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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Pathetic fallacy!

Grey Havens

Apr 27 2013, 11:45am

Views: 301
Pathetic fallacy! Can't Post

I had to look up what "pathetic fallacy" was when I came across a too-short discussion of it in an earlier read-through of "A Shortcut to Mushrooms". So here's an example of pathetic fallacy in a made- up non fantasy story:

A story set in 1950s Chicago. Our heroine is about to post a letter in which she's regretfully going to dump her boyfriend over some complicated misunderstanding. The storyteller has the gusty wind pluck at the letter, as if it wanted to rip it out of her hand before it could be posted. Obviously, the real-life wind can't "want" anything, so this is a device to heighten our unease as an audience about what she's doing. Or it suggests that at some levels she doesn't want to post the letter. And so on.

Fantasy writers have the problem (or opportunity) that what would have to be pathetic fallacy in 1950s Chicago could be for real in Middle-earth. I read it as very clear that the terrain and weather in The Old Forest are part of Old Man Williow's trap for the hobbits.

Conversely, the old Reading Romthread which started me off (
http://users.bestweb.net/~jfgm/Mushrooms%20Website/03A%20Discussion%20-%20Brigand%20RR%20Higher%20Powers.htm ) is about whether things that look like pathetic fallacy in A Shortcut to Mushrooms can be taken more literally. Maybe, the argument runs, the hobbits in A Shortcut... Are being helped out by a benign landscape (a power that the Shire has, maybe, or Higher Powers subtly helping out the quest). I hadn't tried viewing the story that way before. What do you all think?

Possibly this will go the way of my post about magical realism in Tolkien ( http://newboards.theonering.net/forum/gforum/perl/gforum.cgi?post=596988#596988 ) But these things can be fun even without any conclusions being reachable.

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

"nowimė I am in the West, and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "

Subject User Time
Pathetic fallacy! noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Apr 27 2013, 11:45am
    Wow, interesting idea! arithmancer Send a private message to arithmancer Apr 27 2013, 2:48pm
    beer: the work of a higher power? telain Send a private message to telain May 1 2013, 1:37am
    Hard to know, isn't it? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme May 1 2013, 6:45am
    Magic as a state of mind? FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome May 2 2013, 3:24pm
        I quite agree telain Send a private message to telain May 2 2013, 3:44pm
            Thank you both! noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme May 2 2013, 3:55pm


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