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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Notes from a small library

geordie
Tol Eressea

Jul 13 2013, 8:21am

Post #1 of 19 (353 views)
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Notes from a small library Can't Post

It's a weekend, and on these occassions I like to take a wander through the vast marbled halls of the geordie library. Shafts of dim sunlight slant in through the louvres way up under the roof, and fall on the stacks - that is, shelves of books receding into the distance. All is silent save for the occassional roar of a roving thesaurus who's wandered in and gotten lost. It's a big place; I have to take in a ball of twine and pay it out as I go, so's I don't get lost.

Sometimes I'll notice an item I'd left idly on top of a pile of books on a tabIe, and pick it up and flick through it. Here's one; a copy of the journal _Encounter_, dated November 1954. There's a review here of FotR, by Tolkien's friend W.H. Auden. It's called 'A World Imaginary but Real'. Auden fell in love with LotR, and wrote very favourably about the book on several occassions. But he wasn't keen on Sam, apparently -

"Only one character, and this may be an idiosyncracy of my own, does not come off. Sam Gamgee, the faithful squire, is certainly a very estimable person and I think that we are meant to love him: but, in me, he arouses a strong desire to kick him all round the block."

There are many items to be found here in the library - I'd like to share some more, if anyone's interested.

Smile


(This post was edited by geordie on Jul 13 2013, 8:23am)


geordie
Tol Eressea

Jul 13 2013, 8:39am

Post #2 of 19 (250 views)
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Here's another one - [In reply to] Can't Post

- the Puffin ed. of The Hobbit.

http://www.tolkienbooks.net/php/details.php?reference=21250

The editors at Penguin Books changed Tolkien's spelling - 'dwarfs' not dwarves, etc. When Tolkien objected, they replied 9rather snootily I think) that they'd followed the spellings in the Oxford English Dictionary. Tolkien snarled, 'I wrote the Oxford English Dictionary.'

.


Brethil
Half-elven


Jul 13 2013, 5:35pm

Post #3 of 19 (224 views)
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I cannot say how much that quote delights me Geordie...! // [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
- the Puffin ed. of The Hobbit.
http://www.tolkienbooks.net/php/details.php?reference=21250
The editors at Penguin Books changed Tolkien's spelling - 'dwarfs' not dwarves, etc. When Tolkien objected, they replied 9rather snootily I think) that they'd followed the spellings in the Oxford English Dictionary. ***Tolkien snarled, 'I wrote the Oxford English Dictionary.' ***

.




.

Coming soon!- The first TORn Amateur Symposium, starts Sunday 21st July in the Reading Room. Closing date for essay submission Sunday 14th July, but even if you don't submit, join us for some interesting discussion on some different and personal ways of looking at Tolkien's work.







Brethil
Half-elven


Jul 13 2013, 6:01pm

Post #4 of 19 (237 views)
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Those thesauruses have a nasty bite...and about Sam - [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
It's a weekend, and on these occassions I like to take a wander through the vast marbled halls of the geordie library. Shafts of dim sunlight slant in through the louvres way up under the roof, and fall on the stacks - that is, shelves of books receding into the distance. All is silent save for the occassional roar of a roving thesaurus who's wandered in and gotten lost. It's a big place; I have to take in a ball of twine and pay it out as I go, so's I don't get lost.

Sometimes I'll notice an item I'd left idly on top of a pile of books on a tabIe, and pick it up and flick through it. Here's one; a copy of the journal _Encounter_, dated November 1954. There's a review here of FotR, by Tolkien's friend W.H. Auden. It's called 'A World Imaginary but Real'. Auden fell in love with LotR, and wrote very favourably about the book on several occassions. But he wasn't keen on Sam, apparently -

"Only one character, and this may be an idiosyncracy of my own, does not come off. Sam Gamgee, the faithful squire, is certainly a very estimable person and I think that we are meant to love him: but, in me, he arouses a strong desire to kick him all round the block."

There are many items to be found here in the library - I'd like to share some more, if anyone's interested.

Smile




I have read his many reviews of JRRT's work, and his support of it, as well as how often JRRT discusses him in Letters.

