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Letter #131: In the Beginning
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noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Sep 20 2013, 5:59pm

Post #26 of 58 (260 views)
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Or, as satirised by comedians Flanders and Swan? [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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You know, it's a curious thing, I don't know if you've ever thought of this, but England hasn't really got a national song, you know, just for England; there's plenty for Great Britain. That's quite different. You have to be very careful how you use these terms, too. The rule is: if we've done anything good, it's "another triumph for Great Britain" and if we haven't, it's "England loses again". Have you noticed that?
All the others, they've got songs about their countries, you know, the Scots, like "Scotland for aye" (or for "me" as it should more properly be). And the Welsh and the Irish have got songs saying how marvelous they are and making rude remarks about the English in their own languages. In the case of the Welsh I think this is the pot calling the saucepan "bach".
What English national song have we got? "Jerusalem" . . .
"There'll always be an England". Well, that's not saying much, is it? I mean, there'll always be a North Pole, if some dangerous clown doesn't go and melt it.

I think that the reason for this is that in the old days - you know, the good old days when I was a boy - people didn't, we didn't bother in England about nationalism. I mean, nationalism was on its way out. We'd got pretty well everything we wanted and we didn't go around saying how marvelous we were - everybody knew that - any more than we bothered to put our names on our stamps. I mean, there's only two kinds of stamps: English stamps in sets at the beginning of the album, and foreign stamps all mixed at the other end. Any gibbon could tell you that.

But nowadays nationalism is on the up and up and everybody has a national song but us. The Americans have national songs, like "My country 'tis of thee", which they sing to the tune of "God save the Queen", I may say, and which together with their long range forecasting of our weather I find hard to forgive. Yes, and the Germans - and whatever you say about the Germans (and who doesn't) - what a marvelous song that was: "German, German overalls". Now there's a song.

Well, the moment has come, and none too soon; we have a song here which, I think, fills this long-felt want and I hope that all true-born English men and women in our audience will join in the last chorus. And if you don't have the good fortune to be English true-born, or a man, or a woman, I hope you'll join in as an ordinary mark of simple decent respect. This song starts with, I think, a very typical English understatement.

[sings]:

The English, the English, the English are best
I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest...

http://www.nyanko.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/...anotherhat_song.html

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, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 20 2013, 6:10pm

Post #27 of 58 (256 views)
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In support of your Romantic influence [In reply to] Can't Post

I hunted down this bit again (I have used it in other discussions I think) in Letter # 310: ( as part of a response to Camilla Unwin in response to a school question: "what is the purpose of life?")

"Those who believe in a personal God, Creator, do not think the Universe is in itself worshipful, though devoted study of it may be one of the ways of honoring Him. And while as living creatures we are (in part) within it and part of it, our ideas of God and expressing them will be largely derived from contemplating the world around us."

The ideals of expressions of faith being very much a part of what is around us...(in modern parlance, perhaps the same can be said of evil: What do we covet? What we see every day.) And this rather unites that ideal with Bombadil, and his song filled study of the world around him.

Really you struck upon quite a rich vein of comparison there Terazed! CoolSmile

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 20 2013, 6:19pm

Post #28 of 58 (253 views)
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Hmmm - Britain vs England [In reply to] Can't Post

I am supposing the 'England' JRRT refers to is pre-empire, concerned with the Island and those people alone? I think the wave of nationalism comes and goes as a reaction to the prior as other things. Compare Olivier's 1944 Henry V with Branagh's...
As for the Pole, I am picturing clowns in hazmat suits, with flamethrowers. (Sounds like some sort of deeply meaningful post-modern painting, doesn't it?) LaughLaugh Makes the line, 'I didn't vote for that clown!" a bit more heavy with meaning. Crazy

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








CuriousG
Valinor


Sep 20 2013, 7:59pm

Post #29 of 58 (238 views)
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When machines fall on mortals [In reply to] Can't Post

I certainly see falls related to machines, and would include the Moria Dwarves being too greedy for mithril, and the Jewel-Smiths of the Elves being too greedy for knowledge to make finger-machines.

But I'm not so sure about mortality recurring along the way, or it's a stretch. It's clear with Numenor. With the Noldor, I don't think it was about mortality, and Feanor's possessiveness for the Silmarils seemed only tangential to any foresight that they would preserve the imortaility of the Trees--he was just selfish and greedy, and the Noldor in Beleriand wanted power and were willing to accept "mortality"/trip to Mandos as part of the bargain, but not central to it.

Melkor had his issues with seeking the imperishable flame, but he was already immortal, the Elves he tried to corrupt were immortal, and he generally seemed more concerned with making sure he had power and others didn't than mortality. So I'm not sure why Tolkien made that claim about this trinity, unless he was just referring to Numenor.

