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**An Unexpected Party** - 10. A few thematic questions…simple stuff... the Narrator, Social Class, Anachronism, Fairy Tales...



squire
Half-elven


Mar 29 2009, 3:19pm


Views: 1097
**An Unexpected Party** - 10. A few thematic questions…simple stuff... the Narrator, Social Class, Anachronism, Fairy Tales...

Well, that about wraps up our first week of the Reading Room discussion of The Hobbit. Thank you all, each and every one of you, for joining in; and say hey! to all our lurkers – come on in, we’re not intimidating any more, much.

As I said in the beginning, I had intended to do some “thematic” threads after covering the text. No time for lots of additional threads now – I barely got through the week, if you didn’t notice – but I will ask a few token questions for those with a taste for this stuff.

Narrator’s voice

This week we’ve already gotten a few perceptive comments on the narrator of The Hobbit. For instance, Curious commented that the narrator is clearly a part of our Primary World unlike the equivalent voice in The Lord of the Rings. Arwen’s Daughter noted that the narrator makes choices about when the reader will learn something. And someone else (sorry!) pointed out how the narrator has his/her own character, with a point of view, and a limited body of knowledge about the story.

I have always defaulted “him” as a male, but whether that’s because I’m male, I know Tolkien was male, or it’s an English language/social convention, I don’t know. Certainly my mother read the story to me as a kid and I doubt I heard a single word that sounded funny coming out of her mouth.

A. Is the narrator male or female?

Most stories of this kind have a narrative voice, sometimes called the omniscient third person, or something like that (story-experts, pitch in here!). In The Hobbit, for starters, the narrative voice is first person almost immediately - not uncommon in children's literature, or even adventure romances of the period. But then the voice gets folksy and idiosyncratic, and suddenly we have the character of the Hobbit-narrator. To many people, this character is the single most annoying, or differentiating, thing that makes The Hobbit inferior to The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien is on record as saying himself, years later, that he regretted the “talking to children” tone of The Hobbit – yet when he attempted to re-write The Hobbit in a style more consistent with LotR, he stopped when others told him he was destroying a unique work of literature.

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

Anachronisms

We’ve already started talking about this, of course. It’s unavoidable with this story. Or is it?

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

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

Social class

My impression from many of the responses this week is that some modern readers do not like, care about, or understand the distinctions of social class that have been so important in past societies, including early 20th century England. From this point of view, thinking of Bilbo as “upper class”, “rich”, or “well to do” has nothing to do with enjoying the story. Ditto with the dwarves, etc.

E. Is class a red herring, brought up for the critic’s pleasure but having no relevance to the story as it’s written?

Other readers take an interest in finding the implicit messages that this first chapter of The Hobbit conveys about comfort, manners, host/guest relations, and personal interaction, using class as a lens. For instance, I was glad to read some explanations for the dwarves’ behavior in taking advantage of Bilbo’s hospitality, as stemming from their social contempt for him as a hired burglar, no matter how grand his hobbit hole may have been described as for the reader. I’m not sure that’s in the text – one can argue the discrimination is more racial in nature, as Tolkien did in his post-facto reanalysis in “The Quest of Erebor” – but it was new to me and very interesting to think about and re-read for.

F. What class was Tolkien? Would he be unconscious or conscious of the question, and his choices about writing it in his fantasies?

I also was interested how many people assumed that servants were a matter of choice in a pre-industrial household of wealth. It’s arguable that the fantasy precludes servants, or that eliminating them just simplifies the storytelling, but I also think many modern people just don’t like the idea of servants. We see the same reaction in some discussions of Sam’s flexible status in LotR.

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

Fairy Tales

I have commented several times this week that one common interpretation of The Hobbit is that of a modern, bourgeois Englishman/hobbit from the Civilized Lands, encountering Faerie (the land of Fairy Tales), as embodied by the dwarves and the many later fantastical characters and situations in the Wilderland. Kind of a “twist” on a traditional fairy tale. But Tolkien argued that the classic fairy tale was always about a mortal who journeyed to Faerie, to experience transformation or recreation. (If I’m getting the gist of “On Fairy-Stories” wrong, please correct me.) And we have already gotten bogged down in questions of just how “modern” the dwarves actually are; and how fantastical hobbits really are.

H. Is The Hobbit a fairy tale?

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

Thank you very much everyone! Let’s hit the road for adventure in Chapter Two, covered by Finding Frodo!



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
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


Morthoron
Gondor


Mar 29 2009, 5:21pm


Views: 652
Long story made longer...

A. Is the narrator male or female?

I had always considered the narrator to be male, and most likely Tolkien.

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

The narration is rather homely and familiar, and a perfect pairing for a tale told by a grandad with a wink and a nudge.

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

Well, we often view The Hobbit in reference to Tolkien's larger mythos; therefore, the anachronisms are more jarring given the descriptions of life and society in the corpus as a whole. The mention of mechanical beasts at the Fall of Gondolin aside, the technology of Middle-earth certainly predates the Renaissance in real-world terms. There is a reliance on chainmail, swords and bows (no crossbows), and the use of gunpowder by Gandalf and Saruman take on sorcerous proportions ('devilry' is a good term). Even Tolkien took measures to reduce the amount of anachronisms when marrying The Hobbit to Middle-earth material, editing out many but obviously forgetting a few. Really, the Shire itself is anachronistic to the rest of Middle-earth -- a squirearchy more relatable to 18th or 19th century England in attitude and operation than the more medieval lands of Gondor and Rohan.

E. Is class a red herring, brought up for the critic’s pleasure but having no relevance to the story as it’s written?

Class is evident in The Hobbit and LotR, but class-consciousness is a modern conception (or at least, politicized to a great extent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries). But Tolkien's conservative view of England embraces class distinctions, and such distinctions were readily discernible in the first half of the 20th century, and more accepted in England. In comparison, class is even more pronounced in the works of Dickens or Austen, where a poor or middle-class hero or heroine would never consider pretensions of exceeding their status, or at least they only became successful within the stratified means of society. Class is only a red herring when critics inject a modern and decidedly negative view of the subject where it clearly would not apply.

F. What class was Tolkien? Would he be unconscious or conscious of the question, and his choices about writing it in his fantasies?

Tolkien would have been upper middle-class. He was not knighted in his lifetime, nor did he achieve the fortune that would be deemed necessary to reach the upper strata of British society.

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

Yes, Tolkien did have servants, and at least one that I know of in particular. Her name was Arndis but she was known as ‘Adda’ and was a maid for the Tolkiens in the 1930's. The original interview of 'Adda' was published by the Icelandic newspaper Morgunblaðið on February, 28 1999, but I cannot find it on any site on the net. The gist of the interview is as follows (and I thank Lalaith from another Tolkien site for the paraphrasing of the story – the documentation is hers):

‘Adda’, was a doctor’s daughter from the West Fjords, who went to work with the Tolkiens when she was twenty, in 1930. She got the job because the Tolkiens had two mothers' help from Iceland previously, Aslaug and Runa, and Aslaug had been a classmate of Adda’s. Tolkien collected her from Oxford station and greeted her in Icelandic. She then talks about her working conditions – she was meant to be one of the family, but she never had a holiday. The youngest of the children (presumably Priscilla) was in her second year.

She says that the Professor was a really lovely man, very easy and comfortable to be around, he loved nature, trees and everything that grew. The house they had just bought had an asphalt tennis court and the first thing they did was rip it up and put down grass. This is an example of how JRR and Edith hated modern things – another thing they both hated was central heating and boilers.

Edith loved flowers, and not only had splendid flower beds in her new home but kept going back to the old one to get plants. Adda puts this down to English upper class eccentricity – the Tolkiens she says, loved flowers and writing letters. She has lots of letters from them, including decorated Christmas cards from the Tolkien children. The oldest son, Johnny, was now 14 and in the new house he had his own room. The rest (including Adda) kept themselves to the nursery. The lady of the house (Edith) had a difficult nature, she wasn’t sociable and disliked most people. Then Adda talks about how she was meant to come there to learn English and help Tolkien practice Icelandic but Edith got jealous if they talked in a language she didn’t understand. “She was never unkind to me, but she was never a friend either. And she was very over-protective.”

Adda says Oxford was at that time completely class-ridden – professors were a class unto themselves. Edith was also a snob – when the char (cleaning lady) went awol for a fortnight, Edith was furious when Adda decided to wash the doorstep. “You’re one of us, you must never be seen doing work suitable for servants.”
The Tolkiens rarely if ever entertained, and Adda was not impressed with their hospitality...”once a couple who were old friends, just back from many years in India, called round and they hadn't seen them for years, but just gave them tea in the morning room, with only one cake!”

Adda thinks that Tolkien was much more sociable by nature than Edith. She got to know Edith’s lovely old nanny, a Miss Gro (not sure they got this name right) who joked that Edith would always have a migraine whenever there was a university ‘do’. Miss Gro also explained why Edith was so difficult – she blamed their traumatic courtship years. They faced opposition for years and ended up having to practically elope. They had stood firm together against all the odds, even though they may not have had much in common. Adda said Edith spent a lot of time upstairs during the day but didn’t know what she actually did. She was a very promising pianist at the time when she married, had become an organist in a church. There was a parlour in the house which no-one ever went into, there was a piano there but Edith never touched it. None of the children learnt an instrument.

Whenever Tolkien had had a drink or two he was not allowed to sleep in the bedroom, he had to go into the guest room. She couldn’t stand the smell of drink on him. Tolkien was a lovely, comfortable man, didn’t talk much. He always came home to lunch every day, and went into his study after the meal. He would have a bottle of beer and a dry biscuit. Adda was very fond of the children. She took them fishing in a nearby canal, put them in the bath every night and put them to bed, they loved to hear Icelandic folk tales about trolls and such, and often Tolkien would come and listen too. “He took lots of ideas from Icelandic folk stories...and he really believed that all of nature was alive. He lived in a kind of adventure/fantasy world.”

Adda still loves reading the Hobbit (which he started writing at the time she was working for him). Tolkien always wore a tweed jacket and pale grey trousers, but loved to wear colourful waistcoats. And he always wore white tie (tails) at the Oxford dinners. He always wanted to go to Iceland but thought he couldn’t afford it.

Adda eventually left because of the restrictive life she was forced to lead. She got friendly with a girl called Betty, one of Tolkien’s students, who invited her to go punting but Edith never found it convenient to let her go, even on a Sunday. Edith once showed Adda her wardrobe upstairs, it ran along an entire wall and was completely full of clothes. But she never went anywhere at all, except perhaps to the library. She sometimes did go with me and the older boys to a matinee (afternoon theatre performance). The Tolkiens thought the theatre an acceptable leisure activity but hated the cinema, and they really hated the Morris car factory that had been recently opened south of Oxford.

John, at 14, was most like his father. Edith stopped Adda from bathing him. (editor’s note – I should hope so too!) Michael, the next son, was such a beautiful child, that people would stop his mother in the street to admire him. His mother wanted him to be a priest. Christopher was often squabbled over by his parents. He was a rather whiny child, fussy with food. But his father adored him and realised that he needed different handling than the others. Tolkien had started writing the Hobbit while I was there but was really writing it for Christopher, reading him out chapters.

She then says that she had close contact through letters with the family until the war disrupted the correspondence.

H. Is The Hobbit a fairy tale?

Yes, certainly. All the elements are there, either imagined by Tolkien or reworked from previous mythos (right down to borrowing Dwarvish names from the Voluspa). It follows the themes noted by Joseph Campbell quite naturally.

Read the ongoing serialization of MONTY PYTHON'S 'The HOBBIT', found here:
http://www.fanfiction.net/...y_Pythons_The_Hobbit


batik
Tol Eressea


Mar 29 2009, 5:35pm


Views: 588
Thanks, squire! Enjoyed the week!


Quote
A. Is the narrator male or female?


Yes--the narrator is male or female! Wink More seriously--I think I do *hear* a male voice--probably since I know Tolkien is a man plus *he* is telling a story concering a bunch of males (or so I assume. Are all the dwarves male? That's another topic!)


