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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Return of the King Part II - the unofficial read through - Book VI onward
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CuriousG
Half-elven


Sep 5 2017, 8:55pm

Post #151 of 174 (2456 views)
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Deceptively pastoral and agrarian [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien does require a lot of industry in the background, doesn't he? Yet the Shire in most people's minds is "good-tilled earth," i.e., small family farms lovingly cultivated by happy, virtuous people. In that sense, he's not an altogether honest author in conjuring up a land that doesn't really exist the way he portrays it. But then again, it's a fairy tale, so he can get away with just about anything he wants.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Sep 5 2017, 11:12pm

Post #152 of 174 (2445 views)
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The Fall of Morgoth [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Further, one could speculate that they were traumatized by the destruction of Numenor, even though Tolkien never says so directly, because that gift of land to the Edain backfired worse than inviting the Elves to Aman did and resulted in Papa God wiping out the whole land and most of the Numenorean race, plus bending the world into a sphere. Again, we could expect that wise gods would figure out a way forward, but humans can react to disasters by becoming deliberately isolationist, which they did.


Oh, I place the seed of that even further back to the drowning of Beleriand, especially since the Valar had a direct hand in that, where the (alleged*) Change of the World was brought about by Eru Himself.

* I state alleged because the Change of the World, like the Great Flood of the The Bible makes more sense in the context of Myth than as history or science.

"Who I am is where I stand. Where I stand is where I fall.” -- The Doctor


noWizardme
Valinor


Sep 6 2017, 11:31am

Post #153 of 174 (2411 views)
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Fantasy economics [In reply to] Can't Post

I've always doubted that the Shire could really support its population in the style that we see. I suspect that really there would need to be a lot of stuff being produced in cities or colonies somewhere. But the Shire is a fantasy place, so perhaps we're better off imagining it as magically fertile and productive.

Initially, The Shire is being asset-stripped, a very economic form of destruction.To begin with (as was pointed out last 'official' rad-through) it i almost being treated like a colony of Isengard, to which it exports luxury goods, presumably at advantageous prices. Later I think of the activities of the Europeans in Conrad's Heart of Darkness, or of the worst accusations made against multinationals in extraction industries. But I think it's not important if we can't understand the situation in economic terms. Indeed, we see it all through the eyes of the bemused hobbits, and so perhaps it's better if the new order appears to make no sense!

I think that over time the situation is exacerbated by the corruption, cruelty and incompetence of the ruffians, and of course in the final phase Saruman is no longer concerned by any scheme wider than ruining as much as possible, to spite Frodo and Gandalf.

~~~~~~
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 Sep 6 2017, 11:32am)


Eruonen
Valinor


Sep 6 2017, 1:58pm

Post #154 of 174 (2405 views)
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I wonder where Saruman would have wandered off too if he had not been killed? [In reply to] Can't Post

He could not go west....nothing there for him....elves and dwarves.
He could not go east....Rangers would have caught him.
He could possibly turn south but not much in that direction...he would have to avoid Rohan and Gondor.
He could turn north ....but once again, there is nothing there...ice men?

Maybe he would wander to the far East or South and still try to cause problems. But, without his power, he is very vulnerable.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Sep 6 2017, 7:49pm

Post #155 of 174 (2387 views)
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Fans vs. impartial literary critics [In reply to] Can't Post

I think as fans, despite all the poking around we do, we are ultimately forgiving of any fault. But I suspect a hard-core, impartial literary critic would rip on Tolkien for an unrealistic economy, even if it is a fairy tale.

Good point about the Shire being a tributary to Isengard, itself a tributary to Mordor (though more politically than economically, and of course not as loyally as the Shire/Lotho is). It's never clear to me how the abundant overland commerce & transportation works between the Shire and Isengard, even assuming armed legions protecting caravans of goods. Boromir lost his horse at Tharbad, so how do all these wagons get across? One of those unknown details.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Sep 6 2017, 7:52pm

Post #156 of 174 (2383 views)
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Saruman was truly a lost soul, with nowhere to go [In reply to] Can't Post

It is odd he didn't try to go east when originally released from Isengard. Gandalf mocks him when they encounter him near Dunland, telling Saruman he's going the wrong way if he's trying to escape Aragorn's realm. But maybe that was just a lie by Saruman, and he was headed the only place where he still had a power base left, and that was the Shire.

But once turned from there, and assuming he hadn't been killed, it's hard to see where he would go. Back to a life of hungry begging, maybe eventually eating Grima--sidekicks are good to keep around for that reason.


Eruonen
Valinor


Sep 6 2017, 7:55pm

Post #157 of 174 (2383 views)
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Granted, we are just partaking in speculation that Tolkien never had time to actually [In reply to] Can't Post

work out nor do I think he had any inclination to do so. But for us fans, it is simply a way to imagine how things in this so real to us world could operate. It is just fun to consider some of the small points.


(This post was edited by Eruonen on Sep 6 2017, 7:55pm)


Eruonen
Valinor


Sep 7 2017, 1:24am

Post #158 of 174 (2358 views)
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The Grey Havens [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, here we are, about caught up to the book calendar and at the end of our LOTR read through, not including the Appendices which will be started under a new thread.

Frodo spends his year basically putting his affairs in order and writing. Sam was extremely busy with the supervision of the restoration of the Shire and with the help of Galadriel's gifts - a Mallorn seed and grow dust - the Shire will recover much faster than usual. The Party Tree will be replaced with a magnificent tree (that hopefully will thrive.
Sam, marries and has a child - that was fast! He wasted no time! Merry and Pippin cavort around as Shire lords as they stand out with their increased size and grand dress.
Bilbo passes the Old Took (hmm, I wonder what led to his longevity considering he had no Ring to "unnaturally" extend his life. He seems to have just enjoyed very good longevity genes, as with humans, a tiny few live to advances ages.

The time comes for the journey to The Havens - I think all of us as readers feel this sense of loss too. The reading started and we experienced all of the beauty, wonder, danger with these memorable characters and must say good-bye (once again!).


Eruonen
Valinor


Sep 7 2017, 1:32am

Post #159 of 174 (2361 views)
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This has been a very enjoyable read through for me - [In reply to] Can't Post

it has been many years since I read the books cover to cover. I had forgotten certain details and some were colored by film and artistic presentations.

Being once again captured by Tolkien's writing and being sucked into Middle Earth is always a pleasure. You feel the wet grass and mossy stones under foot, the cool waters and smell fragrances in the air, the warmth of hearth with good food and drink plus the cold and dankness of dark, scary places. The sulfurous smells of Gorgoroth and bad B.O. of orcs.

I hope we discovered some unique things for discussion that may have been missed in other read throughs.


noWizardme
Valinor


Sep 7 2017, 2:27pm

Post #160 of 174 (2323 views)
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replying to "Sam, marries and has a child - that was fast!" [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, he was handling Lorien Fertility Dust without using gloves or goggles....

