #60 of 135 (505 views)
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Few other series are multivolume novels. [In reply to] Can't Post

All of the fantasy series I've read are more like Harry Potter, i.e. independent novels set in the same world, perhaps with an overarching plot, but quite readable by themselves.

I must say that I do enjoy long novels when they are well written. They are not just found in fantasy. In fact Tolkien may have been drawing upon a 19th century tradition.


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 22 2007, 2:09pm

Post #61 of 135 (483 views)
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Yes, there are two different issues here. [In reply to] Can't Post

One issue is the family tree at the beginning of the story. The other is the use of slightly archaic language throughout the tale. I have problems with both.

As you note, the archaic language is not hard to understand. I just find it distracting. I think the same tale could be told in formal but contemporary language, like a more modern translation of The Bible.

I also find the archaic language artificial precisely because Tolkien minimalized and modernized it, so that it is not authentic to any era. When I read Shakespeare or the King James version of The Bible I don't find the language distracting because it feels authentic. On the other hand, I also may need to refer to footnotes to understand many of the words and phrases used by Shakespeare, and if I really want to understand The Bible I prefer a more recent translation.

I'm quite happy that CT chose not to toy too much with his father's writing, and at the same time I really wonder whether this telling will attract anyone to The Silmarillion. But hey, it has sold pretty well, so I guess it can't hurt. Still, I can't help wondering how many fans have bought it and put it on the shelf, unread, except perhaps for a quick glance at the pictures.


dna
The Shire

Jun 22 2007, 8:52pm

Post #62 of 135 (490 views)
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...said the blind man [In reply to] Can't Post

Hmmm, my ’77 Sil hardback also has a back foldout map of 4 times the size, with the first part of the fold-out a blank white space so that it could be used for the exact same purpose. Wait a minute, I have used it for this purpose for much of the last 30 years.

This is not a new concept, and it is not a new map. I cannot find anything new “drawn” on this map. He changed Belegaer to The Great Sea, Aelin-Uial to Twilit Meres, and consolidated East and West Beleriand. He also removed many appealing features including, of all things, the title and the compass.

To laud CT for this map can only mean one thing: applauding him for shrinking and denuding a 30-year old map. (Unless we also applaud him for choosing to present this in a book, with pages that turn, mass-produced on a printing press - which I wouldn't trade for all the lembas in Lothlorien either...)

Wink




Wynnie
Rohan


Jun 22 2007, 10:06pm

Post #63 of 135 (486 views)
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I was cheap [In reply to] Can't Post

and bought my first Sil in paperback. No foldouts there. More recently, I bought the big fancy hardback with Ted Nasmith illustrations. Its map is big, and pretty, but has no blank space and unfolds in a different direction. Sorry, I was unaware that a map in similar format to the one in CoH had ever graced a Tolkien book.

Still, wouldn't a map four times the size of the one in CoH be too big to comfortably leave unfolded while reading? I consider compactness a pro, not a con, in this case.





None such shall return again.



N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 23 2007, 3:52am

Post #64 of 135 (545 views)
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Prose: Tolkien vs. Lawrence, Wolfe, Farrell, Fitzgerald. [In reply to] Can't Post

Just for reference.

Our discussion last fall of Burton Raffel's 1969 article, "The Lord of the Rings as Literature", included some attempts to closely analyze Tolkien's prose in LotR, and also to compare it with that of D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Wolfe, James T. Farrell, and F. Scott Fitzgerald:

For most purposes Tolkien’s prose is brilliantly adequate

They are no more than Faërie props

the question of style is simply not at issue

Sam is … as a characterization virtually meaningless

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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 23 2007, 4:22am

Post #65 of 135 (483 views)
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Doesn't LotR give its ending away? // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Jun 23 2007, 4:27am

Post #66 of 135 (493 views)
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"The flowers of the wild" tells/describes a lot more [In reply to] Can't Post


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"The flowers of the wild" only means "wild flowers".


I disagree, hey don't mean exactly the same thing at all.

Wild flowers can grow anywhere and simply means that some one has not planted them. Where as 'flowers of the wild' means that they are in the wild (areas of wilderness) of come from the wild(erness).

So this tells me a lot more about her character than simply saying "wild flowers".

I tells me:
- she is more comfortable with being with nature than with people
- that she most likely journeys to the wild(erness) to enjoy these things (probably deeper into the forest.
- That there is wild(erness) not far at hand, most likely....so that tells me about the environment
- tells me that these forces are opposing to one another (nature and tamed)
- It also adds to general description of the lands around and sense of encroaching danger.

The phrase: "wild flowers" does none of that.
at least not for me...I picture a field of grass with dandeliions. 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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 23 2007, 4:32am

Post #67 of 135 (539 views)
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Húrin, Túrin, Durin. [In reply to] Can't Post

The first two names don't rhyme with the third in Tolkien's languages, of course, but he can't have been unaware of the similarity that English rather than Elvish (and Norse) readers would see.

Good point about Túrin's friendship with Mîm (but then, there is Beleg) and his father's use of an axe in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. Additionally, Túrin uses a Dwarvish technique to kill Glaurung, when he borrows form Azaghâl's wounding of the dragon in the Nirnaeth.

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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 23 2007, 4:33am

Post #68 of 135 (455 views)
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It's a dandy line. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 23 2007, 4:40am

Post #69 of 135 (538 views)
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But did original listeners of Njal's Saga... [In reply to] Can't Post

know who all or most of those people were? Rather like the 20th C. song "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" opens with a reference to the names in Clement Moore's 19th C. poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas"?

"You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen,
Comet and Cupid and Donder and Blitzen..."

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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 23 2007, 5:30am

Post #70 of 135 (494 views)
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"As for the Bears, they throve and multiplied..." [In reply to] Can't Post

"...till at last strife arose great and grim betwixt them and other peoples; for they had become mighty in battle: yea, once and again they met the host of Stark-wall in fight, and overthrew and were overthrown. But that was a long while after the Maid had passed away."


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Aren’t all good writers, though, conscious of the style they deliberately choose to use?



Not necessarily: could not some good writers achieve their style more or less naturally? Certainly true in other arts, if generally the exception. More germane to this discussion: bad writers can be conscious of their style.


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But how is giving us "the flavour of the ancient world" through this style a superficial move when Tolkien is trying to describe an ancient world?



Maybe there's no direct correspondence between ancient ideas and ancient speech. Maybe old-sounding modern language, which Tolkien uses in place of genuinely old language, isn't up to the task. Maybe a fiercely modernist style would catch the subject better. Maybe Tolkien's subject isn't as old-fashioned as he thinks it is -- Tom Shippey called him an author of the twentieth century.


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I’ve read lots of late 19th and early 20th century adaptations and translations of medieval stories that attempt something like saga style, but does anyone know of a writer of original fiction who used this style before Tolkien? William Morris, maybe?



At the Vermont conference in April, Michael Faletra presented a paper titled, "William Morris, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Archaic Style" in which he argued that Morris' style prefigures Tolkien's in many ways.

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


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Jun 23 2007, 5:42am

Post #71 of 135 (484 views)
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Thank-you [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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The question is whether an artificial style is necessarily a bad style. The word "stilted" is usually considered a criticism, just as the phrase "deus ex machina" is usually considered a criticism. Yet Tolkien consciously writes artificial dialogue that is not authentic to any age, and introduces improbable victories knowing that they come across as improbable -- i.e. deus ex machina. Tolkien is also criticized for being unrealistic, romantic, vague, non-topical, moralistic, and a number of other accusations that grow out of the modern infatuation with the realistic novel, and disdain for the heroic romance. Many of these accusations, including the artificial dialogue, are accurate as objective observations, but perhaps inaccurate as criticisms, unless we assume that heroic romances are bad.


Thank-you for saying that.


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or example, Aragorn says "lo" several times in LotR, and I can never get used to it. I


I like the "lo's'" in LotR! Smile I have fun saying/writing them sometimes, when I can get away with it. But, I don't say it mockingly, but with affection.

But then I am easily influenced by the various uses of language I am surrounded by. When I am exposed to a different culture with different phrazing or accents...I easily absorb and in time, will start to talk in like manner with like accents... which explains why I like the "lo's", and it's a way to be unique.

Which I think is why the archaic style doesn't bother me once I get used to it. It was not always that way. At one time I hated movies where the actors were accented, or English movies, or characters with southern accents,

But little by little in real life, through moving and varied experiences, I got exposed to so many, many different kinds of people from different cultures and different backgrounds, different parts of the country, different parts of the world, and can move easily between them all (at least for listening purposes in conversation).

