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Brian Tither and Tolkien's Legacy


Aug 5 2013, 11:07am

Views: 777
Brian Tither and Tolkien's Legacy Can't Post

Forgive the length of this one. But Mr. Tither's disquisition deserves a thorough response.

http://www.theonering.net/...ate-want-to-protect/ This somewhat rant brings up an interesting point, despite many infelicities of expression... Despite run on sentences, confusing pronoun usage, self-contradictory assertions, and general awkwardness of someone who apparently needs a good course in English composition or an editor -- despite all that, he makes a (and this is important) new point about relating the Tolkien books to their linguistic and literary sources. First some of the problems this essay presents in just deciphering its contorted English. One example sentence of many possible will suffice: >>>And from there the story developed as an oral tradition between them until Tolkien decided to write it down in a manuscript and this was published as The Hobbit some years later after he happened to show it to someone who recommended that he got it published.<<< When referring to more than 2 people one does not use "between" but "among"... and he is referring in the word "them" to Tolkien and his several children. The expression "to write it down in a manuscript" is redundant. When one writes something down it necessarily results in a manuscript and you cannot have a manuscript without having written it! "that he GET it published" was obviously meant here. But we'll attribute that to lack of proofreading rather than ignorance of English idiom and tense structure. This post is littered with similar confustications which make one skeptical of the author's authority in all this. But let's get to the heart of the matter. In essence this rambling complaint boils down to Mr. Tither thinking the academic side of Tolkien's interests that lie behind his literary output have not been given enough respect and attention by the NZ film makers and tourist industry. Aside from the fact that most tourists and movie goers would be less than interested in the minutiae of Old Norse, Old English, etc. let us take one of his key sentences and see what it tells us. I hate to inflict these two sentences which should be broken up into about half a dozen less run on versions of themselves... But here goes: >>>This included taking care of matters regarding his selling off the film rights to the books to Saul Zaentz, which Tolkien did to cover the high inheritance taxes that the books accrued upon his death, all which grew out of his experiences with being swamped by the royalty taxes that he had to pay due to the sale of the books from the popularity that he did not anticipate for them. And this included the estate ensuring that Saul Zaentz and its subsidiaries did not step out of parameters that were set by Tolkien to protect the literary legacy of his works, which by implication stretched into his academic speciality to the original texts where he got his ideas from that have no copyright on them.<<< First, both sentences begin with an indefinite pronoun reference "this". "This" what? The first should read: This appointment... The second "this" is simply too vague to delineate: this taxes, this royalties, this problem, this appointment (again)??? But the real problem the writer has in making his point is clear with this phrase: "to protect the literary legacy...which by implication stretched into [?!] his academic speciality to the original texts... that have no copyright on them". (By the way cleaner, better English worthy of Tolkien would read "the original texts from which he got his ideas" - although to say a sub-creative writer "got his ideas" from somewhere else is a bit of put down, albeit surely unintentional.) The logic here breaks down completely. If there is no copyright, then there is no basis for a lawsuit, is there?! And these texts (like Beowulf, the Icelandic Eddas, or the Norse sagas) are not themselves Tolkien's legacy... These texts, we all know, without by the way Mr. Tither reminding us, were inspirations for Tolkien. But unless he published or even wrote unpublished scholarly work (such as critical editions) about these texts, they are not his legacy per se. In any case, an academic field of study is not someone's private legacy. (Or to use Tolkien's metaphor, the soup of story is no single man's private pot!) Tolkien was not trying so much to encourage academic study with his tales, but to make the kind of thing these texts express into something approachable by the modern average reader, not the specialist scholar. He was trying to inculcate some of the ethical values they express, not the texts themselves. That field (the relationship of Tolkien to his literary predecessors) is a special area of Tolkien studies. If the NZ filmmakers or tourist industry chooses not to emphasize those texts and that field of study to the general public, they have every right to do so. Their doing so does not infringe on the rights of those studying those fields. They might not like being ignored, but does Mr. Tither really think the fine points of etymology or of the syntax of Old Norse or Old English are going to enthuse film goers and tourists?! If the academics and their fields want attention, then let them promote themselves. That is not the job of tourist agents or filmmakers. And that Mr. Tither is doing just that is the primary value of his post. But we get to the real nub of the question when we talk about money. The only point to be made is why begrudge the film makers and the tourist agents their profits while not begrudging Tolkien and the Estate theirs?! 'Nuf said. What really lies behind Mr. Tither's gripes is none of this. What he should be bringing up is the issue of whether theme parks, video games, casinos, etc are cheapening the themes and issues Tolkien raises in his masterly prose (and poetical) works. Unfortunately Disney has set a very bad precedent. But who is to say that the Matamata Hobbiton is in any way cheap, kitschy or "plastic" and in any way demeans the Tolkien legacy? I say it enhances it. A tasteful theme park (or set of Middle-earth environments) might be a wonderful tangible (to use Mr. Tither's inverted choice of words correctly) experience that would lead many to further explorations into Tolkien's literary and scholarly legacy. Many an academic first became enthused about his subject by some pop culture phenomenon encountered in his youth. Just because Disney & Co have decided to create a county fair atmosphere with an amusement park rides style of promoting their works, so loosely based on Grimm, in no way need become the paradigm for a Middle-earth "living history" style park (a la Williamsburg, Va, or let's say the cycloramas at Waterloo, Gettsyburg, or Borodino where great efforts are made to ensure historical accuracy -- in this case a Tolkien Park that would ensure literary authenticity. Another example would be the whole trend in re-enacting -- Napoleonic, American Civil War, or World War -- whose participants go to great lengths to achieve historicity and perform a huge educational service.) So let's be positive: if Mr. Tither feels Oxford or academic NZ is being slighted or demeaned, then let them set up their own tours and exhibitions. There are certainly enough Tolkien focused conferences beginning to spring up world wide. Why not a Beowulf or Sigurd/Siegfried theme park per se? Wagner did it at Bayreuth with a theater specially designed, although of late the sensationalist cheapening of his legacy there has become far more offensive and counter to his intentions than anything yet seen in the pop Tolkien world. But let us learn from that mistaken trend, and not assume it will be forever dominant nor need extend to Tolkien. What is the real solution to all of these issues? That the Tolkien Estate is quite right in hindering crass misuse of Tolkien's works (in say casinos)... Whether the images New Line & Warners have created are in fact being thus demeaned is for them to fight against. But just as I have always maintained, if the Tolkien Estate had participated in the creation of the films rather than in prematurely been hostile to them, they might have enhanced the films and increased their literary and scholarly depth. Once they kicked the films out of their door, they lost the right, morally, to complain. Literary writers often have had a hand in the adaptations of their works on film. So too here, let the Tolkien Estate and the academic faculties participate in molding the theme parks. Let them use modern techniques of communication and multi-media presentation of the works that form the background for Tolkien that we see in up to date museums and historical parks. The issue is between high standards of excellence and tawdry distortions and devaluations, not between printed books versus all other forms of media. Let the theme parks live up to the brilliant verisimilitude of Tolkien. To that end, let the Estate and the academics join in rather than griping from the outside. Haven't they learned anything from the recent but now increasingly passť condescension of academia and literary critics to Tolkien's works?! Thus Mr. Tither's Conclusion (in addition to its grammatical infelicities) makes an interesting reference to a possible (or even probable) paradigm for Tolkien's 4 hobbits and their antecedents, but I fail to see how they are necessarily threatened by future efforts of the film makers or tourist industry to illustrate or embody Tolkien's Middle-earth. Timdalf

