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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Let's try to name ALL the repeated images in Tolkien's books.
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Curious
Half-elven

Mar 14 2007, 7:21pm

Post #1 of 57 (485 views)
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Let's try to name ALL the repeated images in Tolkien's books. Can't Post

I'm talking about images that reappear from Age to Age, going back to an ur-form, the original and never quite duplicated form, in the earliest Age. I'll start with Tree, Spider, Dark Lord, Male, Female, Horse, Dog, Wolf, Eagle, Light, Jewel, Forest, City, Hill, Mountain, Valley, River, Tower, Sword, Song, Drink, Food, Dragon, Balrog, Cave, Flower, Ship, Vala, Elf, Dwarf, Man, Hobbit, Fortress, Bat, Sun, Moon, Star, and, well, I'm running out of ideas. I'm sure I missed something. And do you dispute any of the ones I listed?


Penthe
Gondor


Mar 15 2007, 12:27am

Post #2 of 57 (225 views)
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And after this shall we count stars or grains of sand in the Sahara? [In reply to] Can't Post

More specifically, hidden realms, heroic failures, heroic successes that are utterly fruitless, the unexpected dark horse achieving where others have failed, cold or ice and snow as a threat to success, looks foul and feels fair or looks fair and does something pretty foul, gifts (good and rather unhelpful even if given with the best of intentions to downright evil), falling in love with the wrong person and the chaos that ensues.


Pallando
Lorien


Mar 15 2007, 3:10am

Post #3 of 57 (217 views)
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What are you, nuts? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I'm talking about images that reappear from Age to Age, going back to an ur-form, the original and never quite duplicated form, in the earliest Age. I'll start with Tree, Spider, Dark Lord, Male, Female, Horse, Dog, Wolf, Eagle, Light, Jewel, Forest, City, Hill, Mountain, Valley, River, Tower, Sword, Song, Drink, Food, Dragon, Balrog, Cave, Flower, Ship, Vala, Elf, Dwarf, Man, Hobbit, Fortress, Bat, Sun, Moon, Star, and, well, I'm running out of ideas. I'm sure I missed something. And do you dispute any of the ones I listed?



__________________________________________

For I also am a steward. Did you not know?


squire
Valinor


Mar 15 2007, 4:37am

Post #4 of 57 (260 views)
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Those batty hobbits [In reply to] Can't Post

That's a good list, all right. Pen has added some that aren't one-worders, but here's a few like yours that I'll throw into the mosh pit:

Lake, Ring, Stairs, Sea, Hair, Armor, Hidden Door, Oath, Tomb, Rune, Curse, Flame, Treason, Orphan, Craftsman/Smith, and... Wind!

As for quibbles: hobbits are purely Third Age. Bats may occur in the Third Age (Hobbit? Bilbo? where?) but are hardly thematic in those books (and barely so in the Silmarillion, really). The Valar's involvement in the Third Age, in the story texts (as opposed to the commentaries) are really only marginally thematic, if at all.



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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 15 2007, 4:57am

Post #5 of 57 (227 views)
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The bats' version of "The Hobbit"... [In reply to] Can't Post

sort of, was given as part of the summary discussion of "The Clouds Burst" in June 2004:


Quote
The bats had fled from their fortress in Erebor after the unexpected fall of their dark master, “Not My Real Name,” Smaug. (Perhaps they perceived in his death the work of the thrush, who alerted their enemies to the secret entrance, and who told Bard of their lord’s fatal weakness--“Then thou art the spokesman, old gray bird? Have we not heard of thee [singing?] at whiles, ever hatching plots and mischief?”) Determined to regain their kingdom, they roused the goblin and wolf army, who, “although they did not understand it … were filled with a fierce desire to destroy” their foes, because of the treasure “still heavy with his evil will.” Above they flew, darkening the sky, “like vultures that expect their fill of doomed men’s flesh.” (This time the thrush was not present—“Not he! When his tools have done their task he drops them.”) The goblins were commanded by Bolg and his bodyguard, who apparently will not fall “by the hand of man,” elf or dwarf. We have yet to see how they will stand up against bear.


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Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

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Curious
Half-elven

Mar 15 2007, 11:29am

Post #6 of 57 (214 views)
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There are ur-hobbits, though, [In reply to] Can't Post

even if they don't go back to the First Age. Bats are a bit of a stretch, but they are mentioned in The Sil, very prominently in Beren's tale, and in The Hobbit. They just don't appear in LotR.

Higher Powers are, I believe, a central theme of LotR. Although the Vala are rarely named, they are mentioned, and after reading about them in The Sil I think we can find signs of the Vala in every single chapter of LotR.