Quote

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


Now researching that would require a lot of time on a Sunday and I do need to get some housework done today! Really, *hearing* the tale-tellers voice does not bother me at all (thinking of the film version of The Princess Bride). Shakespeare's "asides" and a couple of scenes in Blazing Saddles (and to be sure other films that aren't popping into my mind instantly) serve the same purpose for me. It's a hey, we're telling you a story moment. Having my being a member of the audience pointed out to me does not ruin the story or prohibit me from getting back *into* the tale.


Quote

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

Well, see here's where that "Ignorance is Bliss" idea comes in! None of the items above seem out of place for me since, for the most part, I am blissfully unaware of the history of these things (well, tobacco...that's from the Americas, I think). Since this was primarily a tale for children I suppose Tolkien's use of "coffee, the morning post, the mantle clock, and tobacco" was *OK*--the children would be familiar with such things but may not have questioned their place within this story.

Re: Class issues


Now this one I have more *adult awareness* of but unless there is some kind of discrimination, etc. related to it, I let it pass on by. Enough to say that Bilbo is presented as one of the more 'well-to-do' Hobbits and probably could have afforded servants (who I assume would have been compensated for their work--similar to those in our time who work at minimum wage positions, which is probably another topic).
And, no, no servants here unless I count harassing my sons or nephew into raking the leaves once in a while.

Re: Fairy Tales

A description/definition from facultydotdedotgscudotedu

Quote
Fairy tales, also known as wonder tales or märchen (from the German), are a sub-genre of folktales involving magical, fantastic or wonderful episodes, characters, events, or symbols. Like all folktales they are narratives that are not believed to be true (fictional stories), often in timeless settings (once upon a time) in generic, unspecified places (the woods), with one-dimensional characters (completely good or bad). They function to entertain, inspire, and enlighten us. In these episodic narratives the main characters are usually humans who often follow a typical pattern (as in a heroic quest) that is resolved partly by magic. The fact that these wonder tales still appeal to us attests to their richness and effectiveness as symbolic (artistic) communication.


Hmmm...except for the "one-dimensional characters (completely good or bad)" comment The Hobbit does fit this description. Oh...and the "humans" bit...I guess Hobbit is subsituted for human???

My descriptions:
For non-LotR-ers>>> Fun to read to or with kids and there's lots there for the big folk, too
For LotT-ers>>>>All of the above and it's neat to *know* some of the history.



(This post was edited by batik on Mar 29 2009, 5:38pm)


squire
Half-elven


Mar 29 2009, 5:48pm


Views: 621
Whoa! Thank you very much!!

I had never seen this. I knew the Tolkiens had servants, of course, but I had no idea they had been interviewed for biographical info on the Tolkiens.

The idea that Adda never got a holiday sounds very familiar. Even now one can read of nannies and au-pairs and housekeepers from foreign countries, working in the U.S., who are kept virtually as house-prisoners by their employers.

It is notable that Adda was only there to help with the child care. There was also a charwoman - whether full time or not is unclear. The portrait of Edith is not very flattering; I guess we should remember this is a portrait of Edith-as-boss, never the best way to be remembered. For an alternate, and more sympathetic, view, we have Carpenter's biography where for instance Edith is said to have played piano all of her life.

Miss Gro, Edith's "lovely old nanny" is certainly Jennie Grove, an older cousin of Edith's who cared for her when young, and accompanied her during her peripatetic early life with Tolkien, helping with the children and keeping her company while her husband was away for the war and for work. She and Edith lived in 22 different places between 1916 and 1918! She is described by John Garth as the children's surrogate grandmother. (source: JRR Tolkien Encyclopedia)

By 1930 she was seventy years old, and the hiring of Adda may have been due to Miss Gro's aging; she died in 1938.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 29 2009, 7:10pm


Views: 622
Yes, thanks indeed!

Scull and Hammond seem not to be aware of this article; at least, I can find no reference to Adda in the "Domestic duties" article in the Reader's Guide.

Also, I'm going to add a link to the original post by Lalaith at the Barrow-downs site (similarly, when I quote from TORN on other sites, I include a link back here).

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

Join us Mar. 23-29 for "An Unexpected Party".
+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=
How to find old Reading Room discussions.


Luthien Rising
Lorien


Mar 29 2009, 9:44pm


Views: 575
tales out of school


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E. Is class a red herring, brought up for the critic’s pleasure but having no relevance to the story as it’s written?


I don't think so. We can "see" the narrative trajectory of Bilbo's shift from comfort to discomfort more clearly because he begins in so much comfort. Discussions of class in the novel that get into judgment or that try to align Bilbo to some very particular modern-world (20th-century modern or not) class structure seem to me, however, entirely pointless.


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


I answered this one second because my thoughts on it derive from the previous comment. Anachronism isn't in question, of course: this is not a different time in our own world, in spite of the outright statement that it is. The Hobbit lacks the deep history in LOTR, in which we have something to draw forward from into a present, thus enabling anachronism. It's just pretend. The details that are clearly those of our own world let the listening or reading child identify: this world is different, but not so much that it's hard to latch onto. And when the "real"-world items have particular significance in our world -- when they signify, for example, luxury (like the toys of Dale) -- they act as short-hand that permits "show" rather than "tell".

It's only in the context of LOTR, through the act of enclosing The Hobbit with it, that these details become anachronisms and therefore objected to. I've come to think that it's better not to enclose the book of this story with LOTR; the story as told in the preface -- told without the narrator or anachronisms -- should substitute. It's not The Hobbit per se that is part of the Middle-earth narrative; it is its story.


Quote
G. Did Tolkien employ household servants? Do you?


I don't know about Tolkien, but when I was growing up, my grandparents did. I assumed as a child that Katie -- who came (and always had) in all day every weekday and sometimes on a weekend when there was a party or the like, whose skin colour was pretty much the opposite of mine and who had her own home and large family -- was family. It is not only the facts about household servants that are sometimes misunderstood today: it's also the nature of those relationships.


Quote
F. What class was Tolkien?


Tolkien's class position was a very modern one, and could thus have been contested in his own mind: he changed class during his lifetime, from working class to the pseudo-upper class of the professoriate (a sort of professional class, a sort of upper-middle class, but with traditional upper-class associations), and even within his own extended family was in a complex class relation.


(Thank you for this week, squire!)




Lúthien Rising
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. / We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

(This post was edited by Luthien Rising on Mar 29 2009, 9:44pm)


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 29 2009, 10:20pm


Views: 609
Thoughts.

A. Is the narrator male or female?

Yes. I haven't seen anything gender specific so far.

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

It would be a different book. I think LotR is better than The Hobbit, but it is also very different, and I would not like to lose The Hobbit. Of course, there's more to the difference than simply eliminating the narrator's asides.

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

Do they? Not from me. If you are correct, perhaps it is because LotR overshadows The Hobbit, and some readers get annoyed with the differences.

What are they anachronistic in reference to?

They are anachronistic if we assume that the story is completely pre-industrial, although Tolkien never says it is. They are also anachronistic if we assume that the story is historical, although Tolkien does not invest nearly as much in that conceit in The Hobbit as he does in LotR. I prefer to think that the story takes place in Fairie, with some selected contemporary aspects of English life incorporated into Fairie -- i.e., the parts Tolkien liked, and not the parts he didn't like. It's not logical or realistic to take the good without the bad, but then fairy-tales only have to follow an internal logic, and really shouldn't try to be too realistic. They are built on our desires.

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

Yes.

E. Is class a red herring, brought up for the critic’s pleasure but having no relevance to the story as it’s written?

Bilbo is an object of fun in part because he is part of the landed class, however on the whole Tolkien treats him gently and even makes him look, in the end, heroic. Of course in doing so he also separates him from his class. Thorin fares less well, although his soul is save in the end. I think the most controversial treatment of class may be the characters of Bard, hereditary heir to the throne of Dale, and the Master of Lake-town, duly elected representative. Lake-town exhibits all that a monarchist might consider wrong with the democratic process. On the other hand, Thorin exhibits some of the failings of monarchy, so perhaps it balances out. There's also some vague notion that Bilbo's Tookish blood is better than his Baggins blood, but it's not clear from this story that the Tooks are more aristocratic than the Baggins, or at least not as explicit as in LotR.

I consider The Hobbit far less classist than LotR because it lacks all the emphasis on heredity we find in the appendices of LotR. Without those appendices, I might find that the character of Sam balances out the character of Aragorn pretty nicely. But the appendices undercut the notion of Sam as a lower-class hero, and reinforces the notion of Aragorn as a product of his bloodlines.

F. What class was Tolkien? Would he be unconscious or conscious of the question, and his choices about writing it in his fantasies?

He was no aristocrat, so perhaps he cannot be classist. He could be an enabler of classism, though. He seems to have inhabited a middle ground, with impeccable education but with the outsider status of a Catholic and a poor orphan. His letters indicate that he was conscious, at least, of the debate over the value of the monarchy, and that he came down on the side of monarchy. But that may say more of his dislike of modern politicians than about his true notion of monarchs.

G. Did Tolkien employ household servants?

Not live-in servants, that I've heard of, and probably not any, since he always seems to have struggled for money. The real money from LotR didn't come until late in his life.

Do you?

A cleaning lady every two weeks, a mowing service in the warmer months, a handyman from time to time -- I suppose, in a manner of speaking.

Is the example of Sam enough to raise the question here, or should we not think about this level of reality in a fantasy story unless the author asks us to?

Tolkien encourages to think about what a Secondary World says about the Primary World.

H. Is The Hobbit a fairy tale?

Yes, by any definition I can think of. Only those who insist that mantle clocks and the morning post can't exist in Fairie might disagree, but I'm not aware of people who actually hold such opinions. Certainly that is not Tolkien's definition. The Hobbit incorporates Fantasy, Recovery, Escape, and Consolation, perhaps more so than LotR. Tolkien's only regret was that he directed it towards children, but that was a matter of preference, not part of his definition, and most fairy tales of his time were written for children.

I. How would you describe it in a few short words to a friend who is interested in reading it?

It's the story of a stuffy, middle-aged, everyman hero who finds himself preparing to confront a dragon, faces all sorts of adventures along the way, and learns to rely on his luck, his wit, and his courage to get him through. I would compare it to The Brave Little Tailor, although Bilbo is far more humble than the Tailor.

Would his or her having read The Lord of the Rings first make a difference in your description?

Oh yes, in that case he would be familiar with Bilbo, and I would say that this is the story of what Bilbo was like before his adventure, when the rest of the hobbits thought he was quite respectable, and the readers probably would think of him as a bore. But I would also emphasize that The Hobbit is not a prequel, but an independent story with its own style written for children and the parents who read to children. It won't work for you if you keep wishing it were more like LotR.

Would knowing your friend wants to get it for his or her children make a difference?

Yes. I'm not sure it's appropriate for every child. I think it is most appropriate for a child who reads well above his or her grade level, or who have a long attention span for hearing bedtime stories without pictures. As children's books go, it's rather epic, and may be too long and wordy for children with short attention spans. Yet it is written to appeal to young children. It seems designed as a series of long, episodic bedtime stories to be read to young children by their parents, and indeed that is how it originated in the Tolkien household.



(This post was edited by Curious on Mar 29 2009, 10:21pm)


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Mar 30 2009, 2:06am


Views: 572
And another thank-you!

This is a fascinating look at the Tolkiens' home life! Do give Lalaith our thanks, this is greatly appreciated!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

"It struck me last night that you might write a fearfully good romantic drama, with as much of the 'supernatural' as you cared to introduce. Have you ever thought of it?"
-Geoffrey B. Smith, letter to JRR Tolkien, 1915


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Mar 30 2009, 2:28am


Views: 579
This has been fun!

Putting down HoME and picking up HoH, as well as the Annotated Hobbit - we're off and running, as our dear Bilbo will shortly be!

I'd always imagined the narrator being Tolkien, and thus, male. His words, and the "anachronisms", help pull us into the story. And if those "personal comments" were ever removed - well, those of us who have read the aborted reworking know that it simply does not have the charm and friendliness of the original!