I searched all my Sam reactions deeply, and for my part simply cannot find a point of agreement there - but that is, as Mr. Auden (perhaps rightly) says, personal idiosyncrasy. Because I have heard other people who read LOTR casually mention the idea that without some sort of romantic relationship between Frodo and Sam they cannot fathom their interactions; the sweetness, the purity, the transcending nature of that friendship somehow does not touch them.

Again these are casual readers, not people who would consider themselves 'fans' of the literature. Yet Mr. Auden was definitely not casual, and he did love the literature (even at the expense of mocking by others.) I wonder about the 'why' of it; I read the review again and it seems like he does not feel that Sam fits into any 'archetype' that he can recognize. Perhaps that is the issue with the friends I mentioned above: Sam is a male character with a profoundly softer side; his language, in a heroic quest, is not. Maybe he is too much of an anti-archetype, which defies identification in some readers? As he says to Auden in Letter # 163, (which I love the detailing of his finding so many surprising and undiscovered people and places, and those Cats) "Anyway most people that have enjoyed the Lord of the Rings have been affected primarily by it as an exciting story.." - can this explain why Sam seems to be non-archetypal and not identifiable to some readers?

Coming soon!- The first TORn Amateur Symposium, starts Sunday 21st July in the Reading Room. Closing date for essay submission Sunday 14th July, but even if you don't submit, join us for some interesting discussion on some different and personal ways of looking at Tolkien's work.







geordie
Tol Eressea

Jul 13 2013, 8:13pm

Post #5 of 19 (244 views)
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I think Auden may have mistaken Sam's attitude to Frodo as servility [In reply to] Can't Post

- all that 'Yes, Mr. Frodo' stuff. But to be fair, this review is of 'Fellowship' only - TT came out in November 1954, and RotK was some way off yet. I wonder whether he revised his view of Sam's character in light of his later reading?

.


(This post was edited by geordie on Jul 13 2013, 8:14pm)


Brethil
Half-elven


Jul 13 2013, 9:48pm

Post #6 of 19 (213 views)
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That seems very likely as well Geordie [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I think Auden may have mistaken Sam's attitude to Frodo as servility-- all that 'Yes, Mr. Frodo' stuff. But to be fair, this review is of 'Fellowship' only - TT came out in November 1954, and RotK was some way off yet. I wonder whether he revised his view of Sam's character in light of his later reading?

.




I agree completely - after I posted upthread I wondered if that perhaps was a factor too.

I note in the "At the end of the Quest, Victory'" review, Auden does not mention Sam at all specifically, and JRRT makes no mention of the previous thought; in #183, expressing general happiness with the ROTK review (though I see he thought it a bit 'critic' - like than 'author'-like in its tone.) So I wonder if Auden had potentially changed his mind about Sam, considering Cirith Ungol and Mount Doom; quite an evolution for our Sam - and he does not reiterate the point about kicking Sam around the block (but nor does he retract it.). In the 1960's "The Quest Hero" he certainly uses two passages in which Sam is present, but tantalizingly does not address Sam's stature directly (I say 'tantalizingly' solely because I was looking for it, darn it!)

So I am left wondering what his final view was!

Coming soon!- The first TORn Amateur Symposium, starts Sunday 21st July in the Reading Room. Closing date for essay submission Sunday 14th July, but even if you don't submit, join us for some interesting discussion on some different and personal ways of looking at Tolkien's work.







elaen32
Gondor


Jul 13 2013, 10:33pm

Post #7 of 19 (208 views)
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Well, I'm in good company then! [In reply to] Can't Post

the first time I read LOTR, I was a little irritated by Sam and his apparent servility. I also did not like the way that Merry & Pippin sometimes spoke to him as some kind of servant- especially at the start of the quest. However, years later and many readings further on, I now really appreciate Sam and feel he is one of the best characters in the book. He is essential to it, since his the "everyman's" POV. All the other members of the Fellowship are either Royalty or from "Aristocratic" families within their own communities (except Gandalf, who goes one better by being a Maia). Sam is the normal "Hobbit in the street", who becomes a hero and later a leader of his people. It is a wonderful story.


