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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
**CoH Discussion** I. The Childhood of Túrin: 1. Ancestry
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Curious
Half-elven

Jun 22 2007, 12:12am

Post #51 of 135 (505 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 (515 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 (510 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 (506 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 (499 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.







Art Gallery Revised, Aloha & Mahalo, Websites Directory

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


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Jun 22 2007, 7:46am

Post #56 of 135 (485 views)
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story-tellers of old [In reply to] Can't Post

 

In Reply To
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 (522 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:


Quote
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 (497 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 (488 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 (506 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 (484 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 (491 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 (487 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 (546 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 (484 views)
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Doesn't LotR give its ending away? // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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


Quote
"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 (540 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 (456 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 (539 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 (495 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."


Quote
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.


Quote
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.


Quote
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 (485 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.


Quote
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 (487 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 (499 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".

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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 (476 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 (492 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?

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

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