How to describe this book: it is a fairy tale, with dwarves and evil creatures and wise, helpful characters; but more importantly, it is about the perilous journey of a small person who, along the way, discovers the courage and wisdom within himself.

Thank you for a grand beginning, squire! Have a cookie!




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

"It struck me last night that you might write a fearfully good romantic drama, with as much of the 'supernatural' as you cared to introduce. Have you ever thought of it?"
-Geoffrey B. Smith, letter to JRR Tolkien, 1915


sador
Half-elven

Mar 30 2009, 6:17am


Views: 561
A few answers, some to the point

A. Is the narrator male or female?
I also assume he was male, with no particularly good reason; but Tolkien was male, and if and when I'll read this story to my children, I will be one. Quite like your reasons.

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

And Curious is right - you can't just eliminate the narrator! You have to change the whole fabric of the comedy.
And having a narrator is the best way to right a book about serious subjects, but still keep it a comedy - as Fielding discovered, and was followed by Thackeray. One might put a narrator as a totally incredible character, like Melville did.
By the way, this might not always work - like when the author has simply no sense of humor (like George Elliot). But which literature ever does work well? Even LotR doesn't always, as you take pains for pointing out (and was roundly criticised for it this week).
Anyway, as I don't think Vanity Fair is a children's book, and even Tom Jones isn't - I feel no need to treat The Hobbit as one, and the narrator presents me with no such problem. It is a book children can and do enjoy - but not a children's book.

C. Why do apparent anachronisms in The Hobbit like coffee, the morning post, the mantle clock, and tobacco arouse so many objections from readers?
This is a dangerous type of question. When we discussed 'The Black Gate is Closed', I asked why did so many people object to the movie's portrayal of Frodo and Sam's hiding from the Easterlings, and most of the answers were "Who ever objected to that? I didn't!". Not until NEB's amazing tour of old discussions last week, did anyone raise any serious objection to that scene, and nobody who is in general in favour of the movies did so.
So the anachronisms seem to me as the red herring for critics, far more than class is.

What are they anachronistic in reference to?
Well, if we consider The Hobbit as necessarily consistent with The Lord of the Rings, the anachronisms seem jarring. But the first book doesn't really need to be consistent with the later one (although LotR should be consistent with the Hobbit).

And as far as I understand, The Hobbit was not written with the conceit of being Bilbo's book. Its author is a different character in LotR - the future father who tells his child a bed-time story of old heroes, which Sam mentions in 'The Stairs of Cirith Ungol' (although Sam's storytelling 'dad' is probably a hobbit, and the narrator of The Hobbit is clearly a Man).

Oh! But if we accept my last point - than I have to change my answer to your first question! Sam's narrator is 'dad', so the narrator is clearly male!
Well, no, of course - as I wrote above, The Hobbit does not need to subscribe to Sam's future speech; but I think it does reflect the way Tolkien saw the narrative he was writing, and should apply to The Hobbit as well.

D. Isn’t there a tremendous amount of fantasy literature, both before and after The Hobbit, in which modernity encounters antiquity for both comic and dramatic effect?
I suppose so, but I'm no expert on fantasy.
The only example I can think of is A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's court, which I think is a more lighthearted in intent as well as in tone; and anyway, the anachronisms in it are explained as a part of the fantasy.

E. Is class a red herring, brought up for the critic’s pleasure but having no relevance to the story as it’s written?
No; it's a critical part of the story's fabric.

F. What class was Tolkien? Would he be unconscious or conscious of the question, and his choices about writing it in his fantasies?
If I remember correctly, Tolkien wrote or spoke once in favour of a stratified class system, and considered himself as one who should practice reverence towards his betters.

It is likely that I am vaguely remembering (or misremembering) something from Carpenter's Biography, which I found in a library some twenty years ago, but haven't read since.

G. Did Tolkien employ household servants?
As I've read Morothorn's post, I know he did. Before that - I would have probably guessed he did.

Do you?
Do you mean someone who comes once a week to help clean? We do.
As a matter of fact, this has long been a point of contention between my wife and myself. While she thought it was only natural, I felt strongly against it, to the point of suggesting she would go swimming on Thursday night while I cleaned the house. Only after our second child was born, I gave in.
But then I was still a student, and felt it was wrong to have hired help (that's class-conciousness for you!). Now we both work, so I've kind of accepted this as a fact of life; but I hate to think of him as a household servant! If not for Curoius' answer to this question, I would have replied with a simple 'no'.

Is the example of Sam enough to raise the question here, or should we not think about this level of reality in a fantasy story unless the author asks us to?
If we mention Sam in this respect, we should first consider his father, who was the gardener's assistant at the time of The Hobbit.

H. Is The Hobbit a fairy tale?
Yes; but before OFS was discussed last winter, I never thought about definitions.

I. How would you describe it in a few short words to a friend who is interested in reading it?
A few short words? I couldn't if I tried to! That's simply not me! Blush

Would his or her having read The Lord of the Rings first make a difference in your description? Would knowing your friend wants to get it for his or her children make a difference?
Probably.

Thanks for starting us off so well!


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


sador
Half-elven

Mar 30 2009, 6:19am


Views: 675
Fascinating story! Thank you! //

 

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


Elven
Valinor


Mar 30 2009, 10:27am


Views: 548
Thankyou for a wonderful week and a great beginning ...

I have been wandering through the posts everyday, and am loving it!
I cant join in every one of them, some I have no answers too, but Im happy to get my fury feet wet ...

A. Is the narrator male or female?

Ive always heard a male voice telling this story when Ive read it, so I say a male.

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

Not neccessarily better, and I wonder if it would still be as charming and hold the same anticipations for the reader.


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

Im not sure they do. Until you mentioned it in the posts, I was unaware that it may have been a bone of coyention for some.
Though through reading the posts and the thread, its apparent, but I have no objections.


F. What class was Tolkien? Would he be unconscious or conscious of the question, and his choices about writing it in his fantasies?

I think he would be conscious of the 'system' and the structure. Im sure there were barriers and opportunities he observed in his time in England and abroad. Actually in some respect, I think he saw right through it too - in a cynical and maybe comical sense. I think he had a better sense of what personal individual class was as well as say socially structured class.

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

I loved reading the story of the servant above.
I suppose Im a servant to others - not a domestic - more like Sam, a gardener and maintenance person (some days of the week Wink).


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

Here, I think you'll like this book! Hobbits, Dwarves, Elves, Trolls, Bears, Dragons, Eagles, a treasure hunt and a unexpected ending ... you take my copy read it and tell me what you think, then read it to Amber, buy her a copy for her birthday, and then give me mine copy back. Wink


Thanks for a wonderful week!
Cheers
Elven x


Swishtail.

Tolkien was a Capricorn!!
Russell Crowe for Beorn!!

Avatar: Liberace - The other Lord of the Rings.

Quote of The Week: The thing is I always write in the morning, and I know that if I go to the Net I won’t write ... you can start in the most scholarly website and end up at Paris Hilton dot com .. GdT


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 30 2009, 2:50pm


Views: 555
Very interesting. Obviously I didn't read your post

before I gave my answers. Adda sounds a little like a long-term au pair, not considered part of the same class as the cleaning lady. But no days off! That does sound like a servant, even if the Tolkiens wanted to pretend otherwise.

I also see now how Tolkien had time for all his writing; no social life! Also no movies, and of course no TV, let alone internet. He did write lots of letters, but many of them related to his writing. And he did nip down to the pub with the boys from time to time, or meet with the Inkings, but again much of that related to his writing.

Also very interesting to see her impression of Oxford as class-ridden. The Oxford dons are a strange class, because they got to their positions at least in part through personal achievement. Of course many of them came from aristocratic backgrounds or they wouldn't have gone to such fine schools, but not Tolkien, and I trust he was not the only exception. Yet they were tutoring the sons and sometimes daughters of aristocrats, and socializing with aristocrats (when there was a "to do"). So they had a good deal invested in the class system, although they themselves were not a part of the uppermost class, and may even have looked down upon some of the aristocratic dullards they tutored.

The idea that Tolkien sometimes had to sleep in the guest room because he had been drinking lends support to my new theory (which Dreamdeer has encouraged and nicely supported) that Bilbo was at least a little drunk in Chapter One of The Hobbit -- not falling down drunk, perhaps, but enough that if he had had a wife he would have slept in the guest room, and enough that he made a rash decision he regretted the next day.

That also reminds me of Baldor, who at a celebration celebrating the completion of Meduseld (where there was undoubtedly much drinking) boasted that he would enter the Paths of the Dead. That in turn reminds me of such boasts in Beowulf, again often accompanied by drinking -- although Beowulf backed up his boasts. Let's just say that bold/rash decisions and drinking seem to go hand in hand in some instances. Sometimes they work out, and sometimes they don't.


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 30 2009, 3:04pm


Views: 547
You remember correctly.


Quote
If I remember correctly, Tolkien wrote or spoke once in favour of a stratified class system, and considered himself as one who should practice reverence towards his betters. It is likely that I am vaguely remembering (or misremembering) something from Carpenter's Biography, which I found in a library some twenty years ago, but haven't read since.


Carpenter quotes Tolkien as saying: "'Touching your cap to the Squire may be damn bad for the Squire but it's damn good for you.'" See Carpenter's biography, published in 1981, at page 133.

The odd part about this is that he recognizes the flaw in the system -- very few people are really worthy of reverence, or will not let it go to their heads. That's one reason why I separate Tolkien's fantasy from his view of the Primary World -- I'm sure Tolkien was well aware that real-world monarchs are unlikely to be as virtuous or worthy as Aragorn.

But still he created a mythology built around hereditary monarchies, and other kinds of hereditary traits as well. Bloodlines are just so important to Tolkien's mythology that it is hard for me not to call his fantasy classist. It's as if Tolkien devoutly desired monarchs worthy of the office, and made it a part of his utopic vision, even if he recognized that such monarchs only exist in mythology, or perhaps, since he was a man of faith, in Christ the King.



Curious
Half-elven


Mar 30 2009, 3:10pm


Views: 550
Thank you, squire, for an interesting discussion.

I learned a great deal, and had a number of "aha" moments, and developed some new as-yet-untested theories, not only about The Hobbit but also about LotR.

And just so there is no misunderstanding, I quite enjoy it when you question Tolkien's technique or style or intentions. Sometimes I defend him, and sometimes I don't, especially when talking about The Hobbit, which is not, I judge, on the same level of achievement as LotR. I hope you'll find time to continue participating in the discussion.


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Mar 30 2009, 7:55pm


Views: 551
The servant question

As I have just rediscovered, Tolkien does go into detail on what Bilbo has to do to clean up after thirteen dwarves and a wizard have breakfast while he sleeps. He doesn't just throw on a faucet and have at it, he has to draw and boil the water first. Yet he does so quite well without servants to assist him. (Someone well-to-do would most likely buy his firewood pre-chopped from a woodcutter, even as wealthy folks do today when they indulge in fireplaces for the ambiance. Nor would he make his own soap.)

Indeed, as I come to think of him dusting off his mantlepiece (or in this case forgetting to) I get the impression that all he has to do, all day, is housework. Not what you'd expect of a captain of industry, but certainly someone of independent means, living off of an inheritance, can spend all day puttering around the house, maybe taking off a few hours now and then to manage real-estate deals, collecting rents, investments, etc., to maintain one's hoard. Bilbo at this point worships stability; he is neither trying to increase his funds nor let them deplete, but maintaining them exactly as they are. Once one reaches a certain level of wealth, it takes very little time to maintain. He probably has an accountant or broker to handle the details.

Basically, he's his own wife.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 30 2009, 8:02pm


Views: 545
He reminds me of some bachelors I know

who are neater than any women they meet, and the idea of having to live with someone less neat than themselves is a major reason why they are still bachelors. And neat people with money may clean up themselves and hire people to do even more cleaning. Although some of them don't trust anyone but themselves to do the cleaning.