When I think of LOTR, I don't see a "fall" overall. Here and there, yes, but in the central characters of the Fellowship, no, except Boromir. Frodo's fall came at cracks of Doom, and arguably it was a victory that he made it that far.

In The Hobbit, Bilbo didn't seem to fall at all. Maybe Thorin did in being too greedy? But he was that way already, and it's a general Dwarvish trait that I don't think was particularly exaggerated in him.

Maybe Fall, Mortality, and Machine was meant to apply to the 1st and 2nd Ages? That's where it seems to fit best.


Darkstone
Immortal


Sep 20 2013, 8:44pm

Post #30 of 58 (241 views)
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England or English? Or Europe? [In reply to] Can't Post

There are National Epics (like for England) and Language Epics (like for English).

Interestingly LOTR has been mentioned as being both. (Yes, there are such things as prose epics.)

Hamfast Gamgee was the OP of the thread below titled "Theme of the Silmarillion", and noted "Now that the Silmarillion discussion is over, I think that I have spotted a theme running through the novel which I have thought of before. That theme is mistakes."

Note that in The Guns of August Barbara Tuchman devotes substantial time to cataloguing the mistakes made by all the European nations before and during WWI.

Later, in A Distant Mirror, she states succinctly: “To admit error and cut losses is rare among individuals, unknown among states.”

So instead of making a National Epic for England, with the Sil Tolkien may have created a Pan-National Epic for Europe.

******************************************
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Sometime hours and hours hence:
In The Green Dragon two ales could buy
And drank the one less filling I
And that has made all the difference.
- The Ale Less Filling, by Robert Frostymug


Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 20 2013, 10:28pm

Post #31 of 58 (221 views)
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Guilty TV and other Falls [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To



"When machines fall on mortals" Is that what the Valar watch in place of '1,000 Ways to Die' as their guilty TV pleasure? (Quick Ulmo, draw those curtains closed, its starting...push over Manwe...I don't care, you can't sit right in the center there's too many of us...)

I would put forth the idea that the major Fall of the Third Age is tied to its machine: the Ring itself. It was, as he says, 'the closest the Elves cam to magic and the Machine," and I think represents a failing of their faith in the plans of Eru (coupled maybe with the anxiety and fear of change, and maybe a smidgen of grief thrown in based on the unknown fate of Men.) And although the Elves are Immortal, its a bit like a mortal fear that they seek to arrest the change in ME and prevent its aging, prevent their fated fade and the loss of the Arda they love.

And I suppose Men have fallen too....from the days of Elendil, to the tattered Rangers living on the fringe.

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 20 2013, 10:49pm

Post #32 of 58 (235 views)
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More points about Europe [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

So instead of making a National Epic for England, with the Sil Tolkien may have created a Pan-National Epic for Europe.




In discussing Squire's piece for the Symposium, we discussed how the 'disheveled dryad' fit into the larger picture, and of she presented an anachronistic issue. At one point JRRT refers to the realm of Gondor and its placement in the southern part of a European cultural map. The Letter is #294 (1968), and this section refutes a claim by an interviewer that Middle-earth... corresponds spiritually to Nordic Europe:

His internal map seems to read: "The action of the story takes place in the North-west of "Middle-earth', equivalent in latitude to the coastlands of Europe and the north shores of the Mediterranean. But this is not a purely 'Nordic' area in any sense. If Hobbiton and Rivendell are taken (as intended) to be at the latitude of Oxford, then Minas Tirith, 600 miles south, is at about the latitude of Florence. The Mouths of Anduin and the ancient city of Pelargir are at about the latitude of ancient Troy...The progress of the tale ends in what is far more like the re-establishment of an effective Holy Roman Empire with its seat in Rome than anything..."

So a larger scope than England perhaps? Yet with a chunk of the tale's heart, Hobbiton and the House of Elrond, being near Oxford on the mind-map; and Beleriand, the home of Beren and Luthien, interred Atlantean-style, to the west.

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








(This post was edited by Brethil on Sep 20 2013, 10:51pm)


Terazed
Bree

Sep 21 2013, 1:46am

Post #33 of 58 (216 views)
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I think you found something important in letter 310, Philosophy and faith [In reply to] Can't Post

 Well I just spent the greater part of 3 hours typing out a response only to forget to save it to the clipboard and find out I was logged out and loose it all. My response is going to bit more curtailed then I would have liked as I do not have the heart to try to type it all out again.

Letter 310 looks to me like Tolkien is showing a knowledge of Transcendental Idealism as set down by Kant and Schopenhauer at least and is reconciling it with his Christian faith. Let me type the highlights back out.


