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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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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 24 2007, 12:48am

Post #101 of 135 (372 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 (350 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 (363 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 (343 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 (352 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 (360 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 (356 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 (378 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 (376 views)
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Do you like other fantasies? [In reply to] Can't Post


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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 (341 views)
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I would abandon that opening entirely. [In reply to] Can't Post


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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 (345 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 (339 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 (349 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 (339 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 (353 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 (350 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 (340 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 (340 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 (354 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 (348 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 (353 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 (334 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 (338 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 (390 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 (344 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.

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