(This post was edited by Curious on Mar 30 2009, 8:02pm)


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Mar 30 2009, 8:44pm


Views: 532
Thank you

Thank you for all of the time and effort you put into this week, even if some of the wording occasionally turned me into a platter of steamed vennison. I suppose you had much the same intention as Gandalf, in deliberately using provocative words--to force me to defend my opinions or else reconsider them.

Regarding the servants, I don't mean to say that Bilbo had any political reason not to have servants, just that he's got his life precisely the way that he thinks he wants it, and servants messing around with his inner sanctum just wouldn't do. LotR later gives the impression that the Bagginses have employed gardeners for generations--but in Bilbo's day, at least, they didn't cross the threshhold.

Rather than appearing like an oversight to me, your mentioning the significant absence of indoor servants fleshes out Bilbo's character still more fully for me. He wants to be in control of his own domain. He will go through extra trouble towards that end. He probably, in fact, enjoys housework, the daily tending of and perfecting of his cozy little hole. If he had a cable television, he would probably watch HGTV.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Darkstone
Immortal


Mar 30 2009, 8:48pm


Views: 536
Well

 And someone else (sorry!) pointed out how the narrator has his/her own character, with a point of view, and a limited body of knowledge about the story.

I wonder who….


A. Is the narrator male or female?

Male. He’s just too stuffy to be a female.


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

Nope.


Anachronisms

We’ve already started talking about this, of course. It’s unavoidable with this story. Or is it?

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


It’s the cheap thrill of nitpicking. It’s so much easier to point out faults than to analyze what went right. Most people can’t become writers because of that intolerance of imperfection.


What are they anachronistic in reference to?

The nitpicker’s POV.


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

And the entire Steam-Punk genre. Not to mention the Steam-Punk subculture.


Social class

My impression from many of the responses this week is that some modern readers do not like, care about, or understand the distinctions of social class that have been so important in past societies, including early 20th century England. From this point of view, thinking of Bilbo as “upper class”, “rich”, or “well to do” has nothing to do with enjoying the story. Ditto with the dwarves, etc.

E. Is class a red herring, brought up for the critic’s pleasure but having no relevance to the story as it’s written?


I think it shows that there’s always a class that trumps another. Bilbo’s bourgeoisie is trumped by Thorin’s kingship-in-exile and his royal retainers, who are in turn trumped by Smaug’s old school barbarian at the gates, who is further trumped by Gandalf’s wisdom-of-the-ages, which is surprised by Bilbo’s own ingenious initiative. Rock-paper-scissors. Or Hobbit-Dwarf-Dragon-Wizard.


Other readers take an interest in finding the implicit messages that this first chapter of The Hobbit conveys about comfort, manners, host/guest relations, and personal interaction, using class as a lens. For instance, I was glad to read some explanations for the dwarves’ behavior in taking advantage of Bilbo’s hospitality, as stemming from their social contempt for him as a hired burglar, no matter how grand his hobbit hole may have been described as for the reader. I’m not sure that’s in the text – one can argue the discrimination is more racial in nature, as Tolkien did in his post-facto reanalysis in “The Quest of Erebor” – but it was new to me and very interesting to think about and re-read for.

Again, I always thought it was like when a king and his court visited the home of a commoner, even a commoner in another land would quickly offer hospitality, no matter how high the king and courtiers held their noses.


F. What class was Tolkien?

England’s Fourth Class, below clergy, doctors, and bankers, but above shopkeepers, innkeepers, and publicans.


Would he be unconscious or conscious of the question, and his choices about writing it in his fantasies?

I’m thinking with Edith’s social ostracism at Oxford he’d be acutely aware of class.


G. Did Tolkien employ household servants?

Dunno.


Do you?

Nah. Servants are too much work.


Is the example of Sam enough to raise the question here, or should we not think about this level of reality in a fantasy story unless the author asks us to?

Certainly people should think about this level of reality in Tolkien if it makes them happy. I think saying how and whether people should think and discuss certain things about Tolkien’s work is itself classicism. If someone wants to think about such a level of reality then by God it’s their right.


H. Is The Hobbit a fairy tale?

Yep.


I. How would you describe it in a few short words to a friend who is interested in reading it?

A good book, G-rated, some magic content.


Would his or her having read The Lord of the Rings first make a difference in your description?

Yep.


Would knowing your friend wants to get it for his or her children make a difference?

A good book, G-rated, some hints of cannibalism, some magic content, a large battle at the end, some characters die.

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



Curious
Half-elven


Mar 30 2009, 9:06pm


Views: 531
Thorin reminds me of some scam artists of the time.


Quote
Again, I always thought it was like when a king and his court visited the home of a commoner, even a commoner in another land would quickly offer hospitality, no matter how high the king and courtiers held their noses.


There are a number of stories of people pretending to be dispossessed royalty from Czarist Russia or some other regime in turmoil, and using it to their advantage in England or the U.S. Think of the Duke and the Dauphin in Huckleberry Finn, for example. Of course, some of them really were dispossessed royalty, and some even reclaimed their positions with English financing (such as Louis Napoleon, later Napoleon III of France), but it was sometimes difficult to tell who was a pompous scammer, and who was "rightfully" pompous. Some people might wonder if Thorin is for real, and in a sense he isn't, for he hasn't any idea what to do when he gets to the Mountain.



GaladrielTX
Tol Eressea


Mar 31 2009, 12:14am


Views: 532
*faint voice from the back of the room* That was me!

And someone else (sorry!) pointed out how the narrator has his/her own character, with a point of view, and a limited body of knowledge about the story.

