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Tolkien's universe as solid and consistent/inconsistent, and his writing process
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noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Mar 31 2013, 11:04am

Post #1 of 57 (1415 views)
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Tolkien's universe as solid and consistent/inconsistent, and his writing process Can't Post

A thought occurred to me a a consequence of a couple of recent threads I've been on. My early impressions or Tolkien's stories is how breathtakingly solid they are. I remember agreeing with some critic that, if the characters come a to a hill, its believable that the hill has been there for ages and has its own story - not that it was hastily erected as the characters came along and the author discovered he needed it. This solidity would be quickly undermined by inconsistencies, but those are hard to find. Or, once found (finding and discussing them is of course a popular pass-time in the Reading Room) there is often a plausible explanation, consistent with what we do know from elsewhere in the stories. Perhaps that is the allure of old favorites such as Balrog wings - because everything else seems to hang together so well, it seems there must be an explanation, even for the few instances of complete internal contradiction

That seems a surprising to me, given the little I know about Tolkien's writing methods. He seems often to have written something and then tried to figure out how he knew it was true. He also, worked out his ideas over many decades, and very many revisions. So he also had to do a lot of back-filling. For example (form an entertaining recent thread) the ring that Bilbo finds, perhaps as a minor plot device to help him stand a chance as an adventurer, turns out to be the One Ring, and main engine of the plot to Lord of the Rings. It seems Tolkien himself didn't know this at the point he had Bilbo riddling with Gollum!

How did he do it?

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....
Feel free to meddle in the affairs of noWizardMe by agreeing or disagreeing (politely...) with my posts! I may not be subtle, but at least I'm usually slow to anger...

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Mar 31 2013, 11:06am)


squire
Valinor


Mar 31 2013, 3:00pm

Post #2 of 57 (773 views)
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Themes and devices [In reply to] Can't Post

It's a good question, and especially rewarding to pursue because of all the evidence we now have about Tolkien's writing process, in the form of his many unpublished drafts and outlines. My take on it is that he primarily thought thematically, being interested in how a story represents not reality but our responses to reality. So when he introduced a magical device to allow Bilbo to succeed in his job as the Dwarves' burglar, the device was not a weapon like a sword (let's leave Sting for another thread), but an invisibility device that reinforced a hobbit's natural ability to go unseen and unnoticed. The theme of hobbits in The Hobbit was that they were small, little known, and uninterested in confrontation. They were nonheroic, which was Tolkien's modern contribution to the world of Faerie. An invisibility device enhanced that theme in a way that allowed a hobbit to rise to 'heroic' status in a traditional fairytale quest.

Now, Tolkien claims to have realized that Bilbo's ring would be the natural link to a sequel involving the Necromancer when he began to sketch out the "New Hobbit" (as he says in the letter that Brethil cites, in the post you linked to). But that was written in retrospect. His early drafts show him toying with an elderly Bilbo's need for another Tookish adventure; or Bilbo's getting a case of 'gold lust' thanks to Smaug's dragon-spell. The ring worked better than the other ideas, because it could be tied to the Necromancer, an existing villain from his Silmarillion tales who had the advantage of not being dead, unlike Smaug. What Tolkien realized was that a proper sequel should be a case of "The Empire Strikes Back", to use an example from a later recycling of the same plot device, and who would want to strike back at Bilbo except the sorcerer whose ring he had acquired? His initial thinking about the ring's power was nevertheless still in connection to the dragon-lust: that is, that it was golden and valuable and .... work it out .... yes, power-ful. What power? why, invisibility surely. But no. Invisibility is not a positive power, but a negative one - just right for a timid hobbit burglar, but hardly useful for a demonic sorcerer. The ring surely needed to be something else, something not necessarily connected to the story in The Hobbit at all.

Christopher Tolkien and others have commented that Tolkien rarely if ever abandoned the germ of an idea whose theme met his sense of fitness and interest. Instead, he revised and revised until the idea worked descriptively as well as it did thematically. The revisions were often extensive; as he noted, when he finished The Lord of the Rings, already the subject of many revisions in draft form, he went back and "rewrote the book backwards" to make all the early stuff consistent with where the story had eventually gone. In the end, he claimed and so it seems to careful readers, not a single word in the book had been left uninspected or unconsidered. Yet the clues are there in dozens of little inconsistencies that he failed to clear up, or that he may have regarded as more unimportant or inconsequential than his fans do. Examples range from the absurd, such as the Balrog wing inanity, to the fundamental ones like why Gandalf never suspected Bilbo's ring to be the One during all the years when it could have been destroyed before Sauron rose again - a glitch that Tolkien elides through masterly misdirection in the second chapter of the new book.