Quote
I think that questions about 'purpose' are only really useful when they refer to the conscious
purposes or objects of human beings, or to the uses of things they design and make. As for 'other
things' their value resides in themselves: they ARE, they would exist even if we did not. But since
we do exist one of their functions is to be contemplated by us.


The thing in itself is Kant's term for the noumenal and Tolkien is using it here. When he talks of "conscious purposes or objects of human beings" he is talking about the phenomenal world. The human mind is limited in what it is able to think to representations of true thing in itself. The mind takes raw data in the form of sensory inputs such as sight and touch and turn them into intuitions which are in turn processed into conscious conceptions. Think about being outside on a dark night and initially misperceiving a tree as a person and you will get the idea. Everything we think has to be processed through the mind into representations of the real world. The thing in itself or the noumenon exists outside of the thinker's perceptions. They exist outside of time and space since time and space is the basic framework that allows thought to be possible at all. Think of noumenon as the soul and phenomenon as the body. That our representation of the world cooresponds to the world itself is a due to how the mind is designed. An atheist would say it was do to evolution, a religious person would say it is do to divine intervention.


Quote
If we go up the scale of being to
'other living things', such as, say, some small plant, it presents shape and organization: a 'pattern'
recognizable (with variation) in its kin and offspring; and that is deeply interesting, because these
things are 'other' and we did not make them, and they seem to proceed from a fountain of invention
incalculably richer than our own.


I wonder if the reference to "scale of being" has something to do with Schopenhauer. In "World as Will and Representation" he has a section where he describes the consciousness of a rock vs a plant vs an animal vs a human being. He also has a wonderful passage about the consciousness of a species as a rainbow next to a waterfall. The individuals are the ephemeral mist and the species the rainbow created by it. Schopenhauer thought that since objects in themselves are outside of time and space they are in reality a singularity. There really is only one thing in itself. He called it Will, the Buddhists call it Brahman, and a Christian would interpret it as God. The remainder of the paragraph goes along with Kant's pure and practical reason. For Kant practical reason allowed for a personal God in philosophy.


Quote
So morals should be a guide to our human purposes, the conduct of our lives: (a) the ways in
which our individual talents can be developed without waste or misuse; and (b) without injuring our
kindred or interfering with their development. (Beyond this and higher lies self-sacrifice for love.)

Parts (a) and (b) seem compatible with Kant's theory of the Kingdom of ends. I elaborated on this more before but the brief idea is that people should conceive of morals as universal laws in which everyone should be concidered an end and not a means to an end. The final section on self sacrifice for love is of course Christian. Schopenhauer felt that even without a personal God the only true moral value is compassionate love for others. He felt that an understand that every one and everything was in the end a single thing in itself would lead to compassion and that loosing oneself in aesthetic compassionate love for others was the highest ideal.


Quote
If you do not believe in a personal God the question: 'What is the purpose of life?' is unaskable
and unanswerable. To whom or what would you address the question? But since in an odd corner
(or odd corners) of the Universe things have developed with minds that ask questions and try to
answer them, you might address one of these peculiar things. As one of them I should venture to
say (speaking with absurd arrogance on behalf of the Universe): 'I am as I am. There is nothing you
can do about it. You may go on trying to find out what I am, but you will never succeed. And why
you want to know, I do not know. Perhaps the desire to know for the mere sake of knowledge is
related to the prayers that some of you address to what you call God. At their highest these seem
simply to praise Him for being, as He is, and for making what He has made, as He has made it.'


Here I think he arguing against of the limitations of a philosophic contemplation of an impersonal God.


Quote
Those who believe in a personal God, Creator, do not think the Universe is in itself worshipful,
though devoted study of it may be one of the ways of honouring Him. And while as living creatures
we are (in part) within it and part of it, our ideas of God and ways of expressing them will be
largely derived from contemplating the world about us. (Though there is also revelation both
addressed to all men and to particular persons.)So it may be said that the chief purpose of life, for any one of us, is to increase according to our
capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and
thanks


Here he is justifying his Christian faith. In saying "according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have" he might again be acknowledging the limits of knowledge.

On to Bombadil. He reminds me very much of the aesthetic contemplation of the world that Schopenhauer recommends. His speech is unique and what always strikes me is that it is an emotion rather then individual words and that emotion is joy. Sometimes I wonder if he is supposed to represent someone before the fall such as Adam and Eve or someone who has achieved a state of being as close to before the fall as it is possible to achieve. In my defense of that argument I would say again that Bombidil's language is emotion and as I discussed in my last post subconscious emotions are as close as we can get to noumenon (or God in a Christian context) given the our limitations of thought. Also this strikes me as the ideal that the elves are seeking. I should also mention that the romantics thought that the fall was the developement of human conciousness that came from the separation from nature and how they felt getting back to nature would bring us closer to the state before the fall.

