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Some things that I can't know about Middle-earth
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noWizardme
Half-elven


Aug 6, 4:17pm

Post #1 of 34 (1157 views)
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Some things that I can't know about Middle-earth Can't Post

I've been making a list of the kinds of things I can't know about Middle-earth. I mean 'can't' literally here -- things I could never know even in principle, as distinct from the many things I don't happen to know at the moment.

To get the trivial out of the way immediately, from time to time I've found myself wondering something or other. But Tolkien didn't write about it, most likely because it was unimportant to the stories he wanted to tell. So I can't know the answer. Of course I can make something up myself, or ask someone else what their guess is, but that's not the same. And mostly, it's unimportant anyway....

Then there are mysteries. 'Who and what is Tom Bombadil?' might be a good example. Clearly we're supposed to notice that old Tom is unexplained. Tolkien seems to go to pains not to explain, and to point out that an explanation is missing. Nor would he explain in answer to fan queries. So my conclusion is that it's meant to remain a deliberate mystery. That hasn't stopped a number of people treating it as if it were a puzzle and coming up with a theory about it. But nobody has the authority that something written by Tolkien would have had. So we can speculate, posit, demand that we are right and so on, but I don't suppose any theory will finally and unequivocally defeat all others. So I won't ever know -- but that's OK because I don't feel I need to know.

Omissions next. "Why don't the eagles fly the Ring to Mordor?" It's a plausible-sounding plan, just one that would have sent the story in a very different direction. But I don't think it's obvious from the text why The Eagle Plan wouldn't have at least been considered. It seems an omission because Tolkien is careful to rule out other Ring-disposal plans (such as dropping It in the sea or giving It to Tom Bombadil) I expect it's not mentioned because Tolkien didn't think of it. Had he done so I would have expected him to include a few lines in Council Of Elrond to rule it out. As with Bombadill, there's no lack of fans suggesting reasons it wouldn't have worked -- Nazgul Combat Air Patrol; poisonous fumes making bird flight impossible, risk of detection and {your personal favourite} -- but they all require assumptions with which someone else can decide to agree or disagree. And that of course is why this rumbles on as endlessly as Bombadil.

Speaking of things that rumble on endlessly without resolutions -- Ambiguities, such as balrog wings! When the balrog appears in Moria does the text describe a creature that has wings; or a creature that is surrounded by shadows and fires, which look like wings? I think the passage is too exciting for readers to see the ambiguity on first reading, meaning that people fix one or the other image in their heads (or at least that is what happened to me). But I think it should be easy enough to re-read to see how someone comes to the other meaning, no matter how much you prefer your chosen one. Perhaps ideally the copy-editor would have spotted the ambiguity and got Tolkien to choose. Or maybe he liked it the way it is.


My examples so far have been from Lord Of The Rings, where at least we have a text that Tolkien supervised through to publication (and then some revisions). If we turn to the material Tolkien left unpublished when he died there's a new problem - inconsistencies between drafts written at different times. Clearly Tolkien sometimes changed his mind as he went, or didn't see that this new idea was no longer compatible with that old one. So there are times when we have different draft ideas, and can't know how a final version would have come out, had Tolkien managed to finish one.

These are some of the things I can't know. I must say it doesn't bother me very much. I think that total completeness and total consistency are unreasonable and unnecessary demands to place on a fictive world --especially one written by one person in his spare time. Complete and consistent knowledge are not even things we have in the real world. Here, many more things can be known for sure -- at least in principle. But we often enough find ourselves with a lack of evidence or with different overlapping accounts and theories -- much as we do in Middle-earth.

~~~~~~
"You were exceedingly clever once, but unfortunately none of your friends noticed as they were too busy being attacked by an octopus."
-from How To Tell If You Are In A J.R.R. Tolkien Book, by Austin Gilkeson, in 'The Toast', 2016 https://the-toast.net/...-a-jrr-tolkien-book/


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 7, 3:22pm

Post #2 of 34 (1029 views)
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Omissions, ambiguities, inconsistencies--nay, do not start! ...here are the marks of a conspiracy. [In reply to] Can't Post

In ruminating on your musings, my logical mind wrestled with its own logic about the real world, asking questions like, "Why do people start wars, knowing how how many innocent lives will be lost?" "Why can't two people in love overcome their differences and stay married until death do them part?" "Why didn't Japan surrender after the first atomic bomb was dropped on it?" Nay, do not start, for the list is long.

So I wonder why we expect a fantasy world to behave more logically than our own. Maybe it's due to the idea that a fantasy world is created by a human, and that creator has 100% control over it, whereas no human has 100% control over the real world, and we learn to live with illogical things all the time. I don't think the real world's failure to behave logically makes us believe it's not real, but if a created world fails that test, our stricter sense of logic dismisses it as non-credible, and the creator has done their job poorly.

Tolkien made that observation in "On Fairy Stories":

Quote
To make a Secondary World inside which the green sun will be credible, commanding Secondary Belief, will probably require labour and thought, and will certainly demand a special skill, a kind of elvish craft. Few attempt such difficult tasks. But when they are attempted and in any degree accomplished then we have a rare achievement of Art: indeed narrative art, story-making in its primary and most potent mode.

Then, throwing down the gauntlet at the foot of Logic, Aesthetics boldly struts upon the scene. We're not attracted to Middle-earth because all the parts work like a nicely made appliance, but because we enjoy it and find it beautiful. Therefore we want all the parts to work, I suppose so others find it both beautiful and credible too and we don't feel like we're in a tiny cult of dingbats. And the more Tolkien did make all the parts work, the more we expect everything to work, and all questions to be answered.

He certainly takes us by the hand and answers one question after another. "Is there really a story about the cats of Queen Beruthiel?" "Yes." "Is there a story behind Galadriel's 'ere the fall of Nargothrond or Gondolin...' ?" "Yes." It's like being on a street full of tiles, with each tile bearing some mystery on its surface, and every time you turn over the tile, the mystery is explained. So why not expect ALL of them to work the same way when we've been encouraged to think they will?

I guess we need to reach the conclusion you did, that we grant the same leniency to a fantasy world that we do to the real world to have inconsistencies, exceptions, and illogical contradictions, because that's the logical thing to do.



(This post was edited by CuriousG on Aug 7, 3:24pm)


Na Vedui
Rohan


Aug 7, 6:47pm

Post #3 of 34 (1013 views)
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I think the elements of mystery and inconsistency... [In reply to] Can't Post

... are part of what makes Middle-earth feel more real than many fantasy worlds. Reality is messy too. Tolkien spent so much of his life and time involved with it that he was able to replicate (inadvertently in part) the sort of things that happen in the real world, such as the loss or mislaying of earlier knowledge, and the subsequent resurfacing of some of it; multiple ideas and explanations for the same phenomenon; tantalising glimpses of a multitude of characters, histories and incidents of which we will never know the full tale. At the same time, there is plenty of solid, detailed material to anchor things, so that these ragged, misty edges never make Middle-earth feel flimsy.


InTheChair
Lorien

Aug 7, 7:26pm

Post #4 of 34 (1012 views)
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Kamikaze eagles. [In reply to] Can't Post

The Balrog and Tom Bombadil are two that must remain ambiguous, although I think Tolkien once stated that Tom was meant to represent a personification of pure natural science.

Anyway, that leaves the Eagles, but this I think could be fairly easy to give an answer. Sauron would have seen it and brought it down. Crude, simple, but should hold up against any scrutiny. The fact that it is not mentioned can be taken as an omission, or perhaps that everyone saw it as self-evident. Assuming you could get Eagles to even agree to a suicide mission to begin with.


noWizardme
Half-elven


Aug 8, 2:43pm

Post #5 of 34 (976 views)
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Eagle Discussions [In reply to] Can't Post

I've often seen The Eagle Discussion on this or other forums, but I can't remember one ending with a consensus that a certain explanation is most likely correct. Instead, several different explanations tend to be advanced. After that, there's often not much to say - naturally enough, everyone prefers their own take on the matter.

So I think this matter is 'unknowable' because we have many candidate explanations but lack a way to choose between them (beyond everyone making a personal choice among options they regard as plausible).
I suppose it's possible that Tolkien thought this 'fly the Ring to Mordor' idea out, realized there was a reason to reject it, felt that reason would be self-evident and so wrote nothing about it. But then he was wrong about that, wasn't he? At least I don't find his self-evident reason self-evident! I can't guess which of the common explanations he might have preferred, or whether he'd thought of something else.