By this painstaking means Tolkien gradually made a slow and not entirely graceful leap from one theme to another. The ring of invisibility snuck across a line somewhere in that second chapter of the "New Hobbit" and became a Ring of Power. Power to corrupt and compel, power to dominate, power to rule. This was indeed a theme for Tolkien's age, even more so than the earlier ones he had explored in the Silmarillion about the powers of beauty, truth and freedom vs. the powers of craft, possession and oaths. He knew it - and he ran with it. He even had the sense to realize that the theme of hobbits (needed if the book was to be a sequel) could work once again in this new setting. Now the hobbits did not need to be invisible to succeed; rather they needed to be incapable of desiring power over others - something equally believable about a small, unknown and homely people revealed in the previous book to have been living unnoticed on the edge of Faerie.

The Ring's invisibility power actually turns out in the new story to be a weakness, revealing the wearer to a host of newly-empowered adversaries (Sauron, Black Riders) or superior creatures (like Galadriel and the new uber-Gandalf) so that, as with the Eagles, it cannot subvert the plot by making everything too easy. As noted in the recent discussion here, the invisibility power of the Ring in the new context of The Lord of the Rings barely makes sense, which Tolkien deals with largely by ignoring the issue and emphasizing other angles whenever the question comes up. Eerily, the new power of the Ring to corrupt the powerful also proves to be rather flexible and comes into play only as needed to enhance the drama and suspense rather than in any consistent way. Under unduly close inspection, the 'breathtaking solidity' of Tolkien's plotting resembles that of expertly-crafted stage scenery, as I've noted in the past. As I see it, it's the solidity of his landscapes and seeming depth of his histories and other world-cultural apparatus that often distracts us from the flimsier aspects of his story devices. In the final analysis, of course, the themes that underlie his stories are first-rate and it's his ability to stick to his themes and play them out on an epic scale that really gives LotR, and even many of his lesser tales, their undeniable power.



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'.
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noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Mar 31 2013, 3:37pm

Post #3 of 57 (718 views)
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That's a masterly reply [In reply to] Can't Post

That's a masterly reply, Squire, and it is a privilege to share a forum with people with your deep learning and writing skills. Thank you.

Maybe there is a virtuous circle effect too - once a creator's fantasy world starts to feel solid and real, those of us enjoying the creation want it not to fall apart. So either snags don't matter, or it becomes an enjoyable pass-time to find satisfying solutions to them (hence a lot of this discussion board!) Whereas, if the world-building were ropey, we would start to think about why this isn't working, and it might become a nasty kind of fun to find and laugh at all the holes.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....
Feel free to meddle in the affairs of noWizardMe by agreeing or disagreeing (politely...) with my posts! I may not be subtle, but at least I'm usually slow to anger...


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Mar 31 2013, 4:24pm

Post #4 of 57 (717 views)
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ignoring the issue and emphasizing other angles - a strength sometimes! [In reply to] Can't Post

(Missed the edit window, so have to post what I intended as my edit separately)

I think there are cases where refusing to give a clear answer works well as a literary effect. For example, The Ring Goes South with its ambiguous adversaries - you are left wondering: are the Fellowship being opposed by Saruman, Sauron, Caradhras itself? perhaps left wondering because Tolkien doesn't know or care, but perhaps because the chapter works better that way (even for me as a someone who likes to think these things out).

And would I really be happier if I knew How the ring tempts and could reach a consistent answer? "Well, yes...and no." (please Imagine that in an Ian Holm Bilbo voice...)

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....
Feel free to meddle in the affairs of noWizardMe by agreeing or disagreeing (politely...) with my posts! I may not be subtle, but at least I'm usually slow to anger...


Brethil
Half-elven


Mar 31 2013, 5:35pm

Post #5 of 57 (688 views)
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Great discussion idea! [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't have my books at hand (at work, drat it!) bit I am enjoying contemplating this topic. In perusing Letters more this week, I have seen some glimpses of the Professor that sometimes surprise me - having read them many years ago, the significance was not as great as now.

For example, his completely intentional obscurity in certain areas - Bombadil comes to mind( which APPEARS to be a loose end of an unresolved issue, but apparently it was JRRT's intent!). And in retrospect, the changes that he would have made - ie: the William (I believe) Troll's line of 'poor blighter' he felt was linguistically correct, and a pleasing response of full and comfortable Troll, but later regretted that it implied mercy or benign intent on the speaker's apart which he never intended as was afraid would be misinterpreted. (Working from memory here too, so I am not citing quotes). So I see a more organic, evolving nature here, and one accepting of changes as long as they did not alter the most critical ideas in his world. In a way I think our modern perception of him as visualizing the world in a linear fashion and transcribing in order, unwilling to alter (as I think the perception is today: ie particularly in the aspect of how he would have responded to the films) or change things in mid-gear is not entirely correct.

