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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
A thematic Tolkien ABC

noWizardme
Asgardian


Jan 3, 4:35pm

Post #1 of 22 (1954 views)
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A thematic Tolkien ABC Can't Post

Happy New Year everybody. Would it be nice to start 2021 with a theme or prompt to post about?

I suggest that we think of single words (or short phrases) that sum up some part of a Tolkien work (or part of his fictional universe or whatever).

Let's title these "A is for-----" and so on. I hope that ABC format will act as a prompt and might help people come up with ideas.

A lot of online discussion is about characters, places, chapters and events. So I suggest trying to think of themes, ideas, motifs or Tolkien's writing techniques. I think doing that might give us some novel ways to think about Tolkien's writings. But I don't want to be too prescriptive. I'd rather people posted something of interest, than that anyone was put off by trying to work out whether their idea was 'a theme' or not.

If anyone wants to write something that will take a little time to prepare, I suggest posting a note that you'd like to reserve a topic. That will prevent several people working on the same thing in mutual ignorance of each other (not very likely perhaps, but probably frustrating if it did happen).

I hope we'll be able to cover many of the letters A-Z. But I don't think it's a problem if we have more than one "A is for...." or "F is for..." So don't worry if you have an idea but the letter has been 'taken'.

Next I'll post an example: "F is for Fellowship". I hope that demonstrates what I have in mind, as well as getting us started.

~~~~~~
"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
Asgardian


Jan 3, 4:41pm

Post #2 of 22 (1877 views)
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F is for Fellowship [In reply to] Can't Post

F is for Fellowship for a couple of reasons. Firstly, of course LOTR is mostly the adventures of the people who are the Fellowship Of The Ring -- the Nine Walkers. The doom of Middle-earth depends on what those people do - or fail to do -together.

Secondly, I see fellowship as a wider theme in LOTR and The Hobbit certainly (Not so sure about the Sil.). In general, characters who do well are doing things with others and for the common good. Those who pursue selfish ends tend to do badly. You might say that The One Ring is the antithesis of fellowship, being a machine of dominance -- something that can only be wielded by one person and will inevitably end up going bad, however much the new Ringlord starts out wanting to do good (or thinks they do).

~~~~~~
"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
Asgardian


Jan 3, 4:50pm

Post #3 of 22 (1872 views)
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X is for eXpedition [In reply to] Can't Post

X is for eXpedition: Both Bilbo and Frodo go on "an excursion, journey, or voyage made for some specific purpose, as of war or exploration"*. In both cases the expedition is arduous and hazardous, and involves getting along with strangers. In fiction and in real life, that often leads to some surprising discoveries about oneself, or reveals character.

(I'd like to write more about this, but I'm not ready to post yet. So watch this space, and do post other ABC ideas in the meantime, including any other ideas for XSmile )
--

* One of the definitions of 'expedition' , this one from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/expedition

~~~~~~
"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
Asgardian


Jan 4, 5:24pm

Post #4 of 22 (1808 views)
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a) 'Limyaael' eXplains what some of Tolkien's imitators seem not to have realized [In reply to] Can't Post

Who goes on the expedition? In a collection of 'Tolkien cliches' a writer calling themselves 'Limyaael' includes the trope of 'wildly disparate band of people going on the Quest':


Quote
The wildly disparate band of people going on the Quest is not what actually happened in Tolkien.

Everyone in the Fellowship has a reason for being there- choosing to go along (Frodo, Merry, Pippin, Sam), representing their race (Gimli, Legolas), or being aided along their own Quest (Aragorn, Gandalf, Boromir). There are no random people added to the pile as obvious foils for the hero, comic relief, Token Character of This or That Persuasion, etc. The closest token characters are Gimli and Legolas, and their inclusion is a political decision, not authorial whim.

They also manage to function fairly well together, in spite of some snapping and debates. I always wondered how some of those groups that consist of a fussy princess, a taciturn guardsman, a flighty mage, a calm priestess, and the token dwarf or elf character actually got along. Their personalities clash, and a lot of them have, “Oh, well, I’m just going along with you because I want to!” reasons.

Fantasy groups in general should be better-designed, and when the danger gets tough, the hero or heroine’s going to need people who really have reasons to be there. What’s to prevent them from saying, “See you?” and fleeing otherwise?

https://curiosityquills.com/...ael/tolkien-cliches/

I'd add that Everyone in the Fellowship has a further reason for being there -- they are taking seriously the task of contributing to the destruction of the Ring. Perhaps that would keep even 'a fussy princess, a taciturn guardsman, a flighty mage, a calm priestess, and the token dwarf or elf character ' (love that bit) on task?