I can understand easily local people speaking Pidgin and totally get what they are saying, same with street slang. I meet people from Australia and England and Asia all the time. I go to Film Festivals and view films from various countries... no problem. The more exposure, the more easily I adjust to differences in speaking (includes writing). So for me, I already know I can get used to the style. So, when I hit the Sil, it was tough at first, but got used to it. Now all those names, that's a completely different issue for me.

* My comments totally exclude computer software manuals...something I will never get used to! (or electronic appliance manuals) Crazy Laugh




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

(This post was edited by Daughter of Nienna on Jun 23 2007, 5:45am)


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 23 2007, 5:45am

Post #72 of 135 (486 views)
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"Dwelt" for "lived". [In reply to] Can't Post


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If I understand you correctly, you are saying that Tolkien managed to write using an archaic style, but perfectly understandable words - the effect of archaism, but no need to reach for a dictionary.



Tolkien could write in an archaic manner, use not particularly obscure words, and still fail.

Nobody seems ever to have answered the critic that Tom Simon mocked: why does Tolkien use "dwelt" where most people today would use "lived"? Both appear to descend from Anglo-Saxon, though "live" has kept the same meaning, while the ancestor of "dwell" once meant "decieve, hinder, delay".

I think Tolkien would answer that "dwell" more carefully implies not merely being alive but residing in a place.

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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 23 2007, 5:59am

Post #73 of 135 (498 views)
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"written to please himself"? [In reply to] Can't Post


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Although we don't really know whether Tolkien would have left in this opening as a challenge to the reader - the version we have, as I understand it, was not intended for publication but was still in a form that Tolkien presumably chose to please himself rather than with a readership in mind.



I think Tolkien intended the Narn i Chîn Húrin --the basis for most of CoH-- for publication, but probably as part of a greater Silmarillion, along the lines of Charles Noad's suggested outline that I listed in my response to Pallando's first post last week, where readers would be able to refer to both the "Quenta" and a "Tale of Years" to place this story. Additionally, he would no doubt have continued to edit and re-edit the work --for example, Christopher Tolkien has observed that his father meant to change the characer of Sador into a Drúedain named Sadog, but never did anything beyond noting his intention to do so-- and the opening might have been very different. As dna has noted, Christopher opted not to include his father's framing introduction giving the work's provenance as a prose version of a work by the poet "Dirhavel".

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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 23 2007, 6:15am

Post #74 of 135 (475 views)
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What does bad saga-style writing look like? [In reply to] Can't Post


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What I’ve been trying to do is to get people to give me specific examples in the first two pages of CoH of what they would consider to be artificial in Tolkien’s style. So far, a.s. has identified the preciousness with which Tolkien writes about women and the use of passive constructions, and FFHome has identified what she sees as a mannered style of over-writing (saying "flowers of the wild" instead of "wild flowers").



I applaud your tenacity, and agree with your desire for specifics. But you've gotten a good deal more than those two examples, particularly from FFH, who also noted the overuse of old-fashioned words, like "wedded" twice in one paragraph; and the regular use of time-phrases to begin sentences.

More generally, a.s. came right out and suggested that saga style is simply inferior to novel style. Certainly it's possible that something that was once all the rage is now believed, perhaps rightly, to have been a foolish fad.

But to turn to one other of your comments:


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In fact, Tolkien's language and style more often than not sound completely natural and authentic to me - natural and authentic for a saga-style narrative.



Could you take what you feel to be a good Tolkien saga-style paragraph and show us what you think an unnatural and unauthentic version of that passage would look like?

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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 23 2007, 7:08am

Post #75 of 135 (491 views)
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Morwen the war-mongering huntress? [In reply to] Can't Post

Late thoughts.

Why does Fingolfin give lands to Hador? Wasn't he already ruler of the Third House of the Edain, a people settled in Dor-lómin for some years?

What do "Morwen" and "Urwen" mean?


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F. Although Rían's (the wife of Huor) little story here is sort of touching (who does she remind you of? why?) in fact she will never be heard from again in this story. Is her inclusion in this introduction justifiable?



The narrator says of Rían, "By hard fate was she born into such days". Thus she reminds me of Aerin, to whom Túrin will say, "You were made for a kinder world". But why that repetition?

I think it's right to include Rían here, to balance Húrin and Huor, whom we will shortly follow to Gondolin and then to the Nirnaeth, and because later their sons Túrin and Tuor will be contrasted (those two descend from all three houses of the Edain, representing the best that Mankind can offer). Though it would be nice if Tolkien had developed the contrast a little more.

Tolkien writes that Rían "loved neither hunting nor war". Does that suggest that Morwen did love those things?

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


Stanislaus B.
The Shire

Jun 23 2007, 9:58am

Post #76 of 135 (518 views)
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I must disagree with the assumption [In reply to] Can't Post

I must disagree with the assumption that the fantastic story must be told in the simplest, most modern language possible. The whole merit of the fantasy is showing us something other that the everyday and comfortable world; some other way of thinking and acting. To use the everyday style defeats the purpose.

Curious "translated" some paragraphs into modernese. What is gained? - they are not easier to understand, although they are certainly more everyday and comfortable to read. But when we come to the demons and dragons, making them feel normal and familiar is not quite the intended purpose.

Of course, most of the fantasy authors try to present some action in as familiar a way as possible - that is why they use modern language and why they reuse the same tropes and motives ad infinitum.

I earlier suggested Le Guin's essay "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie" - she writes there about that tendency to make the purportedly strange and alien worlds familiar and comfortable - by, among other things, using comfortable XXI century prose.


dna
The Shire

Jun 23 2007, 12:22pm

Post #77 of 135 (502 views)
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and easy [In reply to] Can't Post

it is now to appreciate CT's '30 years of painstaking labour' with CoH - he had to decide how much to shrink the fold-out map for maximum reading comfort - a grand spectacle, a watershed in minimization, a revolution no less...

Wink


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 23 2007, 1:07pm

Post #78 of 135 (501 views)
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Tolkien's linguistic skills [In reply to] Can't Post

surely had something to do with his affection for various styles of speech, even when it was all in English. As some of us have said, that variety of styles works well in LotR. But the tales from The Silmarillion are less varied in style, as far as I can tell. They are a "translation" of an ancient text that never existed.

It's an interesting experiment, and Tolkien shows incredible imagination. I just don't like it as much as LotR. But once they get used to the style, there are some who like The Sil and its various tales better than LotR. Certainly The Sil shows a greater consistency of style than LotR, which merges the world of The Hobbit with the world of The Sil (plus additions like Bombadil).


dna
The Shire

Jun 23 2007, 1:29pm

Post #79 of 135 (514 views)
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Hador, Morwen, Urwen, Hurin [In reply to] Can't Post

Why does Fingolfin give lands to Hador? Wasn't he already ruler of the Third House of the Edain, a people settled in Dor-lómin for some years?


Where have you heard this?

The Grey Annals give 420 as the date both Haleth and Hador with “great companies of Men” enter Beleriand: “Hador hearing that there was room and need of folk in Hithlum, and being come of a northland people, became a vassal of Fingolfin; and he strengthened greatly the armies of the king, and he was given wide lands in Hithlum in the country of Dor-Lómin”.

(A ‘late penciled addition’ then has 423 as the date “Hador’s folk entered Dorlómin”).

Bëor was “new-come over the mountains” in 400, when he became a vassal of Felagund.

All shades of the ‘3 Saxon ships’ settling Britain…


What do "Morwen" and "Urwen" mean?


Morwen is ‘Dark Maiden’ - or some such variant.

Urwen is ‘Sun-Maiden’ - or at least the original Urwen ‘maiden of the Sun-ship’ (later Urwendi ‘Mistress of the Sun’, finally Arien the Sun Maia) was translated as this.

Lots of symbolism here, no?


and not coincidentally, to answer one of squire's questions...

B. How can Húrin be “fiery in mood” and yet have the “fire in him burn steadily”?


Because Húrin and Fire are old companions. Húrin was just a name-change (from Úrin of the ‘Lost Tales’) during the writing of the Lay, as many names were, often simply because they were a better poetic fit. Úrin was a derivative of Ûr ‘the Sun’ as listed in the Elvish lexicons: uru ‘fire’, úrin ‘blazing hot’; and in the later ‘Etymologies’, Úrin is given as the “name of the Sun”.