Although there are rings in the First Age, none approach the significance of the One Ring. And where are the ur-stairs? I like all your other suggestions.


Curious
Half-elven

Mar 15 2007, 11:46am

Post #7 of 57 (231 views)
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Some of these are images, and some are literary themes. [In reply to] Can't Post

Hidden Realm, Cold or Ice or Snow, and Gift (Good Gift and Bad Gift?) are images of the kind I had in mind. We might also add Hero and Chaos and Failure or Fall, as well as Success or Triumph. A good clue is whether the image can be capitalized, and shortened to one or two words. Tolkien himself used to do this in some of his letters.

You didn't exactly mention this, but we could also add Love and Marriage as well as what you did mention -- Wrong Love, Misguided Love, or perhaps Tainted Love, along with Bad Marriage or even Forced Marriage. Oh, what about Pride (Good Pride and Bad Pride?).

I'm trying to figure out how to put the whole looks-foul-and-feels-fair theme into a word or two. Beauty vs. False Beauty? And Hidden Beauty? Or Hidden Majesty? "Hidden" could go in front of lots of things.


Darkstone
Immortal


Mar 15 2007, 1:39pm

Post #8 of 57 (190 views)
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Green. [In reply to] Can't Post

Luck, eye, hand, stone, Mary, amputation, smoke, ash, underground, road, and wings.

Not to mention express train, umbrella, golf ball, and mantle clock.

And postal service. Tolkien did say LOTR was about death.

Vegan zombie: "GGRRRAAAAIIIIINNNNNSSSSSS!!"


squire
Valinor


Mar 15 2007, 4:29pm

Post #9 of 57 (191 views)
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Huh? [In reply to] Can't Post

Your original proposition was:

I'm talking about images that reappear from Age to Age, going back to an ur-form, the original and never quite duplicated form, in the earliest Age.

I'm not sure if that idea of an earliest "ur-"image is meaningful, if you now want to include in this accounting "ur-hobbits" that don't come into the stories and "don't go back to the First Age".

What I find challenging about your idea is what I thought you meant: that there are images that were in Tolkien's mind from the very beginning, in the 1910s, when he began the creation of we now call the the First Age of his legendarium, and which then recur throughout all his later work.

And in thinking about this, is an "image" the same as a "theme"? I think of an image as something that you can visualize as a fairly discrete object. Perhaps the best way to evaluate the presence of an "image" in Tolkien's stories is to pretend you're an attentive first time reader who visualizes well: in The Lord of the Rings did you notice, do you remember, say, the Valar?

Valar:
By such a standard, I would exclude the Valar from The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. We may know they're there through our knowledge of how Tolkien thinks, but that is hardly the same as the way in which he includes them as physical entities in the action of his Silmarillion tales.

In fact, I would say the Valar are an example of the opposite phenomenon from what you are intrigued by here. Tolkien began with them, but dropped them in his later works because the image wasn't working for him the way it once did - with the possible exception of Varda (referred to as Elbereth), who does "appear" in LotR clearly and often enough to be called an "image" that the reader can latch onto. As he put it in a letter, he deliberately excised them from LotR to avoid confusing his readers about what kind of tale it was.

Ring:
in the first Age tales, the Ring of Barahir binds Felagund to Beren. Obviously this does not have the power of the One Ring in LotR, but as you say the ur-form is original and never quite duplicated. After all, the Ring in the Hobbit is not the One Ring either, and it has no binding power at all, rather it liberates Bilbo.

Stairs:
recur again and again as a feature of the Elvish cities that are an essential symbol in the Silmarillion. Most famously, Elendil ascends the crystal stairs of Tirion in his fated expedition to Elvenhome, before Eönwë hies him off to Valinor. Beren and Luthien descend stairs into Angband, but it is hardly as strong a strong image.



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Curious
Half-elven

Mar 15 2007, 4:56pm

Post #10 of 57 (202 views)
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I like the broadest possible definition, I suppose. [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not familiar enough with HoME to say which images appeared first in real time, i.e. in Tolkien's lifetime, but would be very interested in other's research on that subject.

I agree that hobbits are a stretch, since they do not go back to the First Age.

I agree that the themes introduced into this thread broaden the discussion considerably, and were not what I originally had in mind, but I am still interested in them.

Orome also makes a brief appearance in LotR, remember. But I agree that there are no images of the other Valar, and only vague ones of Varda and Orome (mostly based on their later reincarnations, Galadriel and Theoden). So if we are talking about reoccuring images, we might be better off with Male, Female, and Couple, i.e. Manwe and Varda, Thingol and Melian, Beren and Luthien, Tuor and Idril, Elendil and Elwing, Celeborn and Galadriel, Aragorn and Arwen, or even, to some extent, Tom and Goldberry or Sam and Rose. The Valar also may represent the first of several images of Makers, Mentors, Wise Men, Dream Weavers, Hunters, and so on, just as Melkor prefigures Morgoth who prefigures Sauron as a Dark Lord or Shadow or Enemy.