I don’t often make comments anyone remembers so when I do I figure I should take credit. ;o)

~~~~~~~~

The TORNsib formerly known as Galadriel.



squire
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 12:26am


Views: 527
Yes! Sorry indeed!

Thanks for speaking up and getting your kudos! Here's the link to the hard-to-find post, and here's what you said:

...I’ll note that this unusual introductory phrase also sets up the character of the narrator and brings him to the reader’s attention. The narrator actually has personality traits. He’s the cranky grandpa who longs for a romanticized view of times past (peace and quiet and the beauty of the countryside) (without, of course, taking into account the more unpleasant aspects like disease and lack of modern conveniences). We also see later that he’s enthusiastic and excited about Gandalf and his history. “Gandalf! If you had only heard….” So he has a personality of his own.




squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
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


simplyaven
Grey Havens


Mar 31 2009, 3:49am


Views: 527
Some comments and some wondering

A. Is the narrator male or female?

Male.

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

No.

Anachronisms

We’ve already started talking about this, of course. It’s unavoidable with this story. Or is it?

That's what I wonder. As far as I know anachronism means sometime out of time (mainly) as it comes from two Greek words which mean precisely that. I really don't see why the so called anachronisms mentioned below would be anachronisms... Crazy I would have never thought of these as out of time, place, etc. They seem to suit the Hobbit really well.

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

On the first question - I had no idea there were any objections, not to speak of many objections. I have never heard any. Why would these items be objected? And this brings me to your next question - I ask the same - why are they anachronistic? Do we know when the Hobbit happened? Do we know what the hobbits produced at this time - paper, maybe? After all ancient Egypt had paper, I doubt the Hobbit happened earlier if we are referring to our world timing. However, I don't refer to our calendar. What is important to me is that tobacco, mantle clock and all the rest nicely finish the image I have in my mind of this particular hobbit and I absolutely don't see how these details are anachronistic.


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

There is although I don't see it this way.

Social class

My impression from many of the responses this week is that some modern readers do not like, care about, or understand the distinctions of social class that have been so important in past societies, including early 20th century England. From this point of view, thinking of Bilbo as “upper class”, “rich”, or “well to do” has nothing to do with enjoying the story. Ditto with the dwarves, etc.

My impression is that many modern people pretend to not understand class differences. I personally do. Even more, I think they are still important, there are still circles in society and therefore, I enjoy the story as it was written taking for granted that each word is important and if Bilbo was created like that, it should have meant something.


E. Is class a red herring, brought up for the critic’s pleasure but having no relevance to the story as it’s written?

Is a "red herring" some kind of RR slang or is it just the fish? Cool In any case, I answered above - I trust the author that whatever was written had a purpose and a meaning the exact way it was written.


F. What class was Tolkien? Would he be unconscious or conscious of the question, and his choices about writing it in his fantasies?

Upper middle. Professors today are also considered a separate class and yes, I mean here too. I happen to have a professor in the family and can tell how teaching assistants are not invited to the glamorous parties organized by professors. So, yes, professors in North America consider themselves a class of its own too. Same here. In the university I attend, there are 20-25 of the oldest professors who have formed some kind of society between themselves and it seems quite a challenge to be accepted there (I'm not speaking of myself, I'm a student). I was intrigued to learn similar things about Harvard but I haven't seen it with my own eyes. I have seen it in different European countries though - four countries to be precise.

I don't really understand how one could be unconscious about one's own class and situation in the society... Crazy


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

Tolkien did. My family did. I also do. Sadly, my economic situation at this point doesn't allow me to hire more but hopefully in the near future this will change. By the way, I remember when I was a child our housekeeper was considered an absolute treasure and she was porbably the most respected person in the house. Therefore, I really don't understand all this servants/masters sensitivity. When I clean the house, do I have to feel lower class than my husband?

The example of Sam has always sounded very much like overreacting to me. As well as much of all this class talk. Sam was a gardener. I also had a gardener. He was much better than me in tendering the flowers. There is a person for each job. If Sam felt his attachment went further than gardening, it was his personal choice. If he felt he shouls cook, clean, look after, carry, etc. - it was his choice. Therefore, I consider reality what was written in the way it was written and fantasy - what comes up to the mind of the reader without being said by the author.


Fairy Tales

I have commented several times this week that one common interpretation of The Hobbit is that of a modern, bourgeois Englishman/hobbit from the Civilized Lands, encountering Faerie (the land of Fairy Tales), as embodied by the dwarves and the many later fantastical characters and situations in the Wilderland. Kind of a “twist” on a traditional fairy tale. But Tolkien argued that the classic fairy tale was always about a mortal who journeyed to Faerie, to experience transformation or recreation. (If I’m getting the gist of “On Fairy-Stories” wrong, please correct me.) And we have already gotten bogged down in questions of just how “modern” the dwarves actually are; and how fantastical hobbits really are.


Tolkien was right and it was not his own conclusion but part of thousands of pages of work on fairy tales history - fairy tales are about mortals journeying to Faerie.


H. Is The Hobbit a fairy tale?

No. According to the charcteristics of fairy tales it is not. The Hobbit is built on the foundation of traditional folklore tales (European I mean here as I've studied them particlularly although the pattern applies to African folklore tales too, and to some Asian as well) and repeats the pattern very closely.


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

Good tale, especially for smaller children who are not vivid readers yet. Vivid readers would have most probably read some better ones already. If the person has read LOTR, I would be cautious speaking of the Hobbit. To me the difference in levels is quite significant between the two works. Of course, if he/she gets it for the children it would make a difference - if children are up to 7-8 years old and don't read too much or simply stick to children books (which I wasn't doing and it wasn't beneficial for my perception of the Hobbit at the time).

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

I believe


sador
Half-elven

Mar 31 2009, 6:47am


Views: 521
Thank you!

As Gandalf said, it is good not to be wrong on all points! Wink

In Reply To

The odd part about this is that he recognizes the flaw in the system -- very few people are really worthy of reverence, or will not let it go to their heads.

It depends on what you consider a flaw. In a meritocracy (which many modern democracies profess to be), what you mention would indeed be a deadly flaw.
But the downside of a meritocracy is the perpetual struggle to be the head of the pack. Every achivement is immediately translated into the shallow terms of political preponderance. Which I'm sure is what Tolkien despised in modern democracy.
Worse than that, it leads to a never-ending unrest. Once people are used to feeling equal to each other, and considering that equality should be also material and social equivalence, everybody starts looking at each other's plates, and being more concerned with what the other person has - rather than appreciating, we become envious and tend to belittle (as Darkstone noted two threads above, about nitpicking critics - although I say so as shouldn't, you might be thinking).

The ideology of the class system is stability - it's about each person knowing his position in life, and doing his job in the best way he can. It's about harmony rather than equality, as harmony brings peace and content while equality brings strife. A well known parable speaks about the different people in a society as the various organs of the body.
Of course, such an ideology requires a belief in the system. This can be achieved by suppression and brainwashing (see Aldous Huxley's Brave New World for an utopic, secular example), or by a true belief in the order of things - in fact, a religious belief.
I'm sure Marx was right about the social function of religion (as he usually was, whenever he proverbialy stood Hegel on his head - Hegel actually does look better that way!), but as a materialist dedicated to agitating social unrest, he didn't think much of the harmonic ideal. His utopia was the euality of a matchbox.

But Tolkien was religious - and once you believe that all men are ultimately equal before God, you should bother yourself less with social status. Why should my neighbour's plate affect the salvation of my soul?
Of course, people are not like that, even religious ones - but that is an effecet of our have tasted the Tree of Knowledge.
So yes - acknowledging your position in the world is damn good for you, because then you can work for the greater harmony which would be the glory of God; and that's regardless of how worthy the squire is.
But as he also ate from the same frobidden tree, it might wrongly inflate his ego, leading him to the sin of pride. It is damn bad for him, if he is unworthy. But that's a flaw in the squire, not in the system.

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

(This post was edited by sador on Mar 31 2009, 6:51am)


Compa_Mighty
Tol Eressea


Mar 31 2009, 3:23pm


Views: 509
Man! I never realized this had started...

And I already missed one of the most interesting chapters. It looks like you conducted a thorough discussion. Well, we couldn't expect any less from you. Wink

As for the overview I gave to the thread, I just would like to add a few things: that the narrator is not in first person, which would necessarily mean he would be telling his own story. He remains an omniscient narrator (albeit a bit oppinionated).

I would say it's a he. References to golf, trains, beer, smoking and newspapers would necessarily speak of a man in 1937.

The 1960 Hobbit sheds some light to the possibility of a different narrator, and it is done quite succesfully, I must say. Jokes and anachronisms are reduced to the minimal, and it seems quite coherent.

The beginning of The Hobbit is written in the spirit of the purest British Fairy Tale. Bilbo's descrption is quite similar to that of Mr. Darling in Peter Pan (not doing anything unexpected). Funny and "cute" sentences are all over the chapter, and you cannot help but relate the golf story with elements such as Wendy's mother's kiss hiding in the corner of her lips. Newer tales like Potter continue this tradition: Harry was grounded under the stairs, and couldn't come out until the summer vacation; Muggles don't accept that their keys aren't lost, they simply shrank.

However, it does not end like a typical fairy tale, as Tolkien's Epic Germanic background gradually kicks in.

Overall, is it a fairy tale? Yes, it is, much more than Lord of the Rings, an archetypical Legendary Epic (à la Ilyad) or The Silmarillion, a heroic, larger than life mythical collection of stories (à la Popol Vuh, or even Hesiod's Teogony).

As a conclusion, I would like to add that this first chapter contains the whole "charm" of the story, which is the very thing that makes The Hobbit a children favorite. Realism slowly beats charm as the pages pass, but there was so much charm in the first chapter, that it lasts until the greedy death of Thorin, allowing you to remember The Hobbit as a "happy" book, in contrast to Lord of the Rings, which has nothing happy about it.

Would it be a better book if it had stayed consistent with the later tone, or even to that of the Lord of the Rings? Most likely yes. But it would be less popular, it would appeal to a smaller audience, and it would lose its fairy tale-like quality.

Thanks, squire! Better late than never.

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

Essay winner of the Show us your Hobbit Pride Giveway!

(This post was edited by Compa_Mighty on Mar 31 2009, 3:24pm)


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 3:37pm


Views: 241
Is there really "nothing happy" about LOTR? //

 

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Curious
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 4:36pm


Views: 253
Welcome to the discussion!

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

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

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

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

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

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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 4:40pm


Views: 252
Where and when does "The Hobbit" take place?

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 4:50pm


Views: 244
The "1960 Hobbit" was published in "The History of 'The Hobbit'".

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

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Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Mar 31 2009, 4:59pm


Views: 243
I should be grading algebra papers

but these interesting questions keep coming.

A. Is the narrator male or female?

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

H. Is The Hobbit a fairy tale?


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

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


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

This has been a great week, squire. Thanks!

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

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



Curious
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 5:00pm


Views: 234
I suspected as much. Thanks.//

 


Compa_Mighty
Tol Eressea


Mar 31 2009, 5:33pm


Views: 236
Thank you!

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

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

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

Hope that was clearer!

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

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

Essay winner of the Show us your Hobbit Pride Giveway!


sador
Half-elven

Mar 31 2009, 6:43pm


Views: 240
What about 'The Field of Cormallen' and 'The Steward and the King'?

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

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

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


simplyaven
Grey Havens


Mar 31 2009, 7:43pm


Views: 242
Sam starting a new business?


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



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

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


Quote

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



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


Quote

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



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


Quote

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



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

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

I believe


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 8:35pm


Views: 233
It's in the Prologue to LotR.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Darkstone
Immortal


Mar 31 2009, 8:52pm


Views: 232
"...a Warwickshire village of about the period of the Diamond Jubilee..."

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

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

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

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



N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 8:52pm


Views: 222
In addition to what Curious notes

...there is this quote from Appendix D:

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



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


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


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


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


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

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Darkstone
Immortal


Mar 31 2009, 8:55pm


Views: 222
Europe.

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

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



N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 9:05pm


Views: 225
What is this "Shire" you mention?

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

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Darkstone
Immortal


Mar 31 2009, 9:15pm


Views: 234
Where is Byzantium?

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

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

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

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

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



Dreamdeer
Valinor


Mar 31 2009, 9:42pm


Views: 235
A few explanations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!

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


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 10:13pm


Views: 215
The Gaffer may have been an enabler,

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

