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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
The magic of politics


Nov 20 2012, 12:58pm

Views: 1019
The magic of politics [In reply to] Can't Post

How does one differentiate between "good" and "bad" magic?
Galadriel tells the hobbits that it doesn't make sense to use the same word for both. Elves don't really practice magic in our traditional sense of casting spells. Instead, they put their love into all they make, and that passion has the byproduct of conferring magical properties on things like ropes and cloaks. She dismisses bad magic as "the deceits of the Enemy." Elven magic, as seen in the Three, isn't about war and dominion, but about healing what's harmed, preserving what's good, and deepening understanding.

Outside the context of Tolkien, good magic usually means healing people and fighting evil. Bad magic means hurting people and fighting good.

How many white wizards are needed to make the council "great"?
This sounds like a joke about how many of them are needed to screw in a lightbulb. One to test his wand in the socket, two to carry off the one who tested the socket, and a fourth to actually screw in the bulb. The fact that blue wizards aren't included in this conjecture doubtless contributed to their alienation and departure to the East.

On a side note: given that an attack was directed at the Necromancer just as Thorin and co. were cruising through Mirkwood, did Gandalf have his own reasons to warn them off a route more to the south?
Never thought of this--great point.

Was Elrond on the secret of Gandalf's real mission? Did Gandalf actually report back to him? Was Beorn?
Later we're told that it was the White Council that put forth its power to drive out Sauron, and Galadriel was the summoner of the White Council. I can't imagine it existing without Elrond and Cirdan and a few other celebrities. But Tolkien couldn't put all that in The Hobbit. I equally can't imagine Beorn being involved--too rustic and uncouth. He's a fighter in a physical way. I'm not sure he'd have any magic to "put forth" like the others did, and clawing his way through Dol Guldur doesn't seem possible.

Do you find this transition convincing? Does it change your perception of The Hobbit? How different is reading The Hobbit with this grandiose backstory in mind, from reading it as a simple adventure story? Which reading works better?
Did The Hobbit as a book benefit, or suffer from being post facto subordinated to its sequel? Would you read it as often as you do now?

I think The Hobbit benefited from the inclusion. It features significant characters from LOTR, and if it didn't fit into the grander story arc, it might seem a little silly. It already seems pretty light-hearted. Tra-la-la.

Is this a good idea? Would the story be seriously lacking, if this element would be missing? And are you willing to accept an entirely original story-line for the attack upon Dol Guldur (which Tolkien never tackled), for the sake of completeness?
I'm looking forward to it--it could be very cool. The lack of detail from Tolkien on the subject just fires up the imagination, making you want to know more.

It is noteworthy that Elrond grieves especially for Dale. Is this because he was, at this stage, conceived of as a Man?
I think The Hobbit's details don't mesh well with those of LOTR. I find it hard to understand why the LOTR Elrond would have ever visited Dale. True, he mentions at the Council of Elrond that he had been a traveler once, but I have trouble picturing him going all the way to Dale--what for? To mail post cards?

From the very beginning, Elrond was conceived as the descendant of Thingol. Is this a reason for his "not altogether approving" of dwarves? On the contrary, is this a mild sentiment?
Mild. I think it sets up the later, stronger mistrust between Thingol and the dwarves.

Would Elrond have accepted the dwarves, if they were not accompanied by Gandalf?
Hard to say in this book. The LOTR Elrond had no trouble accepting strangers.

Does the later reference to Thingol in Flies and Spiders confuse the issue?
Yes, especially since when I reread what's said in The Hobbit, the dwarf-elven king story seems to have been in the relatively recent past, not all the way back in the distant First Age. And when you think of Thingol and Doriath and what happened there, how likely is it that faraway Thranduil would know what happened? Yes, there were refugees from Beleriand, but how many went to Greenwood, and of all their tales of woe, how prominent would be the one about dwarves killing Thingol and ransacking Doriath? Did they also mention that the Sons of Feanor dealt the real deathblow to Doriath? Was Celebrimbor blamed as a result since guilt seems to be passed on from father to son?

Was this the first visit of Gandalf after the Quest of Erebor? Why did it take him so long? Does this contradict the impression that he kept a close watch on Bilbo ever since his adventure?
Even when Gandalf kept a close eye on Frodo and the Shire, he often used Dunedain as surrogates. His idea of "close watch" was showing up every few years. I suppose when you're immortal, that's often enough.

What was Balin, the oldest and most senior of Dáin's relatives, doing in the area? Was he just visiting Bilbo – or did he have another purpose?
Dwarves used the roads for trade, presumably with each other, and with whoever was growing food that they could buy. Balin could have been Dain's trading emissary to the Blue Mountains. Or maybe Balin was addicted to pipe-weed, and Bilbo was his drug dealer, which would explain his gold buttons. The dragon gold story was a cover for his criminal enterprise. He only appeared to "disappear" when the dwarves were hallucinating.

How does the knowledge that Balin would be the one to fall under the spell of the whispers of unrest and go to Moria, influence your perception of him? How did he get along with Dáin?
I'm disappointed, but don't blame him. And I think he got along well with Dain until he wanted to break away. Dain had a pure blood line as king, so I doubt Balin resisted his authority.

When Modtheow led the discussion of Fire and Water, it appeared that the consensus was that Tolkien views warrior-kings as superior leaders to elected politicians – does the new Master suggest a more nuanced attitude?

Kingship: because so little is said of the king, and he's unnamed and uncapitalized, I'm not sure Tolkien fleshed out this idea and let it drop since he wasn't putting too much of the story in Eriador. If the dwarves have a good sense of history, they may know that the people of Rhudar rejected Arvedui's claim to the kingship of Arnor and allied with the Witch-King of Angmar, so though they acknowledged a king, it was the wrong one. It could be said that the dwarves meant Arvedui, but that's me making the connections. It would be similar to spiders: why do they talk in The Hobbit, but Shelob never speaks a word, not even in cursing Sam or saying "ouch!" Nor do the local orcs refer to her speaking--if she did speak, she should have been known for it. Not everything maps from one book to the other.

The fate of the Master of Esgaroth: I think the point of the story is that you can't buy food with gold when you're in a wasteland with no food, so his greed led him to a bad end. His followers abandoned him because he led them to a bad end. I think it's more of a morality tale than anything else.

Subject User Time
The Last Stage, part IV - Politics and Property sador Send a private message to sador Nov 18 2012, 4:44pm
    Thoughts Otaku-sempai Send a private message to Otaku-sempai Nov 18 2012, 9:13pm
        I'm not so sure sador Send a private message to sador Nov 20 2012, 8:43am
            For the most part, I agree... Otaku-sempai Send a private message to Otaku-sempai Nov 20 2012, 1:02pm
    Tales and terminology FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Nov 18 2012, 9:40pm
        ''wizard' as a general term? sador Send a private message to sador Nov 20 2012, 9:32am
            Hope you don't mind.... FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Nov 20 2012, 11:07am
                Not at all, but also yes sador Send a private message to sador Nov 20 2012, 2:21pm
                    His arm has grown long CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Nov 20 2012, 2:50pm
                    *embarrassed* FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Nov 21 2012, 8:45am
    The magic of politics CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Nov 20 2012, 12:58pm
        Answering without explaining sador Send a private message to sador Nov 22 2012, 3:48pm


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