I'll grant you the ring image, I suppose, although I think it is a stretch. I thought you might go a different direction, i.e. what Tolkien called Morgoth's Ring, which is really more about Taint. But that might be more thematic.

I'll take your word for it about the stairs in The Sil, or perhaps the other versions of The Sil. They didn't make a strong impression on me, but it sort of goes with the City on the Hill, which certainly did make an impression.

Have we mentioned the Spider? No, I don't believe we have. Let's add that to the list.


(This post was edited by Curious on Mar 15 2007, 4:57pm)


Curious
Half-elven

Mar 15 2007, 5:01pm

Post #11 of 57 (187 views)
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Yes, all the primary and secondary colors, except that Orange is called Gold. [In reply to] Can't Post

Everything in your first sentence plus Death, certainly. The anachronisms in the Shire are not what I had in mind, however -- in fact they are the opposite, and I assume you are joking when you add them to the list.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 15 2007, 6:11pm

Post #12 of 57 (183 views)
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Bats in LotR. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Bats are a bit of a stretch, but they are mentioned in The Sil, very prominently in Beren's tale, and in The Hobbit. They just don't appear in LotR.


Bats appear only once in LotR, I believe:


Quote
In a low hesitating voice Pippin began again, and slowly his words grew clearer and stronger. "I saw a dark sky, and tall battlements," he said. "And tiny stars. It seemed very far away and long ago, yet hard and clear. Then the stars went in and out-they were cut off by things with wings. Very big, I think, really; but in the glass they looked like bats wheeling round the tower. I thought there were nine of them. One began to fly straight towards me, getting bigger and bigger. It had a horrible - no, no! I can't say.

"I tried to get away, because I thought it would fly out; but when it had covered all the globe, it disappeared. Then he came. He did not speak so that I could hear words. He just looked, and I understood." [The Palantír]


There were bats as early in Tolkien's writing as 1915, however, when "flittermice" appeared in his poem Goblin Feet.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

Mar. 12-18: Tolkien's Art for Children.


Curious
Half-elven

Mar 15 2007, 6:22pm

Post #13 of 57 (153 views)
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Thanks! But I think it is pretty clear those are Nazgul, who [In reply to] Can't Post

only look like bats because the tower is so large.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 15 2007, 6:34pm

Post #14 of 57 (172 views)
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Sure, nuts could be a recurring image. [In reply to] Can't Post

I'll start that one off by listing those I could find in LotR:


Quote
Apple, thorn, and nut and sloe,
Let them go! Let them go!

[Three Is Company]

'You are not a very easy nut to crack, and Gandalf is worse. But if you want to be introduced to our chief investigator, I can produce him.'
[A Conspiracy Unmasked]

A little way beyond the battle-field they made their camp under a spreading tree: it looked like a chestnut, and yet it still bore many broad brown leaves of a former year, like dry hands with long splayed fingers; they rattled mournfully in the night-breeze.
[The Riders of Rohan]

'Curse him, root and branch! Many of those trees were my friends creatures I had known from nut and acorn; many had voices of their own that are lost for ever now. And there are wastes of stump and bramble where once there were singing groves.'
[Treebeard]

A few seemed more or less related to Treebeard, and reminded them of beech-trees or oaks. But there were other kinds. Some recalled the chestnut: brown-skinned Ents with large splayfingered hands, and short thick legs. Some recalled the ash: tall straight grey Ents with many-fingered hands and long legs; some the fir (the tallest Ents), and others the birch, the rowan, and the linden.
[Treebeard]

The Old Grange on the west side had been knocked down, and its place taken by rows of tarred sheds. All the chestnuts were gone. The banks and hedgerows were broken.
[The Scouring of the Shire]

Inside it was filled with a grey dust, soft and fine, in the middle of which was a seed, like a small nut with a silver shale. 'What can I do with this?' said Sam.
[The Grey Havens]

The little silver nut he planted in the Party Field where the tree had once been; and he wondered what would come of it. All through the winter he remained as patient as he could, and tried to restrain himself from going round constantly to see if anything was happening.
[The Grey Havens]


The Hobbits has "Chestnuts, chestnuts". The rest I leave for others.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

Mar. 12-18: Tolkien's Art for Children.


Darkstone
Immortal


Mar 15 2007, 6:35pm

Post #15 of 57 (171 views)
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I think.... [In reply to] Can't Post

....green is the ur- or prototypical color for Tolkien. I almost picture him writing "In the beginning, Eru said 'Let there be Green'."