Coming soon!- The first TORn Amateur Symposium, starts Sunday 21st July in the Reading Room. Closing date for essay submission Sunday 14th July, but even if you don't submit, join us for some interesting discussion on some different and personal ways of looking at Tolkien's work



Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Jul 14 2013, 12:07am

Post #8 of 19 (210 views)
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Tolkien well recognized and understood that some people would be annoyed by Sam [In reply to] Can't Post

As he wrote:




Quote

Sam is meant to be lovable and laughable. Some readers he irritates and even infuriates. I can well understand it. All hobbits at times affect me in the same way, though I remain very fond of them. But Sam can be very 'trying'. He is a more representative hobbit than any others that we have to see much of; and he has consequently a stronger ingredient of that quality which even some hobbits found at times hard to bear: a vulgarity — by which I do not mean a mere 'down-to-earthiness' — a mental myopia which is proud of itself, a smugness (in varying degrees) and cocksureness, and a readiness to measure and sum up all things from a limited experience, largely enshrined in sententious traditional 'wisdom'. ...Sam was cocksure, and deep down a little conceited; but his conceit had been transformed by his devotion to Frodo. He did not think of himself as heroic or even brave, or in any way admirable – except in his service and loyalty to his master. That had an ingredient (probably inevitable) of pride and possessiveness: it is difficult to exclude it from the devotion of those who perform such service. In any case it prevented him from fully understanding the master that he loved, and from following him in his gradual education to the nobility of service to the unlovable and of perception of damaged good in the corrupt.



That pretty much defines my opinion of Sam.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


Brethil
Half-elven


Jul 14 2013, 12:36am

Post #9 of 19 (201 views)
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Yes Hobbit 'vulgarity' did annoy him sometimes! [In reply to] Can't Post

Though their talk amused him ... fascinating and indicative that an author can regard his creations with such a mix of amusement and exasperation. Maybe showing that sense of 'otherness' from the tale, in that the tale lives on its own.

Great reference there! Smile

In which case JRRT must have, as you say, well understood Auden's reaction to Sam in FOTR, especially before the most heroic of Sam's actions.

Coming soon!- The first TORn Amateur Symposium, starts Sunday 21st July in the Reading Room. Closing date for essay submission Sunday 14th July, but even if you don't submit, join us for some interesting discussion on some different and personal ways of looking at Tolkien's work.







demnation
Rohan

Jul 14 2013, 3:26am

Post #10 of 19 (183 views)
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That's Golden! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
- the Puffin ed. of The Hobbit.

http://www.tolkienbooks.net/php/details.php?reference=21250

The editors at Penguin Books changed Tolkien's spelling - 'dwarfs' not dwarves, etc. When Tolkien objected, they replied 9rather snootily I think) that they'd followed the spellings in the Oxford English Dictionary. Tolkien snarled, 'I wrote the Oxford English Dictionary.'

.


Exaggerating, of course, but at least partially true!

My Sam Gamgee is indeed a reflexion of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognized as so far superior to myself- J.R.R. Tolkien


demnation
Rohan

Jul 14 2013, 3:34am

Post #11 of 19 (190 views)
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It's all very interesting [In reply to] Can't Post

While not my absolute favorite character, I think Sam represents a certain something in the story that otherwise would be missing. In fact, I think that quality is a least partially defined in the quote in my signature. (At least from Tolkien's point of view.) This quality, by the way, is as vague as the quality that Sam demands of Faramir!

My Sam Gamgee is indeed a reflexion of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognized as so far superior to myself- J.R.R. Tolkien


geordie
Tol Eressea

Jul 14 2013, 9:48am

Post #12 of 19 (177 views)
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Sam wasn't servile. [In reply to] Can't Post

- but he was Frodo's servant, employed by Mr Baggins. He wasn't Frodo's friend, not at the beginning of the book. Merry and Pippin, coming from two of the wealthiest families in the Shire, would be used to having servants of their own and would treat Sam accordingly, though in a friendly manner.

It seems to me that a lot of people have a problem with the idea of Sam being a servant. I think Tolkien himself might have been surprised at this. He was born into a time and a class where folk were used to having servants. When Tolkien said (and Humphrey Carpenter repeated in his biography) that Mabel Tolkien and her sons lived in 'poverty' after Arthur's death, what they meant was that, bluntly speaking, Mabel couldn't afford a maid. In later life, Ronald found himself surrounded by servants (figuratively speaking). He went to Oxford, and at Oxford the undergraduates had servants called scouts to fetch and carry for them; and a maid service - 'bedders' - that is, women who came in every day to make their beds and tidy their rooms. Meals would be taken in hall, with waiters to bring the food to their tables.