~~~~~~
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 Sep 7 2017, 2:29pm)


noWizardme
Valinor


Sep 7 2017, 2:28pm

Post #161 of 174 (2317 views)
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I enjoyed it too - thanks for leading! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

~~~~~~
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


FarFromHome
Valinor


Sep 7 2017, 2:30pm

Post #162 of 174 (2320 views)
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Fantasy economics underpins a lot of English fiction [In reply to] Can't Post

Look at Jane Austen's world - her characters live in a bubble in which the harsh realities of how their income is really being earned is never examined. It's all very well to have "five hundred a year" or whatever it is, but the reality of where the money comes from is never considered. Without the rapacity commerce of the British Empire there would be no money for the civilized lifestyle of the English shires, but you'd hardly know it if you only had the works of Jane Austen to go by. Tolkien seems to be following the same approach, but it's harder for him to get away with it, because although we know the real-world situation that lies behind Jane Austen's world, Middle-earth is different - it appears to be complete in itself, and there's no room in it for the equivalent of the British Empire.

I think the mismatch comes about partly because Tolkien is deliberately playing with historical periods, with the Shire belonging to a much later period than most of the rest of Middle-earth. He tries to fudge it in the appendices by claiming that his "translation" has transformed the original land of the hobbits into something more familiar to his English readers. But in the end we have to just admit that it's a fantasy - although that does make me wonder if in that case Jane Austen was writing fantasy too...

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



FarFromHome
Valinor


Sep 7 2017, 2:38pm

Post #163 of 174 (2320 views)
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Totally! [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Well, he was handling Lorien Fertility Dust...

There are hints that Elanor's elvish beauty owes something to that magical dust as well. And it wasn't just Sam either:
“All the children born or begotten in that year, and there were many, were fair to see and strong, and most of them had a rich golden hair that had before been rare among hobbits.”
It seems like the side-effects of Galadriel's gift were pretty powerful!

Cool


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



Eruonen
Valinor


Sep 7 2017, 2:43pm

Post #164 of 174 (2317 views)
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Makes me think of the movie Cocoon [In reply to] Can't Post

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9BSsIX2j7M


Eruonen
Valinor


Sep 7 2017, 2:55pm

Post #165 of 174 (2314 views)
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A couple of things stand out for me: [In reply to] Can't Post

First, the presence of divine action - very subtle throughout the story.

Second, it was fun keeping track of every instance of Gandalf using magic - innate power. I counted more than I remembered.

Third - seeing where the book source material enters the films at different places and often being said by different characters.


squire
Half-elven


Sep 7 2017, 5:30pm

Post #166 of 174 (2306 views)
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Austen's fiction (and the rest) are built on "unpleasant economics" not "fantasy economics". [In reply to] Can't Post

There's nothing fantastic, in the literal meaning of the term, about the aristocratic socioeconomic structures that underlie so much of European art and literature. As you say, the reality of it may not be examined very closely - in fact, it's usually taken for granted by the writers and by their intended audiences - but that's not the same as the problems we encounter when trying to analyze Tolkien's construction of the Shire. He explicitly rules out the presence of a commercial and industrial metropolis and/or empire as the driver and consumer of the idyllic Shire's agricultural production. He only gets away with it because, well, fantasy.

"News Flash: the genre's called Fantasy. It's meant to be unrealistic, you myopic manatee!" (as ranted by JRRT against George RR Martin in the fabulous Rap Battle video).

One can, of course, debate whether Austen's fiction is "fantasy", in that it scants considerations of economics that even her embubbled characters might, in real life, have paid more attention to. That's the privilege of any author of fiction - no book or other work of art can possibly contain the entirety of life, and what makes it art is the choices made - but I feel that to use the term in direct equation to Tolkien's type of "fantasy" is abusing our critical vocabulary.



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'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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


Ettelewen
Rohan

Sep 7 2017, 6:24pm

Post #167 of 174 (2300 views)
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I liked it too. [In reply to] Can't Post

Granted I only lurked, but I really enjoyed the informal approach this time through. Thanks!


