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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Elvish magic (a helpful/distracting thought from "On Fairy Stories"

noWizardme
Grey Havens


Dec 21 2012, 4:12pm


Views: 316
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Elvish magic (a helpful/distracting thought from "On Fairy Stories" [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks Curious G and Cyberia! Good points both - I like the distinction between Blessed and Magical.

I came across an interesting quote from Tolkien's essay "On Fairy Stories" There's a discussion of how a successful fairy tale creates a "Secondary World" (c.f. the real "Primary World" . If its creator is good, the Secondary World is "believable" in a special sense - you don't genuinely believe that it exists, but go along with behaving as if you did temporarily believe it, for the purpose of being entertained.) Then he says:


Quote
Art of the same sort, if more skilled and effortless, the elves can also use, or so reports seem to show; but the more potent and specially elvish craft I will, for lack of a less debatable word, call Enchantment. Enchantment produces a Secondary World into which both designer and spectator can enter, to the satisfaction of their senses while they are inside; but in its purity it is artistic in desire and purpose. Magic produces, or pretends to produce, an alteration in the Primary World. It does not matter by whom it is said to be practised, fay or mortal, it remains distinct from the other two; it is not art but a technique; its desire is power in this world, domination over things and wills.


Given the context, I think we should be careful about relating this quote to our current discussion, but boy is it tempting.

That would seem to back up the points CuriousG and Cyberia have made about the Elves not having magic in the sense we understand it - so Galadriel is not merely being difficult Evil or pedantic or having a smile Laugh at the rustic hobbits; there is genuinely a racial difference in what magic is to an Elf as opposed to a mortal.

It seems to me that it might explain the following a bit

  • The Fellowship entering both Rivendell and Lorien lose track of time, despite having a very urgent quest. They are lost in a Secondary World - or is that a Tertiary World from our Point of View, since they are already a Secondary World to us?... [cough] noWizardme, stop being difficult Crazy

  • The Elvish cloaks certainly are a kind of elvish craft which deceives both creator and audience - they are not cloaks of invisibility so much as super camouflage (not so sure about the rope though - it would seem odd to think it merely seemed to be securely knotted, but that was enough to make it bear weight...)

  • Of the 3 races that worked with Sauron to get Rings, the Elves alone did not want "power in this world, domination over things and wills" (and perhaps came out better on the deal because of it?)



That said, I think the Elves do dabble in the dirty world of Power politics when they must (and who can blame them). I think CuriousG has an interesting point about how Galadriel does not try to steer her mirror (or says it works best when you don't) c.f. the palatir users and the troubles they have from it...

Hmm - I think this might be helping, but I don't feel like I've got to the bottom of it, so do chip in if you can...

Subject User Time
'The problem of magic' in Tolkien noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Dec 18 2012, 11:53am
    A thought about games noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Dec 18 2012, 1:33pm
    Galadriel and semantics CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Dec 20 2012, 7:37pm
        Magic vs Blessed Cyberia Send a private message to Cyberia Dec 21 2012, 12:22am
            Elvish magic (a helpful/distracting thought from "On Fairy Stories" noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Dec 21 2012, 4:12pm
    Palantiri vs Skype CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Dec 20 2012, 10:14pm
        Or the palantir as YouTube? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Dec 21 2012, 6:59pm
    Gandalf's magic: a wizard's must CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Dec 21 2012, 2:51am
        Compare & Contrast: Terry Pratchett's witches noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Dec 27 2012, 12:55pm
            Magic and knowledge to Medieval witch hunters CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Dec 28 2012, 2:06am
    A problem of terminology Mim Send a private message to Mim Dec 23 2012, 6:41pm
        Magic & Grace of Valar/Aman/Undying Lands Nolofinwe Send a private message to Nolofinwe Dec 24 2012, 3:38pm
            You can add to that sador Send a private message to sador Dec 24 2012, 4:33pm
            The dark side of magic: Nazgul CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Dec 24 2012, 7:56pm
                passive elven magic Cyberia Send a private message to Cyberia Dec 24 2012, 10:10pm
                Light vs. Dark.. Nolofinwe Send a private message to Nolofinwe Dec 25 2012, 4:56am
                    Perception of Lorien (and Imladris for that matter) Nolofinwe Send a private message to Nolofinwe Dec 25 2012, 4:09pm
                        Good comparisons CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Dec 25 2012, 4:24pm
                            Yes Nolofinwe Send a private message to Nolofinwe Dec 25 2012, 4:31pm
                Evidence of anger? Otaku-sempai Send a private message to Otaku-sempai Dec 26 2012, 2:37pm
                    Read Gandalf's explanation to Frodo CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Dec 28 2012, 1:55am
                        Well, to be fair... Otaku-sempai Send a private message to Otaku-sempai Dec 28 2012, 9:26pm
        Please do! noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Dec 27 2012, 12:45pm
        Hobbit magic (to add to the pot!) noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Dec 27 2012, 6:21pm
    Elves/Rivendell Nolofinwe Send a private message to Nolofinwe Dec 31 2012, 3:05pm

 
 
 

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