~~~~~~
"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
Asgardian


Jan 4, 5:30pm

Post #5 of 22 (1804 views)
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b) to eXpand on that a bit... [In reply to] Can't Post

The process for choosing who goes as part of the Fellowship is mostly not something we see, except for the surprise inclusion of Merry and Pippin because Gandalf thinks they should come. Otherwise it's all just an announcement - it's a party of nine and so on.

I suspect that the in-story logic is the same that Elrond applies to admission to his Council in the preceding chapter: if you turn up and want to come, you're meant to be there. Of course in LOTR viewed as writing that allows Tolkien to include who he wants, and it does no good to argue it would 'make more sense' to send Glorfindel.

~~~~~~
"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
Asgardian


Jan 4, 5:34pm

Post #6 of 22 (1805 views)
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c) eXpedition behaviour [In reply to] Can't Post

And now I realize that 'Expedition behaviour' - getting along with people so that the expedition succeeds - is something I brought up back in 2015...

http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=852211#852211

...so maybe it's best for my contributions to this subthread to eXpire at this point 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/


squire
Asgardian


Jan 4, 7:07pm

Post #7 of 22 (1812 views)
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N is for Names [In reply to] Can't Post

This seems like kind of an obvious one, and I doubt I can add much to what people have already written or thought about the subject.
To start with, there is the ancient tradition or traditions of the "true name", that only the owner and those he trusts can be allowed to know. The knowledge that there is a true name is sometimes a secret as well.
Examples include:
  • Bilbo riddling with Smaug while avoiding giving his actual name. The narrator informs us that if the dragon knew Bilbo's name, Bilbo would be in serious danger.

  • Bilbo actually giving his real name to Gollum. In The Hobbit this is passed off as meaningless, but it comes back in LotR as the means whereby Sauron discovers who has his Ring: "Baggins, in the Shire"! Gandalf, in telling the backstory to Frodo, comments rather bitchily that Bilbo was very foolish to have told Gollum who he really was.

  • Speaking of that point in the later story, Gandalf then gives Frodo a false name, Mr. Underhill, to use on the road to Rivendell, since Baggins is now fatally marked. This works to dramatic effect when Butterbur uses Gandalf's letter to identify Frodo by his false name, and to comic effect when the curious Underhills of Bree begin interrogating the Shire hobbits about the obvious family connection.

  • In Bree, of course, we meet Strider - or so he is called. As Butterbur says, everyone knows it's a false name although they don't know his real one. Strider only tells his real name to Frodo - as he must, if Gandalf's letter is to be of any use - once he is sure that the hobbit is the 'real' Frodo!

  • To leap (or stride) forward a little, Eomer of Rohan is equally sure that Strider is a false name, and demands to know the real one on penalty of death for trespassing. And Aragorn lets loose with a string of real names that go on for most of a paragraph - leaving Eomer, Gimli, and Legolas simply gaping. The scene it is one of the highlights of the books 'Real Name' theme.

  • Do we have to point out that Prince Imrahil finds 'Strider' an extremely annoying name - frankly, it's just low class - for the King of Gondor to bear? By then it's practically a running joke for the length of the book.
  • Need we go on? The Mouth of Sauron has forgotten his real name - the ultimate sign of moral corruption and damnation. Sauron does not allow his minions to "use his right name", Aragorn informs us - it's no good giving the help some power over the boss. Treebeard refuses to give his real (and very long) name to the hobbits, who confuse him by freely giving theirs. Tom Bombadil names Merry's four ponies, and they only answer to those names from then on. Saruman descends from Lord to Chief Thug when he becomes "Sharkey", a name assigned to him by his thuggish minions - a neat turnabout on the earlier Sauron gag, reinforcing Saruman's failure at being a first-class Evil Overlord. The book repeatedly takes time to explain old placenames, and to record when new names replace old names - like the renaming of Isengard, of Mirkwood (in TH), of Bagshot Row, of Minas Anor and Ithil, of Fornost, and even of Strider (who finally shuffles off its Common Tongue illegitimacy to be reborn as the royally Elvish Telcontar!).