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

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


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Mar 31 2009, 10:17pm


Views: 214
Earning

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

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

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

Does that make sense?

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 10:28pm


Views: 203
Past, or passing, or to come. //

 

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Dreamdeer
Valinor


Mar 31 2009, 10:31pm


Views: 210
On spec

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

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

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


simplyaven
Grey Havens


Mar 31 2009, 10:44pm


Views: 207
A few names and quick thoughts

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

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

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

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Compa_Mighty
Tol Eressea


Mar 31 2009, 10:57pm


Views: 204
Thanks, sador!

That was nice of you to say.

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

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

Essay winner of the Show us your Hobbit Pride Giveway!


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 31 2009, 11:18pm


Views: 205
Tolkien actually mentions de Saussure.

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

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

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simplyaven
Grey Havens


Mar 31 2009, 11:19pm


Views: 200
I answered to NEB below but

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

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


Quote

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



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

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simplyaven
Grey Havens


Mar 31 2009, 11:22pm


Views: 206
Thank you for all these!

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

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

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simplyaven
Grey Havens


Apr 1 2009, 2:41am


Views: 260
Yes, there are references but I don't recall "On Fairy Stories" among them

Thank you for these links, I'm currently reading them. I also heard a lot about Tolkien from my professors but never in relation to "On Fairy Stories" and I've never seen the essay cited or mentioned in a critical work considered worth studying. I don't dare to say Tolkien's ideas about fairy tales were not accepted but it seems they were not widely popular. Again, maybe an university with a better course in structuralism or literary theory, or analysis would mention "On Fairy Stories" but I don't know if that's so. Today some courses have probably changed.

It is believable Tolkien mentioned Saussure in relation to something different from tales as the latter has never really expressed any particular interest towards any particular literary style or tradition although he wrote quite a few of essays. Saussure loved general meanings and general theories therefore stretching his "semiology" towards all areas of life. Still, he had a great point then and still it is not much improved, IMO. I remember some of Frye's comments although they are vague to me now as I've studied them more than 20 years ago. I remember being fascinated by his theory about the "charm" of words.

Eco is a whole other story. I rmemeber the thread you linked here. I strongly disagree with the differenciation made there by Drogo but it's another topic. Eco, being an author himself, besides a person who studied literature (which in Italy actually means studying philology and not simply linguistics) had a more understanding approach towards Tolkien's work. Sadly, he didn't comment on the fairy tales essay. I think Eco's passion for semiotics helped him see beyond the written words and took him closer to Tolkien's layered narrative as Eco himself loved layers so much. I would love to see an essay by Eco on fairy tales or folklore tales, or particularly on Tolkien's vision about them. Maybe I should write on Eco's homepage. Who knows, he may get inspired or challenged. Wink Here is an interview of Eco which I personally like as it shows his structural approach toward art and he also mentions Tolkien among other authors who actually "build a structure" and not just write under the influence of inspiration: http://www.critiquemagazine.com/article/umbertoeco.html I especially love this: "I mean to say here that the dream of the Middle Ages is acted out on that which can be adapted, not on that which can only be a museum."

I see that Christine Brooke-Rose discussed Tzvetan Todorov as well. I've met him in France. His theory has always seemed a little bit... squeezed out of nothing to me but he was very much admired then. I must admit that I read this Brooke-Rose twice and I still don't understand quite well what she meant when mentioned Propp... Crazy She quoted one of his elements, yes, but what followed is deep fog for me. Now, on Todorov's theory in relation to Tolkien: first, I'm confused as this lady talks about a surprise by the magical elements while as far as I rmemeber, Todorov distinguishes the marvelous event that can be explained by our laws and the event that can't be explained and therefore the laws have to change. I don't recall any surprise discussed and therefore can't understand the meaning of "The dominance in LR is clearly that of the pure marvellous, since no surprise is created by the magical elements." Todorov's theory could be applied of course but then it would give two different results: if applied from the POV of an inner character then LOTR would turn to be a fantastic marvelous but if applied from the POV of an outsider then LOTR would turn to be marvelous uncanny because our lwas today can't explain all of the magical events in ME. There are more possible outcomes: for a believer in ME, the LOTR will be a fantastic marvelous. For a non-believer but critically approaching reader, it would be marvelous uncanny. And so on.

Now, I'm back to your discussion on the fairy tales here.

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simplyaven
Grey Havens


Apr 1 2009, 3:20am


Views: 268
"On Fairy Stories"

First, I apologize for not answering your questions and not addressing your comments on enterprise and business, and labour in ME but I'm quite passionate about fairy tales and folklore tales analysis, so I rushed to read the discussion and what I could find of the essay available online. I got quite a few quotes and I will share some ideas here.


Quote

On Fairy-Stories explains and defends the fairy-story genre, which Tolkien names Fairy Stories, and is careful to distinguish from "traveller's tales" (such as Gulliver's Travels), science fiction (such as H.G. Wells' The Time Machine), beast tales (such as Aesop's Fables and Peter Rabbit), and dream stories (such as Alice in Wonderland).



Now, this is over the top. It is also messed up. What about travellers in Faerie? Or animals in Faerie? Or mortals in Faerie? If there is faerie, there should be a fairy tale too but it seems now that only particular tales written in particvular way with particular characters are allowed to carry this name which is really snobby. In fact, the quotes I found made me think even more that Tolkien attempted to take his works to a level where they don't belong. They were already unique when he tried to make them even more unique but there is no such thing. Besides, it is not serious when writing literary criticism to exclude more than to include. It shows weakness of the theory. It is either "happening in Faerie are fairy tales" or "happening out of Faerie but dealing with fairies are fairy tales." All the rest is simply excluding what others have written and twisting the theory this way and the other to make it fit his own works. I don't like that.


Quote

"It is at any rate essential to a genuine fairy-story, as distinct from the employment of this form for lesser or debased purposes, that it should be presented as 'true.' ...But since the fairy-story deals with 'marvels,' it cannot tolerate any frame or machinery suggesting that the whole framework in which they occur is a figment or illusion."



This sounds even worse. Is he referring to an adult reader who suffers the doubt and the lack of imagination? Because most tales (both fairy and folklore) are meant to be told to children and children have absolutely no problem in believing houses can have chicken legs and run around or bears wear dresses on Sunday. What is "true"? To whom? Is truth considered what the reader believes in? Then all tales in which children believe are "genuine fairy stories". I also believe that there is ME and not because it seems "true" if true means "real". And what about the "dealing with marvels" and "frame or machinery" thing... Tales I have known and studied don't imply they are an illusion. Is he referring to the way Alice (for example) wonders if she is awake or dreaming? But it doen's harm the feeling at all. besides, in difference from the "Once upon a time" tales, Alice is clearly set in the present (then) time and Alice is a regular girl, living in a regular house, etc. It is in the story spirit to wonder if she is still at home or all this is happening for real. I really don't see his point here. I see where he is trying to take the reader but I don't think this is the right way.


Quote

"It was in fairy-stories that I first divined the potency of the words, and the wonder of things, such as stone, and wood, and iron; tree and grass; house and fire; bread and wine."



Right. Me too. Which fairy stories does he mean now - those I've read too, the popular children tales or some "genuine fairy stories"? My guess is he grew up with the regular fairy and folklore tales.


Quote

"Far more powerful and poignant is the effect [of joy] in a serious tale of Faerie. In such stories, when the sudden turn comes, we get a piercing glimpse of joy, and heart's desire, that for a moment passes outside the frame, rends indeed the very web of story, and lets a gleam come through."



In a certain way "a serious tale of Faerie" is an oxymoron. Of course, that is from the POV of our world. In any case, I have experienced piercing glimpse of joy when Cinderella got married to the prince, when Ivanushka killed the dragon, when the house with chicken legs was destroyed, etc. According to his definitions these are not fairy tales at all and I will agree that the latter two are more folklore tales but still he doesn't even touch on folklore tales. And the truth is, not a small part of European fairy tales are actually folklore tales. Also, he did build his works on folklore tales tradition - very very close to the pattern. So close that I suspect him in really sitting there and following structuralism analysis on bulding his structures (as Eco says). Why is he trying to defer then?

Sadly, I don't have much time now but I'll read more of this essay. For now, I still think Tolkien tried to raise the bar for the others but the attempt wasn't very successful because the bar had been raised long, long before Tolkien was even born by all nations in the world telling remarkably well thought tales.

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dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Apr 1 2009, 4:01am


Views: 280
Confirming - and not confirming


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

John Rateliff discusses this in Part 2 of HoH, "Return to Bag-End": "Perhaps the most important misconception about the writing of The Hobbit...is the claim that Tolkien abandoned the story unfinished in the early 1930s, only resuming work on it sometime in the summer or fall of 1936 at the prodding of a publisher."

This erroneous assumption was first put forth by Humphrey Carpenter in his biography. Rateliff notes that Carpenter did not have the wealth of material from HoME to examine, nor Letters, and thus certain details he "got wrong, misinterpreted, or oversimplified".

Briefly, Tolkien, in his typical manner, wrote up to a certain point (the death of Smaug), then decided to create a typescript of what he had so far, tidying it up; so that about a year later, he was able to finish writing the book. Those who read it before 1936 would most likely have received a combination of 129 typed pages for the first section, and the remainder in manuscript.

As for the difference in tone, these "great differences between these final chapters and the early parts of the book are the result of internal development within the story", that is, his working out any inconsistencies, and then re-considering his notes and discerning what he felt was the most effective way for the story to proceed to its end.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

"It struck me last night that you might write a fearfully good romantic drama, with as much of the 'supernatural' as you cared to introduce. Have you ever thought of it?"
-Geoffrey B. Smith, letter to JRR Tolkien, 1915


sador
Half-elven

Apr 1 2009, 6:03am


Views: 255
Egalitarianism

In an egalitarian society everyone ought to have an equal opportunity to succeed or fail, which means taking responsibility for one's life instead of settling into one's "station" and accepting whatever one gets handed
But if my kids get no benefit from my efforts, what is the point of them? Self-aggrandisement, or the obscure good of all society?
In being in a rush to remove all discrimination, you deny many people the raison d'etre of their moral code. And even the Communists never really tried this. Actually, if was attempted in the kibbutzim, were children were taken from their parent at the age of a few months to be educated together, seeing their parents only on a weekly basis. But parent dissatisfaction led to the system being discarded.
It's true, that in a classless society, I would not bear the burden of my parents mistakes; but neither would I reap the harvest of what they have sown - and as people tend to care for their progeny, it would be vastly unfair to those who did work dilligently for their children's sake.

The question of what did Bilbo do to deserve his wealth is pretty much as what did he do to deserve being born in Hobbiton, rather than the Stoor colony near the Gladden Fields. Or why do my children deserve being riddled (or blessed) with my religion, opinions about morals and education, nationality, lifestyle or even musical and literary taste?
We could resolve the question by taking Locke's tabula rasa theory to an extreme - if the child is truly a clean slate, there is no question of what did s/he deserves, as s/he is a nothing until actually absorbing from his/her parents and society, thus rendering N.E. Brigand question irrelevant. But this solution is hardly popular today, and it goes against the grain of the Democratic spirit.


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


Curious
Half-elven


Apr 1 2009, 6:42am


Views: 264
I'm sorry, I can't help but chuckle.

I think you are quite right to conclude that Tolkien excludes more than he includes. However, I think he also ends up excluding The Silmarillion (no happy ending, often about elves, not men) and, at least as a matter of style, The Hobbit (written for children).

LotR had not been written yet when Tolkien first gave this lecture, although much of it was written when he expanded upon the lecture and published it as an essay. Through the marriage of Aragorn LotR arguably follows the template Tolkien created for himself in "On Fairy-stories," but then he seriously undermines that happy ending in the last few chapters, raising the question of whether anything Tolkien wrote, or anyone else wrote, fit his highly-restrictive definition of a fairy-story. I love Tolkien's essay because of what it reveals about LotR; I'm not sure it does a very good job of defining fairy-stories in general.


Curious
Half-elven


Apr 1 2009, 6:45am


Views: 249
So I didn't make it up, but perhaps Carpenter did? Interesting. //

 


Curious
Half-elven


Apr 1 2009, 6:58am


Views: 253
How would you define Faerie?

If we agree that fairy-tales are largely defined as tales that happen in Faerie (and not necessarily about elves or fairies), then how do the scholars define Faerie? Tolkien, once again, had a very restrictive definition, based on the presence of a certain type of magic or enchantment, but not what many people think of as magic or enchantment, and excluding the magic or enchantment of beast tales and dream tales and travellers' tales and parodies -- it's hard to pin down exactly what Tolkien meant. But, in fairness to Tolkien, I haven't seen any good definitions of Faerie.


(This post was edited by Curious on Apr 1 2009, 7:02am)


sador
Half-elven

Apr 1 2009, 7:09am


Views: 244
Is "Farmer Giles of Ham" a Fairy-tale?

As far as I understand, it does fit with the definition Tolkien gave.
I'm not sure about "Smith of Wootton Major" - but then I've never read it, only read of it.

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


Curious
Half-elven


Apr 1 2009, 7:27am


Views: 247
I suppose so, although

there are no elves or fairies in that tale. So again we come back to question of how we define faerie. Also, I'm not sure if there is a eucatastrophic moment in Farmer Giles of Hamm.

Smith of Wootton Major comes very close to being an allegory. It does involve human travels in Faerie, but again I'm not sure if there is a eucatastrophic moment.


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Apr 1 2009, 10:30am


Views: 248
And we all believed it

because for years, Carpenter's bio and a few scant other writings were all we had!

And Carpenter had only the materials at hand - and what proved later to be mis-remembrances from John and Michael.

So we can't really fault him for making a "best guess" about certain things! Sometimes I wonder what his bio of Tolkien would be like now, with all the new information from the past three decades.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

"It struck me last night that you might write a fearfully good romantic drama, with as much of the 'supernatural' as you cared to introduce. Have you ever thought of it?"