~~~~~~
"You were exceedingly clever once, but unfortunately none of your friends noticed as they were too busy being attacked by an octopus."
-from How To Tell If You Are In A J.R.R. Tolkien Book, by Austin Gilkeson, in 'The Toast', 2016 https://the-toast.net/...-a-jrr-tolkien-book/


squire
Half-elven


Aug 8, 6:19pm

Post #6 of 34 (962 views)
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Tolkien's answer to the Eagle question is in his letter critiquing a film script that used the Eagle Express liberally. [In reply to] Can't Post

"The Eagles are a dangerous ‘machine’. I have used them sparingly, and that is the absolute limit of their credibility or usefulness."

"At the bottom of the page, the Eagles are again introduced. I feel this to be a wholly unacceptable tampering with the tale. ‘Nine Walkers’ and they immediately go up in the air! The intrusion achieves nothing but incredibility, and the staling of the device of the Eagles when at last they are really needed."

"...would Z [the scriptwriter] think that he had improved the effect of a film of, say, the ascent of Everest by introducing helicopters to take the climbers half way up (in defiance of probability)?" - all from JRRT Letter 210.
Beyond Tolkien's pique at having his plot and worldview changed, I think his answer here to the Eagle question comes down to one of the less popular ones in current, post-film, discussions. He had no truck with gaming-style debates about Sauron's Eye seeing the Eagles, or the Nazgul flying Combat Air Patrol over the Dark Land, or the fumes of Gorgoroth being too toxic.

No, he simply recognizes that to have the Eagles deliver the Ring to Mordor is to have no story at all. (Why do critical fans ask about flying the Ring from Rivendell to Mordor, but never realize that it would be even more efficient to fly the Ring to the Fire directly from Bag End?).

But Tolkien also knew that to have no Eagles at all eliminates a theme of divine intervention and deliverance beyond hope that is important in making his story a fantastic legend, not an adventure novel. Thus his fine distinction about using the Eagles 'sparingly', and refraining from overuse in order to maintain the credibility of the tale (that is, to avoid having the reader wonder why not just fly the Ring to Mordor).

I suppose the films are largely the source of the now-eternal debate. I imagine the gorgeous aerial photography and special effects, along with not having the Eagles speak as they do in the book, and having Gandalf summon an eagle to Orthanc via moth-radio, broke the boundary with modern viewers that Tolkien believed he had not broken with his carefully written episodes of miraculous rescues unlooked-for.



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Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Aug 9, 8:15am

Post #7 of 34 (901 views)
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The Eagle question [In reply to] Can't Post

The Eagles taking the Ring is a bit of a too easy if quick, option. Which is really why it should be rejected if possible. For example, precisely how would they take the Ring into the fire of Mount Doom? Just fly it there and drop it upon the mountain? Or would they have to do a flyby to the cracks inside and fly inside the mountain? A very dangerous and tricky mission. Also, I don't think the Eagles would appreciate always been relied upon to do tricky missions. Especially the Eagles like the creatures in the Hobbit. Yes, I know, the Hobbit is a bit different and Tolkien hadn't worked everything out by then, blah, blah, but they where nervous about a few woodmen yewbows. One can only imagine what type of ground defenses Mordor would have. Also I wonder if all the Eagles could be trusted. Yes, Eagles are on the good side, but I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't the odd wrong one. Maybe a Wormtongue of Eagles. Who might organise some kind of mobbing of whichever bird carried the Ring.


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Aug 9, 8:27am

Post #8 of 34 (903 views)
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One could argue [In reply to] Can't Post

But I certainly wouldn't that Tolkien likes to have his Lembas and eat it over the Eagle question. I mean he does create this god-like intervention device for use in impossible situations than he complains when people suggest that the Eagles are used more often! Smile


noWizardme
Half-elven


Aug 9, 10:50am

Post #9 of 34 (898 views)
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Let me argue that for you then :) [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
[One could argue that] But I certainly wouldn't that Tolkien likes to have his Lembas and eat it over the Eagle question. I mean he does create this god-like intervention device for use in impossible situations than he complains when people suggest that the Eagles are used more often!Smile

Let me argue that for you then Smile

I think that accusation is perfectly fair.

I think Tolkien only has himself to blame. It's quite fun reading his harrumphing at the hapless Z (unless you happen to be Z, I suppose!). And of course Tolkien is right about the silly aspects of eagle over-use. But I think Tolkien is also expertly exploring the plot hole he's already made for himself, and which Z was only proposing to deepen and open up to tourists for the spectacle of the thing.

Yes, an easy eagle expedition spoils the story, but if the characters aren't allowed to think of it for that reason alone, then there goes my suspension of disbelief. What authors more usually do about such problems (I think, and in my experience) is to close the plot-hole within the fictional world. That is, give readers some reason why the disastrous plot-line can't happen, because or something that would make sense to the characters themselves. That way, the story maintains the illusion that the characters are not the author's puppets but that they are acting autonomously according to the personalities and circumstances we find them in. I don't think Tolkien provides such text or clues in LOTR, and I think that ideally he would have done. Or , of course, perhaps he didn't think there was a problem - and I can suggest why that might be.

