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Tolkien Notes: Intro, Language, and flaws in The Hobbit

LaerasŽa
Tol Eressea


Feb 11 2013, 1:03am


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Tolkien Notes: Intro, Language, and flaws in The Hobbit Can't Post

For those of you who missed it last week, I posted about taking a Tolkien seminar, and offered to share some notes each week from the class. I do want to make a couple of disclaimers before I begin:

1. I am, of course, not the expert here-- I am going to try and avoid giving basic objective information because I don't have sources other than my professor to cite, and while many of the facts/quotes I have here are from texts that we will be reading in the course, there are several we haven't read yet, and I don't want to post things that I haven't read (or read in a while) myself. So, instead, I am going to focus more on big ideas, themes in the course, and discussion topics. I haven't done something like this before, so bear with me until I figure out how to better organize this kind of thing! Smile (and feel free to give advice or ask questions or make requests about topics-- I'm cutting a lot of notes out in doing this, so the content of these posts is very much subjective, on my part)

2. I am not reliable. Anybody who even remotely knows me knows this. I plan on having this be kind of weekly, but stuff comes up sometimes, I'm incredibly busy with classes and grad school/job applications, and it may happen that I miss a week here or there, and that'll just be me being me. I will try and let you know if I'll be gone for a week.

Basic Intro, Language

So, to start, we have reading the works of Tolkien through the lens of four threads of his life that shaped his works:

1. Tolkien's own personal experience
2. His obsession with language
3. "Asterisk Worlds"
4. His theory of fantasy

By "asterisk worlds," what our professor described had to do with word origins being associated with world origins. In the dictionary, next to most words, there is a word with an asterisk next to it, which is the root or whichever word you're looking up-- she called that the "asterisk" word. Logically, there had to be a culture in which that asterisk word existed. For example, she took the word "lunatic"-- and pointed out that the origin of that word, luna is Latin for "moon." In our culture, there is no association between the moon and being crazy, but that must have been the case at some point, based on that word. She called that the "asterisk world"-- a hypothetical world, based on languages and "philology."

It's also what Tolkien calls the "secondary world," in On Fairy Stories.

I knew that language was important to Tolkien, but I hadn't looked at it in this way before. I guess if I want to make this a discussion, I would interject here with a question-- where in Tolkien's fiction work do you see worlds created by language? Do you have any thoughts on the role/usage of philology in TH, The Sil, or LOTR?


Flaws in The Hobbit

The first work we read in the course was The Hobbit, mainly because our professor saw it was Tolkien teaching himself how to create a mythology. She called TH a "deeply flawed" work, partly because it is practically negated at points by On Fairy Stories, but also because it doesn't end in the same way it begins. Some specific problems that we addressed:

1. Lapses in narration-- there are several things that don't seem to quite "fit" in Middle Earth that are mentioned in The Hobbit. One of the dwarves mentions, during the scene with the stone giants, that he doesn't want to be punted over the mountains "like a football." There is another mention of Bilbo carrying out an activity in with the same amount of ease that "you or I would go to the post-office."

2. The Rivendell elves are cute/silly, and absolutely not something that we come across at any other point in the Middle Earth mythos. Our professor described them as "Oscar Wilde characters." Elrond is depicted as more serious, but it doesn't even sound like he is actually an elf at all; the text describes him as an "elf-friend."

3. The Mirkwood elves-- they're more serious than the Rivendell elves, but the problem our professor pointed out is that they basically seem like humans. They're greedy, they play tricks, they get drunk, they hunt, etc-- In some ways, they seem just like the people of Lake Town.

4. Animals that talk (in Beorn's house)-- this is Disney, which Tolkien detested. Tolkien never has another talking animal like this again.

So, what do you think of these "lapses"? Do you prefer LOTR to TH because of this, or the other way around? Did you see these as lapses when you read them-- were they jarring to you? (On that note, did you read TH before or after reading LOTR?)
Personally, I always preferred the language of LOTR-- not because it was more serious, because it was more removed from this world, which is one of the reasons I've always loved fantasy.

Next week, I think I'm going to talk more about TH as it relates to Tolkien's theory of fantasy.

