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"Did Tolkien Write Juvenile Trash?"

Lily Fairbairn
Nevle-flah


Dec 18 2015, 3:43pm

Post #1 of 16 (1116 views)
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"Did Tolkien Write Juvenile Trash?" Can't Post

An interesting essay from the BBC, citing many familiar names, with the resounding answer, "NO!"

It's excerpted from a book by Dominic Sandbrook, The Great British Dream Factory, which sounds thoroughly intriguing.

Quote: One of the things about The Lord of the Rings that most annoys its critics is that it is so unrepentantly backward-looking. But it probably could never have been otherwise.

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow....


Darkstone
Latrommi


Dec 18 2015, 4:22pm

Post #2 of 16 (1089 views)
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Well, yes... [In reply to] Can't Post

...if, like Edmund Wilson, you're really into Freudo-Marxism:

Lust strives to become intellectualized, the concrete operations of the flesh are blended with decorous abstractions, human loves tend toward the impossibilities of angelic embraces. Magic and pseudo-mysticism … become so many spices which are used to give a new taste to the well-known feast of the senses.
-Mario Praz, The Romantic Agony

If by enlightenment and intellectual progress we mean the freeing of man from superstitious belief in evil forces, in demons and fairies, in blind fate - in short, the emancipation from fear - then denunciation of what is currently called reason is the greatest service we can render.
-Max Horkheimer, Eclipse of Reason

LOTR is definitely juvenile in comparison.

However, here are a couple of right-headed reviews that at least refute the "trash" part:

http://www.nytimes.com/...kien-fellowship.html

http://www.theonering.com/...llowship-of-the-ring

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”


Lily Fairbairn
Nevle-flah


Dec 18 2015, 5:30pm

Post #3 of 16 (1061 views)
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Edmund Wilson... [In reply to] Can't Post

...takes himself much too seriously!

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow....


Gianna
NahoR


Dec 18 2015, 6:11pm

Post #4 of 16 (1056 views)
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That was interesting [In reply to] Can't Post

Edmund Wilson simply drives me crazy. Mad I personally think he got his knickers in a twist over Tolkien's success.

I particularly liked this part from the essay:


Quote
For Ezra Pound and his fellow modernists, the only way to deal with the horrors of the modern world was to “make it new”. For Tolkien, however, the reverse was true. More than ever, he believed that medievalism, myth and fantasy offered the only salvation from the corruption of industrial society.


~There's some good left in this world. And it's worth fighting for.~
------
My website
My LOTR-inspired fantasy novel is on Amazon


Bracegirdle
Ronilav


Dec 18 2015, 8:35pm

Post #5 of 16 (1041 views)
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Quote by Edmund Wilson [In reply to] Can't Post

From: Oo, Those Awful Orcs


Quote
Hobbits . . . live in burrows like rabbits and badgers (with) elves, trolls, and dwarfs [sic] as neighbors, and they are associated with a magician called Gandalph [sic] and a slimy water creature called Gollum.


Oo, Nice start there Edmund! I think there may be a truth in that single sentence somewhere, but I’m still looking for it!

To pick a single double-extra faux pas: The name “Gandalf” appears about 1,000 times (count ‘em) in the four volumes, and this author’s illiterate, non-focus spelling “Gandalph’ seems to confirm his unconsciousness.

Hmm, did he read the books??

Other inanities include:

Quote
. . . there is little in the Lord of the rings over the head of a seven-year-old child.
The hero (Frodo) has no serious temptations; . . .
At the end of this long romance, I still had no conception of the wizard Gandalph . . . had never be able to visualize him at all.
The ents are tree-spirits.
Sauron was King of the Enemy.
The Black Riders never seem anything but spectators and orcs rarely get to the point of committing any overt acts.

“. . . certain people have a lifelong appetite for juvenile trash.”
“An impotence of imagination seems to sap the whole story.”


There’s more, but why wade through this cesspool of sludge any further!

"To think that I should have lived to be good-morninged by Belladonna Took’s son, as if I was selling buttons at the door!”
-Gandalf the Grey

Nobody, I say Nobody has called me on this! Neener!
There is NO Gandalf "the Grey" in The Hobbit




Gianna
NahoR


Dec 18 2015, 8:44pm

Post #6 of 16 (1041 views)
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Oh, I know! [In reply to] Can't Post

It really sounds as though he started reading, decided he hated it for whatever reason, and then just skimmed over the rest so he could say he read it. I only finished reading the entire essay for the amusement factor, which was extremely small because I was so furious!

And an impotence of imagination?

I won't even comment.

~There's some good left in this world. And it's worth fighting for.~
------
My website
My LOTR-inspired fantasy novel is on Amazon


Lily Fairbairn
Nevle-flah


Dec 18 2015, 9:58pm

Post #7 of 16 (1033 views)
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Yes [In reply to] Can't Post

Is it in that essay where Wilson takes Tolkien to task for poor plotting, because when Bilbo and the dwarves arrive at the hidden door on the Lonely Mountain, the key is just lying there in the grass? I mean, really!

I suspect he decided Tolkien's work didn't suit his taste* and merely skimmed the vast majority of the text because someone was paying him to write a review. And yes, I imagine he was disgruntled because Tolkien was so popular.


*Fair enough. There are many popular and/or critically praised books I don't care for. But I don't write up scathing reviews that show nothing but my ignorance of the text. Tolkien isn't above honest criticism---just look at the Reading Room. But he's above Wilson's sort of hatchet job.

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow....