    I admit I was inspired to this topic by a pop-up of a Tolkien quote during his recent birthday fetes online: as he put it, he liked to start with a name to make a story, rather than most authors who come up with a story and invent names to populate it. Earendil comes to mind: young Tolkien read a Old English poem about the evening star Earendil and invented a story about it - a story that took him the rest of his life to fully tell.

    Can you think of any other ways to think about how the Prof uses N-for-Names in his stories? Maybe start with his conviction that calling a king Theoden (OE for King), or a hill Bree (Welsh for Hill) or even better "The Hill" as in the Shire, is not a dodge but a legitimate way of making the Reader, not the author, responsible for giving the name its actual meaning. "The Hill" thus becomes every reader's own individual idea of what a hill should look like and be. Do you buy it? I'm not sure I do.



    squire online:
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    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.

    (This post was edited by squire on Jan 4, 7:18pm)


    Na Vedui
    Defender


    Jan 4, 10:28pm

    Post #8 of 22 (1792 views)
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    C is for Consequences and U for Unexpected [In reply to] Can't Post

    The whole story is haunted by history - shown to be deeply affected by fallout, good and bad, from events and decisions in the long past of Middle-earth and even before that. Isildur's failure to destroy the Ring; the union of Beren and Luthien; Bilbo's decision to spare Gollum's life... And so on and so on. And that's before you get to the consequences of events in the story itself, and decisions made by the current protagonists.

    U is for Unexpected: because quite often events take an unanticipated twist. Good comes out of all sorts of unlikely and, on the face of it, undesirable scenarios. It is not a simplistic moral tale (He Did Wrong and So, of Course - Came to a Bad End..).

    Pippin drops a stone down a well, so Gandalf has to face the Balrog - and returns, doubly empowered, as Gandalf the White. Eowyn disobeys Theoden and rides to war, putting her right on the spot to deal with the Witch-King. The Orcs drag Merry and Pippin to the edge of Fangorn - which precipitates the rise of the Ents and the downfall of Saruman. Frodo falls at the last hurdle- but Bilbo's mercy, and his own, have allowed Gollum to be there to finish the job, although that was not Gollum's intention.

    The sense of historical inevitability is balanced by the unexpected ways in which it may actually work out. The past, including the protagonists' own, is a heavy weight, but not a dead weight, and Middle-earth can always surprise us.


    noWizardme
    Asgardian


    Jan 5, 5:20pm

    Post #9 of 22 (1758 views)
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    "he liked to start with a name to make a story" [In reply to] Can't Post

    Happy Ne year squire, and welcome to the thematic party (but one in which you don' have to come in a particular kind of fancy dress)!

    "He liked to start with a name to make a story": When I read that part of the post, what popped into my head was the Prof writing "In a hole in the ground there live a hobbit" and then having to work out what a 'hobbit' was, and what it was doing in a hole. And therein lay a couple of stories all right!

    ~~~~~~
    "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
    Asgardian


    Jan 5, 5:26pm

    Post #10 of 22 (1757 views)
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    I like that! I wonder whether....... [In reply to] Can't Post

    Happy New year Na Vedui and thanks for posting this excellent pair of 'things'.

    I wonder whether it would be fair to say that although 'The whole story is haunted by history' (lovely way to put it) the present always offers some way to put things right? Often by unexpected consequences, as you say, but also sometimes by somebody doing the right thing, regardless of the likely consequences.

