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Mordor compared with other very nasty places in literature
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noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 20 2017, 5:04pm

Post #1 of 44 (2946 views)
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Mordor compared with other very nasty places in literature Can't Post

Remember when we used to have more than one thread on the go at once? While this idea came from Euronen's current read-through of LOTR, I thought it might be best for it to have it's own discussion....

Mordor is of course very nasty - the parts of it we see seem to have collapsed environmentally (or maybe Sauron sees ash heaps and pits of noxious ooze as an idea garden?) The orcs we overhear seem to be controlled and incentivised by violence or the threat of it. At the drop of a hat, they fight each other - something that allows Frodo and Sam to evade capture more than once.

Mordor is definitely a dystopia in the definition of:


Quote
An imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.

Oxford Dictionaries https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/dystopia


But 'dystopia' makes me think of a story with a political or social point to make. Wikipedia says, quite reasonabl, I think:


Quote
Utopian fiction portrays a setting that agrees with the author's ethos, having various attributes of another reality intended to appeal to readers. Dystopian (or dystopic) fiction (sometimes combined with, but distinct from apocalyptic literature) is the opposite: the portrayal of a setting that completely disagrees with the author's ethos. Many novels combine both, often as a metaphor for the different directions humanity can take, depending on its choices, ending up with one of two possible futures.

Wikipedia article "Utopian and dystopian fiction" accesed 20 July 2017 https://en.wikipedia.org/...nd_dystopian_fiction



Is Mordor intended as a dystopia in that sense? Can it be seen as one (whether or not JRR Tolkien had a particular political or social point in mind)?

Or is Mordor more like a version of Hell?

Lastly, what do you make of teh way that Saruman turns teh Shire into a kind of Mordor, a point that Frodo specifically makes:


Quote
‘This is worse than Mordor!’ said Sam. ‘Much worse in a way. It comes home to you, as they say; because it is home, and you remember it before it was all ruined.’ ‘Yes, this is Mordor,’ said Frodo. ‘Just one of its works. Saruman was doing its work all the time, even when he thought he was working for himself. And the same with those that Saruman tricked, like Lotho.’

LOTR - Scouring of the Shire


Is this a classic dystopian writer's point - how easily an idyllic society (or of course the writer and reader's own) could become dystopic?

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


Darkstone
Immortal


Jul 20 2017, 5:37pm

Post #2 of 44 (2876 views)
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"...fear and destructiveness are the major emotional sources of fascism..." [In reply to] Can't Post

In the 1930s most of the Western Democracies set up by the Treaty of Versailles had succumbed to Fascist rule. Fascism was considered the wave of the future. Interestingly modern Fascism had its origin in Futurism, an Italian political movement that advocated the modernization of the world through speed, machinery, militarism, and industry. I can see where Tolkien would be horrified at the trend and use it as the Big Bad in LOTR.

******************************************

And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.
But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

-Leviticus 19:33-34


squire
Half-elven


Jul 20 2017, 6:13pm

Post #3 of 44 (2877 views)
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Start by naming some [In reply to] Can't Post

I was surprised to see your dictionary definition site declare that 'dystopia' is an 18th century word - all the examples given in the reference link seem to date from the 20th century.

I remember writing a term paper on the three film versions of 'Nineteen Eighty-four' and looking in vain through every dictionary I could find in 1985 (yes, back then) for a definition of 'dystopia' that I could quote in my paper. I never found a listing. I thought I knew the word existed, but I couldn't prove it! Which suggests to me that it was still quite a neologism in the post-war era.

Novels that feature a dystopia, in other words, may predate the word itself. And I suggest that the novels themselves post-date, most probably, the First World War. That was kind of a spiritual turning point in Western life, when the future began to look as if it might be darker, not lighter, than the present and the past. I suspect we might find some earlier hints of a dark future in Industrial era proto-Science Fiction, though.

As has already come up in the parent sub-thread to this topic, in Eruonen's ongoing read-through of LotR, there seems to be a workable distinction, though with some overlap, between what Tolkien created and other authors' works that most commonly rate the term dystopia.