(This post was edited by dna on Jun 23 2007, 1:36pm)


Stanislaus B.
The Shire

Jun 23 2007, 2:07pm

Post #80 of 135 (524 views)
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How can Húrin be “fiery in mood” and yet have the “fire in him burn steadily” [In reply to] Can't Post

B. How can Húrin be “fiery in mood” and yet have the “fire in him burn steadily”?

The young man’s wrath is like light straw on fire;
But like red-hot steel is the old man’s ire,

The young man will brawl at the evening board;
But the old man will draw at the dawning the sword,

Walter Scott, Waverley

http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/waverley/chapter14.html

Goethe, Faust, Part II, Act IV

http://www.tonykline.co.uk/PITBR/German/FaustIIActIV.htm
http://www.digbib.org/Johann_Wolfgang_von_Goethe_1749/Faust_II?k=Hochgebirg

Bullyboy (Young, lightly armed, plainly clothed.)

If someone meets me face to face,
I’ll shake a fist right there in his ugly mug,
And when the yellow-belly runs away,
I’ll grasp his hair, and give a nasty tug.


Grab-quick (Mature, well-armed, richly dressed.)

Such idle brawling’s foolishness,
That’s how to ruin the day:
Don’t be slow first to possess,
Then afterwards you’ll get your way.


Hold-tight (Older, heavily armed, without a cloak.)

But that’s the path where little’s won!
Great possession’s quickly gone,
Vanishing in the stream of life.
It’s fine to take, but best to hold:
Let grey hairs command the bold,
And you’ll lose nothing in the strife.


Wynnie
Rohan


Jun 23 2007, 2:13pm

Post #81 of 135 (493 views)
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Stop that! [In reply to] Can't Post

Having so much fun with the subject lines, that is. Tongue

I think it's better to forget the publicity nonsense -- "30 years of painstaking labour", etc. We know CT had a few other things on his plate during those 30 years.

Sorry you were so disappointed with the book.





None such shall return again.



a.s.
Valinor


Jun 23 2007, 2:28pm

Post #82 of 135 (506 views)
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well....I said I didn't like it, not that it's inferior per se [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
a.s. came right out and suggested that saga style is simply inferior to novel style



I was answering why I (myself speaking for myself) didn't like the style at the beginning of the book. It was pointed out that part of what I didn't like (the "far-awayness") is implicit in saga-style. Therefore, I surmised that if that is true, I don't like saga-style.

I wasn't intending to imply which was superior to the other, just speaking of personal preference. I would have preferred a straight novelized beginning a la LOTR chapter one, in which the "begats" were introduced as part of explanatory narration and/or dialogue between characters.

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


a.s.
Valinor


Jun 23 2007, 2:31pm

Post #83 of 135 (460 views)
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I find it rather prim, Rose. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

"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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 23 2007, 5:31pm

Post #84 of 135 (471 views)
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The "simplest" language? [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
I must disagree with the assumption that the fantastic story must be told in the simplest, most modern language possible.



I thought the older language of the sagas was simpler than modern language?

As for your larger point that archaic language being more fit for archaic themes --Tolkien made the same point regarding Théoden's language in a letter to Hugh Brogan-- I don't think anyone here disagrees. Some people feel that Tolkien fails in the attempt, that he strains to achieve an effect that doesn't come off: they see the effort but not the result.

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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 23 2007, 5:37pm

Post #85 of 135 (491 views)
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Same difference. Sort of. [In reply to] Can't Post

Sorry if I misrepresented you. But in criticism, a personal preference, clearly stated and supported, is as close as is possible to come to an artistic "truth". Numbers count for nothing; even if everyone here, or everyone everywhere, agreed that saga-style was weaker than novel-style, that wouldn't make it objectively true. I was just trying to make the point that it's possible (within the subjectivity we all share) for one style to deemed inferior to another, as a whole.

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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 23 2007, 5:48pm

Post #86 of 135 (534 views)
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Where are Marach, Malach, Magor and Hathol? [In reply to] Can't Post


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The Grey Annals give 420 as the date both Haleth and Hador with “great companies of Men” enter Beleriand



Thanks for the correction -- I was working from my poor memory of "Of the Coming of Men into the West" from The Silmarillion where indeed Hador rules Dor-lómin because of his service to Fingolfin, as you indicate, but where there are also four earlier generations of the Third House in Beleriand. Is that not right?

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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 23 2007, 5:56pm

Post #87 of 135 (482 views)
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Wynnie is right... [In reply to] Can't Post

that the much larger hardcover Silmarillion map is more awkward to use than the new version, but wow! how much better a map it is! I grew up with a paperback edition of The Silmarillion and only bought a (UK) hardcover at a used book store a couple years ago, and have never bothered to look at the map. Still some unnaturalness as compared to The Lord of the Rings map, as I mentioned below, but a lot more pleasing detail in the topography than the new version.

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


Modtheow
Lorien

Jun 23 2007, 5:57pm

Post #88 of 135 (479 views)
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Sort of like [In reply to] Can't Post


Curious’s rewriting of the first two paragraphs of CoH .

Since I’ve only read some of the best sagas and not the ones that might be considered less successful in narrative skill, it’s hard for me to imagine what bad saga style is. However, Curious’s revision will do. (Curious: I’m not out to belittle what you have done in this revision; I think you’ve engaged in an interesting exercise and that it would work well for some kinds of modern readers.) As Stanislaus points out, Curious has translated the opening of CoH into comfortable modernese; what is gained is ease of reading for modern readers who like novels, but so much is also lost that is essential to the saga as an expression of a particular kind of society and outlook on life.

Paragraph one of Curious’s rewriting:

Hador Goldenhead was a lord of the Edain and a friend of the Eldar. Fingolfin, the High King of the Eldar, gave Hador lands in the region of Hithlum called Dor-lomin. Hador's daughter Gloredhel married Haldir, the son of Halmir, lord of the people of Brethil. It was a double wedding, for Hador's son Galdor the Tall also married Hareth, the daughter of Halmir.

What is missing in the above: "friend" in modern usage is not necessarily as strong a word as "well beloved" – "leof" or "dear"/ "beloved" is what the word would probably have been in Old English. Lost in Curious’s rewriting is a mention of where Hador "dwelt" – not "lived" but "dwelt," connoting the place in which he lived – important to know because that might determine who his lord is. Lost is the fact that he dwelt there "under the lordship of Fingolfin" – essential information about his allegiances and the social structure of this place (in contrast, Curious’s "High King of the Eldar" is totally unrelated to the personal connection between Fingolfin and Hador). Lost is the phrase "while his days lasted" which emphasize the persistent northern acknowledgement of the transience of life. Lost is the description of the "wide lands" that Fingolfin has given Hador, emphasizing the extent and signficance of the gift – important information in a society in which gift-giving is the glue that binds lords and followers. Curious chooses a post-Norman word "married" instead of the older "wedded", but he also repeats the newer word twice just as Tolkien repeats "wedded." Curious also changes "Men" to "people," updating Tolkien’s use of the term "Men" for one of his races. (I do this myself in my own writing, preferring the gender-neutral term "people" instead of "Men," but the revision does obscure Tolkien's own terminology). Rather than say "At the same feast" Curious has "double wedding," a more common term in modern English, but he loses the connotative "feast" which is closer to what a medieval society would have called the occasion and more evocative about what would happen on that occasion (drinking, eating, speeches, songs).

____________________
Quote from N.E.B.:
"I applaud your tenacity, and agree with your desire for specifics. But you've gotten a good deal more than those two examples, particularly from FFH, who also noted the overuse of old-fashioned words, like "wedded" twice in one paragraph; and the regular use of time-phrases to begin sentences.

More generally, a.s. came right out and suggested that saga style is simply inferior to novel style. Certainly it's possible that something that was once all the rage is now believed, perhaps rightly, to have been a foolish fad. "

__________

Oops, I missed FFH’s point about the use of time-phrases at the beginning of sentences and will add that to my list. I thought that her point about mannered writing covered the use of old-fashioned words. In another message, a.s. has clarified that she doesn’t think saga style is inferior, just different.

My tenacity in asking questions and responding to answers might make it seem that I think that every sentence Tolkien wrote is a reflection of saga style and so must be a successful sentence. Just for the record, I’m not trying to argue that. I am interested in describing and assessing Tolkien’s style, and these points are certainly going to contribute to that understanding.

But now I have to address something in N.E.B.’s message, quoted above. I was completely floored by the statement that the sagas were possibly a "foolish fad" that has now passed. Please allow me a moment as a medievalist to say:

OMG!!!!!