What I think has happened is that eagles have changed in an important way from Hobbit to LOTR, or that we are catching them in the act of changing as LOTR progresses (I don't think I can see an exact point of metamorphosis). Before, they are one of Middle-earth's sentient peoples, who happen to be giant birds. It seems perfectly reasonable that someone might ask them for favours, or negotiate their help, as indeed we see happening. After, they are so associated with ideas of divine grace that calling upon their help would be something like asking for (or demanding) a miracle. If this is what has happened in Tolkien's head, then it might explain why it's now inconceivable to him that anyone would dare ask for eagle help. Rather, characters should be doing what God allegedly likes and receiving help only once they have helped themselves -- and it might well be self-evident to them that this is so. But in that case I think we lack text that will help a reader to keep up with this change in authorial thinking -- or at least I can't think of where it is, but would welcome someone finding it and quoting it to me.

Eagles of course aren't the only instance of something changing from Hobbit to LOTR -- we often talk about Gandalf when considering this. But as I read LOTR I see enough of the more serious and powerful LOTR-Gandalf that the less impressive Hobbit-Gandalf slips from my mind. So Tolkien takes me with him. He's less successful doing that with the Eagles. I don't remember reading text in LOTR that helps me understand that they are different. Indeed, they seem to be perfectly willing to do message- and people-carrying duties for their friends, just as before. So I don't blame Jackson - (although doubtless the film did put the exciting idea of eagle rides into many new minds - it's Tolkien's fault!

If it's right (as I think, and as I think I'm agreeing with squire) that asking for an eagle lift in LOTR is a bit like praying for or demanding a miracle, then I suppose Tolkien got himself into a further hole. As I understand it, he wants the role of the divine to be implicit in his story, but shuns using it manifestly as an agenda or plot device. If I'm right about that, it makes the Eagles new role rather tricky for Tolkien to explain in the text.
Come to think of it, the eagles aren't the only thing in Middle-earth that evolves before our eyes. The Black Riders of LOTR Book I change into the fell beast-riding foes of later on, leaving readers and fans to scramble for a 'logical' explanation if one is required. (And as with my other examples in this discussion I'm not saying that I don't know what those fan explanations are, and nor do I fail to realise that people can be very convinced that their favoured explanations work. As for the other examples, I'm suggesting that we can't 'know' the answer in the way we might feel we did if Tolkien had provided one).

And that point of the (apparent) mutability of nazgul gives me a welcome opportunity to throw 'Reverend's Balrog' into the mix:

Quote
That is, in this matter, as on almost every matter of dispute in Tolkien, the author changed his mind, changed it more than once, and made no effort to impose consistancy on his past writting. Early Balrogs definitely did not have wings and did not fly. Late Balrogs did have wings and definitely flew. This should not surprise us. Tolkien was willing to even change things already in print when it suited him, as when he altered the text of the Hobbit (as first published Gollum GAVE Bilbo the Ring for winning the Riddle Game, as he told the Dwarves), or when he revised Celeborn’s clan affiliation without notifying Galadriel.

So, back to the question. Did the Balrog at the Bridge of Khazad-Dum have wings?

Here I refer back to my epochal post of several months ago, in which I point out that the Balrog, and Balrogs in general, had been getting bigger, and more traditionally demonic, in each revision. I say that this process continued into print. The second reference to wings is not a metaphor, because somewhere in the process getting about a hundred words on paper, Tolkien changed his mind. The transition between the early Balrog and the late Balrog is preserved for us in ink; the Balrog came into the room without wings and left with them. Don’t say Tolkien was too careful a writer to do this. Nazgul also recieved a radical upgrade over the course of the story; they just managed it off-stage.

http://newboards.theonering.net/...rend%20wings;#956757


At this point I must stop. Tolkien's analogy of the ascent of Everest (in his letter about Z's script, quoted by squire) is something I have some ideas about, but no time now. I might return to that if I remember - please do remind me if you dare! (Or indeed 'if you care'!)

~~~~~~
"You were exceedingly clever once, but unfortunately none of your friends noticed as they were too busy being attacked by an octopus."
-from How To Tell If You Are In A J.R.R. Tolkien Book, by Austin Gilkeson, in 'The Toast', 2016 https://the-toast.net/...-a-jrr-tolkien-book/


(This post was edited by noWizardme on Aug 9, 10:52am)


InTheChair
Lorien

Aug 9, 11:43am

Post #10 of 34 (894 views)
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What actually is the argument that they could send Eagles to Mount Doom? [In reply to] Can't Post

I cannot see any merit in the suggestion that one or more Eagles could fly the ringbearer or even the whole company to Mount Doom. They could in theory have been used for a part of the way, like they are in the hobbit, but then this is already done with Gandalfs escape from Orthanc, and then once you open the question of why they didn't do it more, then you might as well ask why does not everyone in Middle-earth use Eagles for their transportation needs. It is a service they offer only when circumstances arrange it, or when a higher power decides that little hobbit who brought down Sauron shouldn't be left to die.

If Eagles could fly in and out of Mordor when Mordor was in power unnoticed, and without harm or danger, then Saurons entire power base might as well be founded on dust. Then as always one can never really be happy about ones Middle-earth theories. It seems this is precisely what the Eagle does at Orthanc, and Saruman not noticing until after the deed.


noWizardme
Half-elven


Aug 9, 4:56pm

Post #11 of 34 (859 views)
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Up Everest by red herring [In reply to] Can't Post

I promised some comments on this, quoted earlier by squire:

Quote
"...would Z [the scriptwriter] think that he had improved the effect of a film of, say, the ascent of Everest by introducing helicopters to take the climbers half way up (in defiance of probability)?" - all from JRRT Letter 210.

I think this is a red herring for our purposes. The British project to ascend Everest first (which almost exactly co-incide with Tolkien's work creating Middle-earth) had something of a sport about it. And so there are arguments about what is or is not a sporting way to achieve the goal. For example there were early discussions about whether it would 'count' if the climbers reaching the summit had used oxygen. Destroying the Ring, by contrast is the only way to win a desperate war for survival. I don't think I can straight-facedly consider the argument that our heroes would send Frodo on foot rather than by eagle in order to give Sauron a sporting chance to catch him.

~~~~~~
"You were exceedingly clever once, but unfortunately none of your friends noticed as they were too busy being attacked by an octopus."
-from How To Tell If You Are In A J.R.R. Tolkien Book, by Austin Gilkeson, in 'The Toast', 2016 https://the-toast.net/...-a-jrr-tolkien-book/


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 9, 5:53pm

Post #12 of 34 (854 views)
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"Don’t say Tolkien was too careful a writer to do this." [In reply to] Can't Post

I like that line by Reverend. Even as a Tolkien fanboy, I can't pretend he was perfect. And I sense the drift of this thread is a discussion of plot-holes in Tolkien. It isn't hard to find them:

1. Why is Gandalf so certain that Sauron's Ring can only be destroyed at Mount Doom?

Quote
It has been said that dragon-fire could melt and consume the Rings of Power, but there is not now any dragon left on earth in which the old fire is hot enough; nor was there ever any dragon, not even Ancalagon the Black, who could have harmed the One Ring, the Ruling Ring, for that was made by Sauron himself. ‘There is only one way: to find the Cracks of Doom in the depths of Orodruin, the Fire-mountain, and cast the Ring in there, if you really wish to destroy it, to put it beyond the grasp of the Enemy for ever.’