‎"When we can take green from grass, blue from heaven, and red from blood, we have already an enchanter's poweróupon one plane; and the desire to wield that power in the world
external to our minds awakes."
--J. R. R. Tolkien


Mozart and Chocolate

(This post was edited by LaerasŽa on Feb 11 2013, 1:07am)

Subject User Time
Tolkien Notes: Intro, Language, and flaws in The Hobbit LaerasŽa Send a private message to LaerasŽa Feb 11 2013, 1:03am
    Flaws in The Hobbit dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Feb 11 2013, 1:41am
        Oh dear... LaerasŽa Send a private message to LaerasŽa Feb 11 2013, 3:28am
            Hmm? Al Carondas Send a private message to Al Carondas Feb 11 2013, 4:06am
            No, no, not you! dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Feb 11 2013, 1:43pm
                I think LaerasŽa Send a private message to LaerasŽa Feb 13 2013, 4:24am
                    Ah, language.... Silverlode Send a private message to Silverlode Feb 13 2013, 7:58am
                        I understand LaerasŽa Send a private message to LaerasŽa Feb 13 2013, 3:11pm
    The Hobbit was written for Tolkien's children. Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Feb 11 2013, 2:19am
        I don't think I explained it properly LaerasŽa Send a private message to LaerasŽa Feb 11 2013, 3:15am
            It *had* to be the same universe as LotR Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Feb 11 2013, 4:04am
            I believe also, if i am not mistaken, silneldor Send a private message to silneldor Feb 11 2013, 5:38am
    Long live The Hobbit Al Carondas Send a private message to Al Carondas Feb 11 2013, 3:21am
        Nope LaerasŽa Send a private message to LaerasŽa Feb 13 2013, 4:35am
    Further to dernwyn's comments SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Feb 11 2013, 4:02am
        She is absolutely open to new ideas LaerasŽa Send a private message to LaerasŽa Feb 13 2013, 4:03am
    in regards to replies in this thread... Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Feb 11 2013, 5:10am
        Thank you, M LaerasŽa Send a private message to LaerasŽa Feb 13 2013, 4:46am
    I feel safe in saying demnation Send a private message to demnation Feb 11 2013, 6:46am
        I was actually under that impression, as well LaerasŽa Send a private message to LaerasŽa Feb 13 2013, 4:05am
    A few comments sador Send a private message to sador Feb 11 2013, 2:50pm
        I love Tom Shippey! LaerasŽa Send a private message to LaerasŽa Feb 13 2013, 3:53am
            Good for you! sador Send a private message to sador Feb 13 2013, 5:18pm
    And there is more... Otaku-sempai Send a private message to Otaku-sempai Feb 11 2013, 4:51pm
        Wow! LaerasŽa Send a private message to LaerasŽa Feb 13 2013, 3:32am
    This Great Fun IdrilofGondolin Send a private message to IdrilofGondolin Feb 11 2013, 7:50pm
        Thank you! LaerasŽa Send a private message to LaerasŽa Feb 13 2013, 3:24am
    Excited to follow your class! Menelwyn Send a private message to Menelwyn Feb 11 2013, 9:27pm
        Good to see you here :) LaerasŽa Send a private message to LaerasŽa Feb 13 2013, 4:49am
    Laerasea my dear, silneldor Send a private message to silneldor Feb 12 2013, 3:18am
    I find more flaws in LOTR than in TH. // macfalk Send a private message to macfalk Feb 13 2013, 10:28am
        I know you do. :-) Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Feb 13 2013, 2:35pm
        Well, even Tolkien, himself, had issues with 'The Hobbit'. Otaku-sempai Send a private message to Otaku-sempai Feb 13 2013, 3:44pm
            I am aware of this macfalk Send a private message to macfalk Feb 14 2013, 12:43pm
                But those first few chapters are so good! imin Send a private message to imin Feb 14 2013, 12:53pm
                Which problems with LotR really bother you? Otaku-sempai Send a private message to Otaku-sempai Feb 14 2013, 12:53pm
                    It's hard to put it to words macfalk Send a private message to macfalk Feb 14 2013, 12:58pm
                        Well, I can see where an inablility to relate to the main character could be a problem. Otaku-sempai Send a private message to Otaku-sempai Feb 14 2013, 1:07pm
                On the Other Hand IdrilofGondolin Send a private message to IdrilofGondolin Feb 14 2013, 4:51pm
    okay, here's a question... since we're talking about anachronisms in language Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Feb 13 2013, 2:41pm
    To lapse or not to lapse? That's a question? ;) grammaboodawg Send a private message to grammaboodawg Feb 14 2013, 3:49am

 
 
 

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