The sagas are an incredible achievement of European literature. These stories, written in vernacular prose, are unlike anything that was being written at the time. Saga-writing flourished for several centuries, and they are still read today. They are neither "foolish" nor were they a "fad." N.E.B. seems to be hinting in an earlier message that perhaps the sagas gave way to the superior novel, but that’s not the case. Novels are a later development; there’s a gap of several centuries in there. I’m not absolutely sure why the great age of saga writing waned in Iceland; I think it might have had something to do with the onset of Norwegian rule, the loss of older ways of life, and the influence of late medieval romances.

Here’s a very brief overview of the sagas, if anyone is interested:
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/...07_icelandsagas.html





N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 23 2007, 6:05pm

Post #89 of 135 (493 views)
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Some Tolkienists like to suppose... [In reply to] Can't Post

that modern realistic writing (now in its what--third? century) will someday be seen as a passing fad, an unfortunate blip against a longer history of fantastic writing --I think you will remember that this was suggested at the Marquette conference-- so I hope it wasn't too outrageous for me to suggest the same could be said of other modes, like sagas.

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


Modtheow
Lorien

Jun 23 2007, 6:07pm

Post #90 of 135 (519 views)
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the easiest, most familiar [In reply to] Can't Post

I can't speak for Stanislaus, but what I understood from his use of the "simplest" language is language that is the easiest for a contemporary reader to understand -- and I would think that that includes using the vocabulary, syntax, expressions, and generic conventions that a modern reader is most familiar with (assuming that this "modern reader" reads mainly contemporary prose).


Modtheow
Lorien

Jun 23 2007, 6:31pm

Post #91 of 135 (489 views)
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a medievalist strategy [In reply to] Can't Post

N.E., you know that your memory -- and your notes -- are far superior to mine; I don't remember who said that at the Marquette conference. However, it sounds like a typical medievalist's strategy to unsettle people who automatically assume that the contemporary genres are superior to older ones and to jar them into realizing that one day what they assume is a natural way of writing will be seen by many readers as unfamiliar and "artificial" too. Looking at past literary history in this way, one could say that the epic could also be seen as a passing fad -- but calling any of these dominant modes of cultural expression -- saga, realistic novel, epic -- "fads" belittles what they are in their time. You're right that the saga is no longer the dominant mode of expression in Iceland, and one day the realistic novel will be in the same position. But I expect that if the human race is still around in several centuries, there might be people who will still enjoy the realistic novel, and possibly the sagas too, just as some of us still enjoy The Iliad or Beowulf.

Are we having fun, by the way? I hope so, because I am. Smile


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 23 2007, 6:46pm

Post #92 of 135 (471 views)
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Fun! [In reply to] Can't Post


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Are we having fun, by the way? I hope so, because I am.



I am, yes. I really must pull myself out of squire's second thread, however, and have a look at the eleven above it.

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


Stanislaus B.
The Shire

Jun 23 2007, 8:06pm

Post #93 of 135 (478 views)
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The fate of modern literature [In reply to] Can't Post

First - what I mean by simple. In case of the style of sagas and of Tolkien (in Hurin)- terse, dry, expressing maximum sense in the minimum of words, without complicated subordinated clauses of a Ciceronian period.

In case of modern popular prose - written and read without any effort, repetitious, imprecise, flabby, full of water, incapable of expressing any thought which is not common-place, and even those badly, using words in the scattershot manner - throwing a bunch, hoping that one will fit the intended meaning.


As for the fate of modern literature - it will be the same as that of the Hellenistic literature. People lost interest in it, and it disappeared. The older Attic literature remained.

I think Tolkien will be one of the few modern authors to survive the next hundred year.

And, by the way - I don't like very much the saga style of Children of Hurin. I prefer the style of Churchill, Dr. Johnson, or of E. R. Eddison. But the style Tolkien chose is perfect to represent that particular story.


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Jun 23 2007, 8:27pm

Post #94 of 135 (525 views)
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do we have a shared subjectivity? [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
But in criticism, a personal preference, clearly stated and supported, is as close as is possible to come to an artistic "truth". Numbers count for nothing; even if everyone here, or everyone everywhere, agreed that saga-style was weaker than novel-style, that wouldn't make it objectively true. I was just trying to make the point that it's possible (within the subjectivity we all share) for one style to deemed inferior to another, as a whole.


You completely had me until you said: "subjectivity we all share".

I feel that the story told in a contemporary style would loose it potency, take on a different meaning and not fit the characters, mood, tone, in general, this piece of art. Why should it be told in contemporary style just because the general public is "not used to it". Or, because it's human nature to not want to have work so hard at something, or to have to change themselves, or to experience something outside of their realm of customary experience. (People in general hate or fear change or anything unusual.)

I don't feel qualified to 'argue' whether Tolkien was successful in his attempt at an archaic style or not. I am not as educated, at least in this area, as some of you. I don't know literature, or lit history/critism, or philosophy, or history, or sagas; and I certainly don't know the world of intellectual argument very well. So, setting myself in the middle of an intellectual discussion about literature I stick out like a sore thumb. But, then I always liked hanging out with people smarter than me and usually do, so I don't mind the difference at all. I feel right at home… even though I am kind of a waif from the "wrong side of the tracks".

I appreciate very much what you said: "But in criticism, a personal preference, clearly stated and supported, is as close as is possible to come to an artistic "truth"." My 'truth' and the strengths I bring to the discussion come from my experience in life, which is widely varied, my artistic education (for what its worth), and my finely-tuned visual and kinesthetic sense, and my ability to translate what my emotional reactions tell me (most of the time).

On the other hand, I can speak to art. As an artist (modestly trained), tone means a lot. It is necessary to have the tone match the piece (of art). Style, in this case especially, is part of the tone. To change the style would change the tone. Creating a piece in a tone that doesn't match denigrates it, diminishes it and makes a mish-mosh. Though it is important to keep your audience in mind, most of the time, I don't think it helps art to try and cater to the people…the junk that is currently the majority showing up in the multiplexes proves my point.


Quote
I was just trying to make the point that it's possible (within the subjectivity we all share) for one style to deemed inferior to another, as a whole.

I don't think we, here, have a shared subjectivity. I think we are split down the middle: a.s., FFH, and yourself seeming to prefer, in general terms, a more contemporary style… Stanislaus B., Modtheow and myself preferring a more archaic style and Curious somewhere in betwen (perhaps).

So, I find myself in the same camp (simply stated) with Stanislaus B. and Modtheow...if they'll have me. I feel that any story of the First Age told in a contemporary style would ruin it. I balk at the thought of it.





**Tribute: Lt. J.G. Robert Sterling, WWII Pilot MIA, by Gramma & DoN**
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


dna
The Shire

Jun 23 2007, 9:32pm

Post #95 of 135 (473 views)
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my mistake [In reply to] Can't Post

hence my question. (I was too wrapped up in the House of Beor).

Checking further, yes, Tolkien was working on Marach entering Beleriand a century before, living near the sources of Teiglin, Malach spending 14yrs in Hithlum, and Magor & Hathol back at Teiglin's sources, serving no Elf-lords; having it "in mind to place Fingolfin's gift of the lordship of Dorlomin much earlier".

But he never did, thus it seems Hador remained 1st lord of Dorlomin.


Wynnie
Rohan


Jun 23 2007, 9:42pm

Post #96 of 135 (491 views)
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nicely said! [In reply to] Can't Post

May I please join your camp too? This thread has just emphasized to me what I already knew -- that Tolkien's style is one of the things I love best about his writing. Judging from Curious's attempt at a sample, I don't believe I'd bother to read this book if it were written entirely in modernese.

(I'd have chimed in sooner, but have been getting too bogged down in defending the map.)





None such shall return again.



dna
The Shire

Jun 23 2007, 10:17pm

Post #97 of 135 (473 views)
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sorry, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

your tag-line of "Ignorance is bliss" in the other thread, while dismissing the "denouement of the Wanderings of Hurin", was obviously a little poke, so I responded accordingly.

I never brought up 'different versions of the Turin story' at all. I simply meant that the Map fails as anything "new" or bold, which I'll stand by. And I am not "so disappointed with the book" as you throw back. But its not being over-critical to temper lavish praise where it isn't warranted, or even entirely correct.

Peace
Heart


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Jun 23 2007, 10:27pm

Post #98 of 135 (471 views)
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Please do! [In reply to] Can't Post

Please do join us and most welcome! Smile




**Tribute: Lt. J.G. Robert Sterling, WWII Pilot MIA, by Gramma & DoN**
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

(This post was edited by Daughter of Nienna on Jun 23 2007, 10:28pm)


Wynnie
Rohan


Jun 23 2007, 10:48pm

Post #99 of 135 (478 views)
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oh, dear [In reply to] Can't Post

You do know I meant my ignorance, don't you? I remember you as the one who led a bunch of Hurin/Turin discussions on the old boards, and I was truly impressed and left in the dust. And NEB has been linking to some of your posts on another board, so I've probably been mixing up things you said here and there.

