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***TTT-EE Appendices Discussion: JRR Tolkien- Origins of Middle Earth**

Gimli'sBox
Gondor


Jan 24 2011, 10:18am

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***TTT-EE Appendices Discussion: JRR Tolkien- Origins of Middle Earth** Can't Post

Hello! Here is the TTT appendix discussion of JRR Tolkien: Origins of Middle-Earth. Below are highlights and questions to answer should you chose tooTongue.

Of course if you have any other comments please feel free to share them.



Tolkien had a conversation with Lewis in which they both express the frustration that they couldn’t pick up and read the kind of stories they liked to read. Both of them came to the conclusion that they were going to have to write the books if they wanted to read them.

-Has there been a moment in your life were you felt just like them?

Tolkien and Lewis were very different people and it almost seems strange that they became friends. The differences include build, voice, and beliefs.

-If they were so different, why do you think they became friends?

-Was it their mutual love for writing that kept them close?


The Inklings came about because of the mutual friendship of Tolkien and Lewis. The Inklings were an informal club that met at the Eagle and Child Pub in Oxford, England. They all enjoyed tobacco, a good ale, and good food. Just like Hobbits. But, they also shared an understanding for language and literature. Roughly twice a week they would get together, read some of the things they had been writing. They would get instant criticism sometimes, very harsh. A uniting experience was the First World War.

Tom Shippey stated how he thought that because they had been through the War and had many terrible things happen to them needed a new definition of the word “Evil” and they hadn‘t got one.

-Do you agree with that statement?

Christopher Lee believes there is no question that the Dead Marshes are an out pouring of what Tolkien had seen of people lying dead all around him in the War. John Rhys-Davies states that you cannot go through those experiences without asking the fundamental questions like “What am I fighting for?” and “Is there a God?”. Tom Shippey called them Traumatized Authors, they are all authors who have been severely traumatized in one way or another and now they are writing about what evil is. And for the most part they can’t do it in a reality. Fantasy is the best explanation.

-What are your personal opinions about these ideas?

Now we delve into how The Lord of the Rings was written. It is not written in the way you’d expect. He didn’t start out writing synopsis on The Lord of the Rings and sending it into a publisher. Tolkien wrote more for himself than he was an audience. If he ran into a problem in his story he would scrap the whole thing and start from the beginning. Instead of writing a book about myth, as would be expected and acceptable in his era, he revived myth and brought it to life by turning it into a complete history of earth and also an adventure that touches the heart. Lewis understood the scope and brilliance of writing Tolkien was reading to them. “It came like lighting out of a clear sky.”- Lewis.

-What do you think it would have been like to be Tolkien’s publisher reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time?

*Here comes the part I don’t care forMad.* Everyone talks about how Tolkien did it all wrong. How they would love to take a blue pen to the Council of Elrond. There are long parts “where nothing really happens” “As a writer it fills me with horror.” “A professional author wouldn’t have done it like that.” *And here’s the part that bugs me the mostFrown* Then they go on to say that it’s better that way because it’s a sense of realism. *It‘s like they can‘t argue with how well it‘s done or what an amazing read it is but, that‘s not how we do it and therefore it‘s “bad” but, it‘s not you see because it has realism. GRRRRRRPirate.*

-What are you thoughts on this section?

-Am I the only one who finds this part contradictory?


At the time when Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings it couldn’t be published as one book because of the paper rations. Therefore it was split up into a trilogy. During the post war era a single Lord of the Rings book would cost to much to make and would therefore have to be priced so high that no one could have afforded it. The Fellowship of the Ring was accepted by Tolkien as a satisfactory name for the book. It seemed natural as that was what it was all about. Return of the King was not accepted by Tolkien because it told the audience what happened but, he was overridden by the publisher. The Two Tower is the most interesting name. For the most part it is unclear what two towers he is referring to. On one occasion he said it was Orthanc and Cirith Ungol. On the other hand it could be Minas Tirith and Barad-Dur or Minas Tirith and Minas Morgul. Or it could be Orthanc and Barad-Dur.

-What are your thoughts on the name titles?

-What Two Towers do you believe are THE Two Towers? Or at least what do you picture when you hear The Two Towers?


Linguistically Tolkien had a lot going for him. He knew his stuff very well and it adds a depth and a sense of culture. He used Beowulf extensively for Rohan. The name came first when writing his stories.

-Tolkien created at least five languages. Do you think that helps make the books more unique?

Tolkien loved trees and thought they were very important. There is a hint that while Tolkien was writing Treebeard he was actually hearing Lewis’ voice and used that as how he was going to make the ancient Ent sound. The interesting thing is, even though Tolkien loved trees so much, he’s pretty ambiguous about them. There are sinister trees like Old Man Willow. But, he also used them to fulfill his desire to have the one scene in Macbeth completed.

There are two world views clashing in a sub plot of The Lord of the Rings. One that is green, organic, alive and one that is of wheels, gears, leavers.

Saruman changes from being Saruman The White to Saruman The Many Colored. For this he is reproached by Gandalf. But, Saruman doesn’t get his power from his genius or knowledge, it’s his voice. He is willing to use people to his advantage and this is the sign of his decline from Saruman The White to Saruman the Tool of Mordor.

