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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
There is more than one interesting word choice.

Dame Ioreth
Gondor


Sep 30 2013, 3:59am


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There is more than one interesting word choice. [In reply to] Can't Post

Race vs. Species and Legendary vs uh... Historical(?)

Tolkien refers to different “races” in Middle Earth. That, presumably, means that they are all the same “species”. We think of race as a difference in geographical origin, physical characteristics, ethnicity, etc. But think of that in terms of the the “races” of ME. Was he saying, just by his word choice, that they are all of the same species? Elves, Dwarfs, Men all from a common ancestor, evolving into “races”. He tells us the story of how each came to be, so why pick the word “race”?

Two things come to mind - one is what Brethil has already mentioned - JRRT was trying to get at the legends of prehistory. He wanted to tell us “how we got here”. So all his beings inevitably remind us of Man. The origin stories of each Race in ME could be thought of as the evolution of each race, with the natural selection coming not from the pressure of each experimental new being in nature but of the experimentation of the Valar.

It’s my opinion that he was referring to, with that quote about “mode of talking”, his intention in creating a pre-history for England. I think he still had that on his mind. He makes the distinction in the letter between his “elves and dwarfs” and those of the bedtime stories, fairy tales and legends of the time. Those representations are merely stories told to children - his are meant to be seen as a true prehistory of the race of Man. He wanted people reading his work to realize that when he referred to Elves and Dwarfs, he didn’t want them to be bogged down by preconceptions of Snow White’s dwarfs or Shakespeare’s elves. He was creating them anew and giving them qualities that would explain how we, as Man, came to be.

The other is something more related to what I see as a thread of “truth” that he weaves through the stories - there is beauty, courage, intelligence and strength in all of us, each in varying degrees but present nonetheless. By creating beings that seem to have a commonality, he allows for different “races” to have more of one quality or a distinct deficit of another. He plays on these strengths and weaknesses to set up his conflict, but at all times, at least to me, he comes back to that common factor. We could all be Thorin, with the inherent love of riches, putting our lives on hold waiting for a time when everything was “as it should have been” all along. We could all be Bilbo - comfortable enough in our Hobbity life but with that little itch to do something more. We could all be one of the Elves, existing day-to-day but never really going anywhere. We relate to a dwarf or one of the elves because we see a little bit of us in them. And we can be warned or inspired because of that relation.