So in the end I would say yes, Tolkien could be expressing that faith is a feeling of noumenon/God based on aesthetic contemplation of the world around us rather then a limited scientific study of phenomenon and that letter 310 explores that concept.

I might be rambling in the rewrite. I have been at the keyboard too long and haven't proofread it like the first time around.


(This post was edited by Terazed on Sep 21 2013, 1:48am)


squire
Valinor


Sep 21 2013, 2:00am

Post #34 of 58 (206 views)
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Beren is fundamentally different from Aragorn, in this context [In reply to] Can't Post

One thing I see happening here, is that we are conflating the Lord of the Rings with the Silmarillion in discussing Tolkien's famous abandoned aspiration to write the so-called 'Mythology for England'. He himself tried to pull the two legends together after he'd written the second story, and of course that's what's happening in this letter.

But I think the comments we're getting about England vs. Europe elsewhere in this discussion are telling. The arguments for a "European" mythology hang on the geography and scope of LotR, while the arguments for "England" either restrict themselves to the Shire regions of LotR, or more properly refer back to the "Beleriand" and (in another sense) the "Tol Eressea" of the original Lost Tales that later became the Silmarillion. Tolkien was writing a different kind of legend by the time he got to his "New Hobbit" in the late 1930s, and it was only during revisions in the late 1940s that he realized how he could attach it to the Elder Days of the Sil and make it all one vast legendarium. It was in the flush of that breakthrough that he wrote this letter, trying to convince this publisher to put out both books at once as if they could not be issued separately.

But of course they could, and they were; the Elder Days have less to do with the Third Age than Tolkien asserts here. In the end, they are no more than deep Elvish and Mannish background, a kind of thematic or harmonic accompaniment to the later masterpiece. Beren comes from that world, and may or may not satisfy one as standing for a legendary true English hero. I don't think he does; if anything he is true to his dark Finnish roots. But Aragorn -- Aragorn is European, northwest European to be sure, in the best sense of the term. And the Lord of the Rings is, I believe, a mythology for 20th century Europe and has (without Tolkien intending it, but simply because he was a man of Europe and of his time) assumed that role in the decades since its publication in all kinds of interesting cross-cultural ways.



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


Bombadil21
Bree


Sep 21 2013, 4:55am

Post #35 of 58 (216 views)
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This letter....the bane of Tolkien Studies [In reply to] Can't Post

I exaggerate somewhat in my title, but this letter has been quoted over and over in various monographs and essays, more often than not without a critical eye.

I would never deny that having some notion of the author's own beliefs and intentions is very important in criticism, although paratexts like Tolkien's letters should be handled with a great deal of skepticism.

Repeatedly, Tolkien's seeks to steer his readers' response to his fiction through his letters, and there is a danger that in becoming over reliant on them we are limiting our own perspectives. We may seek to understand Tolkien's impulses and motives, although these undoubtedly changed over the course of his life.

I think it was a mistake to attach this letter to the second edition of the Silmarillion, because it has become a kind of manifesto of intent, where it should be seen for what it is: a personal correspondence containing Tolkien's philosophical ruminations as to the themes of the Silmarillion. As readers we may see or understand more by simply reading the book itself and responding.

Although and author's thoughts are invaluable for criticism, they should be treated skeptically.


Terazed
Bree

Sep 21 2013, 5:14am

Post #36 of 58 (211 views)
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There is nationalism and then there is nationalism [In reply to] Can't Post

There is a reason England never went overboard on the nationalism bit. It dates back to 1848. In that year the progressive leftist and the centrists banded together in pro democracy revolutions all across Europe except England, Spain, and Russia. Their common cause was they wanted modern nations with a constitution, popularly elected parliaments, and trial by a jury of peers. England already had most of these things so there was no real push for it there.

In the rest of Europe there was a push among liberals for a concept of civic nationalism. The concept was that if they created a nation with good laws the people would forget their old cultural identity and band together to create a new national identity. This wasn't too hard a concept in someplace like France where they had already been hearing these ideas since the French Revolution and also their national boundaries had been set for centuries.

It turned out to be a disaster in Central Europe. There national boundaries were always shifting. The only constant for the people there was their cultural identity. When the idealists tried out their concepts of civic nationalism everything fell apart. For example when the Hungarians wrested their independence from the rule of the Habsburgs in Austria they claimed Transylvania as part of their new country. They claimed that their laws guarantying equality etc were good enough that the Romanians living in Transylvania would want to learn their language and would be proud to join them. At the same time those same Transylvanians were being being claimed by their southern brethren manning the border garrisons with the Ottoman Empire who were trying to form their own country. Of course the Habsburg court was also claiming them at the same time. Things got even crazier. Serfdom had not been abolished yet in many of these areas so you had areas where say the Polish speakers were the serfs and the German speakers were the overlords near areas where the opposite was the case.