The Lord of the Rings is complex in it’s narrative and in it’s style but, it’s heart is the relationship between Frodo and Sam. It’s relationship is equivalent to an Officer and his batman. One of the first things Peter told Sean was that his was a sacred relationship between the batman and the officer which was understood especially by Tolkien. The batman was characterized by their unfailing loyalty to the officer whom they served. But, on the other hand they didn’t want to cast Frodo as a pampered officer. It wasn’t so much that they changed Sam’s roots as they showed the side of Frodo that comes out in the books that needed Sam as well. Frodo needs Sam to lean on but, in the same light Sam needs Frodo because he is his motivation. Out of this comes their true relationship.

-Do you think the decision Peter and Co. made with Frodo and Sam’s relationship was a good one?


In many ways Gollum is the tragic hero of The Lord of the Rings. He started out as a simple Hobbit and by the corruption of The Ring he is now a starved creature.

“It is not his fault that he lost himself to The Ring’s evil influence.”

-What is your opinion of the above quote? Do you agree with it or think there is more to it than that?

After Tolkien finished The Lord of the Rings he realized The Hobbit did not match up with what The Lord of the Rings was saying. So, he had to rewrite the Riddles in the Dark chapter. In the original Gollum just lets Bilbo go after the Riddle Game. Now in the Rewrite Gollum is a threat to Bilbo’s life which in turn lets Bilbo show Gollum pity and mercy. The odd thing is Gollum is slightly hindering in the quest to save Middle-Earth. If Gollum had gotten his way ME would have been destroyed but, even through all that we feel compassion and mercy for Gollum as well.

Tolkien was careful not to make simple evil. That’s one of the reasons why Gollum is such a complex character. Except with Sauron, there is simple evil. But, the interesting thing is that even though Sauron is a very important character, perhaps the most important, we never see him. We see a representation of him only. It is something that “shouldn’t be done”. Don’t write a character that is your main villain and then never bring him out for the audience to “see”. And yet it is the fear of the unknown that drives people the most. An interesting point someone makes is the fact that the One Eye could represent a solid focus. Always intent upon that which it lost.

-Any thoughts on the two paragraphs?

Tolkien hated war but, ultimately he was saying that there are some things worth fighting for and that it is Freedom. The War of the Ring was a battle that needed to be fought. It was important and it was something they couldn’t get out off. It wasn’t as simple and “putting it away and never speaking of it again.”

-Any other comments?

*I just realized how small this post makes my sig look.LaughBlushAngelic*

Roast chicken?!

You're taller. Who? You. Then what? Then me! I've always been taller than you. Pippin, everyone knows you're the short one. I'm the tall one. Please Merry. Your what? Three foot six at the most. Whereas I'm pushing three seven. Three eight! Three foot eight! You did something.

It's Latin. Loosely translated, it means... we cheat.

"Strange treasures in this fair world appear, strange all, and new to me." That is a poem by Thomas Traherne and I have absolutely no idea what it's about. But, when I was small I was made to learn it by heart so I don't see why you shouldn't suffer too.

"Tell me, where is Santa for I much desire to speak with him."
-Darkstone

(This post was edited by Gimli'sBox on Jan 24 2011, 10:20am)


weaver
Half-elven

Jan 24 2011, 3:58pm

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So much to pick from! [In reply to] Can't Post

Nice job of summarizing a lot of stuff! And lots and lots of great questions to pick from -- it's like a Discussion Buffet!

I only have time for an "appetizer" now, but I can share a few quick comments this remark from Shippey:

Tom Shippey stated how he thought that because they had been through the War and had many terrible things happen to them needed a new definition of the word “Evil” and they hadn‘t got one.

I agree with this, but would take it further, in that I think LOTR was a form of therapy across the board for Tolkien, helping him to process all kinds of things in his life. The loss of parents, being an orphan, his war experiences, the death of close friends in that war, etc. are all things he dealt with, and which all show up in the Tale.

So much of the way he wrote it was not in any kind of planned out way, too -- it developed organically, with things entering into it from time to time that surprised even him. Like the way Faramir comes into the tale, seemingly out of nowhere, and functions, in part as a device for Tolkien to work out how to fit the Numenorean backstory into things...it's like he needed someone to talk to about his story, and this character gave him the way to do that. And the time when he was sending chapters to Christopher to read, when he was at away at War, has always seemed to me to have been helpful for Tolkien in terms of managing the stress of that kind of thing, having been in war himself.

Thanks for leading this week - - I'll be back later for a second course and maybe even dessert!



Weaver




batik
Tol Eressea


Jan 25 2011, 1:42am

Post #3 of 9 (242 views)
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a few thoughts... [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Christopher Lee believes there is no question that the Dead Marshes are an out pouring of what Tolkien had seen of people lying dead all around him in the War. John Rhys-Davies states that you cannot go through those experiences without asking the fundamental questions like “What am I fighting for?” and “Is there a God?”. Tom Shippey called them Traumatized Authors, they are all authors who have been severely traumatized in one way or another and now they are writing about what evil is. And for the most part they can’t do it in a reality. Fantasy is the best explanation.
What are your personal opinions about these ideas?


I have much respect for those that live through traumatic experiences and go on to create. I can only imagine how difficult it may be for the soldier to return to the mundane/normal every day goings-on of "real life" and can definitely see that taking a step away from that "reality" and into "fantasy" might be the more logical (or sometimes, more bearable) way of expression.

What Two Towers do you believe are THE Two Towers? Or at least what do you picture when you hear The Two Towers?