How did he keep track of it all? I think it was the sheer volume of detail he could hold in his head. But I wonder if that is a function of his 'type' of memory, so linguistic in both nature and training, as language is an essential part of visual memory. That is why I think his description of 'places' is so breathtaking.

I look forward to following this discussion up more!

Hell hath no fury like a Dragon who is missing a cup.


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Apr 1 2013, 11:11am

Post #6 of 57 (650 views)
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Gnawing the ends of old plots [In reply to] Can't Post

An aspect of Tolkien's working forward and then going backward for consistency is that he gets most of the plot holes, but sometimes seems to leave earlier plot ideas in place. They are like part-completed or part-demolished constructions past which the final plot advances.

For example 1, I'm thinking of a lot of material in the first book of The Fellowship of the Ring. Peter Jackson's screen-writers demonstrate that you can get rid of a lot of it without making the main plot a nonsense: in the film, Frodo sets out the very night that Gandalf reads the fiery runes on the Ring. He's immediately hotly perused to the Buckleberry Ferry, and then the next scene is Bree. The only back-filling the writers have to do is to explain how Merry and Pippin get their swords. Whether or not it is better to leave out Gildor, Farmer Maggot, Crickhollow, the Old Forest, Bombadil and the Wights is not the point I want to raise. Rather, that it is possible, and Tolkien could presumably have chosen to take the editorial knife to some of this material as he worked his way back from the end of the tale. But maybe he preferred to keep these ends of old plots. Good for gnawing, the ends of old plots!

Dragon-sickness is another example - in The Hobbit there are hints that there is something magically perilous about Smaug's treasure. But this idea stays in the background - common-or-garden avarice may be enough to bring four of the five armies nearly to blows, before Bilbo and the need to ally against the army of orcs intervene. Interesting to hear from Squire that Tolkien considered a dragon-sickness based sequel. Perhaps he was setting this up in the Hobbit, but then didn't need to use the idea?

Which makes me think - the 2013 read-through of the Sil. has, at the time I reach this got as far as Chapter 7: Of The Silmirals and the Unrest of the Noldor : we are about to have the opportunity to compare/contrast Feanor and the Silmarils with Thorin and the Akenstone.


Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....


CuriousG
Valinor


Apr 1 2013, 12:51pm

Post #7 of 57 (658 views)
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Ah, you scored a bulls-eye [In reply to] Can't Post

(Though now that I think about shooting a bull in the eye for sport, it seems horrific. That's one etymology I don't want to know.)

Anyway, I think that you're right that we don't want Tolkien's world to fall apart through inconsistencies or logical flaws, and we become masterful in finding ways to explain things. I see myself doing the same thing especially with movies that I enjoy. If I like them, I minimize the flaws and explain them away, but if I don't, I focus on them.

When it comes to "how did Tolkien do what he did?", I think Brethil made a great point that he was able to hold a massive amount of detail in his head, more than most people can. Many writers never even think about all the ideas they write that contradict each other.

Another trait of Tolkien's is his work ethic and perfectionism. Revising such a massive work takes a LOT of time and patience, a commitment to making it as near-perfect as possible. Plenty of people have that trait, but he exercised it to a greater degree than most writers.

I think his use of back stories that you point out helped with consistency in some ways. The hobbits go to Weathertop, which was a fortress of Arnor. What was Arnor? It was a kingdom of Men that's gone. Where did they go? They're Rangers now. What's a Ranger? Well, they're like Aragorn...


squire
Valinor


Apr 1 2013, 10:40pm

Post #8 of 57 (638 views)
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Gnawing the ends of old jokes [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree that the extended set of mini-adventures in Book I of The Lord of the Rings seems to be extraneous to the larger plot of the story. But I don't think that means they are "earlier plot ideas" that the author never completed -- in your clever words, "the ends of old plots" that "he preferred to keep" for gnawing!

These episodes constitute sub-plots that do several things to serve the story. They lay out a rhythm of adventure and rescue so that the journey to Rivendell does not seem too easy or too casual. They introduce a number of key themes that will repeat throughout the story: the power of untamed nature in contrast to the Shire, the sheer continental scale and historical depth of Middle-earth, the spectrum of spiritual and physical beings in the world that are beyond the ken of the hobbits, the idea that the hobbits must grow in stature through bitter experience in order to bear their burdens, and the utter horror of Mordor and its creatures, to name a few.