Chaos ensued to say the least which pretty much lasted till the end of WW2. When German was eventually founded in 1872 for example the idealists and liberals were all disappointed. The whole idea of creating Germany for them was to do away with the police states of the time and create a single liberal national government. Instead the exchanged the Austrian Habsburg emperor for the Hohenzollern Prussian emperor. The tables were turned and the idealists and liberals (Wagner among them) turned away from nationalism and the ultraconservative empire builders became the nationalists. I am sure you know the rest of the story.

Perhaps Tolkien was thinking of the old romantic ideal of civic nationalism rather then the conservative brand of nationalism that we think of today. Certainly Tolkien discusses what makes just laws and rulers frequently in his works.


(This post was edited by Terazed on Sep 21 2013, 5:16am)


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Sep 21 2013, 11:45am

Post #37 of 58 (193 views)
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An epic for anyone (who likes that kind of thing). [In reply to] Can't Post

An epic for anyone (who likes that kind of thing). As is very amply demonstrated by the very cosmopolitan participation of this site, you certainly don't need to be English, or European, to enjoy it, or understand it! What avoid thing that it didn't end up with a parochial, nationalistic achievement, incomprehensible to most of the geographical world. I can't imagine it would have been anywhere near as good!

"A mythos for England" seems to have been one starting point: but the project was surely international from the outset,being based in Tolkien's love affair with the Welsh and Finnish languages; an epic about some guy from Denmark called Beowulf, and a lot of other influences. They all went into the mixing pot of Tolkien's imagination. And something much more than a mythos for England came back out.


I'd like to make some comments on English nationalism might help explain why I've been rather queasy about the mythos for England thing. And why it doesn't sound at all to me like "a mythos for Britain"
It comes under a horizontal rule because it has become long, and fairly personal, and may not interest everyone.




Some comments on English and British nationalism and patriotism:

So, about 100 years ago, young Mr. Tolkien had this idea about writing a mythos for England. A guy needs a starting point. And Patriotism was different then, I think: judging from conversations with my grandmother and other relations, people were taught that Britian deserved its empire and achievements due to its racial or cultural blessings.(I am not advocating this myself, just observing what I understand to have been the mindset of the time). The need to rally sentiment for World War I doubtless added to this.
An easy sense of national entitlement can't have sat well with the unfolding events of the Twentieth century, in which Britain lost its empire. Some at least of the older generation kept its sense that there was something nebulously special about the British (or about the English: some English are inclined to be lazy about the distinction. To the understandable annoyance of people who are British but it English: they are Scots, say). I remember debating this - whether the English had unique virtuous qualities, not found in, say, Dutch or Danes or Anericans - with my uncle. My case was that the Englsh were unique, sure, but so was every culture, each with its reasons to be satisfied, and each with its reasons to be ashamed. We didn't reach agreement (not least because I suspect my debating style was all teenage-know-it-all for one thing. )

Darker things happened (they do not involve Tolkien, and do not involve my uncle, though they do contribute to the cultural associations of nationalism). For much of my life, if you were seeing pictures involving the flag of St George (Red Cross on white: national flag of England specifically, not Britain) you were seeing one of three things: a sports event (fair enough); an item about football hooliganism; or an item about a neo-nazi rally (neo nazi groups seem to like to call themselves "English… " and then adopt a very particular and pernicious definition of Englishness).

So patriotism or nationalism (especially if English rather than British) is a more troubled thing than elsewhere, I think. It has a lot of associations with a bunch of xenophobic losers - to me, at least.

English Nationalism as a respectable political force (as per my uncle,say, as opposed to xenophobic losers) has no real mainstream traction at present, as far as I am aware. But in 2014 The Scots are to vote on whether to devolve from the United Kingdom. A Yes vote will obviously have to open negotiations between Scotland and the rest of the Union over what to do about the Union's joint assets and liabilities. That could have all kinds of consequences.

Hence my queasiness about mixing literature (or othe cultural productions) with nationalism.

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, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Sep 21 2013, 12:16pm

Post #38 of 58 (187 views)
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An interesting debate: are we better or worse off having the Letters? [In reply to] Can't Post

The insights into the authors life and thoughts can be very interesting. But, by giving (or appearing to give) an official position on things they could stifle something important: the reader finding "applicability" in the work; of deciding for yourself what it might mean (or at least, mean to you).

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, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Sep 21 2013, 12:26pm

Post #39 of 58 (209 views)
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Machines and mortals [In reply to] Can't Post

Good point: the formula that mortality is what tempts people towards the fall and the machine is somewhat undermined when so many of the Sil characters are immortal.

Maybe a better formulation would say that mortality was only one if the factors which might make one impatient, or wish to make some grand "look on my works ye mighty" gesture. That does seem to be a route to evil, in Tolkien's stories.