For the latter term, there are the industrialized and futuristic/modern totalitarian societies depicted in mid-century classics like 'Nineteen Eighty-four', 'Brave New World', 'Fahrenheit 451', 'Anthem', and (for all I know) the hundreds of sci-fi and modern fantasy variations on "America goes mad/goes under/goes for broke and becomes Nazi Germany/the Soviet Union with shinier toys" or something similar.

For Mordor, there is the updated version of the Christian Hell and/or the classical Underworld - a land, more than a society, that lacks any sense of spiritual or natural health, presided over or created by a demonic creature more or less equal to the traditional figure of the Devil and populated by lost souls consumed by Evil. I'm not really sure where else we see this in modern literature but I do think the distinction is important.

For instance, in Tolkien it's quite clear that Mordor is as much about Britain as it is about the usual suspects to the East (i.e. Germany and Russia). The orcs are drawn from WW I Tommies cursing away in the trenches; the blasted lands beyond the Marshes are a mix of the Western Front and the industrial blight of the British North; the Enemy, with his obsession with total Power at the expense of individual freedom, is associated in Tolkien's letters with Churchill's wartime dictatorship and modern democracy's distaste for aristocracy and Christian hierarchy, as much as with (again) the actual dictatorships on the other side of WW I and II.

Mordor actually is an updated and considerably more detailed treatment of Thangorodrim in The Silmarillion. Readers of those stories, including the earlier versions composed during WW I and found in the 'Book of Lost Tales', will see more clearly the links to medieval versions of Hell, and to romantic traditions of Dark Castles and Evil Strongholds, than is found in Mordor (written during WW II). The latter place feels somewhat updated to include more 20th-century stylistic references to mass-mobilized and militaristic dictatorships.

Are there other "very nasty places in literature" that feel like Mordor and Thangorodrim, rather than like Orwell's Oceania or other Sci-Fi-oriented dystopic societies?



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FarFromHome
Valinor


Jul 20 2017, 8:05pm

Post #4 of 44 (2861 views)
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I have to go for the Western Front [In reply to] Can't Post

I can't come up with any particular descriptions, but the general atmosphere of Goodbye to All That, or All Quiet on the Western Front, remind me of Frodo and Sam's journey through Mordor. A hundred years later novels are still exploring the barren, hostile landscape of the western front - two that spring to mind are Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong and Sebastian Barry's A Long Long Way (strange coincidence that they're both by Sebastians!)

On a related point, I was actually thinking about that revolving tower on Minas Morgul that always reminds people of a revolving restaurant, and realising that in Tolkien's day those were still well in the future, but what he might have seen, at least in newsreels, is the revolving gun turret, such as this one at Fort Douaumont near Verdun. That's an ugly-looking thing, with the "eyes" of the guns looking out at you! It could be rotated through 360 degrees, and could retract into the ground - it looks like it's only halfway out in the photo. The turret isn't on a tower, but it is on the walls of a fort, the largest and highest fort defending Verdun, according to Wikipedia.

Perhaps what Tolkien, along with so many other writers, saw at this time is how easily war can turn a living landscape into a sickening wasteland. Like the soldiers who took consolation in the small ordinary things that somehow survived - birdsong, poppies - so do Frodo and Sam, with the little gifts of water and light, and a single star, that keep them going when all hope seems to be lost.

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



(This post was edited by FarFromHome on Jul 20 2017, 8:06pm)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 20 2017, 9:33pm

Post #5 of 44 (2847 views)
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"A new power is rising..." [In reply to] Can't Post

That 'wave of the future' thing sounds familiar...


Quote
A new Power is rising. Against it the old allies and policies will not avail us at all. There is no hope left in Elves or dying Númenor. This then is one choice before you, before us. We may join with that Power. It would be wise, Gandalf. There is hope that way. Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward for those that aided it. As the Power grows, its proved friends will also grow; and the Wise, such as you and I, may with patience come at last to direct its courses, to control it.