    ~~~~~~
    "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
    Asgardian


    Jan 5, 6:40pm

    Post #11 of 22 (1754 views)
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    L and I are for Land and Inhabitants: sometimes an intimate pairing [In reply to] Can't Post


    Quote
    "...they seem to belong here, more even then Hobbits do in the Shire. Whether they've made the land or the land's made them, it's hard to say, if you take my meaning."

    Sam discussing the elves of Lothlorien, in The Mirror of Galadriel


    Aside from the elves and hobbits, I can think of other examples of inhabitants who 'fit' their land (or is it the other way around?). For instance, is Old Man Willow a manifestation of the brooding malice of the Old Forest, or is the Old Forest like that because of OMW's influence? Or perhaps it doesn't really matter to try and sort out cause and effect, and the interesting thing is to note the pairing.

    ~~~~~~
    "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
    Asgardian


    Jan 5, 7:10pm

    Post #12 of 22 (1759 views)
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    But do the Hobbits "belong" in the Shire? [In reply to] Can't Post

    Overall, I'd say yes, the two are linked in Tolkien's scheme to represent the idyllic haven of personal, or racial, 'childhood' and innocence, set against the darkening conflicts of the outside world.

    However, as so often, Tolkien throws a genteel wrench into his own scheme, with the effect of enriching the question and the resulting art. In this case, there is the scene where Gildor tries to slap a little perspective into Frodo as to what a Land is and who, if anyone, it really belongs to:
    [Frodo:] ‘I knew that danger lay ahead, of course; but I did not expect to meet it in our own Shire. ...’
    ‘But it is not your own Shire,’ said Gildor. ‘Others dwelt here before hobbits were; and others will dwell here again when hobbits are no more. (LR I.3)
    But caveats like this aside - and there seems to be such a caution applied to every one of the examples in the book - you're certainly right that Tolkien found a strong theme in the relationship between a land and its inhabitants.

    Fangorn Forest and the Ents. Treebeard says they are basically merging in identity as Trees and Ents converge as beings. But later he muses that the Ents must soon die out.

    Rohan and the Rohirrim. Legolas says their language sounds like their land looks. Later we learn that the Dunlendings have still not forgiven the "theft" of their old homeland.

    Dwarves and their glamorous underground cities. Tragically, they seem to get evicted repeatedly, due to the affinity that basically evil creatures also have for such underworld places (dragons, orcs, balrogs).

    Gondor and the Dunedain. Aragorn's hymn to the Mountains, fields and coasts evokes a magnificent civilization and homeland for an imperial people. But then we learn that all of Gondor is an exile's reprise of Lost Numenor, with its lords condemned to repeat the same crimes of loss and ingratitude again and again.

    Mordor and the Orcs. Nuff said. But we note in Cirith Ungol that even Orcs can wish they were free of the military regimentation and sooty discipline of Sauron's totalitarianism, and could just go off in the hills to lead a simple life of brigandage.



    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.


    noWizardme
    Asgardian


    Jan 6, 6:36pm

    Post #13 of 22 (1720 views)
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    Thanks for that expansion with many good examples [In reply to] Can't Post

    ...and I particularly liked...


    In Reply To
    so often, Tolkien throws a genteel wrench into his own scheme, with the effect of enriching the question and the resulting art.


    Absolutely and what a nice way to put it!
    Maybe 'C is for Caveats' (or 'C is for Complexity') should be a thing.

    I have also been thinking about whether Carhadras fits into this Land & Inhabitants scheme (if at all). I'm not sure. Nobody seems to reject Gimli's idea that Carhadras is something like a personality, rather than an inanimate mountainous spot with difficult weather. So maybe Carhadras is both land and inhabitant? Or maybe we've bumped into something else, such as 'A is for Animism'?