Minas Anor/Tirith and Minas Ithil/Morgul...towers of the Sun/Guard and Moon/Sorcery? Or perhaps Barad-Dur and Orthanc? One pairing seems to focus on a broader concept of light/dark. There other may be too centered on the specific characters in residence. Not that Saruman and Sauron are unimportant but would Tolkien have focused more on concept or character? Then again I could be reading more into that than necessary!

Tolkien created at least five languages. Do you think that helps make the books more unique?
Sly...well, it sure adds depth! Once one has the characters and the storyline down pat there's always the languages to learn--if one is so inclined!


One Ringer
Tol Eressea


Jan 25 2011, 2:25am

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I aspire to Tolkien's writing style... [In reply to] Can't Post

I've enjoyed the fact that he doesn't really plan. Obviously you need to have an idea, but the way I interpretated his writing of LotR was that he kind of came up with it as he went (if not, well, this is the ideaology I've adopted). Some of my best work comes from rapid writes without preparation or distinct thought, by truly expressing the mind and imagination. After recently reading Peter Pan, I decided to put myself to a test of just writing a rapid page story (like a fairy-tale), and I developed something both personal and as a unique representation. It's not much that I can write a whole book about it, but it's something I could potentially use, whether within a story or as a set bar to beat. In this way Tolkien has formed a trail through my writing growth that has made me more conscious and free with my written word.

Did this post go off-topic somewhere? Tongue

"Oh, the cleverness of me."


FarFromHome
Valinor


Jan 25 2011, 1:25pm

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Thanks for this! [In reply to] Can't Post

I hadn't seen this part of the Appendices for ages. It was really interesting to watch it again. And thanks for the great questions you've come up with!

What struck me watching this again was how cleverly edited it was between all the different contributors. They were all clearly using their own words, and developing their own ideas, but they were cut together in ways that reflected off each others' thoughts.


Quote
Tolkien had a conversation with Lewis in which they both express the frustration that they couldn’t pick up and read the kind of stories they liked to read. Both of them came to the conclusion that they were going to have to write the books if they wanted to read them.
-Has there been a moment in your life were you felt just like them?


No, unfortunately I don't have a creative bone in my body! But I love reading stories that other people have written, and my problem seems to be the opposite of theirs - there are so many more books I'd like to read than I have time for.

Tolkien and Lewis were very different people and it almost seems strange that they became friends. The differences include build, voice, and beliefs.
-If they were so different, why do you think they became friends?

They were both Oxford professors of English. And both medievalists. I think they both liked walking in the country and sometimes went tramping together (unless I'm mixing Lewis up with another of Tolkien's friends...) And they both had an interest in "speculative fiction" as we call it now. Lewis was an atheist when Tolkien first knew him, but he must have been interested in spiritual matters since he eventually became a very committed Christian. So the difference in beliefs was something to talk about, rather than a part of their lives they couldn't share. (I almost think sometimes that it was harder for Tolkien to reconcile himself to an Anglican Lewis than an atheistic one...)


Quote
Tom Shippey stated how he thought that because they had been through the War and had many terrible things happen to them needed a new definition of the word “Evil” and they hadn‘t got one.
-Do you agree with that statement?

Not exactly. I think that was already happening with postwar writers - 1984 for example is one of the real classics that explores the new nature of Evil (and it's interesting that the "embodiment" of Evil in that book too - Big Brother - doesn't appear and represented by the single eye of the surveillance camera).

I think actually Tolkien was looking for a hopeful response to that new Evil - an expression of the kind of selfless heroism and loyalty that he'd witnessed himself. That's what you rarely find in the classics of postwar literature like 1984 - they tend to look at the futility of human nature against such Evil. There was a loss of confidence in human nature itself, I think, since it was after all human beings who had brought such suffering to the world. That's what Tolkien wanted to get beyond - back to faith and trust. And perhaps that's the kind of thing he missed in the books he was reading.


Quote
Christopher Lee believes there is no question that the Dead Marshes are an out pouring of what Tolkien had seen of people lying dead all around him in the War. John Rhys-Davies states that you cannot go through those experiences without asking the fundamental questions like “What am I fighting for?” and “Is there a God?”. Tom Shippey called them Traumatized Authors, they are all authors who have been severely traumatized in one way or another and now they are writing about what evil is. And for the most part they can’t do it in a reality. Fantasy is the best explanation.
-What are your personal opinions about these ideas?

I agree that this thinking was crucial to mid-20th century writing. Fantasy is certainly the way many authors dealt with the issues - George Orwell of course, but also books like Brave New World explored the new, faceless Evil that could destroy and corrupt human nature.

-What do you think it would have been like to be Tolkien’s publisher reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time?

One of the contributors says something like "Tolkien never thought of his work in terms of a commercial proposition". I think that's one of the things that made it so much more than just another "best-seller", but it must have looked like a hard sell to a commercial publisher, especially right after WWII when paper rationing made books so expensive.


Quote
Everyone talks about how Tolkien did it all wrong. How they would love to take a blue pen to the Council of Elrond. There are long parts “where nothing really happens” “As a writer it fills me with horror.” “A professional author wouldn’t have done it like that.”
-What are you thoughts on this section?