-Geoffrey B. Smith, letter to JRR Tolkien, 1915


simplyaven
Grey Havens


Apr 1 2009, 1:58pm


Views: 265
Not a very good job

No, he doesn't do a very good job defining anything and I will now post an answer ot your question about Faerie below which will be related to this post here. Tolkien failed to define anything - he neither defined his own works, nor anyone else's or Faerie itself. He also ignored completely the vast majority of tales existing - the folklore tales, big part of which are namely faery tales (note that I don't understand this term as it sounds in English and I will explain below). Therefore, I undewrstand now why this essay was not accepted as a serious work - it is based on word game which does not exist in other languages.

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simplyaven
Grey Havens


Apr 1 2009, 2:22pm


Views: 236
Few quick words on "Faerie" and "fairy" terms

First, I would like to point something which is important and forgot yesterday: all this word game with "fairy" and "Faerie" does exist in English and does not exist in all the other languages I have studied. Maybe it exists in other languages besides English but in any case, it is not a good enough base to build a literary theory on it because once again, it is excluding too many cultures, folklores and tales written in other languages than English. In other languages the so called "faery tales" are called "enchantment tales", "magic tales", "marvel tales", etc. The translation makes this sound weird but in general the tales are called something related to enchantment, less to magic. Therefore, they refer to happenings in the land of enchantment or via enchantment in the land of reality (here Todorov's theory could work partly if an enchanting event happens in reality and our laws can not explain it).

The explanation of Faerie follows this and it is basically the explanation (I wouldn't use "definition" for such a place/time/dimension) of Propp which was widely accepted after he published "Roots of the enchanted tale". Faerie is the "outer space" (space considered as physical category but also as a state of mind), the space beyond the borders of the village, town, house, room, thoughts, feelings or whatever we accept for inner space where we are safe. Faerie is related to our own expectation of enchanting things happening there and magical creatures living there. In old times it was the forest, the field (remember Sam in the field realizing he leaves the safe place), the mountain, the "beyond the river" space, the dreaming state, the unconscious (it still is today) which seemed foreign, insecure, challenging, even threatening but still exciting due to its enchanting power. There is very often in tales a literal border - a fence, a river, a path, any kind of mark that tells "Attention! You are not safe anymore!" Or if something is about to happen in a dream there is usually a warning from (usually) an older member of the society, or there is a sign, or there is a mentor to warn the hero, etc.

There are other characteristics but none of them replace the enchanting power, the attraction we feel and the fact that this space is outer space for us. For example, if a small child feels safe in his bed, the space under the bed could easily turn into Faerie where magical, unknown creatures live. This is in general, very general what Propp wrote. Tolkien, both in The Hobbit and in LOTR, followed the pattern really closely, and I can't emphasize how surprised I am he tried to twist some theories to make this untrue. From the very beginning of LOTR, it is a stable enchantment (magic, marvel) tale. Tolkien did add a lot to the previous menaing of this term which turns LOTR (The Hobbit too) into an unique work anyways, no need to play with theories more. The important point is that Propp's work (others too but he united it all nicely) doesn't exclude tales written by authors, doen's distinguish folklore from own tales, books from tales, beast tales from travellers tales, etc. That's why it became such a tool for analyzing tales - because it can work for diffrent tales and the elements are always there. The opposite - I will write a theory to suit my work but I can't even write it in such a way to include all my work, still I want to avoid previous theories and turn my work into something never seen before - this is not serious. However, I'm yet to read the whole essay and the entire discussion here.

P.S. Eco had some nice things to say about the border lines and inner/outer category but I will try to find exact quotes later. Sadly, I don't have any of my books in literary theory here and I have to rely on Internet.

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

I believe


Curious
Half-elven


Apr 1 2009, 2:25pm


Views: 255
In his defense, Tolkien had a different purpose.

He wanted to explain why he thought fairy-stories were worth reading, not just by scholars but by a broad audience of adults, and I think he did that fairly well -- and, more importantly, he put his principles into practice in LotR, with tremendous success. I think "On Fairy-stories" is a serious work -- just not a serious work of fairy or folk tale scholarship. Indeed, in some way it questions the way scholars study fairy-stories, not as literature but as cultural artifacts.

But Tolkien did write a serious work of scholarship on Beowulf which makes many of the same points about appreciating the tale as a work of literature, and not just as a source of Anglo-Saxon words. Have you read “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics”?


Curious
Half-elven


Apr 1 2009, 2:41pm


Views: 234
Very interesting stuff.

You might want to read Tolkien's entire essay, though, before dismissing it entirely. I agree that it is not a serious attempt to create a broad definition of such tales. On the contrary, it seems to me Tolkien was trying to define the ideal fairy tale, and in particular his own ideal which he then strived to meet in LotR.

Yet even as he wrote the essay his ideal was a work in progress. It was different from The Silmarillion and The Hobbit, and in the end LotR would prove to be different from the blueprint laid out in "On Fairy-stories." Still, I find Tolkien's essay very enlightening when reading LotR, like the blueprint for a house that evolved a bit, but still resembles the original plans. I'm not sure what Tolkien says about other fairy-stories besides LotR -- maybe nothing of significance -- but he says a great deal about the kind of tale he was trying to write.


simplyaven
Grey Havens


Apr 1 2009, 2:51pm


Views: 229
I'm not questioning the quality of his work!

If I didn't think he did marvelous job I wouldn't be here and I would ahve never read it ten times. he wrote a masterpiece. Our little subdiscussion here just went in depths of literary theory and that's why I may sound harsh on Tolkien. In relation to his own work, yes he tried to explain, develop something, twist here or there. I will definitely read the essay as I'm sure it's worth reading. I simply try to explain (mainly to myself) why it has never been mentioned to me as a student and why it is not studied in relation to tales analysis. Smile

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I believe


simplyaven
Grey Havens


Apr 1 2009, 2:53pm


Views: 246
I have the “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics”

My problem these days is I can't devote myself to a serious piece of reading in the way I used to due to lack of time and concentration. I started reading it and I found I needed to concentrate better. Still, it is on my night stand. Crazy Have to run again. Blush

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

I believe


Curious
Half-elven


Apr 1 2009, 3:19pm


Views: 276
Yes, and that makes sense.

In "On Fairy-stories," Tolkien was not, I judge, developing a theory of literary criticism; he was developing a highly-personal opinion about the best fairy-stories, and what made reading fairy-stories worthwhile, which in turn played itself out LotR. And it was in part because nothing yet written in modern times quite satisfied him that he felt compelled to spend fifteen years writing his own epic fairy story.

The principle Tolkien developed in "On Fairy-stories" that I think does generally apply is the one also found in Beowulf and the Critics -- that scholars should not forget that the stories they study are stories first, and cultural artifacts second.


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Apr 1 2009, 4:05pm


Views: 239
Luck and opportunity

If Bilbo is lucky enough to have been born to parents and ancestors who worked hard to make him rich, then bravo for him! Not everyone can stumble upon the four-leaf clover. (In English and American culture, finding the rare clover with four leaves instead of three is supposed to bring good luck.) However, if he puts on airs and thinks himself better than other people for what really was a stroke of luck and based on no accomplishment of his own, then that would be bad.

I think that every child should have the same shot at certain basics: love, survival and education. That is, they should all receive love (and be rescued from any home that abuses them) they should enjoy freedom from malnutrition or thirst, should receive adequate protection from the elements, be allowed sufficient exercise, and receive whatever medical care that they need. And I strongly feel that everyone should get a fair shot at education. All public schools should meet a certain standard, obviously, and all cities should maintain decent libraries. There is no excuse for ignorance wherever there are libraries.

But I will go one step further, into controversial territory. I believe that everyone who can pass an unbiased admittance test has a right to a college education. The nation would prosper if we saw higher education as a right rather than a privilege. And a responsibility--no special admittence for highborn dimwits who don't make the most of it. It galls me that a nitwit like George W. Bush could go to Harvard and Yale on abysmal grades while I do without college altogether. (Well, I milked junior college for all that it was worth, back in the day, but now they're charging for that, too.) I don't want his cattle-ranches, his oil-derricks, or his wife's designer shoes--I'm fine without all that. But education! That should go to those who can make the best use of it, in the service of their community. He spent his college-years partying.

And after that, let jobs and respect go to those who earn them. I see nothing wrong with inheriting things, but no one should inherit respect.

Let the rich give their children all the pretty toys that they want--it's fun to make your children happy, and I wouldn't begrudge that to anyone. But we need more Bilbo Bagginses who can see the value of educating the gardener's son.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Apr 1 2009, 4:19pm


Views: 228
Beautifully said


In Reply To
But we need more Bilbo Bagginses who can see the value of educating the gardener's son.



As a community college teacher, let me stand up and applaud.


I would venture to guess that you, with your junior college experience, are much more educated than someone who partied their way through their Ivy League university experience.

I agree that it's a crime that some people don't have access to the education they could make brilliant use of. There's a short story I read once called "Young Archimedes" about a poor slum kid who is a genius but dies in the slums without ever getting a chance to blossom. It's absolutely wrenching. And there's the story of Evariste Galois, who went to a teacher's college because the university wouldn't accept him. He died at the age of 20, throwing his life away in a duel because no one recognized his genius. The night before he died, he wrote as much as he could in a letter (with heartbreaking notes saying "I have no time to explain the details"), and now, 200 years later, Galois Theory is used in nuclear physics. I tried to learn a little of it, and it's way over my head.

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

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



Dreamdeer
Valinor


Apr 1 2009, 4:39pm


Views: 218
Sea Ania?

I, of course, cannot tell Europeans or their descendants how to define Faerie. But assuming that the Yaqui concept of the Sea Ania might be a different name for the same territory, I can at least venture into that!

"Ania" is often translated as "world", or as tricksy and unreliable Castaneda called, it a "reality." The actual definition is closer to "Climate." It shifts, it has no set geography. One can stand in the Ania Yoem one moment (mundane existence) and find oneself in the Sea Ania in the next, without taking a step.

Sea means flower. Flowers are mystical symbols for Yaquis, and have qualities relevant to this discussion. You can spend months in the desert, and life is hard--nothing but blowing sand, rock, and prickly, poisonous, clawed or fanged life-forms wherever you look. Then the rains fall, and suddenly everything transforms! Seeds that you never even knew existed, hidden in the sand, sprout forth into flowers. The cacti and other hostile-seeming plants bloom. Suddenly brilliant colors carpet the desert with delicate shapes, filling the air with perfume. The adjective for anything like this is sewailo, often mistranslated as "flowery" or "blooming", and when we refer to seemingly incongruous things like sewailo deer, sewailo lizards, sewailo rabbits, we mean that they partake of something that you might call fey.

Faerie is dormant in everything, in other words. It needs something like rain to elicit it, though--something like heavenly grace, or magic, or sudden inspiration.

The Sea Ania includes certain sub-realms. There's the Huya Ania, or state of wildness, of nature; there's the Tenku-Ania, or dream-reality; there's the Yo Ania, or realm of magic. This might be a hard concept for some Euro-ethnic people to grasp, that nature, dreams, and magic all belong to the same category, when you can study nature in a laboratory. But the leaf under the microscope is not the same as the leaf upon a tree or in the wind. The leaf of a clipped hedge isn't even the same as a leaf growing wild.

You can't divide it up between what is true and what is not--because it is all true, on some level or other. One must recognize that there are different levels of truth, that are not the same as concreteness. And concreteness itself shifts. I imagine a thing and then I build it--would you call it not real when I imagined it, and say that somehow it became real when I built it? Yet isn't the imagined thing a seed, that might germinate or not, yet still every bit as real as a corn kernal in the hand, by dint of its capacity to germinate? How dangerous and marvelous are thoughts, any one of which might germinate into who knows what giant beanstalk! And thoughts are not the only kind of thing that might be insubstantial one minute, concrete the next.

Mind you, dangers roam in the Sea Ania as much as in any other state of existence. The pretty flowers still grow on thorny cacti. The coyote frisking in the sudden meads can still bite. Dangerous creatures not of the ordinary world walk in the Sea Ania, some of them on two feet and looking human. And some of them are good, and some of them are not, and some of them might shift as readily as clouds across the sun. The Sea Ania is the most beautiful and most dangerous of states of being--one must never overlook either aspect of it. But you can't have good without bad. Without struggle and hardship, you cannot have courage, mercy, compassion, triumph, defiance, achievement--all manner of good things.

I submit that when things become sewailo, they belong to Faerie. When you read a fairy-story written just right, something blooms in your heart, some seed that you didn't know was there, waiting for a drop of mystery to germinate it. Then you fill up with color and perfume and delicately layered petals of perceptions and emotions that weren't there before, miracles unfolding. And the hard, cruel world of thorns and grit becomes a fairyland.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Apr 1 2009, 4:45pm


Views: 219
Eucatastrophes

The eucatastrophe in "Farmer Giles of Ham" happens in comedy, so it doesn't have the drama of, say, the Field of Cormallen. But I'd say it's when the dragon sends the king's men packing and Farmer Giles takes the upper hand over the King.

In Smith of Wooton Major, I'd say it's when Noakes's fat little nephew suddenly gets the magic in him, against all expectations, and Smith knows that his gift went to the right place.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Curious
Half-elven


Apr 1 2009, 4:52pm


Views: 224
The story of Evariste Galois

is rather complex, according to Wikipedia.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell makes the case that there would be many more success stories in the world if everyone had equal opportunities. Just one example he gives: starting in 1971, when he was in eighth grade, Bill Gates had more hands-on experience programming computers than, perhaps, any but a handful of other people his age in the world. Suddenly his success in the world of programming at an early age seems more understandable.


Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Apr 1 2009, 5:22pm


Views: 233
Every now and than

I get some really bright student in class who is a total goof-off and ends up flunking. And I always wonder how to tread. I keep thinking "If he (it's almost always a very young male) ever throws an eraser at me, I'm going to think twice about chewing him out. He might be another Galois."

After attending the lecture by Temple Grandin last week at my church, I wonder if Galois could have had a touch of autism. He certainly was a bit lacking in the social skills. I probably wouldn't like him much if I ever met him, but my heart has always gone out to him anyway.

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

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



simplyaven
Grey Havens


Apr 1 2009, 7:12pm


Views: 204
Defining Faerie has nothing to do with origins