Saruman, as reported by Gandalf to the Council of Elrond - FOTR Book II Ch 2


Obviously, LOTR is not intended to be an analogy for twentieth-century events (Tolkien himself says so), but Saruman's words might be reminiscent of things Tolkien heard at Oxford College dinners or elsewhere - I understand (from my father, Pers com.) that it was common enough for people to think that the future was either fascism or communism, and that many of the wealthy would hold their noses and try to navigate fascism.

Fascism also made much of the past - both Mussolini and Hitler presented themselves as restorers of their peoples' former glories, I believe. I'm not sure what Sauron could claim to be trying to restore though....

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


Darkstone
Immortal


Jul 20 2017, 9:56pm

Post #6 of 44 (2845 views)
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Well [In reply to] Can't Post

Fascism also made much of the past - both Mussolini and Hitler presented themselves as restorers of their peoples' former glories, I believe.

Mussolini cleared and restored Roman structures such as the Circus Maximus, the Colosseum, and the Mausoleum of Augustus to inspire the people with their former glory.

Hitler continued pseudoarchaeology trying to uncover Aryan pre-history to show Germans how special they were. Oddest of all was Hitler's fascination with Albert Speer's concept of "Ruin Value". That is, modern buildings should be built so as to provide aesthetically pleasing ruins when a civilization eventually collapsed. That is, he wanted to impress generations far in the future with Germany's glory.


I'm not sure what Sauron could claim to be trying to restore though....

I'd think he would assure Men that he would restore to them the long lives of the Numenoreans, and beyond that, give to them the immortality of the Elves.

******************************************

"You have my sword."

"And my bow."

"And my axe."

"And my giant flying eagles."


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jul 20 2017, 10:10pm

Post #7 of 44 (2891 views)
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"The hand that mocked them / and the heart that fed;" // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 20 2017, 10:13pm

Post #8 of 44 (2842 views)
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Mu. But about dystopias... [In reply to] Can't Post

About dystopian fiction in general:
A Google search for 'dystopia' brings up a Dictionary definition (I don't know whose) and this graph (attached), showing that usage of the word kicks off in the 1950s, and levels out a bit before 2010


Looking at someone's list of the 20 dystopian best novels (a contentious selection, inevitably)http://www.shortlist.com/...st-dystopian-novels#, I see a sort of meta-plot which goes "after the [Great Disaster], the [Oppressor] controlled the people by [This technology]" (the bits in square brackets vary, and I suppose they often fit the zeitgeist, or the bees in that particular author's bonnet). Maybe as a popular word it kicks off in the '50s because The Bomb is an obvious possible Great Disaster, and various tyrannies had been all to recently on show. But of course we have Tolkien's LOTR 2e Foreword reminder that the First World War was just as harrowing to those caught up in it as the Second - maybe a lot of this use of the word 'dystopia' is in reference to earlier stories.

So I agree - there's a sci-fi feel to a lot of dystopias: the trouble is caused by some new invention that's an extrapolation of contemporary concerns and which (after an emergency) can be perverted to make life rotten for all except the rulers.

And (recapping my comments on the sub-sub-thread to Euronen's thicket that forms the parent thread to this) Mordor might be influenced as much by biblical Hell (or other underworlds) as by gloomy scenarios of technology run amok in the hands of tyrants.

Can I think of someone else who uses exactly the same blend of influences (contemporary worries and much older ones) as Tolkien? Why no, but it would be unreasonable to ask for an exact match, so I don't suppose that is what you wanted?

Some works of HG Wells might be interesting to raise: The Time Machine (1895) was certainly known to Tolkien, who discusses it in On Fairy Stories (in order to explain why he doesn't think The Time Machine is a fairy story). Wells' Time Traveller arrives in a future where he first meets the beautiful, peaceful but rather bovine (in intellect and attitude) Eloi. Later, he encounters the ape- (or orc- ?) like Morlocks, who live underground and prey upon the Eloi. There is a suggestion that the Eloi represent the aristocracy and the Morlocks represent the working classes. So much for the tale as a political commentary - but I raise it to comment upon the slightly devilish or demonic Morlocks: perhaps they could be seen as hellish too?