I've just watched the episode again (thanks to this discussion - it was really interesting to revisit the Appendices after not looking at them for a few years). It seems to me that the first part is a deliberate setup - they are saying what's "wrong" with LotR just so they can later say that it wasn't wrong after all. They are making some serious points though - Tolkien wasn't a professional author (not of fiction, anyway), and did do many things that no modern editor would have let him get away with. He took a lot of risks with things that, as Tom Shippey remarks, you would learn not to do in Creative Writing 101. The point they're all making, I think, is that Creative Writing 101 may make you able to write forgettable best-sellers, but it's no foundation for writing real literature. That comes "out of a clear blue sky", it breaks all the rules. And yet it works. That's how I see the main argument here anyway. (Although these considerations are also going to lead to the conclusion that although all this rule-breaking was "right" for the book, they didn't feel able to repeat a lot of these quirks in film - the separate story-threads, for example, or the long flashbacks of important parts of the story.)

-What are your thoughts on the name titles?

I've only just realised recently when someone mentioned it on the boards that the Company is never actually called the "fellowship" of the Ring at all until the chapter title The Breaking of the Fellowship! The actual phrase "Fellowship of the Ring" comes only once - and it's at the very end of Return of the King, when they leave Aragorn to return home: "'Here then at last comes the ending of the Fellowship of the Ring,' said Aragorn." So maybe even this title isn't the most obvious...

I kind of like the name The Two Towers because of the ambiguity about which two towers are involved. A name with a bit of a puzzle in it seems quite appropriate for the book itself.

As for The Return of the King, I don't share Tolkien's concern that it gives away the ending. For one thing, you could call the book that and still have a twist where the King's return leads to tragedy - as it looks like it might, when Aragorn leads his army to the Black Gate. But even more important, it doesn't tell you the ending of the real story - Frodo's story. So except for the fact that it's clumsily long (for example when they had to read out "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" over and over again at the Oscars) I think this name is fine.

-What Two Towers do you believe are THE Two Towers? Or at least what do you picture when you hear The Two Towers?

The picture I have in my mind is that book cover illustration by Tolkien showing a black Orthanc one on side and a white Minas Morgul on the other with a Nazgul flying between them. I think it's a gorgeous image with its crescent moon over the Tower of the Moon and the star over Orthanc (from which Saruman viewed the stars before his fall from grace). Yet I don't think those are the obvious Two Towers to think of - Minas Morgul doesn't feature very prominently compared to Minas Tirith, or the Tower of Cirith Ungol.

-Tolkien created at least five languages. Do you think that helps make the books more unique?

Well, it's one of the things that makes them unique. I think one of the really powerful effects of the book is that it makes you want to figure things out, to guess what's behind a lot of the puzzling things in the story. The languages, which are only partially translated, are one of the ways this effect is produced.

-Do you think the decision Peter and Co. made with Frodo and Sam’s relationship was a good one?

Yes, I think it was probably best to jettison the class thing. Ian McKellen says somewhere in the commentaries that he realised when he found out that Americans had been cast as Frodo and Sam that there would be no exploration of the class issue. But I think even young British actors wouldn't have much feel for this issue, which has more or less faded away over the last half century.

I like the way they still make Frodo "superior" in other ways - more popular, more accomplished and confident. Sam starts out shy and clumsy, and Frodo starts out patronising him. But just as book-Frodo gradually goes from being "master" to "friend", film-Frodo learns (slowly) that Sam is smarter than he seems - and far more courageous than his shy behaviour at home would have you believe.


Quote
In many ways Gollum is the tragic hero of The Lord of the Rings. He started out as a simple Hobbit and by the corruption of The Ring he is now a starved creature.
“It is not his fault that he lost himself to The Ring’s evil influence.”
-What is your opinion of the above quote? Do you agree with it or think there is more to it than that?

I like the idea that Gollum is the "tragic hero". It reminds me of Sam's question in the book: "I wonder if he thinks he's the hero or the villain?" Depending how you tell the story, it could go either way. Yes, Gollum had a "fatal flaw" that led him to kill for the Ring and therefore be enslaved to it forever. But this is one of those "lead us not into temptation" moments - if Gollum hadn't been faced with this temptation that was too big for him, he could have lived out an ordinary, happy life with the riverfolk. And that's what tragedy is all about.


Quote
...even though Sauron is a very important character, perhaps the most important, we never see him. We see a representation of him only. It is something that “shouldn’t be done”. Don’t write a character that is your main villain and then never bring him out for the audience to “see”. And yet it is the fear of the unknown that drives people the most.

Well, Big Brother in 1984 also remains "off-stage" for the duration of the novel. This kind of abstract representation of Evil does seem appropriate for the kind of control by surveillance that was a new threat in the 20th century. I also think it works for Tolkien's "mythic" approach, to allow Evil to be an abstraction against which "goodness" can measure itself. In real life, no enemy is every completely evil - human nature is too complex for that. But an abstract evil overlord gets around that and allows the essence of both goodness and evil to be expressed as a kind of mythic "truth". (At the same time, as the commentators say, Tolkien does show the complex interplay of good and evil urges within characters, especially Gollum - and of course everyone who's ever tempted by the Ring.)

On the other hand, I can see how an off-stage evil overlord poses some difficult problems for a film to overcome...