How does he know that? Has Gandalf even *tried* to destroy the Ring? Or is there a little disclaimer in fine print on the Ring that says "Can only be destroyed in Mount Doom"? As Gandalf himself says about Ring lore (re: Saruman),


Quote
And Saruman? But great though his lore may be, it must have a source. What hand save Sauron’s ever held this thing, ere it was lost? The hand of Isildur alone.

So did Isildur write authoritatively: "This Ring can only be destroyed in Mount Doom"? Or did Gollum of all people tell Gandalf this? There is no source for this information, yet the *entire quest* depends on this sourceless fact. How absurd is that?


2. Then there's the conviction that the Ring corrupts its owner:

Quote
"‘Alas, no,’ said Elrond. ‘We cannot use the Ruling Ring. That we now know too well. It belongs to Sauron and was made by him alone, and is altogether evil. Its strength, Boromir, is too great for anyone to wield at will, save only those who have already a great power of their own. But for them it holds an even deadlier peril. The very desire of it corrupts the heart. Consider Saruman. If any of the Wise should with this Ring overthrow the Lord of Mordor, using his own arts, he would then set himself on Sauron’s throne, and yet another Dark Lord would appear.

How is he so sure? Again, I'm going to echo Gandalf and insist on sources and footnotes. Did the Ring corrupt Isildur and Bilbo? Did Bilbo go around murdering people like Smeagol did? Did Isildur? Or did the One Ring just exploit Smeagol's existing corruption and amplify it? I think the latter, based on the only hands that touched the One besides Sauron himself. 2/3 of the owners were not murderous, evil, and corrupt, so why is anyone so sure as Elrond, Gandalf, and Galadriel that using the One Ring will make them evil?

I just bring up these points for illustration. All fiction requires some suspension of disbelief. Tolkien wants me to believe in a world where tree-beings can walk and talk and herd other trees. Okay. It means I accept a lot of other things too. I think it's analogous to riding a roller coast: you ride it for thrills and enjoyment, and you don't need to know all the physics and engineering about g-forces to enjoy it, you just enjoy the ride.

But I will also conclude that Tolkien sort of invites us to look for plot-holes because he was so diligent in trying to eliminate them, and when you see evidence of that, you naturally expect to find more.


squire
Half-elven


Aug 9, 7:08pm

Post #13 of 34 (844 views)
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That's not my understanding of his 'helicopter up Everest' analogy [In reply to] Can't Post

As I read it, his point to Z is that The Lord of the Rings is written as a heroic quest in the tradition of olden-days adventurers walking, riding, or sailing past obstacles to reach a goal. Flying by magical bird changes the quest to something out of the Arabian Nights or other fantastic traditions in which giant magical birds are perfectly acceptable devices.

Likewise, the climbing of Everest, oxygen or not, is about the technical challenge of climbing by hand and foot, not about reaching the summit by any means possible.

But note that in both cases Tolkien speaks about the act of writing a story (or making a film) about these activities, not about actually doing them. He is not concerned here with what his characters might want to do or not do in Middle-earth; he objects to Z's major change in how he chose to tell the story of what those characters did do.

You argue that unlike mountain climbing "Destroying the Ring is the only way to win a war for survival" so surely the Eagles are acceptable - but as you say in a later post here, even the premises of "Destroying the Ring" only in Mordor and the "moral danger of wielding the Ring" are the author's arbitrary constructs, in service of the story he wants to tell. Using the eagles to carry the Ring to Mordor or even part way ruins Tolkien's story, but it could perfectly well work in someone else's story.

I think it's not a plot hole if it doesn't cause a reader to say huh? when reading the story. And for me at least, I read this book at least a dozen times before the film came out, and it never once occurred to me that this was possible. After the release of the films, combined with a joyful and multi-connected internet culture, suddenly countless new fans have wondered, or repeated others' wondering, about why the eagles, etc. Tolkien might well object that for this to have happened, the filmmakers somehow misunderstood and so misrepresented his "sparing" use of a "dangerous 'machine'".



squire online:
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Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
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Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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Ataahua
Superuser / Moderator


Aug 10, 12:49am

Post #14 of 34 (808 views)
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I know this isn't what Tolkien was thinking, [In reply to] Can't Post

but my head-canon is that the eagles weren't used more often due to the Song, which laid out all the history of Middle-earth.

The forming of the Fellowship didn't just end with the unmaking of the One Ring. It also resulted in the defeat of the Balrog, the freeing of Theoden's mind and the ending of Saruman's corrupting influence on the surrounding lands, saving the life of the future Prince of Ithilien from his father's madness, the return of the King of Gondor, and the strengthening of the bonds between Gondor and lands near and far - possibly none of which would have happened if the Fellowship had fast-tracked their Mordor journey by air.

In my head, Eru didn't make his eagles available so that a greater good could come about (which also fits with Tolkien's 'dangerous machines' comment).

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Fantasy novel - The Arcanist's Tattoo

My LOTR fan-fiction


Silverlode
Forum Admin / Moderator


Aug 10, 1:30am

Post #15 of 34 (803 views)
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If we're discussing Eagles again... [In reply to] Can't Post

Here is something I put together back in 2010. These are the reasons I can see in-story for the limited use of the Eagles as a delivery service.
Reason 1: There are no free rides in Middle-earth
Tolkien referred to the Eagles as a sort of deus ex machina, which swoop down out of nowhere to solve problems. I think that they represent "grace", and their appearance is always a moment of Eucatastrophe, the sudden unexpected turn to good. In Tolkien's philosophy, grace is not given to prevent someone from having to face something difficult or to avoid danger, it only appears when one has exhausted all options in the struggle to do right and is exhibiting "courage without hope". This doesn't mean much to the viewer or reader who is dedicated (or conditioned) to the path of least resistance but I believe it meant a lot to Tolkien. One can also speculate as to whether their association with Manwe (per the Silmarilllion) may factor in as well.

Reason 2: The Eagles have no rings of power. The Eagles need no rings of power.
The quest to destroy the One Ring is not their problem, and definitely not their responsibility. Those involved in the question of what to do with the One Ring are those involved with the Three, Seven, and Nine. The Hobbits come in because they found the One. It's up to these peoples to deal with the problem. What do Eagles know/care about rings? What obligation do they have to risk their lives at the request of others?

Reason 3: It's all who you know.
The Eagles are not humanoid, they're not a society which interacts much if at all with the "Free Peoples", and they don't take much interest in their doings. In this way, they're more like the Ents. They're generally on the side of Good and they are opposed to the wickedness of Orcs and Wargs, but they're not much interested in things that don't directly affect them.