The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) could be considered too, though I'm not sure. I've not read that one, but I understand that Doctor Moreau is creating humanoids by painful vivisection of animals, and then loses control of the situation as they revert to more bestial habits. So maybe that looks back to Frankenstein (mad scientist, taboo experiments) and Doctor Jekyl and Mr Hyde (losing control of said experiments) rather than into Mordor.

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Jul 20 2017, 10:14pm)
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CuriousG
Half-elven


Jul 21 2017, 12:53am

Post #9 of 44 (2829 views)
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New thread? Dystopia? Hell? We know it well - here are the marks of a conspiracy." [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien can deny it all he wanted to, but I see a lot of 20th/21st century real-world autocratic elements in Mordor, Isengard, and Sharkey-Shire: everyone has a number, there are rules about rules, no one is happy, everyone uses their petty position of power to oppress those beneath them, and all while the Great Leader is glorified under the oppressive system he's constructed. Plus they hide behind propaganda, not saying, "We're here to make you miserable," but ‘This country wants waking up and setting to rights,’ as if they're making improvements.

To your question: is Mordor dystopia or hell, I will answer "Yes." Not to be annoying, but because it's an admixture. From a macro perspective, I would say it's an Orwellian dystopia. But for Frodo and Sam, it's a personal journey through hell. They're starving & thirsty, they're cut off from everything they love, they have no realistic hope of surviving, every day is harder than the last, Frodo is losing his battle against the Ring, and they're surrounded by evil creatures in a land ruled by the incarnation of evil. How much worse can it get?

But I don't think the Orcs they encountered would call it hell, if you could invite the Orcs onto a talk show, feed them plenty of food, give them cushiony couches to sit on, and get them to relax and spill their guts, so to speak. Think of how Shagrat and Gorbag talk: they sound oppressed, but not hopeless. Of course they're part of the dystopia, because their main instincts are killing, eating, and torturing, but there are Men like the Mouth of Sauron who are there willingly, for personal gain, and the Nazgul were corrupted by the desire for personal gain too. I don't think the Men serving Sauron willingly feel it's hell, more like a brutal totalitarian regime that they're doing well under.

And to answer your question in the book discussion thread that I'm getting a little lost in: no, Orcs couldn't love Sauron, but Men could. I think Sauron primarily rules by force and fear, but I suspect he'd like Men such as the Mouth of Sauron to love him as well as fear him. Wait until I can get him on a talk show, and I'll let you know for sure.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jul 21 2017, 1:16am

Post #10 of 44 (2822 views)
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Tyranny vs dystopia [In reply to] Can't Post

I was pondering your graph showing how dystopia is a modern term, but all the way back to Plato, people have described and loathed tyranny. What is the difference? Both are cruel, unjust, and oppressive. I'm sure we could come up with longer lists of adjectives they have in common.

One difference, it seems to me, is that a dystopia is usually fiendishly and tightly organized, the sort of organization made possible by modern wealth and technology. When 90% of the population used to be required to work in agriculture and was scattered in little villages, and large urban areas were therefore limited by necessity, you had tyranny. With the modernization of agriculture and the industrial revolution, there were cities larger than ever because only a small part of the population is needed to grow food, so you have lots of excess population you can employ as spies, secret police, jailers, bureaucrats enforcing oppressive rules, and in general the whole modern state apparatus.

So modernity makes dystopia possible: it's far more pervasive, more systematic, more entrenched.

Another distinction is that dystopias are usually built on an ideology, whereas tyrannies were built on personal rule and rapaciousness. People *believe* in the system that causes the dystopia, whereas everyone considered a tyrant a bully who didn't stand for anything in particular. So just as everything evolves, I guess tyranny evolved into dystopias and totalitarian states.


squire
Half-elven


Jul 21 2017, 1:33am

Post #11 of 44 (2822 views)
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Yes, why write a speculative romance about a future that is just like the present? [In reply to] Can't Post

'Utopia' was the original speculative story about an ideal society of peace and justice and individual freedom. It only works if it's different from the present day situation, and of course in Europe of the time and most places in most times it was and is quite different.