They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



(This post was edited by FarFromHome on Jan 25 2011, 1:32pm)


Arwen Skywalker
Lorien


Jan 26 2011, 5:53am

Post #6 of 9 (266 views)
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rule breaking [In reply to] Can't Post



Quote
I've just watched the episode again (thanks to this discussion - it was really interesting to revisit the Appendices after not looking at them for a few years). It seems to me that the first part is a deliberate setup - they are saying what's "wrong" with LotR just so they can later say that it wasn't wrong after all. They are making some serious points though - Tolkien wasn't a professional author (not of fiction, anyway), and did do many things that no modern editor would have let him get away with. He took a lot of risks with things that, as Tom Shippey remarks, you would learn not to do in Creative Writing 101. The point they're all making, I think, is that Creative Writing 101 may make you able to write forgettable best-sellers, but it's no foundation for writing real literature. That comes "out of a clear blue sky", it breaks all the rules. And yet it works. That's how I see the main argument here anyway. (Although these considerations are also going to lead to the conclusion that although all this rule-breaking was "right" for the book, they didn't feel able to repeat a lot of these quirks in film - the separate story-threads, for example, or the long flashbacks of important parts of the story.)


I haven't watched this part of the Appendices in a while so maybe I don't have an accurate picture of the argument. But having taken Creative Writing, I have to disagree that it teaches you how to write forgettable bestsellers. And I don't know about other schools but there's no such thing as CW 101 at Rutgers University (it's a 200 level course there). Teachers might tell you some tips and rules but for the most part, you teach yourself by practicing. It's essentially a workshop where you write up drafts and get feedback from the teacher and classmates. And that's the key. It exposes you to a broader range of opinions than if you just shared your work with your friends. But there's a fine line between being open to criticism and just being a sheep to opinions.

One thing my teacher mentioned was to unlearn the middle school English lesson that every story must have a plot/conflict. While that rule works better in short stories than novels, it implies that it's OK for a novel to slow down and show something about characters, make a point about the setting, etc. And I think Tolkien felt strongly about this judging from the many detours he took from the plot. While most people would agree that there needs to be a balance between conflict and side elements in a stories, where it lies is a highly subjective thing. But I'm sure anyone who debated about things the movies changed or omitted would already know this. The detours were a mixed bag. I liked the detailed description of the Shire and Hobbit culture but The Council of Elrond was a tedious chapter with the worst cases of info-dumping in the trilogy. We didn't need to know that Saruman wore a ring and the intro to Rohan should have waited until TTT. The only amazing part was when Bilbo was caught writing his book, which was great comic relief. Tolkien did a lot of brilliant things with LOTR but COE (among other parts that dragged) wasn't one of them. That said, I have to respect him for having the balls to keep those risky elements.

On the subject of "commercial propositions," they're hard to predict in the world of publishing. Things that made to the New York Times bestseller list in the past decade ranged from possible classics (Harry Potter) to crap that you can find for less money by watching soaps (Twilight). So it would be a huge mistake for any writer to worry about that kind of stuff.



Quote
I think actually Tolkien was looking for a hopeful response to that new Evil - an expression of the kind of selfless heroism and loyalty that he'd witnessed himself. That's what you rarely find in the classics of postwar literature like 1984 - they tend to look at the futility of human nature against such Evil. There was a loss of confidence in human nature itself, I think, since it was after all human beings who had brought such suffering to the world. That's what Tolkien wanted to get beyond - back to faith and trust. And perhaps that's the kind of thing he missed in the books he was reading.


I never thought of this before but that sounds about right. I don't remember learning about the post-war background of 1984 but my high school put a lot of emphasis on the works of "The Lost Generation." While the characters in Hemingway's works did their best to live life to the fullest, his stories (Farewell to Arms comes to mind) were still bleak overall. Even in The Sun Also Rises, where there are no deaths or major tragedies, there's still regret on what could have been. The Lost Generation, among other post WWI writers, couldn't shake that sense of disillusionment. Somehow, Tolkien was able to find hope in the same darkness they experienced.



FarFromHome
Valinor


Jan 26 2011, 3:26pm

Post #7 of 9 (253 views)
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Creative writing courses [In reply to] Can't Post

are, I'm sure, much more useful and realistic than the "Creative Writing 101" that is the caricature of them. I think the speakers were only trying to make a contrast between overly-simplistic (hence the '101') theories, and the more thoughtful response that a work like Tolkien's required.

Still, your comments show that even a good Creative Writing course will still leave you criticising things like the Council of Elrond, which is certainly hard going for first-time readers, yet which many readers (me included) would probably say is an important part of the world-building that Tolkien is engaged in. I think that's what the speakers were trying to say - something that's as obviously "wrong" by modern standards as The Council of Elrond might still be important in making LotR what it is.

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



(This post was edited by FarFromHome on Jan 26 2011, 3:27pm)


Darkstone
Immortal


Jan 26 2011, 6:08pm

Post #8 of 9 (236 views)
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Good versus Great [In reply to] Can't Post

"I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which 'Escape' is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?"
-JRR Tolkien


Tolkien had a conversation with Lewis in which they both express the frustration that they couldn’t pick up and read the kind of stories they liked to read. Both of them came to the conclusion that they were going to have to write the books if they wanted to read them.

-Has there been a moment in your life were you felt just like them?


I had a friend who started writing for just the same reason. He is an Objectivist and never could find any good stories about Objectivism (except for Ayn Rand, of course), so he decided to write some himself. He’s been published.

As for me, way back when I was a kid we didn’t have much money. So since I couldn’t afford scifi books I tried writing some stories myself. Not quite the same.


Tolkien and Lewis were very different people and it almost seems strange that they became friends. The differences include build, voice, and beliefs.

-If they were so different, why do you think they became friends?


They were both in the war. Two strangers often bond instantly if they find out they both survived a common horror.


-Was it their mutual love for writing that kept them close?

