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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Lord of the Rings:
Magic

flameofudun
Lorien

Apr 21 2013, 2:44am

Post #1 of 13 (575 views)
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Magic Can't Post

Hi all, I have recently been reading up on magic in middle-earth, and love how it is more subtle and requires more concentration then some other media. I've just been wondering, though, how exactly is a spell or ability learned? Through the reading of tomes, or teaching or something else?

I am new to the subject of magic in lotr and understand that there are people who know more.

Please enlighten me.

''We are very dangerous over short distances''

-Gimli


dijomaja
Lorien

Apr 21 2013, 10:14am

Post #2 of 13 (397 views)
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actually... [In reply to] Can't Post

While there are a number of references to "magic" in 'The Hobbit', by the writing of LOTR, Tolkien wasn't very big on the term as it's generally understood. In fact, there's a scene in (book) FOTR in which Galadriel tells Sam that she doesn't understand what he means by the word.

My guess is that, as he got deeper into his created world, the tone was intentionally changed. By the early sections of LOTR he was abandoning talk of "magic" or "goblins" and scenes with talking animals in favor of a deeper mythology.

The power wielded by Gandalf, the Elves, et al. seems to have more to do with an understanding of the nature of a thing and aligning oneself with it.


elaen32
Gondor

Apr 21 2013, 10:46am

Post #3 of 13 (366 views)
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magic... [In reply to] Can't Post

 
The power wielded by Gandalf, the Elves, et al. seems to have more to do with an understanding of the nature of a thing and aligning oneself with it.


I think this is an excellent explanation, dijomaja! Would you say, by extrapolation, that the evil magic of Sauron etc, is achieved by possibly only a partial understanding of the nature of a thing and a perversion of that nature? It seems to me that the evil powers constantly misunderstand, underestimate etc then act to change or spoil in order to bring things in line with their view of the world

@flameofudun, there have been quite a few discussions of magic in a few threads in the Reading Room recently. I'm not able to put in links at present, but if you use the search facility at the bottom of this thread page, it should help

"Beneath the roof of sleeping leaves the dreams of trees unfold"


Otaku-sempai
Half-elven


Apr 21 2013, 5:00pm

Post #4 of 13 (355 views)
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The Music of the Ainur [In reply to] Can't Post

Perhaps because the Elves awoke first, they are more attuned than the other races to the Music of the Ainur, and so magic is almost an innate part of them. They wield magic as easily as they use clay, wood or stone--especially those Elves who answered the Valar's call and went West.

Dwarven magic seems to consist mostly of recited spells and carved runes, mostly to lay spells of concealment and protection ("Then they brought up their ponies, and carried away the pots of gold, and buried them secretly not far from the track by the river, putting a great many spells over them, just in case they ever had the chance to come back and recover them.* -- The Hobbit).

Men (particularly those of Numenorean descent) seem to know only what magic they can learn from Elves or from beings such as Melkor or Sauron. Beorn may be an exception to this, but Tolkien gave no real explanation for him (or other presumed skin-changers).

The Istari are Maiar, with power that can only be rivalled by the most powerful Elves in Middle-earth (and only then because of the limitations imposed on the Wizards when they were sent East).

* Was Tolkien the King of the Run-on Sentence?

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring


Brethil
Half-elven


Apr 21 2013, 5:08pm

Post #5 of 13 (372 views)
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The magic of Galadriel as a start [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi FlameofUdun!

http://newboards.theonering.net/...;;page=unread#unread

Thought I'd post a link to a recent discussion on magic use and some of its possible mechanics - see above. (In addition note that in Letters JRRT states that 'Numenoreans used 'spells' to create swords...). As Elaen said we have been discussing this idea over in the RR after a wonderful post by Demosthenes.

So although he often states that he dislikes its overuse, much of what he describes seems to relate to the Elven mandate of sub-creation. He never put together a 'system' per se, but I think he had some definite philosophical ideas behind the term. A great question! Not a simple answer, but I would say to read some more of JRRT's thoughts (Letters being an excellent source, you will see references there.)

And all excellent points by OtakuSempai above Smile

Manwe, when asked a simple "Yes" or "No" question, contemplated, and responded "the middle one."

(This post was edited by Brethil on Apr 21 2013, 5:11pm)


dijomaja
Lorien

Apr 25 2013, 10:22am

Post #6 of 13 (285 views)
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agreed [In reply to] Can't Post

elaen: That sounds right. In seeking to align themselves with the nature of a thing, the Elves are, in a sense, just trying to bring out the "best" in it. This ties in with the idea of sub-creation, noted above.