As I speculated above, a 'dystopian' romance seems like a more recent construct, reflecting disillusionment with modernity and progress towards Utopia, yet not abandoning modernity's trend towards bureaucracy, technology, and state-centered ideologies.

But Tolkien's interest in taking traditional or classical tyranny to a divine level, i.e. in creating or imagining Hell on Earth, to be lived in today not just in the afterlife, seems more medieval than modern. His terms are modern (pollution, militarism, bureaucratic brutality) but his spiritual center seems centuries away from Orwell, Huxley, Wells, and his other 'dystopian' contemporaries.



squire online:
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Morthoron
Gondor


Jul 21 2017, 3:25am

Post #12 of 44 (2794 views)
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Tolkien's Worldview... [In reply to] Can't Post

There are certainly visions on WWI No Man's Land scattered throughout Tolkien's work (the Dead Marshes, for instance), but I think Mordor represents, as Squire mentioned previously, a reconstituted Thangorodrim that draws more on medieval representations of Hell, such as Dante's Nine Circles, with it's great gate and Lucifer himself center-most.

Reading the Mordor sections of LotR, I am also struck by how the depictions always reminded me of Hieronymus Bosch's triptych The Garden of Earthly Delight and the right panel which illustrates Hell, particularly the upper section of the panel lit by the hellish fires and belching forges that silhouette black buildings in a preternatural night devoid of sunlight, stars or moon.

Please visit my blog...The Dark Elf File...a slighty skewed journal of music and literary comment, fan-fiction and interminable essays.



(This post was edited by Morthoron on Jul 21 2017, 3:30am)
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Darkstone
Immortal


Jul 21 2017, 4:21am

Post #13 of 44 (2775 views)
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"And on the pedestal these words appear: / 'For someone that calls himself The Comedian, I can never tell when you're joking.'" / [In reply to] Can't Post

 

******************************************

"You have my sword."

"And my bow."

"And my axe."

"And my giant flying eagles."


Eruonen
Valinor


Jul 21 2017, 4:53am

Post #14 of 44 (2784 views)
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Mordor compared with other very nasty places in history.... [In reply to] Can't Post

Mordor is an unforgiving landscape full of enemies ready to kill -

There are some real world places that became hell on earth.

1. Dien Bin Phu for the French Indochina forces.
Wet, hot, tropical valley floor surrounded by enemy forces cut off from re-supply.
2. Stalingrad for the Germans.
Cold, destroyed city surrounded by enemy forces cut off from re-supply.
3. Napolean's retreat from Moscow.
Cold, treacherous retreat cut off from re-supply, continually harassed by enemy forces.
4. Cannae for the Romans
Hot, dusty plain, cut off from retreat, surrounded by enemy forces.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 21 2017, 10:06am

Post #15 of 44 (2771 views)
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There's one key way in which Mordor is not Hell [In reply to] Can't Post

I get no sense of it being a place of punishment for past sins. So, a collage then. Needing to imagine the ultimate evil place, Tolkien has blended ideas of Hell (without the aspect of it being divine punishment) and the sort of concerns about modern life that led his contemporaries into dystopian novels (but without the sense of having a social or political message).

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 21 2017, 11:03am

Post #16 of 44 (2762 views)
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Turrets, tanks and Tolkien technologies [In reply to] Can't Post

Nice turret! I agree with the comment CuriousG made in the parent thread to this- the revolving observatory in Minas Morgul seems a bit out of place. Certainly for the rest of Mordor-tech Tolkien went into the past- the creepy magical Watchers, rather than airships or tanks, for example.

Am I right in remembering that early work on The Fall of Gondolin had something quite like tanks? And did they turn into dragons in later drafts?

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jul 21 2017, 12:29pm

Post #17 of 44 (2752 views)
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Yes, early Fall of Gondolin had mechanical tank/dragons ridden by Balrogs. [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm at work so can't consult my books, but that was the essence. It wasn't clear to me if there was anything living about them or not, or if they were purely engines of war. The Silmarillion had them become 100% living dragons.