As you say, we are not arguing here whether these are better left in or edited out of the story. Nor need we judge New Line's screenwriters in their task of adaptation; movies famously strip their literary sources of subplots, knowing that the visual imagery will substitute the depth that is lost. What we should realize is that Tolkien rarely left "earlier plot ideas" in place just because he liked them and wanted to gnaw on them, so to speak. Almost every lovingly-rendered episode in Book I continues to serve the same thematic purpose for which it was originally written. The ones that didn't work are in fact gone, so far gone that it was a revelation to readers of History of Middle-earth Volume 6 to discover just what, and how bad, they were. Some of the plot ideas that were cut from Book I are: the kidnapping of Fatty Bolger by the Black Riders, the appearance of a hobbit Ranger who turns out to be a long-lost Took relative with wooden feet, and Frodo using the Ring to steal food from Farmer Maggot's table while invisible.

The criticism I most often agree with, when considering Book I, is that the tone and style is uneven in a way that is almost unknown in the later books, where Tolkien plays with his styles like a cathedral organist. Book I alarmingly varies between a kind of childlike jollity and the more somber quasi-terror/quasi-awe that characterizes the later books in the epic. Examples include some of the Bag End, birthday party, and Crickhollow scenes, the infamous fox, Tom Bombadil's less-inspired doggerel, and the encounter with the stone trolls. The jollity is a hangover from The Hobbit, written when the book was simply a sequel about another perilous quest. I do think that Tolkien, who confessed that he enjoyed writing the perfectly vapid hobbit-dialogue that his editors and friends hated and that can now be found in appalling quantities in HoME, had a hard time letting it go - and so some of it survived even the backward rewrite when he knew well what he had accomplished.



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 (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


ElendilTheShort
Gondor


Apr 1 2013, 11:45pm

Post #9 of 57 (724 views)
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Book 1 compared to movie [In reply to] Can't Post

All of book 1 is exceedingly important as it gives scale to the greater story. It grounds the hobbits, and their homeland as that of the everyman and provides a somewhat familiar context for the reader. The adventures they encounter are largely their own to deal with, and their own great worth, humanity and most importantly the friendship amongst themselves is shown in this period, prior to them becoming part of something greater, although clearly the events that surround them and the people they encounter open up doors to the view of the greater story and provide hints of a deep history relevant to the current people, powers and events. I find Book 1 to be in many ways the most pleasing aspect of the story. This is not to say that the story gets worse, indeed it does not but it becomes bigger and familiarity, comfort and home as represented by the Shire dissipates into often hostile surroundings. Dealing with Wraiths, Wights and Ferny's remains on a small personal scale for Book 1, they are still at home or near home and the big step to adventure is not taken until they leave Rivendell.

Whereas in the movie it was a very empty feeling when they arrived at Bree with very little adventure. I will always agree that Bombadil and even the barrow can be excluded from the big story arc, diminishing it but not ruining it, but the scale of the Hobbits achievments to that point and the scale of their story is greatly reduced, there is no introduction to the larger world, they are just suddenly thrust into it. It is an opinion I find hard to express as it is somewhat intangible but I do not think that there are any loose ends left behind as mini adventures in Book 1, I think all that happens is very important to the overall story as it gives it scale. Similarly with any criticism of style, I think it is intentional, the Hobbits are not wordly but they are becoming so and even though the writer is the narrator of the story and does not represent the view of any one character, the way it is written and the style changes reflects the Hobbits growing awareness of the wider world and the conflict they have become part of.


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Apr 2 2013, 8:02am

Post #10 of 57 (640 views)
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Heroes' journey, with a detour [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks both - many interesting points I've not previously considered!

I like the idea of the detour through the Old Forest as a sort of Hobbit Adventurer boot camp: showing them as well as us that they are not yet ready for the adventures to come, but also closing that gap.

It does give Tolkien a further consistency problem, though. There's a plot device which is common enough to be mocked in Peters Evil Overlord list:

Quote
80. If my weakest troops fail to eliminate a hero, I will send out my best troops instead of wasting time with progressively stronger ones as he gets closer and closer to my fortress.
http://www.eviloverlord.com/lists/overlord.html

Sauron, however, has sent out the Black Riders: on paper his most formidable servants. So we get an exciting taste of those, before losing them for a while to spar with Old Man Wilow et al. To my mind, the Black Riders are surprisingly ineffective in the Fellowship of the Ring, given what they can do later. "These villains grew in the telling " leaving it hard to explaintheir earlier failures, perhaps?