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, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Dame Ioreth
Grey Havens


Sep 21 2013, 2:29pm

Post #40 of 58 (189 views)
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Nah [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm still going to do that anyway.

Tolkien's work demands it of me. I must be inspired Aragorn, I must take to heart Gandalf's wise counsel. I can't help it.

“Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings


Terazed
Bree

Sep 21 2013, 4:27pm

Post #41 of 58 (178 views)
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Reply to: This letter.... Art vs Allegory [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien tells us he is not writing allegory so therefore in these letters he is as much trying to figure why he wrote what he did as we are. There is no absolute A=B or X=Y and no fixed formula used. I remember a quote which went something like "a great artist stands before his work as if before a mystery". I can't find it anymore so I can't quote it exactly.

I would say in reading these letters key in on something and try to go out and learn something new about it. It might be completely wrong but you have learned something new and had fun doing it and that is what matters. The same goes for Tolkien's works themselves. They were made to change as we change. You can look into such things as what Tolkien was thinking when he wrote it. What might have influenced his thinking. What it meant to his early readers. What it means to current readers. What it means to you personally. How it is a work can be made to change meaning over time. How a work can be made to influence a person emotionally.


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Sep 21 2013, 4:51pm

Post #42 of 58 (164 views)
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Missing Mortality? [In reply to] Can't Post

I do not think that 'Mortality', as we think of it, occurs much, outside of the Men in these tales. I think that we often equate 'Mortality' with death, but I would propose another definition:

Mortality is either one's natural state in regards to death, or the quality or capacity that one has for death.

Under this broader definition, more forces can act, allowing the issue of 'Mortality' to affect both Ainu and Elf. It may not be an internal motivation, in the same way that it impels Men, but it may have an effect on the actions of these Immortals. Does death visit another, and simply pass us by, having no effect? I would say not! The Elves, and Ainu, are in their own way, Mortal. They are not spared the pains nor joys of the cycles of life that we call normal.

The Elves are bound, much as the Ainur to Arda. They see the cycles that unfold in ME. One of birth, life, then death. They themselves change but little, never dying, but everything else seems to pass them by. The 'grief' of the Elves, as I believe it was said. They themselves are not subject to death, but surrounded by it, could they be unaffected? Their 'Mortality' (capacity or ability for death) is one of lacking, they are immortal( i.e. NOT-mortal). The native form of the word betrays a universal truth, mortality is normal, life without death is not considered to be so! Immortality is a negative statement of life, created to fit the special case of the Elves and other immortals. Can this idea have impressed itself upon their hearts so deeply, that in consideration of the Gift of Men, they have come to see themselves as freaks, unnatural? The gods need sturdy playthings. These immortals need the comfort of something that will last alongside them, else the loss grow too heavy to bear. This brings me to the consideration of the Gift of men.

Mortality is often considered to be the abscence of life, and the Gift seems to shorten life. I see this as a consideration, similar to the existence of darkness. There are two ways to look at a dark room, "It is dark in here!" Or, more correctly. " it is not light in here!" The issue of mortality may be seen in the same manner, Mortality taking the place of light and Immortality darkness. The Elves see, more or less correctly, that Men have a Gift, though Melkor has impressed it upon us that it is a curse in the mortal land of ME. The Elves re ognize that they lack this special thing. There was a reason, if flawed, that the Elves were called to the Undying lands. There, they may have been happier, having more sturdy and unchanging environs, morw suited to their longevity. I think it possible, that in the great plan of Eru, (perhaps after teaching Men wisdom and fading as hey were meant to) they would have returned to the Undying West-- balm for thier burdened souls as it was for Frodo?. It makes sense to me. However, leaving these lands,(early perhaps, or without the proper instruction of their purpose) like themselves, immortal, they began to be unduly influenced by the philosophy of the mortal lands. They began to think that Mortality was the norm( for Men it was, not for Elves), and multiplied their sorrows, caring for the mortal lands and thinks that couldn't last with them through their longer life.

The 'Mortality' factor then, can be motive for good or evil for both mortal and immortal. The motivation can be the imminent fact of their own death, that of others, the despair that comes when the immortals despair of thier lacking of the Gift, or in the case of Melkor and Sauron, that could have given them a sense of power, or become so disillusioned by thier lack of mortality, that they are inspired to domination.

Mortality then, can be seen as a Gift--not lacking Immortality, for Immortality itself, is a lack of Mortality, neccessatating a different fate for those who lack it.

Could the grief of the Elves be that they have adopted an anthropocentric view, over their Elf-centric one?


Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 21 2013, 5:27pm

Post #43 of 58 (162 views)
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More on noumenons [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Well I just spent the greater part of 3 hours typing out a response only to forget to save it to the clipboard and find out I was logged out and loose it all. My response is going to bit more curtailed then I would have liked as I do not have the heart to try to type it all out again. I hate when that happens!!!! Crazy Sympathies! I have had quite the tantrum when that happens - would fit very well on Talk Like a Pirate Day. But thank you for taking the time to retype this response.

Letter 310 looks to me like Tolkien is showing a knowledge of Transcendental Idealism as set down by Kant and Schopenhauer at least and is reconciling it with his Christian faith.

Quote
I think that questions about 'purpose' are only really useful when they refer to the conscious
purposes or objects of human beings, or to the uses of things they design and make. As for 'other
things' their value resides in themselves: they ARE, they would exist even if we did not. But since
we do exist one of their functions is to be contemplated by us.


The thing in itself is Kant's term for the noumenal and Tolkien is using it here.
I see a link here, to JRRT's description for the love of the Valar for the Children of God - their fascination with them, because they are 'other' and not created by the Valar themselves (paraphrasing); the suggestion being that, in this way, loving them (and contemplating them) may be a connection with the greater Divinity. Lovely connection!
On to Bombadil. He reminds me very much of the aesthetic contemplation of the world that Schopenhauer recommends. His speech is unique and what always strikes me is that it is an emotion rather then individual words and that emotion is joy. Sometimes I wonder if he is supposed to represent someone before the fall such as Adam and Eve or someone who has achieved a state of being as close to before the fall as it is possible to achieve. In my defense of that argument I would say again that Bombidil's language is emotion and as I discussed in my last post subconscious emotions are as close as we can get to noumenon (or God in a Christian context) given the our limitations of thought. Also this strikes me as the ideal that the elves are seeking. I should also mention that the romantics thought that the fall was the developement of human conciousness that came from the separation from nature and how they felt getting back to nature would bring us closer to the state before the fall.

So in the end I would say yes, Tolkien could be expressing that faith is a feeling of noumenon/God based on aesthetic contemplation of the world around us rather then a limited scientific study of phenomenon and that letter 310 explores that concept.


One of the things I love about these discussions is how they go on unexpected journeys...I never thought by discussing the writing philosophy of this Letter we would touch on such a revelation as Bombadil's nature. I have written quite a bit about Bombadil theories but have not processed the ideas through the real-world historical and philosophical kaleidoscope as you have. The quote you used above from that Letter 310 strikes me with this sentence ..

"As one of them I should venture to
say (speaking with absurd arrogance on behalf of the Universe): 'I am as I am. There is nothing you
can do about it. You may go on trying to find out what I am, but you will never succeed."


...when discussion Bombadil: who simply 'IS'; and as JRRT says at one point, philosophizing upon him does not improve him. From the point of philosophy, I would say that you have put forth a strong (and fascinating) case for Tom expressing the noumenon concept.
I might be rambling in the rewrite. (No rambling noted...but then not all who ramble are pointless! Wink )


Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 21 2013, 5:31pm

Post #44 of 58 (159 views)
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Hopefully that is what we are doing here [In reply to] Can't Post

So far the discussion has been quite enlightening, perhaps more of our perceptions as readers than in dissecting Tolkien. Of course his motives are an interesting theoretical musing, as must be the motives of any author only be theory and musing.

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 21 2013, 5:40pm

Post #45 of 58 (157 views)
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Interesting question Rem [In reply to] Can't Post

I have some quite crucial points to raise in this vein for the next set of posts - you have sort of inverted the question here in a very novel way.

I agree with the idea that exposure to mortality changed the Elf perception of their own lot in life.

(What could they *do* about it? Maybe make something to help preserve things exactly as they are.....cue ominous music here.)

You may expect more from me on this topic Tuesday!!!!!!!!!!

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Sep 21 2013, 6:12pm

Post #46 of 58 (156 views)
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The Numenons:are those the guys from Numenor? [In reply to] Can't Post

Just kidding- have to go back & read that most thoughtful Subthread carefully, now I feel played out with the English bit...

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, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 21 2013, 6:14pm

Post #47 of 58 (155 views)
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They are the ones who speak Latin and declined to go... // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Sep 22 2013, 10:23am

Post #48 of 58 (154 views)
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But wait, I thought letter #131 was expressly a manifesto? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Bombadil21 wrote:


I think it was a mistake to attach this letter to the second edition of the Silmarillion, because it has become a kind of manifesto of intent, where it should be seen for what it is: a personal correspondence containing Tolkien's philosophical ruminations as to the themes of the Silmarillion. As readers we may see or understand more by simply reading the book itself and responding.

Although and author's thoughts are invaluable for criticism, they should be treated skeptically.