And their mutual love of reading.


Tom Shippey stated how he thought that because they had been through the War and had many terrible things happen to them needed a new definition of the word “Evil” and they hadn‘t got one.

-Do you agree with that statement?


I don’t think it was that specific. I think it was to answer the question “Why?” Every veteran asks that question, “Why did I survive and others did not?” One is torn between thinking it was pure random luck, or else that there was some higher power. It is a question that drives many to depression and suicide. It’s good that they found a way to deal with it.


Christopher Lee believes there is no question that the Dead Marshes are an out pouring of what Tolkien had seen of people lying dead all around him in the War. John Rhys-Davies states that you cannot go through those experiences without asking the fundamental questions like “What am I fighting for?” and “Is there a God?”. Tom Shippey called them Traumatized Authors, they are all authors who have been severely traumatized in one way or another and now they are writing about what evil is. And for the most part they can’t do it in a reality. Fantasy is the best explanation.

-What are your personal opinions about these ideas?


I think they wrote in fantasy because they would not or could not bring themselves to write in the reality. Fantasy acted as a filter to soften the horror. Tolkien said fairy stories were an escape, and I think it was an escape from the too close embrace of reality so one could get a more complete understanding of what had them in its grasp.

Plus so they could write a story about war where not only the good guys won, but where the good guys actually were good guys. Now that’s pure fantasy!


Now we delve into how The Lord of the Rings was written. It is not written in the way you’d expect. He didn’t start out writing synopsis on The Lord of the Rings and sending it into a publisher. Tolkien wrote more for himself than he was an audience. If he ran into a problem in his story he would scrap the whole thing and start from the beginning. Instead of writing a book about myth, as would be expected and acceptable in his era, he revived myth and brought it to life by turning it into a complete history of earth and also an adventure that touches the heart. Lewis understood the scope and brilliance of writing Tolkien was reading to them. “It came like lighting out of a clear sky.”- Lewis.

-What do you think it would have been like to be Tolkien’s publisher reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time?


“This is great! But will it sell?”


*Here comes the part I don’t care for .* Everyone talks about how Tolkien did it all wrong. How they would love to take a blue pen to the Council of Elrond. There are long parts “where nothing really happens” “As a writer it fills me with horror.” “A professional author wouldn’t have done it like that.” *And here’s the part that bugs me the most * Then they go on to say that it’s better that way because it’s a sense of realism. *It‘s like they can‘t argue with how well it‘s done or what an amazing read it is but, that‘s not how we do it and therefore it‘s “bad” but, it‘s not you see because it has realism. GRRRRRR .*

-What are you thoughts on this section?


Good writers know how to follow the rules. Great writers know how to break the rules.


-Am I the only one who finds this part contradictory?

That’s what happens when the good critique the great. “Yeah it works but it’s not how I would do it.” “Of course not. That’s why you’re merely good.”


At the time when Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings it couldn’t be published as one book because of the paper rations. Therefore it was split up into a trilogy. During the post war era a single Lord of the Rings book would cost to much to make and would therefore have to be priced so high that no one could have afforded it. The Fellowship of the Ring was accepted by Tolkien as a satisfactory name for the book. It seemed natural as that was what it was all about. Return of the King was not accepted by Tolkien because it told the audience what happened but, he was overridden by the publisher. The Two Tower is the most interesting name. For the most part it is unclear what two towers he is referring to. On one occasion he said it was Orthanc and Cirith Ungol. On the other hand it could be Minas Tirith and Barad-Dur or Minas Tirith and Minas Morgul. Or it could be Orthanc and Barad-Dur.

-What are your thoughts on the name titles?


Ambiguity is good, though I often wonder about “Naked Lunch” or “Vanilla Sky” but I suppose that is the point.


-What Two Towers do you believe are THE Two Towers? Or at least what do you picture when you hear The Two Towers?

I’m still trying to figure out who the heck is The Lord of the Rings!


Linguistically Tolkien had a lot going for him. He knew his stuff very well and it adds a depth and a sense of culture. He used Beowulf extensively for Rohan. The name came first when writing his stories.

-Tolkien created at least five languages. Do you think that helps make the books more unique?


It does in other fantasy, such as George Orwell, HP Lovecraft, William S. Burroughs, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ursula LeGuin, and, of course, Mark Orkrand.


Tolkien loved trees and thought they were very important. There is a hint that while Tolkien was writing Treebeard he was actually hearing Lewis’ The Lord of the Rings is complex in it’s narrative and in it’s style but, it’s heart is the relationship between Frodo and Sam. It’s relationship is equivalent to an Officer and his batman. One of the first things Peter told Sean was that his was a sacred relationship between the batman and the officer which was understood especially by Tolkien. The batman was characterized by their unfailing loyalty to the officer whom they served. But, on the other hand they didn’t want to cast Frodo as a pampered officer. It wasn’t so much that they changed Sam’s roots as they showed the side of Frodo that comes out in the books that needed Sam as well. Frodo needs Sam to lean on but, in the same light Sam needs Frodo because he is his motivation. Out of this comes their true relationship.

-Do you think the decision Peter and Co. made with Frodo and Sam’s relationship was a good one?


Buddy stories sell, modern audiences would find the officer/batman relationship distasteful, and perhaps most important of all, there simply isn’t enough time to make Sam the Stealth Hobbit he is in the book.


In many ways Gollum is the tragic hero of The Lord of the Rings. He started out as a simple Hobbit and by the corruption of The Ring he is now a starved creature.