I did agree with you on the poor Intro and the lack of an Index, remember? And I better understand your problems with the Map now, though I'm sticking by CT on that one.

I didn't mean to poke or throw anything. Maybe I should use more smilies, but I've heard squire doesn't approve, and it is his thread.





None such shall return again.



a.s.
Valinor


Jun 23 2007, 11:51pm

Post #100 of 135 (501 views)
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Holy Eru! What are we arguing about, again? :-) [In reply to] Can't Post

I believe I have lost track.

All right, I understand that simply by stating a preference for something I have ranked it in value, and providing a value judgement is criticism and therefore, I bow to your point. (Can one bow to points? Is that a mixed metaphor? I live in hopes that this subthread is too obscure to receive much attention...)

I am still not sure I truly should be arguing whether "saga-style" is inferior or superior based on my personal preference, since I am not entirely sure I know what saga-style is.

I prefer the style in which Tolkien wrote the first chapter of LOTR to the style in which he wrote the first chapter of COH. That is really all I can say, and while I understand as well your point that value isn't earned by majority vote, I truly believe I am not in the minority of Tolkien fans. Even here in the RR.

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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 24 2007, 12:48am

Post #101 of 135 (378 views)
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Bows to point. Points to bow. [In reply to] Can't Post

Also to stern, port and starboard. The map lacks a compass, and I'm losing track of the conversation as well. I think I was agreeing with you in the post above; certainly I too prefer the opening of LotR to that of CoH, and I feel confident that most people here, most Tolkien fans, indeed most people who have read both LotR and CoH would agree. But as squire said somewhere else in this long thread, much of CoH reads more like a novel than a saga, and I don't find the opening particularly off-putting.

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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 24 2007, 5:19am

Post #102 of 135 (356 views)
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"they say" [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
In fact, I'd prefer he said something like "they say that she was a lover of trees" or "she was a singer, or so the stories tell us".



Other parts of this chapter do use this technique: the Gondolin section twice has the phrase "It is said".

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


dna
The Shire

Jun 24 2007, 3:03pm

Post #103 of 135 (369 views)
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my [In reply to] Can't Post

apologies, once again, for that subject-line, and crossing the line of decency.

However, in my opinion this type of attitude also approaches a line...

“You see, I think the map is perfect for the not-quite-so-extremely-geeky Tolkien fan who just wants to see where Turin is going.”

...since it’s getting personal, and crystallizes the very attitude I sensed filtering into this debate all along. Hence, my reactionary joke - albeit a poor one, in poor taste - but not knowing anything about you, it certainly wasn’t intended as personal.

Nonetheless, I'll sincerely accept your above reply. And, yes, we can certainly close this debate with a smiley, or two.

Wink Smile


Wynnie
Rohan


Jun 24 2007, 4:24pm

Post #104 of 135 (349 views)
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"geeky" [In reply to] Can't Post

Not to belabor this, but you're still not quite understanding me. Here on TORn, "geeky" is never an insult; there's just no better word to express that level of expertise in Tolkien details. And with "Stop that!" I was laughing, not offended. I thought the tongue-sticking-out smilie would convey that, but I guess I should have used an LOL instead.
*goes off to work on Web communication skills*





None such shall return again.



Curious
Half-elven

Jun 24 2007, 7:24pm

Post #105 of 135 (358 views)
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I didn't make that assumption. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
I must disagree with the assumption that the fantastic story must be told in the simplest, most modern language possible.


I don't think I ever said that. My point is that Tolkien's archaic language is artificial, i.e. it does not fit in today's era or any era of the past. Whether that is a good or bad thing is a different question. I like the way Tolkien uses archaic language in LotR, to convey the differences between the hobbits and Rohan and Gondor. I do not like The Sil or CoH as well as LotR, although there are many reasons for that, and I am not sure the archaic language is the primary reason.

You yourself have pointed to other books as better examples of saga-like stories. Since I have not read those books I cannot comment. But in CoH and The Sil, and even in LotR, I do sometimes find the artificial archaisms distracting rather than enlightening. And I have read fantasies that are written in formal language but not artificially archaic language. LeGuin herself wrote the Earthsea trilogy without any archaic language I can remember.



Curious
Half-elven

Jun 24 2007, 7:33pm

Post #106 of 135 (366 views)
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No, I disagree. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
As for your larger point that archaic language being more fit for archaic themes --Tolkien made the same point regarding Théoden's language in a letter to Hugh Brogan-- I don't think anyone here disagrees. Some people feel that Tolkien fails in the attempt, that he strains to achieve an effect that doesn't come off: they see the effort but not the result.



I do not agree that archaic language is necessarily more fit for archaic themes. Furthermore I don't agree that CoH is an archaic story. The whole examination of Turin's childhood strikes me as very modern. It's this cross of the modern and the authentically ancient that makes Tolkien's archaisms artificial and at times distracting. And if Tolkien, with his unique mix of philological training and story-telling ability, can't pull it off, I'm not convinced anyone can to my satisfaction.

I don't mind artificially-archaic language in doses, as in LotR, but if I wanted to read a whole story in such language I would go to the authentic source and learn ancient languages, or at least read Chaucer and Shakespeare and the King James Bible. It's bad enough having to read Beowulf in translation because I don't know Old English; in some ways it is worse to read a mock translation of an imaginary ancient epic like The Silmarillion. It makes me pine for the original, except that there is no original.



Curious
Half-elven

Jun 24 2007, 7:43pm

Post #107 of 135 (362 views)
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I hate to be a snob, and [In reply to] Can't Post

I really think the way to appreciate a saga is to read an authentic saga, not an imaginary saga, and preferrably to read the saga in its original language, and not as translated. You talk about how much is lost in my translation of Tolkien's opening, but much more is lost in Tolkien's artificial version of one of the original sagas.

I have read that Tolkien did not believe in translations of the sagas except as a crib for those reading in the original language. Well, I guess I may agree with him. I am learning a great deal from studying a translation of Beowulf, but with the help of you and others who read Old English I am learning above all that the translations do not do the original justice.

As for Children of Hurin, the saga-like opening could easily be abandoned without significantly changing the rest of the story, and much of the rest of the story is nothing like a saga. In the very first chapter Tolkien delves into an examination of Turin's childhood that is unlike anything I have ever read in ancient tales.

As I noted in other posts, the problem with the opening is two-fold, and updating the language does not really modernize the opening. That's why my interesting experiment did not really improve the opening. Unfortunately, for those of us who do not like the opening, nothing could improve it short of abandoning it.

I suggest that updating the archaic language in other parts of the tale that are more modern in content would work better than in the opening, which is so saga-like in content. I will look for examples of what I mean as we go along.


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 24 2007, 8:14pm

Post #108 of 135 (384 views)
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Many factors influence which literature survives and which literature does not. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
As for the fate of modern literature - it will be the same as that of the Hellenistic literature. People lost interest in it, and it disappeared. The older Attic literature remained.



Hellenistic literature may have suffered from the diffusion of Greek culture throughout the known world after the death of Alexander the Great, to the point where the line between what was and was not Greek became hard to draw, and many Greek writers did not live in Greece. For example, could the Gospels be considered Hellenistic literature because they were written in Greek? If so, they have had a profound influence on the world, even though the authors were not the most literate of Greek writers.

Also, in time Latin became the dominant language in the Roman Empire, so that Virgil chose to write in Latin, not Greek. And yet Virgil was profoundly influenced by Homer, and the Aeneid is still studied in schools.

In short, which literature survives doesn't always depend on the objective merits of that literature, if there even is an objective way of measuring literary merits.


Quote
I don't like very much the saga style of Children of Hurin. I prefer the style of Churchill, Dr. Johnson, or of E. R. Eddison. But the style Tolkien chose is perfect to represent that particular story.


I don't think all of Children of Hurin is written in a saga style. In fact, it is the cross of a saga style and a modern style that makes me think Tolkien's archaisms are artificial, and not authentic either to the 20th century or to any other century. That doesn't automatically make them bad, as far as I am concerned, and I usually like the way he uses the technique in LotR. But I don't love Children of Hurin, and the persistent archaisms, without the variety of styles found in LotR, may be one of the reasons I don't love it.