I think it's wise to be cautious about interpreting personal correspondence, particularly if it might have been casually or hastily written- such letters might reflect a particular mood, or an idea which is only part thought out.

But, where this letter is collected in Letters.... Each letter is published with an explanatory editorial note which in this case goes:

Quote
After Allen & Unwin, under pressure from Tolkien to make up their minds, had reluctantly declined to publish LOTR together with the Silmarillion, Tolkien was confident that Milton Waldman of Collins would shortly issue both books under his firm's imprint …
But by the latter part of 1951 no definite arrangements for publication had yet been made, and Collins were becoming anxious about the combined length of both books. It was apparently at Waldman's suggestion that Tolkien wrote the following letter- of which the full length is some ten thousand words long - with the intention of demonstrating that LOTR and the Silmarillion were interdependent and indivisible…


So that suggests this is not personal correspondence - it is intended to help Waldman represent Tolkien's position during discussions at Collins. It seems reasonable to suppose that Tolkien took some care over what he wrote, given that the publication of the Sil had long been a treasured goal of his.

I must say I side with. Collins, btw: the LOTR was not Hobbit II, and instead was pushing riskily into what would now be known as the crossover market. LOTR alone is long, and all stages in the publication process become more expensive with length. This made it abutted investment for the publisher. Moreover, paper was still rationed at this time.

I just don't agree that LOTR and the Sil needed to be publicised together - as was demonstrated by how things actually worked out.

What would have happened if Tolkien and Waldman had got their way, I wonder? Later when LOTR and it's appendices had been a hit, I believe Collins were more enthusiastic for the Sil, but Tolkien couldn't complete it for them?

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, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Sep 22 2013, 2:01pm

Post #49 of 58 (126 views)
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On the other hand, if Tolkien had been asked to write a memo "demonstrating that LOTR and the Silmarillion were interdependent and indivisible", what did Waldman think when +this+ turned up ?!// [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 22 2013, 5:21pm

Post #50 of 58 (120 views)
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Good points - it had a purpose...which begs another question about TH... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

In Reply To

I think it's wise to be cautious about interpreting personal correspondence, particularly if it might have been casually or hastily written- such letters might reflect a particular mood, or an idea which is only part thought out.

But, where this letter is collected in Letters.... Each letter is published with an explanatory editorial note which in this case goes:

Quote
After Allen & Unwin, under pressure from Tolkien to make up their minds, had reluctantly declined to publish LOTR together with the Silmarillion, Tolkien was confident that Milton Waldman of Collins would shortly issue both books under his firm's imprint …
But by the latter part of 1951 no definite arrangements for publication had yet been made, and Collins were becoming anxious about the combined length of both books. It was apparently at Waldman's suggestion that Tolkien wrote the following letter- of which the full length is some ten thousand words long - with the intention of demonstrating that LOTR and the Silmarillion were interdependent and indivisible…


So that suggests this is not personal correspondence - it is intended to help Waldman represent Tolkien's position during discussions at Collins. It seems reasonable to suppose that Tolkien took some care over what he wrote, given that the publication of the Sil had long been a treasured goal of his.
I must say I side with. Collins, btw: the LOTR was not Hobbit II, and instead was pushing riskily into what would now be known as the crossover market. LOTR alone is long, and all stages in the publication process become more expensive with length. This made it abutted investment for the publisher. Moreover, paper was still rationed at this time.
Indeed the purpose of this letter was to unite the pieces of the legendarium, and perhaps banking on the already published successful Hobbit, the pending (and potentially successful) LOTR to achieve the dream of having the Sil published at that time as well.

I just don't agree that LOTR and the Sil needed to be publicised together - as was demonstrated by how things actually worked out. What would have happened if Tolkien and Waldman had got their way, I wonder? Later when LOTR and it's appendices had been a hit, I believe Collins were more enthusiastic for the Sil, but Tolkien couldn't complete it for them? As you say, the choice to not publish did happen - and I would agree that both TH and LOTR stand without the Sil. Does it enrich our understanding of ME? Absolutely. Is it necessary, especially to a more casual reader? No. it leads me into a question I have posed about TH...seems a good time to ask it!
JRRT says: "The generally different tone and style of The Hobbit is due, in point of genesis, to it being taken by me as a matter from the great cycle susceptible of treatment as a fairy-story for children. Some of the details of tone and treatment are, I now think, even on that basis, mistaken...For in effect this is a study of simple ordinary man, neither artistic nor noble and heroic (but not without the undeveloped seeds of these things) against a high setting - and in fact (as a critic has perceived) the tone and style change with the Hobbit's development, passing from fairy-tale to the noble and high and relapsing with the return." Do you agree with his description of the change in tone during TH, or do you think that assessment relates to the idea of uniting the works in the cycle, particularly TH with the Sil?


Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!







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