In fact, the Eagles appear for only 2 reasons, either in The Hobbit or LOTR:

1) To rescue or aid Gandalf - "The wizard and the eagle-lord appeared to know one another slightly, and even to be on friendly terms. As a matter of fact Gandalf...had once rendered a service to the eagles and healed their lord from an arrow-wound." - Out of the Frying-Pan Into the Fire, The Hobbit

Note: We see that both Radagast and Galadriel have some communication with the Eagles, but we do not have any record of their interactions except what they request for Gandalf, and both requests are in the nature of aerial surveillance.

2) For battle against their particular enemies - "They did not love goblins, or fear them. When they took any notice of them at all (which was seldom, for they did not eat such creatures), they swooped on them...and stopped whatever wickedness they were doing." - Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fire, The Hobbit

A look at the appearances of the Eagles in both The Hobbit and LOTR confirms this:

The Hobbit #1 - Orcs in Eagle territory and Gandalf is rescued

The Lord of the Eagles comes to find out what the wolves and goblins are doing in his territory and rescues Gandalf from the top of his burning tree. Gandalf speaks to him and asks him to rescue the rest of his party. It is at Gandalf's request that they are then set down at the Carrock.

But the Eagles would not take them anywhere near where men lived. "They would shoot at us with their great bows of yew", he said, "for they would think that we were after their sheep. ...No! we are glad to cheat the goblins of their sport, and glad to repay our thanks to you, but we will not risk ourselves for dwarves in the southward plains."

#2 - Battle against orc and warg armies
The Eagles appear in battle to defeat the goblins. "The Eagles had long had suspicion of the goblins' mustering; from their watchfulness the movements in the mountains could not be altogether hid. So they too had gathered in great numbers....and at length smelling battle from afar they had come...."


LOTR #1: Gandalf Requests surveillance and gets rescued
In FOTR the book, Gandalf was rescued from Orthanc because he asked Radagast to request all birds and beasts to gather news and bring it to him there before Saruman's treason was known. In the movie, Gandalf sent the rescue request himself via moth courier.

#2: Galadriel requests surveillance for Gandalf and he is rescued
Galadriel asked Gwaihir to look for Gandalf after his battle with the Balrog and bring him to Lorien. He found him on Zirakzigil after his spirit was "sent back".

#3: Joining the battle and Gandalf requests rescue for Frodo
Battle at the Black Gate - Eagles appear for battle and attack the Nazgul (the only flying enemies) at the moment the Ring is about to be destroyed. The Nazgul flee, and Gandalf calls the Eagles down and makes special request for Eagles to rescue Frodo and Sam from Mount Doom. Two things to note here: First, Sauron and his orc armies are no longer a factor, and second, Frodo and Sam have done their duty and discharged their responsibility so this is in the nature of Grace and Eucatastrophe.

Why didn't Gandalf ask the Eagles to take the Ring? See Reasons 1 and 2; Gandalf was sent to stir up the Free Peoples against Sauron, not to do everything for them or to take over their responsibilities. He participates in the Council of Elrond and he stands by the Ringbearer, and he tries to keep them from making stupid decisions, but he doesn't take over anyone's responsibility. Why would he ask the Eagles to take it over? And I'm not sure even healing the Lord of the Eagles from a wound is enough obligation to ask for that.

Besides, it wasn't as practical as some like to think. If the Eagles (in The Hobbit) thought the bows of men defending flocks of sheep made it too dangerous to fly over the southern plains, what about the thousands of Orc archers stationed all over the plains of Gorgoroth? Eagles may be able to carry loads for a certain way, but Mordor is quite far away and there are no good rest places in between. And they'd have to fly over the closely watched passes of the Ephel Duath. And there were flying Nazgul on top of that. And we haven't even mentioned the Eye watching.

Sauron could apparently cause Mount Doom to erupt at will. When he was ready for his attack on Gondor, he caused it to belch thick smoke and fumes continuously for days, so much that the whole sky was darkened. There's no flying over and dropping anything in an actively erupting volcano. Even some which are not actively spewing out smoke and lava can put out a great deal of poisonous gas. And then there's the heat factor. Heat rises. Feathers melt and burn, much like hair. If the volcano was hot enough to melt the One Ring, it could be hot enough to kill anything flying directly over it.

An Eagle coming with the Ring would have quite a distance to cover before he even entered Mordor. If the orc archers didn't get him, and the Nazgul didn't intercept him, surely the Eye of Sauron would have seen him coming and have enough warning to heat up the mountain a bit before the Eagle got there.
There is no such thing as an airborne sneak attack into anyplace as heavily guarded as Mordor. It's more like high profile suicide.

Silverlode

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.




noWizardme
Half-elven


Aug 10, 9:58am

Post #16 of 34 (761 views)
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Yikes, I now have several replies! [In reply to] Can't Post

Before I rush off excitedly in new directions, I must remember to say - yes, I agree. Tolkien's letter was not offering his 'defence' of 'the eagle problem', he was explaining something else, just as you say squire. (If someone did try to use this as a counter to the eagle problem then I feel it fails, for the reason that I've already given -- but quite likely there's no need to repeat that.)


In Reply To
The Lord of the Rings is written as a heroic quest in the tradition of olden-days adventurers walking, riding, or sailing past obstacles to reach a goal. Flying by magical bird changes the quest to something out of the Arabian Nights or other fantastic traditions in which giant magical birds are perfectly acceptable devices.

I agree about the 'heroic quest in the tradition of....' bit. My first reply is an aside about Mountains. I've recently been reading and greatly enjoying Robert Macfarlane's 'Mountains Of The Mind'. Macfarlane discusses the origins of mountaineering (as opposed to traveling or working as in mountainous areas if necessary). It happens at the time of the Industrial Revolution, the colonialist era and Romantic Movement. Mountain exploration served all those - scientific discovery; exploration for military intelligence and scouting natural resources; the opportunity to be the first white person there (and perhaps to name something on the map after yourself or as you pleased). Lastly mountains and other wild places were now seen as offering an experience that was at once athletic, heroic, aesthetic and contemplative (think of that painting Wanderer Above A Sea Of Fog). But the Nineteenth Century was also aware that it was extinguishing the unknown and mysterious at a frightening rate - how could we be Romantic in a world where everything was known? (This raises another version of that conflict between wonder and knowledge that we've been encountering here, discussing unknowns in the fiction of Middle-earth.) The Everest expeditions 1921 - 1953 were seen by some contemporaries as the conquest of a 'Third Pole' - the last mysterious place, and one which would be conquered soon, with both pride and regret. (And, in that nationalist period, it had better be conquered by British - or at least Commonwealth - effort, the British having been beaten to the other two poles!).