    ~~~~~~
    "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/


    Hamfast Gamgee
    X-men

    Jan 7, 12:02pm

    Post #14 of 22 (1688 views)
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    D is for Doom [In reply to] Can't Post

    D is for Doom. Ok, I'll play and do one, Not necessarily a nicest of ones but maybe one which could have double meanings. People often talk about concepts like Hope, victory after long struggle, freindships etc but a lot of nasty concepts are in Tolkien's world as well which sometimes I believe get overlooked.
    One of which is Doom. Actually, speaking of D's one could do a lot of D's Despair, Destruction, Death etc, but I have settled for Doom Lots of Dooms in Tolkien's works. The Doom of the world is mentioned often, the Doom of various ages for example the 3rd age Doom was enhnanced as soon as Isildur claimed the Ring for his own which meant that Sauron would return, there is the Doom in the first age of the Noldor when they went into voluntary exile, at least for a while, into Beleriand, the Doom of the Ents and of Elves even Man has a Doom. And many individuals have Dooms or pre-determined fates, Hurin and Turin and their relatives, Frodo and the Ring-bearers in the 3rd age etc.
    But is Doom always bad? Boromir hears the phrase Doom is at hand in his dream which sent him to Rivendell, but as Aragorn pointed out it was not necessarily the Doom of Gondor but Doom of something else. Doom can simply mean an ending something and a new beginning of another.
    Plus the phrase Doom seems to crop up all the time. Mount Doom itself of course, Mount Dolmed in the Silm the Doom of the oathbreakers, Feanors, sons, the list goes on.


    Hamfast Gamgee
    X-men

    Jan 7, 12:08pm

    Post #15 of 22 (1684 views)
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    You forgot Gandalf''s long list of names [In reply to] Can't Post

    Gandalf, Mithrandir, and all of the others! None of which was probably his real name even!


    noWizardme
    Asgardian


    Jan 7, 3:56pm

    Post #16 of 22 (1681 views)
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    Thanks for playing! [In reply to] Can't Post

    Reading this I was thinking it's interesting that a word that originally meant " a law or ordinance especially in Anglo-Saxon England" (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/doom ) has gone on to mean "a judicial condemnation or sentence" or destiny, especially : unhappy destiny' (Ibid).

    So as you say a 'doom' is not necessarily bad, because sometimes Tolkien uses the older meaning. But there's plenty of the more modern one too!

    ~~~~~~
    "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
    Asgardian


    Jan 7, 4:23pm

    Post #17 of 22 (1680 views)
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    R is for Red Book of Westmarch [In reply to] Can't Post

    ...a text originally written by Bilbo, then added to by Frodo, Sam, Elanor and then passed through other hands pens and minds before ending up on Tolkien's desk. Or so he claims when he says he's the editor and translator of it. We're to suppose that The Red Book contains the source for TH and LOTR and other material 'translated from the elvish' (The Sil. maybe? Works such as the Lay of L&B?)*

    I'm never sure whether Tolkien was using this device seriously or playfully. In TH I suppose it allows him to insert editorial asides - something I recall from other children's books of roughly that period, but perhaps with an 'in-story' excuse for doing so.
    In LOTR the Red Book explicitly appears (or 'appears in itself' if you like). I recall a running gag about nobody much being very interested in Bilbo's book, which in any case he can't get finished despite the near ideal circumstance of being Elrond's house-guest. An author not able to finish is magnum opus reminds me of somebody, Professor....Smile

    And Frodo and Sam discussing what kind of story their adventure would make -- 'this kind', I suppose, reading it.

    The giving of the book from Bilbo --> Frodo --> Sam probably means something too.

    You can, of course have some fun by pretending to take the Red Book story very literally indeed, and wondering why the Tolkien's have given themselves a monopoly on translating sch an important work (https://the-toast.net/...ated-tolkien-estate/ )