Whatever literary theory or approach towards certain literary type of works has been ever developed, has been accepted or not for its quality and not for the origin of its author. It's true that Propp had to wait longer because of his origins but still, he was respected at the end because of the quality of his works. He started with European tales simply due to the lack of access to many tales from other contitnents. Later, when he got such access and collected a good number of such foreign tales, he further developed his work based on new foundings. He included African, Asian and tales from distant islands whose names I can't even remember now. As about the rest of the names of structuralists, they are worlwide known and studied, especially the French school and of course, Eco.

The concept you describe is very interesting. I don't think any of it would be difficult for an Euro-ethnic person to accept. It is up to the perception of the particular person whether born in Europe or in Malaisia. Just like very few students choose minor in literary theory and it has nothing to do with their origin. I especially like the concept of "all is true".

The difference between the structuralistic approach and what you describe is in the tools - structuralism desects any literary work to its parts and searches for signs of similarity to build the structure. It is not a concept. It is a venue.

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

I believe


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Apr 1 2009, 7:19pm


Views: 201
I miscommunicated.

I simply meant that I cannot say with authority that Faerie and the Sea Ania are the same, but just in case they are, here's my take.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Curious
Half-elven


Apr 1 2009, 9:53pm


Views: 300
I don't find Farmer Giles'

victory unexpected at all. He has already established that he is the only one who can deal with the dragon. The only question is whether he will voluntarily submit to the King. And to me that seems unlikely.

Nor do I find it unexpected that the magic goes to the right child in Smith of Wootton Major.

Indeed, eucatastrophe seems almost by definition similar to deus ex machina, which most stories consider a flaw and attempt to avoid. I think Tolkien gets away with it, and even turns it into a virtue, but I don't see that device used much in his other works, let alone fairy stories in general.


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Apr 2 2009, 4:19am


Views: 275
I find the choice of child very unexpected indeed...

...and peculiarly moving.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


sador
Half-elven

Apr 2 2009, 6:29am


Views: 297
Is it?


In Reply To
200 years later, Galois Theory is used in nuclear physics.

I wouldn't be really surprised - nuclear physics use so many incredible formations! I once told someone that the Mathematicians are desperately trying to create obscure, impractical games (as Hilbert would like to) - only to have physicists discover a few years later that God actually used the brand-new game when He created the universe.

But nevertheless, I wasn't aware Galois Theory is used in nuclear physics. Could it be that you mixed Galois with Niels_Henrik_Abel, another genius which was researching pure Algebra at the same time, and also died young? Abel's work on commutative and non-commutative groups led to Lie's work on continuous groups, and the Abel-Lie algebra is used a lot in quantum physics.

I don't remember much of Galois Theory, save that it was actually very nice and beautiful - the best part of the course in Advanced Algebra I took sixteen years ago! Another neglected hobby. Frown

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


sador
Half-elven

Apr 2 2009, 7:08am


Views: 282
So you're not such a radical after all!

Well, perhaps in the US you might be considered so. But having grown up in a welfare state, your definition of kids' rights seems natural to me.
I do have a quibble with the terminology of "rights", though. I do not like the concept of natural rights at all, as if someone could just sit and idle around, but still has inalienable rights, by the mere fact of being born. But if you speak of society's obligations towards its members, I'm with you.

About education - I have my doubts. I agree with you that anyone should have the basic opportunity towards learning and self-betterment, but does that naturally include a college degree? To be more exact, how much does this include? The examples of Gates and Galois actually prove the contradicting theory - that people can achieve a lot without formal advanced education.
Arguably, today you need mainly to teach reading and writing skills, and knowledge on how to navigate the internet. As far as an opportunity for learning is concerned, that is nearly enough (at the first stages, you would need someone to coach the new user, and online avanced resources should also be available). Of course, there are plenty of reasons to prefer the old school system - education for morals and good citizenship, and a baby-sitter service; many are also concerned about preventing the kids from drifting into watching sex and violence all day, if let loose on the net (but then they end up breakin free in their teens, a period of life in which the raging hormones make this exposure far more dangerous!). But as far as the basic opportunity, what you call an "equal shot", is concerned - these basics would give it.
(And no, I'm not advocating the abolishment of public schools at all - I'm just airing my thoughts, a way of talking aloud to myself! For one thing, I do believe in value-orientated education, but am growing more and more frustrated with schools being nothing more than an information-feeding tube)
But I think higher education (higher than the standard, once you define it) is a privilege. It's a moratorium period, in which the student can choose what to learn and explore, and is not yet binded to the rigours of professional and of family life. As someone who has spent more time in such a moratorium than on any other period of my life, I am grateful for this privilege, and recognise it as such; the problem is that people who are granted this privilege do not appreciate it, and fail to see the duties which s/he should assume once the period is over. I can only hope I do.

And once we come to love - ah, here the rights-orientated discourse falls flat. How can you enforce this right? I agree, every child deserves love and care; but once again, this is an obligation on those whose duty is to take care of them.

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

(This post was edited by sador on Apr 2 2009, 7:11am)


Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Apr 2 2009, 4:44pm


Views: 270
I could be wrong.

It's been almost 30 years since grad school, and about all I remember is that the Heine-Borel Theorem had three parts. Don't know what they were, though.

I specialized in graph theory, and never took modern algebra in grad school (I took a senior-level class as an undergrad.) The graduate-level class was numbered M 666, and there was a rumor that that was on purpose. I took M 466 instead. I was told that one of the M 666 tests included an extra-credit question that asked "What's purple and commutes?" The answer was "An abelian grape." (Then we had to try to explain to the Chinese student about grape jokes. We said "It's like 'What's purple and 5000 miles long? the Grape Wall of China.'" He said, "I'm from China and I never heard of that." So grape jokes weren't very successful with him.) So I do remember that Abel was behind a lot of the group theory. But I thought Galois was too. I did tend to get the two of them a little mixed up sometimes, since they both had short, tragic lives.

What I know about physics is next to nothing. I took a year of 200-level physics as an undergrad, and a year of calculus-based astronomy, and that was it.

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

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



Curious
Half-elven


Apr 2 2009, 4:50pm


Views: 263
Those graduate-level mathematicians are such cut-ups.//

 


Curious
Half-elven


Apr 2 2009, 4:58pm


Views: 268
Yes, but

the choice of child doesn't turn catastrophe into eucastastrophe. Being unexpected is not the only requirement -- the eucatastrophe also turns a tragedy into a comedy in an instant. As far as I can tell, it is a very rare bird, if we distinguish it from common ordinary deus ex machina. For example, the Wikipedia article on eucatastrophe cites one and only one example -- LotR.

Tolkien would argue that we find another example in his model, the Gospels, and he also gave an example from a fairy-story -- sorry, I'm not sure which one it was. But I think eucatastrophe is much less common than deus ex machina, and much, much less common than a generic happy ending.


(This post was edited by Curious on Apr 2 2009, 5:03pm)


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Apr 2 2009, 5:02pm


Views: 293
Quite radical in the USA

In terms of rights, I think that this was the original intention of the Founding Fathers when they said that everyone has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Food, shelter, medical care, etc. I didn't say that this continued as a right after one reaches the age of being able to earn things, but children don't choose their parents, and should not have to pay the consequences that their parents might incur.

In terms of education, when I say that everyone has a right to have a shot at higher education, I mean everyone has a right to take the tests, see whether they qualify, and if so, go to college, regardless of their economic circumstances. If they mess around in college and don't take it seriously, then by all means flunk them out! It's really radical here to say that taxpayers should pay for other people's college education, but when you think about it, college educated people get better paying jobs and therefore pay more taxes, so it would all work out. Educated people also make more informed choices when they vote. We'd be a better country if every voter could find Iraq and Afghanistan on a map, let alone know a little bit about their histories and cultures, and understand enough science to discuss global climactic change or the links between the ecology and the economy.

In terms of love, I mean protection from abuse. We have a horrendous case just resolved in the courts, where a man starved his children in a closet after breaking multiple bones. They were only supposed to have visited their father briefly, and gone back into custody of their mother, but Child Protective Services are understaffed and the system lost track of these two beautiful children, and now they're dead. In my own case, I had a horrific experience where a visiting friend's new husband joked about something obscene and unprintable regarding what he did with his preschool stepdaughter. We called Child Protective Services in his home town to protect the child, only to be told that an investigator found her unbruised and well-fed, so case closed.

As an anarchist, I would argue in favor of small, close-knit communities where everybody knows everybody else, so that parents starting to veer off track could get a reality check from the neighbors before anything got so terribly out of hand. And I do actively spread grass-roots education anywhere and everywhere I can, and embrace it whenever it comes my way in turn. But maybe I would like government more if I could rely on it to do things right.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Apr 2 2009, 5:12pm


Views: 264
Noakes is the tragedy

Noakes, and his general attitude, of which he merely expresses the opinions of a multitude, is the tragedy of "Smith of Wooton Major"--the reduction of all memory of Faerie to a doll atop a cake. And one would expect such opinions to spread in his family. So when his nephew, to outward appearances fat and ungraceful like his bullying uncle, turns out to be gentle, and suddenly gets touched by Faerie and dances, and I know that he's got a whole lifetime of adventures in Faerie ahead of him, right in the stodgiest family in Wooton Major, then suddenly my heart sings with new hope that Faerie will never be forgotten, that there will always be someone who sees past the doll, and in the unlikeliest of places.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Curious
Half-elven


Apr 2 2009, 5:18pm


Views: 261
Okay.

To me it still seems like a stretch to put that in the same category as the unmaking of the Ring and rescue of Frodo and Sam in LotR, or to the resurrection of Christ and forgiveness of sins forever more in the Gospels (whether or not you believe the story). But if it works for you, and gives you joy like swords, so be it.


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Apr 2 2009, 5:29pm


Views: 253
Maybe different experiences have something to do with it.

Maybe different experiences influence whether this is eucatastrophic or not. In my own life, it seems that Noakesian attitudes prevail everywhere I look, and they feel oppressive to me, causing me to doubt my own perceptions and my own thoughts. And so often it seems like a losing battle for the elders of my tribe to keep the young people from knuckling under, from looking out over the desert and seeing nothing but real estate, no mystery, nothing sewailo, and to think that accounts of the Surem are just stupid children's stories. And then suddenly here's this guy, over in England, in Oxford of all places, in the very heart of invader-land from which Noakesian thought has spread out to conquer the entire world, and HE GETS IT! So what if he calls it Faerie and we call it Sea Ania, he still gets it, he knows what we're talking about, and he promises that someone will always remember, even in the unlikeliest places, and that we're not alone.

I am reminded of the experience of a Muscogee medicine man, who had begun to doubt the validity of everything that he had learned--including gettng herb-guidance from magical little people in the woods. One night he kept feeling someone yanking at his hair, hard, waking him up repeatedly. At first he thought it was his wife, but she was asleep every time. Finally he got up, and saw one of the little people sitting on the window-sill, glaring at him. "I'm real!" the little man exclaimed. "I'm real!"

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Curious
Half-elven


Apr 2 2009, 5:35pm


Views: 256
Fair enough, although

I think in his private moments Tolkien could also be pretty pessimistic about the survival of Faerie in what he called the Robot Age. But to judge by the success of LotR, he tapped into a widespread discontent with the Industrial Age. Of course, various people have been tapping into that discontent from the very beginning of the Industrial Age.

I think the ending of Smith of Wootton Major is more like the very end of LotR, when the Red Book is preserved in the Shire, but the majority of hobbits remain unaware of what happened, and much of the magic has left Middle-earth forever. There's a melancholy strain to that ending that is different from the eucatastrophe when the Ring was unmade. It's no longer a wild, public celebration, but a quiet, private joy, and a determination to keep something alive even though most people are unaware of it.


(This post was edited by Curious on Apr 2 2009, 5:41pm)


Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Apr 2 2009, 5:41pm


Views: 247
I was raised with jokes like that.

In fact, I heard that one from my dad before the aforementioned test.

Another of his favorites was "What's the integral of d-cabin over cabin?" and the answer was "houseboat" (log cabin plus C [sea]).

And the one about the rancher with three sons who had a ranch that was called "focus" because that's where the sons raise meat.

There was actually an article in a math journal a while back exploring why mathematicians seem to really like bad puns.

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"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."
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"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com
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Mmatmuor
Registered User

Apr 3 2009, 3:11am


Views: 283
Class, it's time to turn in your papers.

I haven't had a chance to read any of the responses yet so I apologize if I'm covering what others have already said.


A. The narrator has always seemed to be a man to me. Why I don't know but it seems natural.

B. Breaking the "fourth wall" seems to be part of what makes it a children's book. It's like the author doesn't expect the reader to be able to make all the connections so he does it for the reader (there's me assuming the narrator is a man again). The book is "easier" because the reader doesn't have to do as much work. The narrator also fills in extra information that the reader couldn't possibly have (why it's a bad idea to pick a troll's pocket for example).

C.Are there any anachronisms that aren't in the shire? It could be seen as leading the reader gently into the "fantasy" world. It starts familiar and slowly gets more fantastical as Bilbo ventures into the wild.

E. All the characters in the first chapter view themselves as upper class but there's no arguing amongst them about who's the "upperest" [grin]. Thorin is the obvious exception to this. He views himself as a king and expects the other dwarves to view him the same way. It seems that it was an obvious assumption that they're upper class and there was no need to talk about it.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Aug 10 2009, 4:03am


Views: 230
They never eat supper!


Quote
‘I suppose you will all stay to supper?’ he said in his politest unpressing tones.
‘Of course!’ said Thorin. ‘And after. We shan’t get through the business till late, and we must have some music first. Now to clear up!’


But supper never comes: after the dwarves clean Bilbo's dishes, there is some music followed by discussion, and then they all go to bed.

Thanks squire!

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sador
Half-elven

Aug 10 2009, 5:39am


Views: 447
Supper is like "tea" in 'A journey to the Cross-roads'

"Thorin stared at him suspiciously: he seemed frightened or excited. `Go now? What's your little game? It isn't time yet. It can't be supper-time even, leastways not in decent places where there is supper.'"

"You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you" - Gandalf.