Timothy Fisher alias "Timdalf"

Subject User Time
Brian Tither and Tolkien's Legacy Timdalf Send a private message to Timdalf Aug 5 2013, 11:07am
    I'm a big fan of paragraphs. // NottaSackville Send a private message to NottaSackville Aug 5 2013, 12:39pm
        I can't see the trees though the woods.\\ silneldor Send a private message to silneldor Aug 5 2013, 1:50pm
        Me too,... Timdalf Send a private message to Timdalf Aug 5 2013, 4:50pm
            for what it's worth... Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Aug 5 2013, 5:07pm
                Thanks, Mp... Timdalf Send a private message to Timdalf Aug 5 2013, 6:04pm
                    lol Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Aug 5 2013, 6:25pm
                    Another option is Notepad CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Aug 5 2013, 7:01pm
            Good to know :) // NottaSackville Send a private message to NottaSackville Aug 5 2013, 5:51pm
    hi : ) Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Aug 5 2013, 2:16pm
    Can't find an edit button now, so... Timdalf Send a private message to Timdalf Aug 5 2013, 4:53pm
        Ahh, this version is much easier to read, thanks. // NottaSackville Send a private message to NottaSackville Aug 5 2013, 5:16pm
        Thank you for the repost// sevilodorf Send a private message to sevilodorf Aug 5 2013, 5:59pm
            This kind of Middle-earth Faire already is popular Timdalf Send a private message to Timdalf Aug 5 2013, 6:16pm
        I'm a bit lost here squire Send a private message to squire Aug 5 2013, 10:45pm


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