I agree about the hugely veering tone of the early chapters. Odd, perhaps, that he didn't fix this in his later drafts?

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....


CuriousG
Valinor


Apr 2 2013, 1:12pm

Post #11 of 57 (614 views)
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Well [In reply to] Can't Post

The variations in tone work for me since they establish the atmosphere of the locale. Hobbits are light-hearted people, and so is their speech. Elves are lofty, so the interlude with them is a bit ethereal as it should be. Then they come upon Maggot again and arrive at Crickhollow, and life is simple and jolly again. Bombadil is meant to stand out as absurd, but he has those powers over Old Man Willow and the Barrow Wight, and the Ring doesn't affect him--wonderful juxtaposition of silliness and serious power that mirrors what the hobbits will become like at the end of the book.

It's not without flaws (I would personally love to edit out the fox), but I think it should read as it does with its fluctuating styles. Just my opinion.

And would some Moderator-fool of a Took get me out of Pinocchio's Village! :)


elostirion74
Rohan

Apr 2 2013, 4:39pm

Post #12 of 57 (600 views)
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interesting response [In reply to] Can't Post

Your argument that Tolkien thought primarily thematically makes sense to me, since the issues related to the central themes in each work is dealt with in greater detail and with extra care compared to other aspects of the work.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by, "Eeriely the new power of the Ring to corrupt the powerful also seems rather flexible and comes into play only as needed to enhance the drama and suspense rather than in a consistent way". I really don't see any logical inconsistency on Tolkien's part here, if that's what you imply. The difference between the solidity he shows when dealing with this central theme in the story compared to the more inconsistent way he deals with the workings of the invisiblity device, only illustrates IMO your point about the way he thought thematically when writing and re-writing the book.


Brethil
Half-elven


Apr 2 2013, 5:34pm

Post #13 of 57 (590 views)
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I am so enjoying your posts Squire [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

The criticism I most often agree with, when considering Book I, is that the tone and style is uneven in a way that is almost unknown in the later books, where Tolkien plays with his styles like a cathedral organist. Book I alarmingly varies between a kind of childlike jollity and the more somber quasi-terror/quasi-awe that characterizes the later books in the epic. Examples include some of the Bag End, birthday party, and Crickhollow scenes, the infamous fox, Tom Bombadil's less-inspired doggerel, and the encounter with the stone trolls. The jollity is a hangover from The Hobbit, written when the book was simply a sequel about another perilous quest. I do think that Tolkien, who confessed that he enjoyed writing the perfectly vapid hobbit-dialogue that his editors and friends hated and that can now be found in appalling quantities in HoME, had a hard time letting it go - and so some of it survived even the backward rewrite when he knew well what he had accomplished.




Have been working, so up to now unable to respond rightly.

Your first post in the discussion is so correct I think in every sense of understanding exactly how the dovetailing of the tales occurred - the mechanics of it become obvious in an analytical manner if we choose to use Letters as well as to "look for" the links that we have, like looking behind the curtain. But on a casual level, of simply enjoying the tale, really very few if any seams can be detected. Given the juxtaposition of the simple desire to create an original faery tale good enough to please his children with the much larger, completely adult and pre-existing world of LOTR, I think it represents an amazingly adaptive way of thinking. The quote I referenced - of Sauron sort of 'appearing unbidden' at Bag End gives me no end of pleasure. No wonder he seems so real - he is an organic part of the tale, not a plot-driven device as so many antagonists seem to be, existing only as a counterfoil for a hero.

I think some of the oddities he kept in on purpose are there for a more philosophical reason, somewhat unconnected to the primary tale (I posted something about this, specifically Bombadil, in the Ring/Isildur issues thread, as response to CG.)

When you reference the alternating tones and the initial and the closing sub-plots above, I think you are completely correct in the light tone being a linguistic and a needed bridge for the morphing of TH and LOTR to be en suite. If we regard them as one story, it is also a maturing POV device as well, as we begin the story as soft and nave Bilbo, grow braver if not hugely wiser, and get our hearts broken. Then (both in lanuage and sub-plots) we proceed through "absurd" adventures and meeting Bombadil as Frodo of the Shire, continue to mature and to learn dark and ancient (and some beautiful - the Lay of Luthien for example) histories, and proceed to times such as Emyn Muil as a hardened Hobbit, able to cow Gollum - and then the failure on Mount Doom and the Scouring, where the POV is resultantly both scarred but wise. Yet here we have a bit of resurgence of innocence - Sam's flirting with Rosie at the doorway of her father's house, Fatty asking Pippin about his hat size. Our hero POV though is unconcerned with Power - Frodo wearily tells Merry "make all the arrangements." So we have come almost full circle, back to a simpler and prosaic time as TH began, but with the weight of the Quest and its consequences. Even if not entirely intentional, and if the manuscript (in FOTR) was front-lightened to accommodate TH, I think it underscores the darker elements of the story and humanizes it in a way that a far-removed and utterly dark and serious tale would not.