FarFromHome
Valinor


Sep 7 2017, 7:48pm

Post #168 of 174 (2295 views)
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I was pretty sure... [In reply to] Can't Post

... you wouldn't let me get away with my argument! ;)

I wasn't being serious, of course, when I said Jane Austen was "fantasy", just pointing out that there's not as big a gap between "realism" and "fantasy" as might at first appear. Even in novels set in the real world, many details of the real world itself may remain outside the story. I agree though that Tolkien's world appears to be too fully described to leave room for the kind of economic underpinnings that the Shire would need in order to exist as it does. Still, I'm not sure Tolkien "explicitly rules out" such things, as you claim. I'm always a bit uncomfortable with the way some readers want to build up everything in his stories into a fully integrated world, without taking into account the many gaps in the knowledge of the hobbit sources of the stories. Of course there isn't room in the story for the kind of "commercial and industrial metropolis and/or empire" that you feel would be necessary to explain the hobbits' way of life (although even pre-industrial revolution there were relatively prosperous periods in England, at least for the kinds of middle-class folk that we mostly meet in the Shire). But there is enough vagueness, I think, to encourage the reader not to care about such things in the first place (just as we don't care to question whether Mr Darcy's fortune comes from child labour or the slave trade).

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



Eruonen
Valinor


Sep 7 2017, 7:53pm

Post #169 of 174 (2292 views)
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A real world ancient example may shed some light on the possibilities [In reply to] Can't Post

http://www.reshafim.org.il/...t/economy/index.html
The ancient Egyptian economy

Not the same in the state control but in the types of manufacture.

Greece...an import based economy
https://en.wikipedia.org/...my_of_ancient_Greece


FarFromHome
Valinor


Sep 7 2017, 8:03pm

Post #170 of 174 (2288 views)
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What's in a name? [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
I always associated Sharkey, not with any Irish name, but with the huge and fierce hunting fish that, when it shows up, makes short work of all the lesser fishes of the sea

I would guess that's exactly what Tolkien wanted you to think, just as he wants you to think of the properties of cotton and the cotton-wool dressing called "gamgee" when you read the surnames Cotton and Gamgee (although Tolkien explains in the Appendices that the names have nothing to do with those substances really). So many of his names (Proudfoot, Baggins etc.) are real surnames that also contain images that work for us modern readers even if their original owners would not have understood them in the same way. Indeed it's not clear how the idea of sharks would have any resonance for orcs who presumably know nothing of the sea. But it has a resonance for us, as Tolkien well knew!


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



Eruonen
Valinor


Sep 7 2017, 8:21pm

Post #171 of 174 (2284 views)
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This goes back to elements being a bit off if he wanted to create a mythology for England. [In reply to] Can't Post

Cotton of course is not a crop of England as it is a warm weather plant. I think more of wool, leather, flax etc. The same for tobacco being a new world product. So, we have these anachronisms. They were important for his Shire world to represent the ideal English county / village life that he so cherished even if it was reflected a 17-19 th century version in a world set in an otherwise earlier age.

It is more of a two part mythology...ancient and early modern.


(This post was edited by Eruonen on Sep 7 2017, 8:21pm)


CuriousG
Half-elven


Sep 9 2017, 7:02am

Post #172 of 174 (2207 views)
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Thanks for leading us through Middle-earth again, Eru! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


sador
Half-elven


Sep 10 2017, 9:06pm

Post #173 of 174 (2176 views)
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"A district of well-ordered business". [In reply to] Can't Post

I think squire is right - even if when reading just the book, one could "get away" with your argument.

But once you read Concerning Hobbits in the Prologue, it falls down:


Quote
...in that pleasant corner of the world they plied their well-ordered business of living, and they heeded less and less the world outside where dark things moved, until they came to think that peace and plenty were the rule in Middle-earth and the right of all sensible folk.


That is nothing like Impreial England; in fact, it seems to strike nearer home.


sador
Half-elven


Sep 10 2017, 9:08pm

Post #174 of 174 (2173 views)
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Thank you, Euronen! [In reply to] Can't Post

My participation has been erratic, and often I have only read your posts long after discussion about them was over; but it was both illuminating and greatly enjoyable.

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