On a tangent, Grond, the battering ram that broke Minas Tirith's Great Gate, was a bit of both. Mostly a physical construct, and though shaped like a wolf, it didn't act like an animal in any way, except it was laden with spells for the destruction of the gate. In that sense it was like the Ring, where its agency was debatable. But like the Ring, it no mere inanimate object and possessed some evil power.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jul 21 2017, 12:32pm

Post #18 of 44 (2751 views)
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Good point [In reply to] Can't Post

Though I said Mordor was a hell for Frodo & Sam, there was no sense of punishment there, only misery. Frodo wasn't being punished for his previous weakness in putting on the Ring at Weathertop, for example. Nor is there any equivalent to Dante's circles of hell where other bad people are gathered and being tortured for past sins. The slaves tilling the fields around the Sea of Nurnen might be "in a living hell," but not one where they were punished by the Valar or even Sauron for moral failings.


Darkstone
Immortal


Jul 21 2017, 2:10pm

Post #19 of 44 (2751 views)
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Tyranny vs Cacotopia [In reply to] Can't Post

For the Greeks a "tyrant" was an usurper or illegitimate ruler. Ironically, even a benevolent ruler installed by, say. a peasant revolution against terrible oppression was considered a "tyrant" as he hadn't been installed by legitimate means. Essentially a ruler chosen by oligarchs was legitimate, a ruler chosen by peasants or the military was a tyrant.

Some scholars make a distinction between "dystopia" and "cacotopia". The first is where government oppressively intrudes into the private lives of citizens, whereas in the latter the society itself has declined morally. Thus one might rebel against a tyrannical government that is dystopian, but there is little one can do against a society where the people themselves are cacotopian.

******************************************

"You have my sword."

"And my bow."

"And my axe."

"And my giant flying eagles."


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 21 2017, 2:28pm

Post #20 of 44 (2743 views)
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About an 18th C word that suddenly surged ~1950 [In reply to] Can't Post

Aha, this explains that odd frequency pattern:

Quote
Dystopia or dys-topia: first used in the English language by Bentham’s most famous follower, John Stuart Mill in 1868. In his own writings, Mill used dys-topia as a synonym for “cacao-topia.” When Glenn Negley and J. Max Patrick used the term dystopia in their anthology of over thirty utopian visions (Quest for Utopia, 1952), they incorrectly assumed they were coining the term for the first time in recorded history. Since 1952, in no small part due to Negley’s and Patrick’s usage of it, dystopia has become an accepted and common part of the English language.

https://artsandsciences.colorado.edu/ctp/tag/cacotopia

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


Darkstone
Immortal


Jul 21 2017, 2:34pm

Post #21 of 44 (2742 views)
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Purgatory? [In reply to] Can't Post

In Catholicism purgatory is a place of purification. Are Frodo and Sam purified by their ordeals in Mordor?

As I understand it, in Catholicism people can still be in communion with souls that are in purgatory, and can succor and aid them with "works of satisfaction". We see of course that the members of the Fellowship who are left behind keep Frodo and Sam in their hearts. Indeed, Aragorn and Company's diversion at The Black gate is what saves the two hobbits, mirroring this passage from De Purgatorio from Session XXV of the Council of Trent: "the souls therein detained are aided by the suffrages of the faithful and principally by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar". "A fundamentally religious and Catholic work" indeed!

******************************************

"You have my sword."

"And my bow."

"And my axe."

"And my giant flying eagles."


noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 21 2017, 2:55pm

Post #22 of 44 (2740 views)
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So "Big Brother" (dystopia); Fahrenheit 451 ( cacotopia) [In reply to] Can't Post

A while back one of the nowiz-kids had a school assignment to pick a book and prepare an argument that "this book should not be burned". So he chose Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451.
Re-reading it, I realised that I'd missed when young that it's not just a world with a tyrant state- Bradbury is railing against the people, for not wanting to be bothered with anything that's intellectually challenging.