Next, the Arabian Nights - a really good contrast to bring up! Do people 'plothole' and nit-pick those stories, I wonder? I wonder why they do (or why they do not)? I'm glad the Sultan didn't take that approach at least, since it would have ended badly for Scheherazade! If people respond to Arabian Nights differently, is there something special about Middle-earth that encourages a different, more critical treatment? It was CuriousG rather than me who has been pointing out that we have to accept some of a fantasy authors premise if we're to have any fun at all. I also think he's right to suggest that Tolkien sets out some of it so carefully that it looks like he's inviting the game of analysing Middle-earth and wanting to know many facts about it. Indeed, didn't he actively play it with his readers, by adding the LOTR Appendices, and in all those letters he wrote to answer reader queries?

So that brings me to a thought about Tolkien as a writer. Thanks to the work of Christopher Tolkien (Tolkien Jr.? or Tolkien II, perhaps?) anyone who can buy or borrow copies of HOME can find out a lot about Tolkien's writing practices. What I think I see is Tolkien working in two modes. First there's what we might call 'Grasshopper Tolkien' - seeming to get somewhere new and astonishing in a single bound. Things seem to spring from his subconscious (or wherever these things come from) sometimes catching him by surprise. Quite suddenly we have Black Riders, or Palantirs, or Treebeard who is now an Ent, not a giant as originally expected. Toiling behind the grasshopper comes 'Inchworm Tolkien' carefully and laboriously working out what this all means, how it would work, how to square that with the timeline, and so on. I think that we get the two in balance in LOTR, each contributing to the effect of the finished work. Occasionally perhaps the grasshopper lands badly, or goes somewhere that the Inchworm does not consolidate. But I much prefer works of this period to later, when the grasshopper seems rarely to come out, and all the toil of the poor Inchworm alone cannot finish what the team had begun (The Silmarillion, for example).



Next, I'm beginning to think of 'plotholing' as a pastime - the discovering (or inventing) and then solving of Middle-earth puzzles as a creative activity. Or perhaps I should say 'an imaginative activity' since it can feel destructive rather than creative! Perhaps 'plot-holing' is not the right word and I'm being lured by the appeal of the pun with 'pot-holing'. I do see that 'plot-hole' is emotive - it sounds alarming, as if Middle-earth has been found wanting or is somehow falling apart and needs shoring up. And I suspect that is the effect some folks enjoy when they spend time looking for 'plot-holes', and why other people put a lot of effort - anxiety even - into explaining them away. But whatever we call it, Middle-earth seems to prompt the behaviour, just as it prompts people to write fan fiction, or make artworks and costumes. There's overlap of course - someone who wants to make a balrog picture or costume will have to decide what to do about wings: yes, no, or manage ambiguity somehow? Nonetheless, enough of us seem to enjoy jut thinking about and discussing these things, without going on to make some tangible creation of our own. As I understand it, Middle-earth is no longer the only imaginary world that prompts such responses (I think people behave similarly in respect to Marvel Superheroes, or Star Wars, for example). I don't know whether Middle-earth was the imaginary world that started all this, it then spilling over into other imaginary worlds. Or maybe people were doing that with other fictions long before? Or, as another option, maybe here was some cultural change that made people interested in this sort of thing, and they applied it to whatever fictions seemed appropriate to it. So all that is to say - I wonder whether the current levels of interest in continuity and 'canon' are new?

If I remember, the Jackson LOTR films came much at the same time as the rise of the Internet as a popular way to write AND read. I do think it's likely that both developments increased the number of people wanting to have complicated analytical discussions about Middle-earth. And the Internet certainly made it much easier to get involved. If this sort of thing was going on before that, then I suppose it must have been by the circulation of magazines -- a much slower way for information to spread because a new recruit would have to find out the magazine existed, afford a subscription, and take part by letter-writing and posting. So it would be easy enough for this sort of thing to have been going on a long time before any of us knew about it.
In the end, what does it matter? Like you, squire, 'the eagle problem' didn't occur to me until I encountered it online. Evidently I'm willing to be drawn into discussing it. I feel that ideally Tolkien would have done something to pre-empt it as a concern, and that it might be interesting to think about why he didn't (or whether h should have). But (harking back to my OP) personally I'm content for there to be mysteries and it doesn't' bother me much. Perhaps I'm trying to have my lembas and eat them?Smile

~~~~~~
"You were exceedingly clever once, but unfortunately none of your friends noticed as they were too busy being attacked by an octopus."
-from How To Tell If You Are In A J.R.R. Tolkien Book, by Austin Gilkeson, in 'The Toast', 2016 https://the-toast.net/...-a-jrr-tolkien-book/


(This post was edited by noWizardme on Aug 10, 10:00am)


noWizardme
Half-elven


Aug 10, 10:59am

Post #17 of 34 (759 views)
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Things I CAN know about Middle-earth [In reply to] Can't Post

You're quite right - there are some things we have to take the author's word for in fantasy, or we can't join in at all. The author tells me stuff that I have to take as axiomatic, or give up the story - such as the only means of destroying the Ring being the one that is attempted. I feel I can and do 'know' those things about Middle-earth because Tolkien says them (using characters as mouthpieces rather than his hobbit-era mechanism of addressing the reader directly). I suppose this Author Power is the fantasy equivalent of real-world knowledge that a reader could bring to a novel set in, say, modern Birmingham, or Regency London (or on a helicopter trying to get up Everest in the 1950s).

Similarly, I suppose that I would most likely accept an explanation by Tolkien of Bombadil, Balrog Wings, Eagle Flights to Mordor etc. unless the new explanation threw everything into confusion or contradiction. We'd then know the answer, in the sense I was using the work 'know' when we started out. In the absence of this though, we're left to deduce from the axioms we've been given -- or imagine the answer for ourselves (and then encounter to our joy or frustration other people whose imaginations have functioned differently!)

I'm now already Wondering (in a reply to squire than becomes a bit of a scatter of talking points) why and how Middle-earth comes to attract these deeply analytical reader responses - but I think you have a good part of the answer - Tolkien himself was willing carefully to explain lots of things, thus inviting us into a game of pretending to be Middle-earth historians (or scientists or whatever). The game is limited by us being historians with only one source (Tolkien), or scientists who can't gather more data.

~~~~~~
"You were exceedingly clever once, but unfortunately none of your friends noticed as they were too busy being attacked by an octopus."
-from How To Tell If You Are In A J.R.R. Tolkien Book, by Austin Gilkeson, in 'The Toast', 2016 https://the-toast.net/...-a-jrr-tolkien-book/


(This post was edited by Ataahua on Aug 10, 8:44pm)


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 10, 2:57pm

Post #18 of 34 (748 views)
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Axioms and affectionate scrutiny [In reply to] Can't Post

"Affectionate scrutiny" is what Brethil used to call it: we examine Tolkien in detail not to find fault with him, but because we love his work so much, so we want to immerse ourselves more in all its nooks and crannies. There are plenty of fantasies I've read where I didn't care to learn any more about the world's underpinnings or resolve any lingering questions--I'd say just about every fantasy I've read except Tolkien, actually. Tolkien made his world just real enough that some logic does seem to apply, so why not apply it?