“It is not his fault that he lost himself to The Ring’s evil influence.”

-What is your opinion of the above quote?


I think it diminishes the theme of Free Will and the portrayal of evil as a choice. As Elrond says, “Nothing is evil in the beginning”. Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, and Faramir chose not to take the ring. Gollum, Boromir, Saruman, and Frodo chose to take it. It’s very important for the themes of the book that these actions are choices rather than irresistible influences. I seem to remember reading that Tolkien felt that Galadriel’s choice not to take the ring was one of the most important events of the book.


Do you agree with it or think there is more to it than that?

It’s making Tolkien a little bit too modern.


After Tolkien finished The Lord of the Rings he realized The Hobbit did not match up with what The Lord of the Rings was saying. So, he had to rewrite the Riddles in the Dark chapter. In the original Gollum just lets Bilbo go after the Riddle Game. Now in the Rewrite Gollum is a threat to Bilbo’s life which in turn lets Bilbo show Gollum pity and mercy. The odd thing is Gollum is slightly hindering in the quest to save Middle-Earth. If Gollum had gotten his way ME would have been destroyed but, even through all that we feel compassion and mercy for Gollum as well.

Tolkien was careful not to make simple evil. That’s one of the reasons why Gollum is such a complex character. Except with Sauron, there is simple evil. But, the interesting thing is that even though Sauron is a very important character, perhaps the most important, we never see him. We see a representation of him only. It is something that “shouldn’t be done”. Don’t write a character that is your main villain and then never bring him out for the audience to “see”. And yet it is the fear of the unknown that drives people the most. An interesting point someone makes is the fact that the One Eye could represent a solid focus. Always intent upon that which it lost.

-Any thoughts on the two paragraphs?


One of the problems with Lovecraft’s and other horror stories, is that the payoff doesn’t match the build-up. I think Tolkien knew that any description of Sauron would disappoint. Besides, Tolkien wasn’t interested in evil itself but rather how good people reacted to evil.


Tolkien hated war but, ultimately he was saying that there are some things worth fighting for and that it is Freedom. The War of the Ring was a battle that needed to be fought. It was important and it was something they couldn’t get out off. It wasn’t as simple and “putting it away and never speaking of it again.”

-Any other comments?


I love the progression of pronouns Frodo goes through in the movie for his solutions to the ring.

“We'll put it away. We'll keep it hidden, we'll never speak of it again.”

Then

“You must take it! I'm giving it to you!

And finally:

”What must I do?”

We-you-I. Sure we may work collectively. Yes, you can help me. But what ultimately matters is what I do.

The actions of the individual matters.

Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

******************************************
"Christopher was always much concerned with the consistency of the story and on one occasion interrupted: 'Last time, you said Bilbo's front door was blue, and you said Thorin had a golden tassel on his hood, but you've just said that Bilbo's front door was green, and the tassel on Thorin's hood was silver,' at which point Ronald exclaimed 'Damn the boy!' and strode across the room to make a note."
-The Tolkien Family Album, by John and Priscilla Tolkien



weaver
Half-elven

Jan 28 2011, 5:31am

Post #9 of 9 (563 views)
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back for the main course [In reply to] Can't Post

 
Tolkien had a conversation with Lewis in which they both express the frustration that they couldn’t pick up and read the kind of stories they liked to read. Both of them came to the conclusion that they were going to have to write the books if they wanted to read them.

-Has there been a moment in your life were you felt just like them?

Not with writing, but with a lot of other things. I tend to find myself in situations where there is a need, but nothing in place to meet it, and I end up being part of a group that gets together to take care of it. Like right now, there are lots of budget cuts at our schools, so I am working to set up a parent group to advocate for keeping our music program intact. So I can understand the sense that you have to create the thing that doesn't exist to achieve a certain end.

Tolkien and Lewis were very different people and it almost seems strange that they became friends. The differences include build, voice, and beliefs. -If they were so different, why do you think they became friends? -Was it their mutual love for writing that kept them close?


Well, I have a good work-friend who is very different from me in many ways -- opposite side of the political spectrum, at times sexist, occasionally crude, etc. But when it comes to our attitudes about the work we do, and its importance, we are on the same page. And we both appreciate the first three Star Wars films in the same way. So I can understand that you can be very close with someone who is very different than you, if you feel very much the same on some selective things that you really enjoy or which there are few people you can talk to about. I think Tolkien and Lewis connected very strongly on some things that were deeply important to them both, and that offset the things that they approached very differently.

Tom Shippey stated how he thought that because they had been through the War and had many terrible things happen to them needed a new definition of the word “Evil” and they hadn‘t got one.

-Do you agree with that statement?

Pretty much. I can see where fantasy was good therapy for both of them.

Christopher Lee believes there is no question that the Dead Marshes are an out pouring of what Tolkien had seen of people lying dead all around him in the War. John Rhys-Davies states that you cannot go through those experiences without asking the fundamental questions like “What am I fighting for?” and “Is there a God?”. Tom Shippey called them Traumatized Authors, they are all authors who have been severely traumatized in one way or another and now they are writing about what evil is. And for the most part they can’t do it in a reality. Fantasy is the best explanation.

-What are your personal opinions about these ideas?

I really liked this part of this feature -- it was interesting to see that Lee and JRD were in tune with Shippey on this issue. I don't think Trauma is all encompassing for Tolkien and Lewis-- they were also capable of much fun, and in tune with the spiritual side of life. I think they were kindred spirits in a lot of ways, including how they processed the dark things they went through.