(And as far as the thinking fox, I love him!)

Hell hath no fury like a Dragon who is missing a cup.


Brethil
Half-elven


Apr 2 2013, 5:57pm

Post #14 of 57 (629 views)
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Some inconsistencies [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I'm not quite sure what you mean by, "Eeriely the new power of the Ring to corrupt the powerful also seems rather flexible and comes into play only as needed to enhance the drama and suspense rather than in a consistent way". I really don't see any logical inconsistency on Tolkien's part here, if that's what you imply. The difference between the solidity he shows when dealing with this central theme in the story compared to the more inconsistent way he deals with the workings of the invisiblity device, only illustrates IMO your point about the way he thought thematically when writing and re-writing the book.




I know I see two areas where the power of the Ring has a bit of an inconsistent use as a plot device:

1. Faramir (!)

2. The behavior of Cirdan and Elrond when Isildur claims the Ring. They were almost completely alone, no one was marking what Isildur was doing - would it not have been better for either Cirdan or Elrond to take the Ring, even at the cost of Isildur's life, and destroy it? It either plays to the more removed ethics of the two Elves in not wishing to take so dark a deed upon themselves, or perhaps the fear or their own entanglement with the Ring. Either way they missed a logical chance to destroy it.

I think overall now that I understand it better the invisibility works quite well thematically.

Hell hath no fury like a Dragon who is missing a cup.


Brethil
Half-elven


Apr 2 2013, 7:16pm

Post #15 of 57 (580 views)
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The DS as a plot device [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

Dragon-sickness is another example - in The Hobbit there are hints that there is something magically perilous about Smaug's treasure. But this idea stays in the background - common-or-garden avarice may be enough to bring four of the five armies nearly to blows, before Bilbo and the need to ally against the army of orcs intervene. Interesting to hear from Squire that Tolkien considered a dragon-sickness based sequel. Perhaps he was setting this up in the Hobbit, but then didn't need to use the idea?





I might see a bit of device lurking here as well - because as Frodo quite correctly points out in the Quest of Erebor the Goblins army would have attacked no matter what Thorin did about the Arkenstone, or whether he had the DS or not. So the Dragon Sickness here while completely being believable as a lore reference, becomes the fulcrum for dividing the sides, just so they can be reunited again.

Perhaps that is why he didn't use it again, as the Ring itself would later serve as the dividing force for the larger story?

Hell hath no fury like a Dragon who is missing a cup.


elostirion74
Rohan

Apr 2 2013, 9:22pm

Post #16 of 57 (588 views)
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hmm [In reply to] Can't Post

I guess I've never understood any of the problems people have had with Faramir not appearing to be tempted by the Ring. The Ring works on a combination of the motivations and the innate power of each person, it needs something to work with. Not everyone are driven or fuelled by the desire of a kind of mastery or extension of their own abilities that lend them susceptible to want to have or use the Ring, and people can also be aware of their own weaknesses and therefore decide to keep away from the kind of dangers The Ring represents. While I find some of Faramir's statements or ways of expressing his views a bit grand, I don't find his general reasoning for not wanting The Ring particularly difficult to believe or understand, whether we consider them just in the context of the story or compared to real life. Gandalf for instance is aware of how he could delude himself into thinking that he only would use the Ring for good purposes and fears to take the Ring, why shouldn't Faramir be able to show a similar level of awareness of the dangers of his own fallibility?

As to your second point about Cirdan and Elrond, it's and interesting point and it's true that Tolkien didn't explicitly explain it or elaborate on it. You've provided some possible reasons for their actions yourself, though, which seem quite credible to me. It seems completely illogical to me and toally at odds with what we know of Cirdan and Elrond's characters to actually attack one of their chief allies for the sake of "the greater good". Moreover much of Tolkien's criticism concerning the power of The Ring is also a criticism of the utilitarianism which taking the Ring at the cost of Isildur's life or by force would represent, an utilitarianism which Saruman clearly subscribes to. And if Cirdan or Elrond actually had seized The Ring from Isildur, who knows how their later actions would have compared to their original intentions, since they've started their dealing with the Ring by wresting it by force? Starting with seemingly good intentions is certainly not a guarantee of a good result in the end.