    But (as far as I know) Tolkien fans haven't taken a fully 'Sherlockian' approach, insisting that the Red Book truly existed and interpreting the various inconsistencies and issues in Tolkien's works as issues of the Red Book's translations, revisionist reworkings and so on. And I don't think I've come across the Tolkien equivalent of Monsignor Ronald A. Knox, being ...'Tolkilockian' (???)** ...with tongue firmly in cheek as a parody of literary scholars and as a gentle self-mockery of his own obsession with the fiction (http://www.diogenes-club.com/studies.htm ) Or at least I don't think I have ....Shocked at least I've been in earnest here , how about you guys? Wink


    --
    *I think that for some of the things Tolkien worked on professionally, there was a putative original book, with no surviving copies. The original is therefore something of a projection back from translations, quotes, snippets and references from later on. As such perhaps it would be deeply appropriate for there to be some uncertainty about what exactly was or wasn't in The Red Book.

    ** Or maybe I prefer 'Tolkilokian' (no 'c') since it would be clearly a passtime for tricksters....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/


    noWizardme
    Asgardian


    Jan 10, 12:26pm

    Post #18 of 22 (1572 views)
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    L is for 'Language of the Night' [In reply to] Can't Post

    The Language of the Night is an essay (and title of a book of essays) by Ursula K Le Guin. It's not the place to write about Le Guin, however, so I'll try to describe this idea briefly and then move on to how I think it's useful for understanding or enjoying Tolkien.

    A lot of fiction can be enjoyed and understood using the tools that get us through our waking lives. Things such as deduction, inference, reasoning,and knowledge and experience of the real world. Speculative fiction, however, often contains things that aren't like the current orthodoxy about the real world. We can infer and reason about cabbages and potatoes, but maybe not about elves and dragons, or about magic: we can't necessarily apply experience or reasoning to those.

    There are different solutions. The storyteller can explain 'the rules' of elves, dragons or magic. Later storytellers can rely upon established tropes about such things. Then readers can apply a sort of pseudo-reasoning to the story. For example, if they know dragons can fly and breathe fire, such behaviour isn't a surprise. But that's not the only way.

    Dragons are real, Ursula Le Guin wrote somewhere. They are not real zoologically, but feel real psychologically. They 'make sense' in the Language of the Night - the way our subconscious brains presumably work, rather than the way our reasoning, waking brains work. For Le Guin a lot of Jungian ideas come out here. But I won't try to follow her into that. Instead, I'll try to say how I find the idea useful for reading Tolkien.

    Choosing LOTR as an example, a lot of Tolkien's story can be interpreted with deduction, inference, reasoning,and knowledge and experience of the real world. Additional 'rules' of Middle-earth are sometimes explained - for example we get enough of an idea of how a palantir works to be able to gauge how it can cause or solve problems.

    Other things don't make so much logical sense. For example, the Black Riders come and go, but don't storm Bree or press their attack on Weathertop, despite it 'making sense' to me that they'd grab the Ring now, at nearly any cost, casualties fully acceptable. Yes, Tolkien tried to reason his way out of that (in UT). No, I don't personally find that explanation all that satisfying. But the behaviour of the Black Riders 'makes sense' to me in a Language of the Night way. Creepy ghouly things would avoid crowds and light, and come and go mysteriously, and be all the creepier because they don't seem predictable.

    ~~~~~~
    "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/


    Hasuwandil
    Fantastic Four


    Jan 11, 3:40pm

    Post #19 of 22 (1504 views)
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    H is for Home, Hearth, Hall, Haven, Harbo(u)r, and Hobbit Hole [In reply to] Can't Post

    Without the adventures there would be no stories to tell, but every adventure must have a beginning and an end, and even along the way it's always nice to take a break from adventure once in a while, to take a bath, fill one's belly, and get some much-needed rest.