Curious
Half-elven

Jun 24 2007, 8:19pm

Post #109 of 135 (382 views)
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Do you like other fantasies? [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
I feel that the story told in a contemporary style would loose it potency, take on a different meaning and not fit the characters, mood, tone, in general, this piece of art. Why should it be told in contemporary style just because the general public is "not used to it". Or, because it's human nature to not want to have work so hard at something, or to have to change themselves, or to experience something outside of their realm of customary experience. (People in general hate or fear change or anything unusual.)



I judge that there are many, many excellent fantasies not written in an archaic style. Defying the expectations of the reader has its dangers. Calling the general public ignorant because they find the style distracting is not the way to win an audience. Tolkien recognized this when he wrote LotR, and if LotR were not so wildly popular no one would be reading Children of Hurin.


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 24 2007, 8:22pm

Post #110 of 135 (347 views)
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I would abandon that opening entirely. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Judging from Curious's attempt at a sample, I don't believe I'd bother to read this book if it were written entirely in modernese.



As I have said elsewhere in this thread, modernizing the language in the opening does not cure its deficiencies. I would rather skip it entirely, and either introduce that information during the story or forget about it, since most of it is not particularly relevant to the story. That's exactly what Tolkien did in The Hobbit and LotR.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 24 2007, 9:20pm

Post #111 of 135 (351 views)
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Elsewhere... [In reply to] Can't Post

in this thread, I also suggested that CoH might be best read as a 20th Century story.


Quote
I do not agree that archaic language is necessarily more fit for archaic themes.


Was Tolkien wrong, then, to claim that Théoden's "Thus shall I sleep better", etc. fails when rewritten in a more modern idiom? Likewise I once read a review by Robert Graves of a novelistic biography of young Julius Caesar. At one point the author said that Julius had a "sense of humor" about himself. No he didn't, said Graves: "sense of humor" is a modern expression developed for a modern idea, and quite unfit for classical conceptions of either self or comedy.

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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 24 2007, 9:32pm

Post #112 of 135 (345 views)
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A poor phrase. [In reply to] Can't Post

Sorry. What I meant is that, despite every reader being limited by her or his own subjectivity, nonetheless we are each free to voice opinion on entire genres as well as on individual works. Similarly Stanislaus B. in this thread wrote that Hellenistic literature as a whole was less valuable than Attic literature and thus lost. While Curious has expressed doubts both on the specific example (the Bible is arguably Hellenistic, and a lasting triumph) and on the connection between aesthetic value and survival (other factors besides quality contribute to the survival both of genres and individual works -- if we had lots of epic poems from the time of Beowulf we might value it much less than we do), I see nothing wrong with seeing an entire genre as a misstep, a dead end.


Quote
Why should it be told in contemporary style just because the general public is "not used to it". Or, because it's human nature to not want to have work so hard at something, or to have to change themselves, or to experience something outside of their realm of customary experience.


Tolkien could have made his works very much harder by publishing them only in Elvish (well, actually he couldn't, because he never created a tenth of the amount of Sindarin or Quenya he would need, but let's pretend he could). Would the general public then be to blame for giving up on his work? That is an extreme example, but it shows that there is a level at which a work of art is too difficult for the audience: the author communicates only with himself. If some Tolkien fans here can say that of Faulkner, it should be fair to contemplate the same complaint for Tolkien.

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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 24 2007, 9:45pm

Post #113 of 135 (355 views)
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Huor is an easier target for orcish archers. [In reply to] Can't Post


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Isn’t it kind of comic to imagine Húrin as the shortest among his kin, while younger brother Huor is the tallest of all the Edain? Why does Tolkien create this visual image?


But it's been argued here before that Huor may get off better than Húrin.

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


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 24 2007, 9:51pm

Post #114 of 135 (345 views)
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Robert Graves did a great job [In reply to] Can't Post

with his historical novels I, Claudius and Claudius, the God of using formal language appropriate to the subject matter without ever using distracting artificial archaisms. I can understand Graves' criticism of "sense of humor." Similarly, Tolkien eliminated tobacco and corn and tomatoes from the hobbit talk even though the hobbits did not speak in archaic language.

Which letter was it where Tolkien discussed his archaic language? I'll have to look at it again.


Modtheow
Lorien

Jun 25 2007, 12:47am

Post #115 of 135 (359 views)
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Tolkien's choices [In reply to] Can't Post

I've also spent some time thinking about whether "flowers of the wild" or "wild flowers" makes a difference. I think (though I haven't tested this beyond a few pages) that Tolkien uses "the wild" consistently to mean a place -- the wilderness out there, as in "Did you then dwell a year in the wild" (page 37). There is some difference between the two phrases, as you say. I think it's a different experience to look at a wild flower that you've planted in your backyard as opposed to coming across a whole field of them on a hike, for example. But, like you, I'm not sure that the distinction is all that significant in Rian's description.

Tolkien's choice of the Norman word "flowers" shows that he's not "wedded" (sorry, couldn't resist) to the idea of using only pre-Norman vocabulary; if he were, he'd have to say something like "blossoms of the wild" ("blossoms" deriving from the Old English word for flowers). "Blossoms" would sound way too precious, too mannered (even to my ear). So he wasn't single-mindedly pursuing an idea that would limit his language choices.

Still, it's a good question whether Tolkien shouldn't have been thinking more about his audience's likely reactions. I wonder what he would say if we could ask him this question. Writing a new work of fiction is not exactly the same as translating, so maybe it isn't fair to draw parallels, but I can't help thinking of what Tolkien argued about "modern readers" in relation to translation: when discussing whether "the modern reader" would like to read Anglo-Saxon style alliterative verse, he argued that a single class of "modern reader" who always liked the same thing did not exist; that he himself was a "modern reader" who happened to like that old style, like other readers he knew; and that showing "the modern reader" something that they were unfamiliar with might introduce them to a new style that they might like. I wouldn't be surprised if that would have been his answer in this case too. Of course, that attitude might not be the best way to win over a wide readership. (And I wouldn't advocate it as the best translation strategy in all situations either.)


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 25 2007, 1:27am

Post #116 of 135 (356 views)
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Letter #171. [In reply to] Can't Post

Discussed here in 2005 (link opens pretty quickly).

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


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 25 2007, 11:16am

Post #117 of 135 (346 views)
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Boy, compared to The Silmarillion [In reply to] Can't Post

"The King of the Golden Hall" does not seem particularly archaic to me. Only the dialogue is at all archaic, and I don't mind the level of archaism at all. It certainly isn't "tushery," as Tolkien rightly says. It is artificial, but appropriate to the setting, for we learn at the beginning of the chapter that Common is not their native tongue. And the narrator does not use archaic language at all.

Reading over the entire first chapter of Children of Turin, I enjoy most the part about Turin's childhood, and I am not distracted by the archaisms. I wish, though, that the entire book were written in that manner, instead of switching back and forth between novelistic writing and feigned history or saga such as we find in The Silmarillion. For me, though, the problem with the history sections is not the archaic language but the style, which I would find dry in any language, archaic or modern.

I know there are times in LotR when archaisms do get distracting, but just isolated instances, at least for me. One line here or there sounds a little over the top, but on the whole I don't mind or notice it, and in fact often enjoy the style. But The Sil and the more historical parts of Children of Hurin read more like the appendices of LotR, except for the story of Aragorn and Arwen, which I love. It isn't really the archaic style that bothers me, but the fact that it reads more like a history than a novel.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 25 2007, 2:07pm

Post #118 of 135 (346 views)
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LotR's narrator... [In reply to] Can't Post

does use archaic phrasing in that chapter, or at least Tolkien seems to think so, when he defends "Helms too they chose" over "They also picked out some helmets".

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


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 25 2007, 2:22pm

Post #119 of 135 (360 views)
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It didn't hit me in the face [In reply to] Can't Post

when I re-read the chapter this morning. I would be interested to see what you think after re-reading the chapter as a whole. It doesn't sound like Children of Hurin to me.

On the other hand, after further review I've decided I don't have a problem with the archaic narration or dialogue except in isolated instances, like Aragorn's "'Lo!'" or "'Forth the Three Hunters!'" or "'No niggard are you ....'" It's the historical narration in the appendices to LotR, The Sil, and several sections of CoH, including the opening of Chapter One, that I find dry in comparison to the more novelistic style in the text of LotR, parts of the story of Aragorn and Arwen in Appendix A, and much of CoH, including the description of Turin's childhood.


(This post was edited by Curious on Jun 25 2007, 2:23pm)


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Jun 25 2007, 5:29pm

Post #120 of 135 (354 views)
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I get that and [In reply to] Can't Post

agree with tha. It's that dry listing of names and places that I have trouble with (personally). Mostly because It overwhelms me, not for any critically based reasones, since that's out my league.