Brethil
Half-elven


Apr 2 2013, 11:22pm

Post #17 of 57 (602 views)
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The decisions of Faramir, Elrond and Cirdan. Choices or devices... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I guess I've never understood any of the problems people have had with Faramir not appearing to be tempted by the Ring. The Ring works on a combination of the motivations and the innate power of each person, it needs something to work with. Not everyone are driven or fuelled by the desire of a kind of mastery or extension of their own abilities that lend them susceptible to want to have or use the Ring, and people can also be aware of their own weaknesses and therefore decide to keep away from the kind of dangers The Ring represents. While I find some of Faramir's statements or ways of expressing his views a bit grand, I don't find his general reasoning for not wanting The Ring particularly difficult to believe or understand, whether we consider them just in the context of the story or compared to real life. Gandalf for instance is aware of how he could delude himself into thinking that he only would use the Ring for good purposes and fears to take the Ring, why shouldn't Faramir be able to show a similar level of awareness of the dangers of his own fallibility? I am interested in your viewpoint, Elostirion - was it always the same or did it evolve over time?Well as a device, Faramir's attitude provides a force of conflict between himself and Denethor. Plus it allows Frodo to proceed, aided and rested, through Ithilien. I suppose it is possible that Faramir is, as Denethor accuses him of wanting to be, a throwback to great Kings of Old. (Of course if one was a throwback to Isildur, watch out). It is just a shadowy point - the why of Faramir's seeming resistance to the Ring from the get-go. He explains it - not would I pick it up if I found it by the wayside (paraphrasing) but WHY? Has he thought upon it that deeply? And how is his judgment in his short life so close to that of the Wise? I guess I just feel like it is a bit of an oddity. (Note, though - I didn't note it in first reads, only later, once I had more familiarity with other characters' reactions.) I will also say he is one of my favorites - maybe because he is a bit of a puzzle, one of the enigmas. In perusing JRRT's own words on Faramir, he says that he appeared "Unbidden" and rather unwanted but not unliked into the story, and the dream about the Great Wave is JRRT's own dream, which he gives to Faramir. So I can only theorize that if JRRT felt a certain connection with this Man on a personal level (enough to hand him over his own recurring dream), perhaps that explains Faramir's relative and slightly unexpected purity in the matter of the Ring. (Faramir seems too to have been a conduit for expressing the greatness of Numenor, which JRRT says himself that if any more lines about history are given to Faramir it will have to be shoved into Appendices.)

As to your second point about Cirdan and Elrond, it's and interesting point and it's true that Tolkien didn't explicitly explain it or elaborate on it. You've provided some possible reasons for their actions yourself, though, which seem quite credible to me. It seems completely illogical to me and toally at odds with what we know of Cirdan and Elrond's characters to actually attack one of their chief allies for the sake of "the greater good". Moreover much of Tolkien's criticism concerning the power of The Ring is also a criticism of the utilitarianism which taking the Ring at the cost of Isildur's life or by force would represent, an utilitarianism which Saruman clearly subscribes to. And if Cirdan or Elrond actually had seized The Ring from Isildur, who knows how their later actions would have compared to their original intentions, since they've started their dealing with the Ring by wresting it by force? Starting with seemingly good intentions is certainly not a guarantee of a good result in the end.Yes, the reasons I gave I guess MUSTbe a strong statement about the moral code of Elrond and Cirdan, although it is not spelled out. But really, Elves have done darker deeds for much less good reasons - though not them personally. I suppose the entire fate of Middle Earth might be justification for action against Isildur here though; so as you say, the utilitarian ethics of Saruman MIGHT be unjustified here...but considering what's at stake, they might not. And I guess one must balance the wisdom of avoiding becoming entangled with the Ring to allowing it to exist, in the hands of a Mortal man, when they know what Isildur does not - that it MUST be destroyed. Purely as a Devil's Advocate, and analyzing the choice on its face versus the idea of their actions being a plot device - it seems a bit like JRRT has the Elves rather mortgage the future of ME against their own ethics. (I must jump to Film for a second, where Elrond shouting to Isildur "Destroy It!' and Isildur leaving, turns his back - I like the moral dilemma Elrond is having here.) None of these points in any way detract from the story for me, just to be clear. They merely arise in the arena of inquiry and dissection (that affectionate scrutiny again, CG!) and the original concept in the thread of internal consistency.


Hell hath no fury like a Dragon who is missing a cup.


Ardamr
Valinor


Apr 2 2013, 11:35pm

Post #18 of 57 (566 views)
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Book I [In reply to] Can't Post

I absolutely love Book I for the very fact that it is so incredibly different than the rest of the books. I think it's perfect for allowing the reader to grow from The Hobbit into the rest of The Lord of the Rings. It's the perfect transition, IMO.