In contrast, as you point out, Morgoth, Sauron et al. are always trying to make something serve their own purposes, ignoring (or even subverting) the will of That Which Made. Somewhere Tolkien refers to the power that "cannot make, but only mock" (although he may have been thinking about critics) and I think that idea is in there as well.


Kristin Thompson
Rohan


Apr 27 2013, 1:57am

Post #7 of 13 (311 views)
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I beg to differ [In reply to] Can't Post

Your quotation from The Hobbit is not a run-on sentence. It is a single independent clause followed by four dependent clauses, all linked together properly with transitional words or phrases. It looks a bit odd to those of us used to American punctuation, which would not use the first two commas, but as British usage it's fine. (At least, I think it is, since I've never quite understood British punctuation rules, and some of Tolkien's punctuation, particularly his use of semi-colons, looks very odd to me.)

"I beg to differ, your quotation from The Hobbit is not a run-on sentence." is a run-on sentence.

Sorry, I'm just one of those grammar sticklers. Smile


Otaku-sempai
Half-elven


Apr 27 2013, 6:32pm

Post #8 of 13 (266 views)
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For the record... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
"I beg to differ, your quotation from The Hobbit is not a run-on sentence." is a run-on sentence.



I don't consider your own example to be a run-on sentence. I don't fully agree with you about the Tolkien passage I cited, but it's too nice a day to argue about it! We're good.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring


elaen32
Gondor

Apr 27 2013, 8:33pm

Post #9 of 13 (247 views)
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Punctuation.... [In reply to] Can't Post

Hmmm, not so sure that it's current British punctuation. Having been born and educated in England, I know that my English teacher in secondary (High) school would definitely have objected to the length of the quoted sentence. Like you, she would have told me that the first two commas were misplaced, and that is how I interpret it now. As for semi-colons, these were largely discouraged! Tolkien's punctuation is probably more a more old-fashioned, arcane inheritance from his own school days at the turn of the 20th century.
Like you, I can be a stickler for correct grammar and punctuation. Unfortunately, such things seem to be fairly poorly taught these days IMO. I get annoyed by simple mistakes with apostrophes, for example ( and I see a lot of examples, both on these boards and in RL). eg "The orc's attacked the Hobbit's" aaagh!!

"Beneath the roof of sleeping leaves the dreams of trees unfold"


sauget.diblosio
Tol Eressea


Apr 27 2013, 9:01pm

Post #10 of 13 (255 views)
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My only argument would be [In reply to] Can't Post

that Henry James is the king of the run-on sentence ha ha.


Yngwulff
Gondor


Apr 28 2013, 8:59am

Post #11 of 13 (239 views)
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Similarities to Norse magic [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree with what everyone else says, but the similarities to Norse "magic" were also there.
Runestones, runes, words of power, with some incantations, numbers (3, 5, 9, 13 ect) and augury.


Take this Brother May it Serve you Well
Vote for Pedro!


sauget.diblosio
Tol Eressea


Apr 28 2013, 10:54am

Post #12 of 13 (250 views)
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I've got a question [In reply to] Can't Post

that i'm sure must've come up before-- what sorts of spells would the dwarves have put on their buried treasure, and who would have "cast" them?


Kristin Thompson
Rohan


May 3 2013, 5:19pm

Post #13 of 13 (240 views)
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Long sentences [In reply to] Can't Post

I, too, have been told that it is best to avoid long sentences. I believed that until I read the work of P. G. Wodehouse, that unsurpassed master of English prose. (Tolkien read Wodehouse, by the way.) Wodehouse could weave clauses and phrases together at almost any length to great effect and with nary a grammatical flaw. Here's a speech by Jeeves from "The Aunt and the Sluggard":

"The crux of the matter would appear to be, sir, that Mr Todd is obliged by the conditions under which the money is delivered into his possession to write Miss Rockmetteller long and detailed letters relating to his movements, and the only method by which this can be accomplished, if Mr Todd adheres to his express intention of remaining in the country, is for Mr Todd to induce some second party to gather the actual experiences which Miss Rockmetteller wishes reported to her, and to convey these to him in the shape of a careful report, on which it would be possible for him, with the aid of his imagination, to base the suggested correspondence."
Having got which off the old diaphragm, Jeeves was silent.


Now I venture upon a long sentence occasionally, and I don't think the practice has been detrimental to my writing.

I wonder if Tolkien's punctuation is late-Victorian-era or simply his own rather eccentric approach. Wodehouse was only about ten years older than Tolkien, and his punctuation is much closer to what I think of as standard British-English norms.

 
 

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