. . . and I would not change the type of style. Smile




**Tribute: Lt. J.G. Robert Sterling, WWII Pilot MIA, by Gramma & DoN**
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 25 2007, 5:54pm

Post #121 of 135 (359 views)
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And it is overwhelming without real purpose. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
It's that dry listing of names and places that I have trouble with (personally). Mostly because It overwhelms me, not for any critically based reasones, since that's out my league.



Tolstoy and Dickens introduce scores of characters into their longest novels, and I don't mind, because each character is there for a reason. Tolkien does something similar in LotR, for that matter. But I get overwhelmed by long lists of names for their own sake, as in the appendices to LotR.

Tolkien obviously loved such lists, and amused himself endlessly creating them. There is something alluring about the dozens or hundreds of stories Tolkien could have written about each person mentioned, since he usually says something about each character. But I wish Tolkien had spent more time turning even one of those stories from The Silmarillion and the appendices to LotR into a finished tale, instead of a dozen or more unfinished tales!



Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Jun 25 2007, 7:26pm

Post #122 of 135 (340 views)
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I never called [In reply to] Can't Post

the general public ignorant. Where did I say that?

I apologize if I was that unclear and I apologize up front if I sound defensive here, I just woke up and this is as clear as I am capable of being.

I have done a lot of internal work and worked with a lot of other people in the same process, and know that people in general, not just exclusive to reading, prefer things easy. In general, many people just do not like to have to work so hard at something. It has been my experience that 'people' tend to go in the direction of "the path of least resistance" I am referring to human nature, not ignorance. I don't believe in even using that word, let alone thinking that way.

And I was also referring to my own preference when I said that it would not be the same to me if it were written in contemporary style. http://newboards.theonering.net/...b=post_time;so=DESC;

I thought the discussion started with a question of “readability” and the critics, the question of whether this style would be successful in bringing readers to the Sil. So, that is why I brought up human nature. I was really thinking more about the critics (as has been summarized here) when I was writing that.

And I was responding to NEB saying:
Quote: "...within the subjectivity we all share..." I looked around and did not see that we shared the same experience, feeling, sense, reaction or opinion within this thread.

And no, I have not read any other fantasy writers. I am more of a Visual Arts person than a reader. I have had some interest in trying other writers, but never knew where to start. Do you recommend one?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Maybe I am out of my league in these discussions and maybe one has to be more of a reader to do so. I enjoy reading what all of you have to say, you guys are great! But I am afraid I can't keep up with some high intellectual discussion. And, I have not been around for a while, so I am behind on the discussions. I don't know what has been discussed in the last three years. I am going to consider just lurking. Heart Frown




**Tribute: Lt. J.G. Robert Sterling, WWII Pilot MIA, by Gramma & DoN**
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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 25 2007, 7:52pm

Post #123 of 135 (344 views)
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Unnecessary. [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think you or anyone else in this thread needs to apologize. Sometimes people may extrapolate general themes from more specific ideas in the posts that they are responding to, but that's part of having a discussion. And that's all I see in this thread: Curious, for example, was noting where some of your ideas might lead.

And you're certainly not out of your league. We all bring something different to the conversation. And don't worry about what's happened here while you were away. I'm often guilty of citing early discussions, but let me assure you those links are meant for further reading, not required reading.

As for other fantasy, I haven't read very much, but my second favorite fantasy works after Tolkien's are Ursula LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, and The Farthest Shore. Others may have different suggestions.

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


a.s.
Valinor


Jun 25 2007, 9:40pm

Post #124 of 135 (396 views)
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hold up!! [In reply to] Can't Post

Oh I can't help it if I like smilies, people!!!



Quote
Maybe I am out of my league in these discussions and maybe one has to be more of a reader to do so. I enjoy reading what all of you have to say, you guys are great! But I am afraid I can't keep up with some high intellectual discussion. And, I have not been around for a while, so I am behind on the discussions. I don't know what has been discussed in the last three years. I am going to consider just lurking. Heart Frown




Well, but PLEASE don't leave!! No one here is actually "qualified" (unless they let me in without taking the exam or something...hmmm, that could explain much!). This conversation got very confusing and I also had trouble following who was saying what,



(that's me, reading this thread)

and I don't want to speak for Curious but I am sure he did not mean to argue in such a way as to make you feel unwelcome.



He can't help it, he's a lawyer.

Angelic

(Me, begging Curious not to sue me for good intentions of which the road to hell is paved but I digress...)

And no one actually knows what we have discussed in the last three years except NEB, on whom we rely implicitly




(that's us in the RR waiting for NEB to post a link to a previous discussion, don't we look so PATIENT??)

So before you overdose on the smilies, I hope you will say you will stay (don't MAKE me break out all my smilies!!). I believe it's time for a new conversation anyway, it's too confusing to be on page two in the RR...



a.s. (the smilie queen, apparently...and if that doesn't disqualify me for the RR, what does? But they can't get rid of me that easily, nyah hah hah!!)

"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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 25 2007, 9:50pm

Post #125 of 135 (350 views)
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LOL ! [In reply to] Can't Post

And very well said.
And illustrated.

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


Modtheow
Lorien

Jun 26 2007, 12:20am

Post #126 of 135 (767 views)
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Your Majesty! [In reply to] Can't Post

All hail a.s!. Queen of the Smilies!

We bow before Her Royal Highness, and her great wisdom!


DoN, I'd just like to add my voice to a.s.'s (and to NEB's) in order to say that I don't think anyone is out of their league here. Everyone brings something to the discussion, like you did when you compared the style of CoH to the tone of a picture -- that was a new way of looking at it for me, and I never would have run across that idea unless different people with different experiences were offering their opinions here. I apologize to you or anyone else if my insistence on talking about sagas has made it look like I'm trying to hog all the expertise. I've just been trying to explain my preferences based on some of my reading experiences, but as I've said elsewhere in this crazy, confusing thread, I don't expect everyone to like the same things I do or to agree with me. The great thing about TORn is that there are so many different points of view here and different areas of knowledge. I feel like I'm always learning something new. And I think that some of us just like to argue. But leaving the discussions only makes this a poorer place, so please don't lurk.



(You know, these smilies are addictive, a.s.)


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Jun 26 2007, 12:43am

Post #127 of 135 (757 views)
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ROTHFL [In reply to] Can't Post

I hope I used the right letters...first time I used that acronym.

I just got to say I love your smilies. Where is the world did you find them.


Curious didn't make me feel any particular way...I just get felt that if I could be so easily misunderstood that someone could think I was calling 'people' ignorant, (a word I despise deeply for my own reasons), then I obviously don't know how to express myself very well.

I already know that I have trouble with debating, especially when it concerns argument, justifying position, debate, and all that sort of thing that debaters use. That is just so way over my head. I can only speak from my own experience, and suddenly that didn't feel good enough.

I didn't say I would leave...just lurk, and perhaps post from time to time. I don't see that as leaving.

And thank you so much for your encouragement. I really do love the Reading Room.




**Tribute: Lt. J.G. Robert Sterling, WWII Pilot MIA, by Gramma & DoN**
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 26 2007, 2:03am

Post #128 of 135 (811 views)
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Let me rephrase. [In reply to] Can't Post

Making things difficult for people is not the way to win a mass audience, and I do believe that with The Hobbit and LotR Tolkien wanted to win a mass audience. That was obviously not his primary goal when writing The Silmarillion.

Have you read historical novels like Robert Graves', Claudius?

But since I responded to you I have realized that Tolkien's archaic style does not bother me as much as his feigned historical style.


Stanislaus B.
The Shire

Jun 26 2007, 3:38pm

Post #129 of 135 (746 views)
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Proper beginning of discussion [In reply to] Can't Post

I would say that now we reached the point when we can begin to discuss Tolkien's style. To discuss whether it will be popular or not makes no sense - this will be shown by the number of books sold. It is also clear that Tolkien knew how to write popular prose; and that in Children of Hurin he didn't attempt that.

As for artificial style and language - both Paradise Lost and Faery Queen were written in invented pseudo-archaic language (and also criticised for that). I hope we are agreed that the bare fact that the book is written in consciously selected style and language (as opposed to the instinctive language of the writer) is not, by itself, the reason to criticise it.

With that assumption it is possible to attempt the evaluation of the way Tolkien (or rather, both Tolkiens) executed that idea. Criticising eg the stringing together of sentences beginning with "And" or "But" is useless, I judge - they belong to that style. But we can always judge the execution and the overall effect.