"Now this babe was of greatest beauty; his skin of a shining white and his eyes of a blue surpassing that of the sky in southern lands - bluer than the sapphires of the raiment of Manw; and the envy of Meglin was deep at his birth, but the joy of Turgon and all the people very great indeed." -The Fall of Gondolin


ElendilTheShort
Gondor


Apr 3 2013, 12:00am

Post #19 of 57 (559 views)
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The movies [In reply to] Can't Post

changed the context of the rings temptation. It became less about the person tempted and more about the ring itself. This is why we have movie Faramir. It would be generous to say the writers changed the nature of the ring to suit the purposes of a different media and reaching a broader audience than the books but the truth is their comments about the subject make it clear they didn't have a full grasp of the nature of tge One Ring as per the books. Their interpretation of it became very simplistic.


ElendilTheShort
Gondor


Apr 3 2013, 12:07am

Post #20 of 57 (570 views)
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Cirdan or Elrond taking the ring by force [In reply to] Can't Post

would certainly result in a worse situation than Smeagol taking the ring by force due to their infinitely greater power. I doubt they would have murdered an ally, and they may have known enough of the ring to realise that forceful possesion of it would lead them on an irrovecibly evil course.


Brethil
Half-elven


Apr 3 2013, 12:16am

Post #21 of 57 (564 views)
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True, if we interpret it as the moral choice vs device [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
would certainly result in a worse situation than Smeagol taking the ring by force due to their infinitely greater power. I doubt they would have murdered an ally, and they may have known enough of the ring to realise that forceful possesion of it would lead them on an irrovecibly evil course.




To extend the moral interpretation logic here: Then is it safe to say that if the Powerful cannot destroy it, JRRT is making the statement through the Elves that only the smallest have such a chance, and that Elrond is aware of this? That certainly lends more depth to the decision than we get on the text's surface. A possibility I hadn't considered.

Hell hath no fury like a Dragon who is missing a cup.


sador
Half-elven


Apr 3 2013, 6:23am

Post #22 of 57 (553 views)
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But that was not the question. [In reply to] Can't Post

If I understood Brethil correctly, his/her (which is it?) suggestion was to slay Isildur, and cast him to the fire with the Ring, so that he would indeed die and the greater Good would be served, as it would if the Ring in itself had any great intrinsic potency.
This is like having the Mount Doom scene end with Sam pushing Gollum over the percipice, and so removing a great Evil from the world - as is the BotR version (no great recommendation that), but also was one of the ideas Tolkien himself considered in his projected notes (as reproduced by Christopher in HoME).


ElendilTheShort
Gondor


Apr 3 2013, 7:31am

Post #23 of 57 (542 views)
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Pushing Isildur into the fire [In reply to] Can't Post

would still have been murder of an ally and Cirdan and Elrond are better than that. The argument about "for the greater good" does not diminish the evil nature of the act. They are two pure characters in the writing, they never fell as so many other high elves did. Such pragmatic views about what to do does not fully take into account the nature of the characters, it is impossible to talk about what they could have or should have done without geeting into a whole debate about morality. With tounge in cheek I liken it to the movie scene at the Black Gate, I experienced an amount of gratification to see the Mouth of Sauron lose about a foot in height thanks to Aragorn, I was not happy that Aragorn did it because he is a better person than that.

Put a couple of Feanorians there with Isildur and it would have been all on.

No one could willingly harm the ring, Tolkien is explicit about this, pushing someone into the fire is harming the ring so it could not have been willingly done. Even if the two of them could position themselves to do so, Isildur was counted as a mighty man even among the Numenoreans so good luck with that.


ElendilTheShort
Gondor


Apr 3 2013, 7:44am

Post #24 of 57 (545 views)
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I was really only commenting that Elrond and Cirdan are of such good character that they would not murder an ally, that was my principle point. [In reply to] Can't Post

I would not claim that Elrond or Cirdan definitely "knew" anything, as no one but Sauron did when it came to the One Ring.


Elizabeth
Valinor


Apr 3 2013, 8:33am

Post #25 of 57 (552 views)
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Faramir was not affected by the Ring... [In reply to] Can't Post

...in the same way that Sam, Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli weren't affected (all of whom traveled with the Ring for months, having much more exposure than Faramir).

The Ring worked on aspects of inner character. Boromir and Denethor had character flaws that it could exploit. Isildur was stronger than they were, but maybe not entirely immune. Sam wasn't even seriously tempted until he had actually worn it for some while, and even then he was able to reject it. Why should we regard Faramir's resistance as anomalous?







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