If I contrast his Middle-earth legendarium with something like Roverandom (which I quickly forgot and wouldn't re-read), I'd say he wrote about Middle-earth for at least 3 reasons:

1. He wanted to tell an entertaining story.
2. He felt emotionally connected to it. (Think of all the orphaned characters, and Luthien dancing for Beren, for starters.)
3. Consciously or not, he wanted to persuade readers to share his values.

After reading Tolkien, you know that preserving nature against rapacious industrialism is important. That's easy to point out and is axiomatic.

A bigger underlying message that finds its way into his axioms is a religious response to the secular question: "If God exists and prayer works, why is there so much evil in the world?" The religious response is that God exists and works in hidden ways.

I think that's the axiom you run into repeatedly when you question his works. If Fingolfin can fight Morgoth and make him limp for the rest of his life, and Thorondor can leave lasting scars on his face, why can't Tulkas knock on Angband's gate and demand one-to-one combat and really finish him off? If Beren and Luthien, just the two of them, can infiltrate Angband, put Morgoth to sleep, and retrieve a Silmaril, why can't the Valar do something similar?

If Sauron can be killed by Elendil and Gil-Galad and the Ring cut from his finger, why don't the Valar send an army to do the job right instead of sending those deliberately hobbled Istari to work through others?

We could go on and on. While Tolkien seems to answer those questions with "look what happened to Beleriand when the gods intervene--they don't want to destroy the Earth in another battle," my response would be, "Who says they *must* release all those destructive powers? Can't they control themselves? Morgoth didn't destroy Beleriand when he fought Fingolfin; that showed self-control." The only person who makes it all-or-nothing is Tolkien with his built-in assumptions.

I think he wants us to see the Hand of Providence at work: Frodo was chose by providence and can only complete the quest because of it; Frodo & Sam receive inspiration at times by providence; the Eagles only arrive at the Black Gate because of providence. Why doesn't Providence do more? Because it's mysterious, and mortals can't figure it out or assign rules to its behavior.

Whether you're made a convert or not, I think that Tolkien's pervasive faith has to be considered along with his diligent logic and richly detailed world in questioning why things do or don't happen. That certainly doesn't come across in the movies, which is why it's more common for movie-first people to ask the Eagle question. But in the books, you're immersed in Tolkien's axioms and philosophy, and if you don't buy into them at some level, you read something else.


(This post was edited by CuriousG on Aug 10, 2:57pm)


InTheChair
Lorien

Aug 10, 3:15pm

Post #19 of 34 (742 views)
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The eye would have been enough, but there's also more to consider. [In reply to] Can't Post

Besides, it wasn't as practical as some like to think. If the Eagles (in The Hobbit) thought the bows of men defending flocks of sheep made it too dangerous to fly over the southern plains, what about the thousands of Orc archers stationed all over the plains of Gorgoroth? Eagles may be able to carry loads for a certain way, but Mordor is quite far away and there are no good rest places in between. And they'd have to fly over the closely watched passes of the Ephel Duath. And there were flying Nazgul on top of that. And we haven't even mentioned the Eye watching.

It wasn't practical worth a damned. The window of opportunity to use the Eagles is very small. The company sets out from Rivendell in December, and though I think Eagles are still active in winter, already before the company enters Moria both Frodo, Gandalf and Aragorn sense the first of the winged Nazgul above, rendering any future approach by air clearly impossible. Gandalf I think would have ruled out the air route for more or less the same reasons he ruled out going by the Gap of Rohan. To dangerous, by far.

Gandalf himself does not appear to have considered it at all. preferring from the start to go below the mountains, and after Moria he is temporarily out of the game, though someone else like Galadriel might have called on the Eagles help. It is she who asks Gwaihir to find and rescue Gandalf. Afterwards Gandalf ask Gwaihir to keep an eye on the River and report back to Gandalf, which he does, and so Gandalf learns that two Hobbits have been captured and are being carried westwards by Orcs. That it is not the Ring-bearer Gandalf knows already because of the events on Amon Hen.

This is possible the last and best moment for Gandalf to ask the Eagles to aid in the quest. For instance by taking him eastwards and drop him off somewhere where the Ring-bearer might have reached to, but it is not done. There not even a mention that Gandalf ever even considered it. Instead he asks to be taken to Fangorn I think. Perhaps he sums it up best himself while looking eastwards. No, it has gone beyond our reach. Of that at least let us be glad. We can no longer be tempted to use the Ring.

And for certain had they ask an Eagle to drop Frodo of at Mount Doom, Frodo would inevitably have claimed the Ring as his own, but then there would have been no Gollum around.

The structure of events makes the idea of flying the ring to Mordor by Eagle completely impossible, though perhaps it takes a certain familiarity with the story and dangers presented to understand it, so it is not very surprising that the question of the Eagles gets brought up again and again.




(This post was edited by InTheChair on Aug 10, 3:17pm)


noWizardme
Half-elven


Aug 11, 10:09am

Post #20 of 34 (689 views)
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That's a lovely post, reminding us that logic is not the only tool [In reply to] Can't Post

That's a lovely post, reminding us that logic is not the only tool with which to interpret Middle-earth. Maybe that is a reason why these 'mysteries' crop up and are so enduring -- people try to apply logic where logic should not be applied? Maybe let's add that to 'Tolkien changed his mind' and 'Tolkien did not intend everything as a puzzle to be solved'.

Here's to Brethil Heart and her 'affectionate scrutiny'! I notice 'affectionate scrutiny' is oh-so-nearly an anagram of 'Tut! a[n] intricacy offense' which seems to sum up how these things for me are a bit like being tickled - an enjoyable or annoying experience depending on the circumstances.

~~~~~~
"You were exceedingly clever once, but unfortunately none of your friends noticed as they were too busy being attacked by an octopus."
-from How To Tell If You Are In A J.R.R. Tolkien Book, by Austin Gilkeson, in 'The Toast', 2016 https://the-toast.net/...-a-jrr-tolkien-book/


noWizardme
Half-elven


Aug 11, 11:06am

Post #21 of 34 (697 views)
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Blame it on the Movie? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
And for me at least, I read this book at least a dozen times before the film came out, and it never once occurred to me that this was possible. After the release of the films, combined with a joyful and multi-connected internet culture, suddenly countless new fans have wondered, or repeated others' wondering, about why the eagles, etc. Tolkien might well object that for this to have happened, the filmmakers somehow misunderstood and so misrepresented his "sparing" use of a "dangerous 'machine'".


That's interesting - do we think we should 'Blame it on the Movie?' Not as opposed to blaming it on the sunshine, moonlight and good times Smile, but because The Eagle Theory started to circulate about the time of the Jackson FOTR movie release? I think that people have already at different points suggested that it could be to do with the movie treatment of the eagles; or with the new kinds of people with new kinds of thoughts; or with the burgeoning Internet culture of the time increasing what we might now call 'the R-number' of such theories. All of those sound reasonable explanations to me.
What do those of you remember who were on this board back then? Or on other boards, or reading the official publications and fanzines in the pre- and peri- Internet era? It might be interesting to find the earliest spotting of this theory, and to hear where it seemed to come from and why it seemed attractive to people.