During the War Tolkien served as a junior officer. He and his fellow officers were looked after by 'batmen' - that is, privates whose job (when they weren't actually fighting) was to act as servants to the officers' mess.

Then when Ronald was a professor, first at Leeds then later at Oxford, he and Edith employed a string of maids to look after their house; and in his final years after Edith's death Ronald Tolkien was looked after in his Merton College flat by one of Merton's scouts; Charlie Carr and his wife, who lived in the basement flat.

Even Gollum was counted by Frodo as being taken into his service. And as Tolkien said, the servant has a claim on the master for service. Frodo had a responsibility for Gollum's well-being while he was in Frodo's service, and at least once he risked his life for him. When Frodo told Faramir's men to shoot himself if he did wrong by them, he meant it.

Merry became a servant to the King of Rohan, and Pippin served the Steward of Gondor, waiting at their tables and being generally at their masters' call. At the field of Cormallen, Frodo and Samwise were (rightly) praised with great praise, while Merry and Pippin waited on table at the great feast, as suited their positions of soldiers of Gondor and of the Mark.

Being in service does not imply either servility nor servitude. Sam was Frodo's paid servant, and over their journey they became friends.

.


elaen32
Gondor


Jul 14 2013, 12:33pm

Post #13 of 19 (167 views)
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I agree... [In reply to] Can't Post

that's why I said "apparent" servility. Knowing the book and the character better now, I realise that Sam is not servile and, in fact, takes a pride in his care of "Mr Frodo", which he undertakes often to the the exclusion of all else. I think the "class divide" seen among the Hobbits can be uncomfortable to modern day readers, just as it was natural to Tolkien. As we know, although the book was published after WW2, much of the conception was before this time. The war changed everything in terms of social class, servants etc, accelerating changes which had begun after WW1.
I have to smile at ideas of "relative poverty" as in the case of Mabel Tolkien. It reminds me of the many examples elsewhere in literature eg Sense & Sensibility and a number of Dickens' novels, whereby a family are still considered as being "poor" despite having a live in servant and a reasonable sized house. Many "humble farmhouses" of the past are now considered very desirable properties indeed!


Coming soon!- The first TORn Amateur Symposium, starts Sunday 21st July in the Reading Room. Closing date for essay submission Sunday 14th July, but even if you don't submit, join us for some interesting discussion on some different and personal ways of looking at Tolkien's work



Brethil
Half-elven


Jul 14 2013, 3:13pm

Post #14 of 19 (157 views)
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Agreed Demnation - [In reply to] Can't Post

and I thought of your footer right away when we began discussing this! SmileCool

Coming soon!- The first TORn Amateur Symposium, starts Sunday 21st July in the Reading Room. Closing date for essay submission Sunday 14th July, but even if you don't submit, join us for some interesting discussion on some different and personal ways of looking at Tolkien's work.







Brethil
Half-elven


Jul 14 2013, 3:22pm

Post #15 of 19 (157 views)
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A different time and culture to today [In reply to] Can't Post

I see your points Geordie, and indeed that may be why modern readers have a bit of trouble with the dynamic.

For myself I must say I never did - I simply accepted the almost feudal relationship because to me the Shire was adequately described with such an old-world flavor that I felt it followed suit. I suppose I can count myself as reader very much 'imported' to the historical time in ME as JRRT described it.

I must say I never felt Sam servile: I always perceived him with a bit of irony, because as a salt-of-the-earth Hobbit, he might tug his forelock a bit but in the end was going to do what he deemed "wise" above the thoughts of anyone else, especially when it came to his Mr. Frodo. That section from Letters that Voronwe put up is a perfect example - where JRRT speaks of his possessiveness of Frodo, inspired by duty, that could probably become a bit 'fussy' and annoying I suppose!

Coming soon!- The first TORn Amateur Symposium, starts Sunday 21st July in the Reading Room. Closing date for essay submission Sunday 14th July, but even if you don't submit, join us for some interesting discussion on some different and personal ways of looking at Tolkien's work.