    In The Hobbit the most famous hobbit hole in Hobbiton lies at both ends of the story, but along the way is the Last Homely House west of the Mountains, in the Valley of Rivendell. On the other side of the Misty Mountains lies Beorn's Hall, and then onward to a warm welcome at Laketown. I'm not sure whether to count the eagles' eyrie, because it doesn't seem too comfortable, even if Bilbo did get plenty of meat (but no other kind of food) and sleep. I also don't count the Wood-elves' halls, because the members of the Company weren't exactly welcome guests there, even if Bilbo did secretly get his fill of bread and wine.

    In The Lord of the Rings, of course, there are many more stops along the way (and more ways than one), but again the tale is book-ended by the most famous hobbit hole in Hobbiton, and indeed, the Shire. Along the way are such places of refuge as Crickhollow (a good place for a bath), Tom Bombadil's house, Rivendell again (with plenty of entertainment), Lothlórien (Haldir's flet, but moreso Caras Galadhon), the Wellinghall (although it seems about as comfortable as the eagles' eyrie to me), Edoras (particularly after the departure of Gríma), Henneth Annûn (even if it was behind enemy lines), Minas Tirith (moreso after the siege was lifted than before, but still as good a place as any for bread, butter, cheese, apples, and a draught of ale; or a cup of wine and a white cake, if you prefer), and the Field of Cormallen (great place to celebrate a hard-fought victory). Speaking of victory, I suppose even Isengard, with its stores, ended up being a place of comfort to Merry and Pippin. One notable exception is the Prancing Pony in Bree, which would likely be a great place to spend a few nights under ordinary circumstances, but not so much with spies and Ringwraiths hanging around. I'm sure it was more relaxing on the way back, despite news of troubling developments locally and in the Shire.

    Tolkien's other works are less like travel diaries, but still have their own places of refuge. I don't seem to recall any inns or homely houses in The Silmarillion, but the entire land of Doriath—at least that portion within the Girdle of Melian—is a place of refuge, as well as Menegroth itself. Nargothrond was a place of refuge until Glaurung showed up. Other refuges include Amon Rûdh and Brethil. But the most notable refuge is the hidden kingdom of Gondolin.

    Finally, the entire island kingdom of Númenor is itself a haven for the Edain in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth. But for Aldarion, who grew up on the island, it seems he wishes to spend as much time away from it as possible. Even after returning from his voyages he prefers to live aboard the ship Eämbar, anchored in the Bay of Rómenna, while his wife Erendis prefers to live in a house among the pastures of Emerië, in the middle of the island. Aldarion is like Bilbo Baggins without any desire or appreciation for the comforts of home and hearth, which is really not like Bilbo Baggins at all.

    Hêlâ Auriwandil, angilô berhtost,
    oƀar Middangard mannum gisandid!


    (This post was edited by Hasuwandil on Jan 11, 3:45pm)


    noWizardme
    Asgardian


    Jan 12, 4:53pm

    Post #20 of 22 (1472 views)
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    Thanks so much for posting that! // [In reply to] Can't Post

     

    ~~~~~~
    "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/


    Hamfast Gamgee
    X-men

    Jan 17, 10:06am

    Post #21 of 22 (1408 views)
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    S is for Sauron, Saruman, Smaug [In reply to] Can't Post

    Yes, lots of bad guys names begin with the letter S. I wonder why. and that the bad guys do have similar sounding names. When they allow those names to be used and we are not using nicknames, I suppose. I don't know if there is any linguistic or story reason why or perhaps the good prof was simply not that imaginative when thinking up names.


    Hamfast Gamgee
    X-men

    Jan 17, 10:11am

    Post #22 of 22 (1407 views)
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    Could be lots of languages [In reply to] Can't Post

    Language and linguistics are key themes in Tolkien's works!

     
     

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