I am, for one, not at all persuaded that this execution is quite perfect. It would be in fact very strange if it did, taking into account the history of the book.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 26 2007, 4:40pm

Post #130 of 135 (775 views)
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"consciously selected style and language" [In reply to] Can't Post

 I am in general agreement with you, but I think we've already been doing that: comments on whether Tolkien's style appeals to a wide audience appeared late in this discussion, as an outgrowth of earlier remarks on specific aspects of his style that respondents here found good or bad.


Quote
Criticising e.g. the stringing together of sentences beginning with "And" or "But" is useless, I judge -- they belong to that style.


There's a slippery slope: any questionable aspect of Tolkien's "style" could be excused from criticism on the grounds that it is appropriate to some general stylistic mode.

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


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 26 2007, 4:47pm

Post #131 of 135 (763 views)
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After all this discussion, though, [In reply to] Can't Post

I re-read the first chapter and found that I liked it. I like the archaic style, and I'm even okay with the fact that it starts with a family tree and a couple of historical detours before we get to Turin. I think the beginning of the story places it within the larger legendarium of The Silmarillion, which which many readers are now familiar. Those who don't know The Silmarillion may be confused about the details, but still get the idea that there is a larger legendarium out there into which this story fits. If I have reservations about Children of Hurin, they do not begin in the first chapter -- at least not strong reservations.

I'll see how it goes as we continue this analysis chapter by chapter, but right now I would say it isn't so much any particular chapter to which I object, but the cumulative effect of the whole book. Just as I start to get interested in Turin the child, we jump to Hurin's battle. Just as I start to get interested in Hurin and Morgoth, we jump back to Turin and Morwen. Just as I start to get interested, we jump to Doriath, and then to the outlaws, and then to Mim, and then to Beleg, and then to Nargothrond, and so on throughout the book.

The only thing holding it all together is Turin, and Morgoth's curse. Is that enough to make up for the constantly-changing cast of characters and scenery the somewhat repetitive failures of Turin? It's just one damn thing after another. But maybe that is the whole point. It's like watching the downward spiral of an addict, something which can make a good movie, if you can bring yourself to watch it.

Maybe Children of Hurin should be made into a mini-series, not a movie. It's episodic structure would lend itself to a dozen or more episodes. But is there enough tension driving the whole story forward, especially when we know from the beginning that everything Turin tries will fail? I don't know, but I like episode, er, chapter one.


GaladrielTX
Tol Eressea


Jun 26 2007, 5:35pm

Post #132 of 135 (739 views)
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I'm glad you wrote that about Paradise Lost. [In reply to] Can't Post

I hadn’t realized Milton had intentionally written in such a remote, artificial style (although I did know he intentionally included the tons and tons of classical allusions which contribute to this being such a difficult work to read and understand). When I read PL in school I just assumed that the English language used to be like that, and I concluded it certainly must have changed a great deal in just a few centuries!

I found a quote on line (at http://irawrites.com/Extended%20Art%20Essays/paradiselost.htm) that I think applies equally well to Milton and to Tolkien’s works about the First Age:

“This style could be deadly to other subjects, but Milton found exactly the right subject for it. This is a work from which all commonness must be banned. It calls for 'high seriousness' as no other. Here Milton's elevated and artificial style fits. This is not the language of human beings, this poem's language, but this is not a poem pitched to man's level.

“It seems to me, in fact, that Milton has here succeeded in doing something many authors have dreamt about--- inventing their own language. But in Milton it is not an empty though perhaps spectacular tour de force, but an act of appropriateness to its subject.”

~~~~~~~~

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



Morwen
Rohan


Jun 28 2007, 12:55am

Post #133 of 135 (723 views)
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Morwen and Rian [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
This paragraph about Rîan demonstrates many things:

- This paragraph about Rîan demonstrates many things.
- That these are harsh times.
- That one gentle of heart does fit, making the harsh times really seem harsh.
- That not only does laughter (Lalaith) die young, so does song (Rîan) and therefore joy and hope does too.
- This family is doomed to sorrow, loss and hard times.
- That Morwen is the more likely to outlive them all as a reflection of the hardness of what the world has fallen to.



Exactly, although I think the point would have been better made had CT chosen to include more of Rían's story. Rían, gentle lover of flowers and music, does not survive her loss, whereas stern, and presumably less likable, Morwen outlives both her children and at least lives to see her husband once more. Gentleness and joy do not prevail in these times or in this story. Rían's story is a foreshadowing of the great bitterness to come, and the fact that she and Morwen are cousins creates a parallel between them and brings out the contrast between their different fates.

I think it would be unfair of Tolkien not to give us some foreshadowing of tragedy in this book. To imply that the story might have a happy ending, and then let it end the way it does, would be unreasonably sad.


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If thou hearest the cry of the gull on the shore,
Thy heart shall then rest in the forest no more.


Saelind
Lorien


Jun 28 2007, 4:01am

Post #134 of 135 (719 views)
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late as usual [In reply to] Can't Post

Many reviewers of The Children of Hurin have criticized this “genealogical” opening, as being both dull and confusing. Do you agree? How else, or where else, might the story have started, within the confines of Tolkien’s text? How important is “readability” to the Tolkiens, father and son?
Confusing yes! For a first time reader, I would say definitely. I am familiar with The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales and Book of Lost Tales so all the names don’t throw me. A few people have brought up other ways the story could have started. N.E.B and dna on separate occasions have quoted from the Dírhaval material from The War of the Jewels HOME 11, for example. But, Christopher was not going to alter anything if he could help it so we get the UT Narn instead. A missed opportunity for CT, IMHO.

How can Húrin be “fiery in mood” and yet have the “fire in him burn steadily”?
He has a vitality and charisma that occasional flares up into overt passion. I did like dna’s philological take on the names, however.

Isn’t it kind of comic to imagine Húrin as the shortest among his kin, while younger brother Huor is the tallest of all the Edain? Why does Tolkien create this visual image? Will you carry it with you as the brothers interact together later in the story? Should Alan Lee have drawn a picture of these two young men?
A picture might have been nice but would not really contribute to the story. I didn’t really think about the height difference until it was pointed out to me. The difference is probably partially genetic. You have some mixing of genes going on between the House of Hador and the House of Haleth. “His people (house of Hador Goldenhead) were of great strength and stature, ready in mind, bold and steadfast, quick to anger and to laughter…” “Like to them (House of Bëor) were the woodland folk of Haleth but they were of lesser stature, and less eager for lore. They used few words, and did not love great concourse of men; and many among them delighted in solitude,…” The Sil Chapter 17 “Of the coming of men into the west.” Bolding mine. So even if he was vertically challenged, Húrin still managed to be accounted one of the greatest warriors of the Edain.

Ditto for Morwen. Isn’t she taller than her husband? Is the story telling us that she is “stern of mood and proud” because she is “saddened” by her family’s exile? Or was she always like that?
I don’t really picture Morwen being taller than Húrin. Morwen is not a likeable character to me. The “sorrows of her house” are not an excuse for being cold and unfeeling. I think she is embittered rather than just sad. Was she always like that? Probably not as stern as she was as an adult but she more than likely was a serious child.

We learn that Urwen (Lalaith) will die young. Why give this away?
It fits the mood of the tale. As Nienna Sorrowing pointed out, “All things come to grief in Arda.”

Although Rian’s (the wife of Huor) little story here is sort of touching (who does she remind you of? why?) in fact she will never be heard from again in this story. Is her inclusion in this introduction justifiable?
It was part of the original Narn material and since CT wasn’t going to cut anything, so it was retained. Another “delicate” female character who succumbs to grief. Crazy I will give Morwen some credit, she did not just give up and die. It does make the point that the world of the First Age was very harsh and some were not built to handle it.

As far as the “style of writing” discussion, the high-sounding language doesn’t bother me. I’ve read a lot of fantasy and folk tales over the years. Admittedly, it took a little while for me to get used to it. But, some of Tolkien’s best writing has rhythm of language that I find very appealing. CoH is not a novel in the usual sense, IMHO, it is a long tale that has been packaged into a novel-like format, a novella if you will.

I am starting to read saga material. I am participating in the Beowulf discussion in the OT section, I have selections from the Norse sagas, Celtic mythology and I have a copy of the Welsh Mabinogion on the way.


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Jun 28 2007, 5:47am

Post #135 of 135 (1014 views)
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yes, I ageree [In reply to] Can't Post

I would love have more of Rian's story included.

I noticed that everythime even a slight joyful statement is made it is ether coupled with, or immediately followed by a hint of tragedy or sorrow.

thanks for your comments
DoN



**Tribute: Lt. J.G. Robert Sterling, WWII Pilot MIA, by Gramma & DoN**
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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

 
 

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