Brethil
Half-elven


Jul 14 2013, 3:24pm

Post #16 of 19 (161 views)
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True Elaen! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
that's why I said "apparent" servility. Knowing the book and the character better now, I realise that Sam is not servile and, in fact, takes a pride in his care of "Mr Frodo", which he undertakes often to the the exclusion of all else. I think the "class divide" seen among the Hobbits can be uncomfortable to modern day readers, just as it was natural to Tolkien. As we know, although the book was published after WW2, much of the conception was before this time. The war changed everything in terms of social class, servants etc, accelerating changes which had begun after WW1.
I have to smile at ideas of "relative poverty" as in the case of Mabel Tolkien. It reminds me of the many examples elsewhere in literature eg Sense & Sensibility and a number of Dickens' novels, whereby a family are still considered as being "poor" despite having a live in servant and a reasonable sized house. Many "humble farmhouses" of the past are now considered very desirable properties indeed!




Things have changed! And I would guess being of American culture also may put a bit of a roadblock in the way for some as well.

Coming soon!- The first TORn Amateur Symposium, starts Sunday 21st July in the Reading Room. Closing date for essay submission Sunday 14th July, but even if you don't submit, join us for some interesting discussion on some different and personal ways of looking at Tolkien's work.







geordie
Tol Eressea

Jul 14 2013, 5:07pm

Post #17 of 19 (161 views)
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Tolkien recognized that Sam was a more complex character than that, I think - [In reply to] Can't Post

- I'm thinking of a letter from Tolkien to a Mrs Joan Falconer, quoted by Mrs Falconer in an issue of Mythprint in 1973:


JOAN.O.FALCONER [address- NY state] May 19, 1973

Kathryn Lindskoog’s letter of Lewisiana in the April Mythprint inspires me to transmit a bit of Tolkieniana that I’ve been treasuring for several years. Late in 1964 I wrote the Professor a fan letter in which I remarked among other things, that I had been surprised to learn from the Appendices that Sam was younger than Frodo; throughout the Trilogy Sam had seemed to me the elder. Since this was still a few months before the "Battle of the Paperbacks" which was to demand so much of his energy, Professor Tolkien was kind enough to reply to me in his own type-written hand! and here is what he had to say about Sam:

"I would say that the impression of greater age in Sam as compared with Frodo that you feel is due to the representation in these two persons of two quite different characters, each with a quite different background and education. Sam in part of his more complex character retains the sententiousness, and indeed cocksureness, of the rustic of limited outlook and knowledge. He was the youngest son of a stupid and conceited old peasant. Together with his loyal master-servant attitude, and his personal love for Frodo, he retains a touch of the contempt of his kind [moderated with tolerant pity] for motives above their reach. From this in some degree comes his slightly paternal, not to say patronising attitude to his master; but of course it is mainly derived from the fact that after the encounter by Weathertop Frodo was a sufferer, a person injured and in pain, and also after Rivendell grievously burdened. Sam’s protective and almost elderly manner was largely forced upon him by circumstance..."

======================================================================================================

There's quite a bit to take in here - though it may seem that Tolkien is being harsh on Sam, he is actually saying that while Sam retains some of his native characteristics, his attitude changes according to circumstances,

In other words, he grows as his experience increases - just as do the other hobbits. Smile


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Jul 15 2013, 3:29am

Post #18 of 19 (137 views)
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I don't think those two letters are inconsistent [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, Sam was certainly a complex character. As Tolkien wrote to Christopher while he was still writing the book (in 1944), "Cert. Sam is the most closely drawn character, the successor to Bilbo of the first book, the genuine hobbit. Frodo is not so interesting, because he has to be highminded, and has (as it were) a vocation." And, to the real life Sam Gamgee, "the 'Sam Gamgee' of my story is a most heroic character, now widely beloved by many readers, even though his origins are rustic."

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


CuriousG
Valinor


Jul 15 2013, 12:31pm

Post #19 of 19 (145 views)
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Changing perceptions [In reply to] Can't Post

On first read, I didn't like Sam very much. He seemed dim-witted, suspicious, and prejudiced. I admired his loyalty to Frodo, but only grudgingly gave him points when he did something right. Of course he grew on me over time and became a favorite character, but that wasn't my first impression.

 
 

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