~~~~~~
"You were exceedingly clever once, but unfortunately none of your friends noticed as they were too busy being attacked by an octopus."
-from How To Tell If You Are In A J.R.R. Tolkien Book, by Austin Gilkeson, in 'The Toast', 2016 https://the-toast.net/...-a-jrr-tolkien-book/


(This post was edited by noWizardme on Aug 11, 11:07am)


noWizardme
Half-elven


Aug 11, 2:13pm

Post #22 of 34 (690 views)
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Well would you believe - 'at least since 1975' !!? [In reply to] Can't Post

It's amazing what you can find on the Internet if you know how to look in the wrong places:

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"That summer Vernon Schnell had invited a some of us to stay at his parents' place near Collitaz, CA. We'd all been reading Lord of the Rings and got into the sort of argument you do with too much time on their hands - why couldn't Frodo get a ride on an eagle? I don't suppose it would have gone any further if we hadn't been a bunch of engineering students will all summer to kill and the run of Vern's Dad's workshop. We ended up trying to settle things by making a powered glider the size we figured a Tolkien eagle should be.

... We launched Windlord from the roof with Vern at the controls. A sudden gust took him almost straight up in the air, he broke an aileron cable and had to land on the highway. Usually that was a pretty empty road, but Vern scared the life out of a bunch of musicians who had taken a wrong turning looking for the motel. Luckily nobody was hurt. We got the band's van out of the ditch, and soon enough we were telling them all what Vern had been trying to do and they were laughing about that and about how some guy's Cool Whip had gotten all over someone else in the van during the crash.

...I don't know that we ever did settle anything about Frodo to everyone's satisfaction, but at least we made it into the lyrics of a song;
On a dark desert highway, Cool Whip in my hair
Vern Schnell of Collitaz rising up in the air...



I can't believe it - 1975! Mind you I can't believe it because I just made it up, with some help from The Straight Dope, and so all in all I suspect it might not be all that reliable. But maybe I got you going there just a little bit? Wink
The thing I really did find out was that back in 2001 a site that tried to explain memes to uncool folks like me was already saying that a picture of Saruman captioned 'So you have chosen Death' was being used for example as a reply to someone posting the eagles question. Saruman glowering might also be a response to me too after that yarn Wink.
So can anyone beat 2001 and get us genuinely back into the Twentieth Century?

~~~~~~
"You were exceedingly clever once, but unfortunately none of your friends noticed as they were too busy being attacked by an octopus."
-from How To Tell If You Are In A J.R.R. Tolkien Book, by Austin Gilkeson, in 'The Toast', 2016 https://the-toast.net/...-a-jrr-tolkien-book/


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 11, 5:23pm

Post #23 of 34 (674 views)
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Well, you did have me going [In reply to] Can't Post

You sufficiently altered your author voice so I didn't even recognize you--curses, foiled again! And I was ready to conclude that the real reason the Eagles didn't fly the Ring to Mordor was because they didn't want to scare musicians off the Middle-earth highways. I still think it's as valid as any other argument.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 11, 5:30pm

Post #24 of 34 (672 views)
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I will blame the movies [In reply to] Can't Post

not because I dislike them, but because books make you imagine things any way you want, whereas movies give you an image that you can't alter to fit your own tastes. That concreteness invites logic. So when I see the movie-Nazgul attacking Minas Tirith during the siege, I wonder why they don't just land and open the front door. I never thought that in the books, even when the book-Witch-king took to the air to meet the charge of Rohan, I never thought, "He's going to kill Theoden, then fly back to the city and open the gates on every level instead of messing around with Grond." I think readers surrender their imagination more to books than the same people surrender to movies. And since movie images, again, are concrete, that means everyone can see if a Balrog has wings or not, whereas my book-inspired mental image of a Balrog will be very different from yours, so it's harder to compare notes and reach shared conclusions.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 11, 6:04pm

Post #25 of 34 (666 views)
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Tolkien managing his readers [In reply to] Can't Post

Thinking more about movies, and how they're more constrained by time than authors are by page length, I thought of a couple of examples where Tolkien anticipates reader questions and either answers them or tells them to stop asking.

Stop asking!
When I first read LOTR, I really, really wanted to know what the Black Riders in the Shire were, and how dangerous they were on a scale of 1 to 10. Tolkien used the authority of The Elves to shut me up and just enjoy the spooky tension, with a promise that I'd find out more later via Frodo's adventures:


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‘I am deeply grateful,’ said Frodo; ‘but I wish you would tell me plainly what the Black Riders are. If I take your advice I may not see Gandalf for a long while, and I ought to know what is the danger that pursues me.’

‘Is it not enough to know that they are servants of the Enemy?’ answered Gildor. ‘Flee them! Speak no words to them! They are deadly. Ask no more of me! But my heart forbodes that, ere all is ended, you, Frodo son of Drogo, will know more of these fell things than Gildor Inglorion. May Elbereth protect you!’


Here's your answer, Dear Reader:
Then I wondered about magic rings, which certainly appear in other fairy tales. Why couldn't Frodo put on his Ring, turn into a dragon like Smaug, and destroy all the bad guys? Or why can't he use it like Sauron would? You have to wait pretty long for this answer.


Quote
‘I would ask one thing before we go,’ said Frodo, ‘a thing which I often meant to ask Gandalf in Rivendell. I am permitted to wear the One Ring: why cannot I see all the others and know the thoughts of those that wear them?’

‘You have not tried,’ she [Galdadriel] said. ‘Only thrice have you set the Ring upon your finger since you knew what you possessed. Do not try! It would destroy you. Did not Gandalf tell you that the rings give power according to the measure of each possessor? Before you could use that power you would need to become far stronger, and to train your will to the domination of others. Yet even so, as Ring-bearer and as one that has borne it on finger and seen that which is hidden, your sight is grown keener. You have perceived my thought more clearly than many that are accounted wise. You saw the Eye of him that holds the Seven and the Nine. And did you not see and recognize the ring upon my finger? Did you see my ring?’ she asked turning again to Sam.

I admire what Tolkien did here. He already had Gandalf deliver some infodumps on Frodo in earlier chapters, and even the author of "The Council of Elrond" knows you have to stop that kind of thing at some point. So he saves up the answer to a logical question for this chapter while weaving it into more story development about how Frodo has changed imperceptibly to the reader.

Jackson couldn't answer as many questions as Tolkien could, given the time limits of film, or he'd have to turn his films into a documentary rather than an action flick. I imagine many movie-only people have LOTS of questions that book-firsters would never have.

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