What do you think it would have been like to be Tolkien’s publisher reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time?

Well, it's just good he was with that publisher, who was open minded enough and tolerant enough to work with someone like Tolkien. I suspect there would be publishers not as willing to embrace his kind of talent.

*Here comes the part I don’t care forMad.* Everyone talks about how Tolkien did it all wrong. How they would love to take a blue pen to the Council of Elrond. There are long parts “where nothing really happens” “As a writer it fills me with horror.” “A professional author wouldn’t have done it like that.” *And here’s the part that bugs me the mostFrown* Then they go on to say that it’s better that way because it’s a sense of realism. *It‘s like they can‘t argue with how well it‘s done or what an amazing read it is but, that‘s not how we do it and therefore it‘s “bad” but, it‘s not you see because it has realism. GRRRRRRPirate.*

-What are you thoughts on this section? -Am I the only one who finds this part contradictory?

I agree, it's a bit contradictory -- they are criticizing and praising at the same time. It reminds me of an old Star Trek episode, where Spock was puzzled because Kirk and McCoy were admiring someone they also despised (Kahn). I guess the message is you can respect someone who breaks the rules without agreeing that breaking the rules makes sense.

What are your thoughts on the name titles?

In some ways, it's like the reception the films have received, or the story of the Three Bears. For a lot of people, ROTK is too soft, TTT is too hard, and FOTR is just right. For me, I am so used to those titles that they really don't impact me one way or another.

-What Two Towers do you believe are THE Two Towers? Or at least what do you picture when you hear The Two Towers?


I've always thought it was Isengard and Barad-dur. Though, like in Shakespeare's plays, you can argue that Minas Morgal and Minas Tirith are the supporting couple that back-up the main romance.

Tolkien created at least five languages. Do you think that helps make the books more unique?

Yep. That adds a level of realism and authenticity that other fantasies lack. It's one of the main things that elevates LOTR above other fantastical works, IMHO.

Tolkien loved trees and thought they were very important. There is a hint that while Tolkien was writing Treebeard he was actually hearing Lewis’ voice and used that as how he was going to make the ancient Ent sound. The interesting thing is, even though Tolkien loved trees so much, he’s pretty ambiguous about them. There are sinister trees like Old Man Willow. But, he also used them to fulfill his desire to have the one scene in Macbeth completed.

There are two world views clashing in a sub plot of The Lord of the Rings. One that is green, organic, alive and one that is of wheels, gears, leavers.


I think that Tolkien could see both the good and bad in nature is part of the power of the books. It's that sense that the natural world has its own rules, culture, etc. and that it may not jive with ours that makes the world of Middle Earth so intriguing. Tolkien admires the natural world, but he doesn't ignore it's dark side, I guess.

Saruman changes from being Saruman The White to Saruman The Many Colored. For this he is reproached by Gandalf. But, Saruman doesn’t get his power from his genius or knowledge, it’s his voice. He is willing to use people to his advantage and this is the sign of his decline from Saruman The White to Saruman the Tool of Mordor.

I was a Public Relations person for part of my career, so Saruman's voice is a thing I can relate to. Communication can be a weapon, and I have seen it used for good and ill in the PR field, first hand.

The Lord of the Rings is complex in it’s narrative and in it’s style but, it’s heart is the relationship between Frodo and Sam. It’s relationship is equivalent to an Officer and his batman. One of the first things Peter told Sean was that his was a sacred relationship between the batman and the officer which was understood especially by Tolkien. The batman was characterized by their unfailing loyalty to the officer whom they served. But, on the other hand they didn’t want to cast Frodo as a pampered officer. It wasn’t so much that they changed Sam’s roots as they showed the side of Frodo that comes out in the books that needed Sam as well. Frodo needs Sam to lean on but, in the same light Sam needs Frodo because he is his motivation. Out of this comes their true relationship.

-Do you think the decision Peter and Co. made with Frodo and Sam’s relationship was a good one?


Yes. It rang true, and I think they succeeded in making it the heart of the films. I liked the way they looked linked Aragorn's story with Frodo's in the films as well. It would have been easy to make Aragorn the focus of the story, but they rightly understood that it was secondary to Frodo's, and so the relationship between Frodo and Sam gets more play than Aragorn/Arwen. Wood/Astin deserve a lot of credit as well, for how they played the roles -- they may not have had the trappings of the book characters, but they definitely had their spirit, IMHO.

In many ways Gollum is the tragic hero of The Lord of the Rings. He started out as a simple Hobbit and by the corruption of The Ring he is now a starved creature. “It is not his fault that he lost himself to The Ring’s evil influence.”

-What is your opinion of the above quote? Do you agree with it or think there is more to it than that?

I am reminded of a conversation I had with a principal of a school in a troubled community -- when I arrived to meet with her, a kid was just leaving her office. As he left, she looked rather wistfully at him and said "He's a nice kid, but he's headed for trouble, and there's nothing I can do about it." That's kind of my take on Gollum. Circumstances sort of dictated his fate, and while he always had the ability to change things, the odds that he would were very slim. So, it's tragic in the sense of what might have been,combined with the realization that it as very, very unlikely that anything would have prevented things from going the way they did.

Any other comments?

I'm out of time to reply -- I'll have to save your last 2 questions for dessert!


Weaver



 
 

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