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

Subject User Time
Letter #131 Discussion: Some Races in the Drama Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Sep 30 2013, 2:30am
    The Genesis of Races in Middle-earth Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Sep 30 2013, 2:32am
        There is more than one interesting word choice. Dame Ioreth Send a private message to Dame Ioreth Sep 30 2013, 3:59am
            Races and perspectives Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Sep 30 2013, 3:44pm
            Great insights, Dame! // CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Oct 4 2013, 5:03pm
            fwiw Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Oct 5 2013, 2:07am
                Yes - it is Letter #153 // Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Oct 5 2013, 4:15am
                    The species problem! noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Oct 5 2013, 9:22am
                        By the same argument…Greco-Roman gods are the same species as humans… noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Oct 5 2013, 10:45am
                            And also true, Maiar and Elves Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Oct 5 2013, 3:42pm
                                How delightfully appropriate: maybe what we have here are "Ring Species"! noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Oct 5 2013, 5:01pm
                                    (*applause*) // Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Oct 5 2013, 5:06pm
                                        How about the interbreeding prospects of dwarves? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Oct 5 2013, 5:18pm
                                            I see you smiling over there - its like a laser pointer to a cat. And you know that! Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Oct 5 2013, 5:32pm
                                                What, my evil grin was that obvious? // noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Oct 5 2013, 5:47pm
                                                    Yes - endearing but obvious!!! // Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Oct 5 2013, 6:05pm
                                                        Similarly I don't think anyone could be half-Halfling … noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Oct 5 2013, 6:14pm
                                                            Hmm. on the other hand... Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Oct 5 2013, 6:27pm
                                                                "And the 1/2-ling 1/4 will stand" // noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Oct 5 2013, 7:48pm
                                                                    Tolkien: the Numerical Tales (?) Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Oct 5 2013, 8:01pm
                                                            LMHO (Laughing my half off!) // CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Oct 7 2013, 12:10pm
                                                maiar as a species Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Oct 5 2013, 7:15pm
                                                    Not sure on the special dispensation Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Oct 5 2013, 7:28pm
                                                        ah Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Oct 5 2013, 7:42pm
                                                            Sitting with pillows was good advice!!!! Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Oct 5 2013, 7:58pm
                                                        i get the vibe from tolkien Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Oct 5 2013, 7:51pm
                                                            True: the "I do not care" line Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Oct 5 2013, 8:07pm
                                                                It would be thoroughly understandable if "make Middle-earth consistent with Real life genetics" was not high on JRRTs to-do list.// noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Oct 5 2013, 8:36pm
                                                                    Very true Furincurunir! Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Oct 6 2013, 3:02am
                                                                        Just having fun, anyway noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Oct 6 2013, 9:17am
                                                                        Agreed CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Oct 7 2013, 12:19pm
                                                                            Yes, I will sacrifice myself in the experiment. Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Oct 8 2013, 12:24am
                                                    Dispensation and family planning CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Oct 7 2013, 7:22pm
                        Yes quite tricky!! Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Oct 5 2013, 5:48pm
    The looming East: Our Eden? Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Sep 30 2013, 2:35am
        Well, now I feel silly CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Oct 8 2013, 12:31am
            Using my *middle names* again I see... Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Oct 8 2013, 1:04am
            Go west, young elf. Meneldor Send a private message to Meneldor Oct 8 2013, 3:24am
    Well, shall we say it baldly? squire Send a private message to squire Sep 30 2013, 2:56am
        I concur Bombadil21 Send a private message to Bombadil21 Sep 30 2013, 11:17am
            From an aesthetic literary stance... Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Sep 30 2013, 1:57pm
                The problems with pantheons Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Sep 30 2013, 3:59pm
                Excellent CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Oct 4 2013, 5:10pm
                well elostirion74 Send a private message to elostirion74 Oct 4 2013, 6:42pm
                    Yes. Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Oct 5 2013, 5:45pm
            Beautifully phrased Bombadil! Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Sep 30 2013, 3:25pm
        Great point Squire Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Sep 30 2013, 3:16pm
        I think it's good the Valar aren't allowed too much of the blanket Faenoriel Send a private message to Faenoriel Sep 30 2013, 6:29pm
            Valar and Otherness (and Hello Faenoriel!) Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Sep 30 2013, 9:24pm
                Hi to you! Faenoriel Send a private message to Faenoriel Oct 1 2013, 12:35am
                    (*lights flaming torch*)... Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Oct 1 2013, 1:00am
                    No need to correct Lightfoot Send a private message to Lightfoot Oct 1 2013, 2:04pm
            I agree almost wholeheartedly.. elostirion74 Send a private message to elostirion74 Oct 1 2013, 7:50pm
                The pagan gods can be interesting Faenoriel Send a private message to Faenoriel Oct 1 2013, 10:37pm
                    Yep ......None of the political and sexual intrigues which wash around Asgard or Olympus // noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Oct 4 2013, 4:12pm
        well elostirion74 Send a private message to elostirion74 Oct 1 2013, 8:33pm
            Free will Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Oct 2 2013, 12:45am
                I find the Valar utterly fascinating elostirion74 Send a private message to elostirion74 Oct 2 2013, 7:20pm
                    I find the Valar fascinating too: on both levels Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Oct 2 2013, 11:32pm
                        clarification needed:) elostirion74 Send a private message to elostirion74 Oct 4 2013, 11:43am
                            Always glad to clarify! And musings on journeys of faith Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Oct 4 2013, 4:17pm
                    Dissecting the Valar: the new creation CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Oct 4 2013, 5:44pm
                        The Valar: fallible but moral noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Oct 5 2013, 2:55pm
                            Exactly true Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Oct 5 2013, 4:20pm
                                gods who need faith? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Oct 5 2013, 4:38pm
                                    Valar and faith Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Oct 5 2013, 4:53pm
                                        There's something more parental than godlike about the Valar noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Oct 6 2013, 10:00am
                                            i think i may be the only one Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Oct 6 2013, 3:10pm
                                                Not-parents…but… noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Oct 6 2013, 5:46pm
                                                Well there's parents and then there's parents, see? Rembrethil Send a private message to Rembrethil Oct 7 2013, 1:50pm
                                                    Siblings CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Oct 7 2013, 7:14pm
    The Valar as guardian angels (sort of) Lightfoot Send a private message to Lightfoot Oct 1 2013, 2:01pm
        Angelic metaphor Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Oct 2 2013, 12:36am
            Thanks for the approval! Lightfoot Send a private message to Lightfoot Oct 2 2013, 12:11pm
                Thanks for the insights! // Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Oct 2 2013, 12:31pm

 
 
 

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