So that's cacotopia then...
(And not a utopia for people who like chocolate products, sadly Wink )

I have fond memories of Fahrenheit 451: it was the book that gave me a reading epiphany- I realised that a book could be about one thing superficially, but have layers of metaphor and meaning. An exciting discovery for a young lad. Completely ruined Narnia for me, but hey.

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


Darkstone
Immortal


Jul 21 2017, 3:00pm

Post #23 of 44 (2739 views)
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Nero's "Coenatio Rotunda" [In reply to] Can't Post

On a related point, I was actually thinking about that revolving tower on Minas Morgul that always reminds people of a revolving restaurant, and realising that in Tolkien's day those were still well in the future...

The main banquet hall was circular and constantly revolved day and night, like the heavens.
-Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, re Nero's palace "The Golden House"

It has recently been discovered: http://www.culturaitalia.it/...631.html?language=en

Definitely a sign of extravagance and decadence. Think Tolkien was trying to say something about the moral state of Gondor?

******************************************

"You have my sword."

"And my bow."

"And my axe."

"And my giant flying eagles."


FarFromHome
Valinor


Jul 21 2017, 3:33pm

Post #24 of 44 (2739 views)
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Tolkien says Tol Eressea is Frodo's "purgatory" [In reply to] Can't Post

He seems to see it as a place of contemplation and understanding rather than of punishment: Frodo needs to learn, more than anything, that he's not guilty for his failure to destroy the Ring himself. Mordor, for Frodo, seems closer to Golgotha than Hell. He's taking on the sins of the world, not atoning for his own.

I've only just realised from reading the thoughts in this thread that Tolkien's Catholicism is not the medieval religion of justice and punishment, but is all about love, and about "so loving the world" that you will give your life for it. His medievalism focuses on other things - especially the pre-Christian values of the Norse and Anglo-Saxon world. But his Christianity is much more modern than the judgemental and punishment-oriented medieval kind, I think. (It's perhaps relevant that Tolkien seems to particularly dislike the way that Christianity is bolted onto pre-Christian myths, as happens with a lot of the Celtic mythology that has survived. He rejects that approach, perhaps because his Christianity is not the ritualized, politicized, controlling religion of the Middle Ages but is something much more personal and idealised.

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



noWizardme
Valinor


Jul 21 2017, 5:25pm

Post #25 of 44 (2724 views)
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Rage Against the Machine [In reply to] Can't Post

I suppose the lack of mechanical gadgetry in LOTR doens' mean there aren't machines, in Tolkien's definition:


Quote

By [Machine] I intend all use of external plans or devices (apparatus) instead of development of the inherent inner powers or talents -- or even the use of these talents with the corrupted motive of dominating: bulldozing the real world, or coercing other wills. The Machine is our more obvious modern form though more closely related to Magic than is usually recognised.

JRRT - letter 131 to Milton Waldman
http://www.tolkienestate.com/...-milton-waldman.html


So your example of Grond the battering ram is good - it remains a Tolkien Machine because it is wound about with spells - it doesn't need to be steam-powered, or equipped with some kind of mechanical drill or hydraulic system.

It seems to be the dystopian aspects of mechanisation that worried Tolkien, rather than machines themselves - loss of human skills, loss of control, unintended side-effects, being able to do things that you aren't meant to do.

Perhaps he would have fitted into the Arts and Crafts movement nicely?:


Quote

"We do not reject the machine, we welcome it. But we would desire to see it mastered."

Charles R Ashbee (who was a prime mover of the A&C movement in Britain) in A Few Chapters on Workshop Construction and Citizenship, London, 1894
...which I'm re-quoting from Wikipedia, here https://en.wikipedia.org/..._and_Crafts_movement


..and Pugin, Ruskin, Morris and Ashbee might have loved to pay a visit to the Shire, pre- or post- its Sharkey period.

The overgrown Mill in Sharkey's Shire is maybe a good evil Tolkien machine. There always was a mill (Tolkien is not a Luddite in the perjorative sense) but the old mill did well enough. The new one can grind more corn, but there isn't actually any more corn to grind. So the New Mill seems to have become a sort of master rather than a tool.

~~~~~~
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm

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