Gianna
NahoR


Dec 18 2015, 10:03pm

Post #8 of 16 (1031 views)
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I didn't remember that! [In reply to] Can't Post

I thought Gandalf gave Thorin the key in Bag End. Silly me. I should go reread The Hobbit.

Tongue

~There's some good left in this world. And it's worth fighting for.~
------
My website
My LOTR-inspired fantasy novel is on Amazon


ange1e4e5
Rodnog

Dec 18 2015, 10:34pm

Post #9 of 16 (1022 views)
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He did [In reply to] Can't Post

You're right, Gandalf gave the key to Thorin in Bag End.


Ethel Duath
Nevle-flah


Dec 19 2015, 12:20am

Post #10 of 16 (1014 views)
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Oh my [In reply to] Can't Post

I thought I'd read Lewis's review before, but there are whole sections I don't remember.

This: “. . . it is sane and vigilant invention . . .” and this: “What is the use of calling 'private' a world we can all walk into and test and in which we find such a balance? As for escapism, what we chiefly escape is the illusions of our ordinary life. We certainly do not escape anguish. Despite many a snug fireside and many an hour of good cheer to gratify the Hobbit in each of us, anguish is, for me, almost the prevailing note” absolutely brought me to a standstill (in a good way).Smile

it is sane and vigilant invention it is sane and vigilant invention



Ethel Duath
Nevle-flah


Dec 19 2015, 12:23am

Post #11 of 16 (1012 views)
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Oh, and a fabulous defence of Old Tom [In reply to] Can't Post

"Every now and then, risen from sources we can only conjecture and almost alien (one would think) to the author's habitual imagination, figures meet us so brimming with life (not human life) that they make our sort of anguish and our sort of exaltation seem unimportant. Such is Tom Bombadil, such the unforgettable Ents. This is surely the utmost reach of invention, when an author produces what seems to be not even his own, much less anyone else's. "

Yes.



Bracegirdle
Ronilav


Dec 19 2015, 1:10am

Post #12 of 16 (1001 views)
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Right Gianna; his scathing attack shows his boorish ignorance once again [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
”I forogot to mention that with the map went a key . . . Here it is! He said, and handed to Thorin . . .
-An Unexpected Party


Edit: "And an impotence of imagination?"

Hmm, I reckon we know where the “impotency” lies, eh?

"To think that I should have lived to be good-morninged by Belladonna Took’s son, as if I was selling buttons at the door!”
-Gandalf the Grey

Nobody, I say Nobody has called me on this! Neener!
There is NO Gandalf "the Grey" in The Hobbit




(This post was edited by Bracegirdle on Dec 19 2015, 1:24am)


Bracegirdle
Ronilav


Dec 19 2015, 1:38am

Post #13 of 16 (997 views)
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Is it in that essay where Wilson takes Tolkien to task for poor plotting [In reply to] Can't Post

I’m reminded of a portion of J.E.A. Tyler’s foreword to his Tolkien Companion:


Quote
. . . how much more marvelous it is that this entire world, with its histories, legends, geography and peoples, should be the product of a single man’s imagination – in a single lifetime. Middle-earth has been described as ‘the most perfectly conceived and detailed example of literary sub-creation ever accomplished’, and few would argue with that assessment, . . . and today, nearly forty years later, the sense of wonder and delight is every bit as keen, while my admiration has deepened beyond measure.
[my bold]

Words of reason, love, and truth! Heart

"To think that I should have lived to be good-morninged by Belladonna Took’s son, as if I was selling buttons at the door!”
-Gandalf the Grey

Nobody, I say Nobody has called me on this! Neener!
There is NO Gandalf "the Grey" in The Hobbit




squire
Nevle-flah


Dec 19 2015, 4:34am

Post #14 of 16 (993 views)
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A Tolkien for England [In reply to] Can't Post

What I found most interesting about the BBC essay is its insistence that all of Tolkien's "influences" are to be found in the English literature of his own youth or of the previous half-century. I suppose that goes with the series' title "The Great British Dream Factory", implying that Tolkien is just one of the many British authors of modern fantasy that the series will cover.

But how the worm turns! Following Tolkien's own cues, most early scholars of his fiction focused on his acute knowledge of medieval texts and how The Lord of the Rings resuscitated and reused them. Only later, in what might be called the second generation, did some daring critics begin to pick apart Tolkien's prose style, characters, and plotting with an eye to Morris, Stevenson, Haggard, Buchan, and other popular modern authors of either 'medievalism' or 'ripping yarns'.

It's both refreshing and odd to read this BBC essay on Tolkien's creativity, and not see the famous "Mythology for England" misquote, or the crack about the entire book being fundamentally linguistic in nature!



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 & 4th TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion and NOW the 1st BotR Discussion too! and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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Annael
Immortal


Jan 2 2016, 5:20pm

Post #15 of 16 (789 views)
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oh [In reply to] Can't Post

sounds just like me and "Twilight."

Tolkien himself didn't mind if some people hated his work; after all, he said, he probably didn't care for the kind of stuff they liked, so fair enough.

I am a dreamer of words, of written words. I think I am reading; a word stops me. I leave the page. The syllables of the words begin to move around … The words take on other meanings as if they had the right to be young.

-- Gaston Bachelard

* * * * * * * * * *

NARF and member of Deplorable Cultus since 1967


dormouse
Nevle-flah


Jan 3 2016, 11:02am

Post #16 of 16 (773 views)
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That's a good essay.... [In reply to] Can't Post

I like this:

Quote

Literary intellectuals love to sneer at polls and surveys, but historians cannot afford to do so: all the evidence shows that if one book, more than any other, captured the Western imagination after the mid-1950s, that book was The Lord of the Rings


 
 

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