Vegan zombie: "GGRRRAAAAIIIIINNNNNSSSSSS!!"


(This post was edited by Darkstone on Mar 15 2007, 6:38pm)


squire
Valinor


Mar 15 2007, 6:35pm

Post #16 of 57 (207 views)
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See, that counts for me. [In reply to] Can't Post

Because Pippin says they look like bats, I see bats in my mind's eye for a moment when I read that passage.

To me, that is Tolkien using his image of bats, just as he does in Silmarillion and The Hobbit. As always, they are associated with evil and the dark lord.



squire online:
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squire
Valinor


Mar 15 2007, 7:34pm

Post #17 of 57 (221 views)
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You may think me nuts, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

"Nuts" are not mentioned as such in the published version of The Silmarillion, I believe. The book fairly crawls with the related word "seed", with all its metaphorical applications. But "nuts" are, I venture, too plebeian an image for the elevated discourse of The Silmarillion - but see below.

Along with NEB's well-known "chestnuts", The Hobbit mentions nuts one other time, as a food image, not a fertility image:

As they went on Bilbo looked from side to side for something to eat; but the blackberries were still only in flower, and of course there were no nuts, nor even hawthorn-berries. He nibbled a bit of sorrel, and he drank from a small mountain-stream that crossed the path, and he ate three wild strawberries that he found on its bank, but it was not much good.

NEB has no doubt cited all the many occurences of the word in The Lord of the Rings. There is a near miss with Strider in the wild that recalls its use in The Hobbit:

'There is food in the wild,' said Strider; 'berry, root, and herb; and I have some skill as a hunter at need. You need not be afraid of starving before winter comes. But gathering and catching food is long and weary work, and we need haste.

Strider is of course really Aragorn, a scion of the First Age's heroic Edain. Is it remarkable that all of the mentions of "nuts" in LotR involve the hobbits or the ents, two races that do not appear in the Silmarillion legends? I don't think so.

However, as we know, Tolkien returned to his Silmarillion in the years after he completed LotR, and many see in his later rewritings the influence of his growth as a writer from completing his epic. This is from the Tale of the Children of Hurin that appears in Unfinished Tales. Turin and his men capture the dwarf Mim who is carrying a sack of "roots" that when cooked are good to eat, like bread. (I personally believe these are potatoes.)

Then again he laughed in his throat. "They are of great worth." he said. "More than gold in the hungry winter, for they may be hoarded like the nuts of a squirrel, and already we were building our store from the first that are ripe. But you are fools, if you think that I would not be parted from one small load even for the saving of my life."

From the "Description of Numenor" also in UT, a reprise of the seed of the mallorn tree, obviously a spinoff from LotR:

Its fruit was a nut with a silver shale; and some were given as gift by Tar-Aldarion, the sixth King of Númenor, to King Gil-galad of Lindon.

Like hobbits, I think "nuts" are an image that Tolkien came to during his development as an author, rather than one he always had with him. Though frankly, the entire subject is quite underwhelming compared to most of the wowzers that Curious has suggested.



squire online:
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squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


Curious
Half-elven

Mar 15 2007, 8:10pm

Post #18 of 57 (160 views)
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Not White? [In reply to] Can't Post

I sort of picture Eru himself as a blinding white light. And the Void as the ur-Black. The early Arda was devoid of plants, so wouldn't green have come after some red fire? And some blue air and water? Although the first distinct description of Arda, before Melkor spoiled it, was overwhelmingly green, I agree. So if White and Black don't count as colors, I'll grant you Green.


Curious
Half-elven

Mar 15 2007, 8:12pm

Post #19 of 57 (151 views)
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Okay, Bats it is. [In reply to] Can't Post

They're in The Sil, LotR, and The Hobbit.


Curious
Half-elven

Mar 15 2007, 8:18pm

Post #20 of 57 (200 views)
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Nuts can be a Fruit, and the ur-Fruit has to be [In reply to] Can't Post

the Sun and the Moon, don't you think? And I would argue that the fruit of the Two Trees is repeated through the chain of the White Trees, right down to the sapling found by Aragorn, and the Golden Mallorn, right down to the seed planted at Bag End by Sam, even though neither species is directly related to the Two Trees.


Curious
Half-elven

Mar 15 2007, 8:22pm

Post #21 of 57 (143 views)
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Sorry, we did mention the Spider. [In reply to] Can't Post

I see it was number two on my list. Nevermind.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 15 2007, 8:23pm

Post #22 of 57 (189 views)
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NZS on relationship between green and white. [In reply to] Can't Post

In his discussion of the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia article on "Color", NZ Strider, citing Hildegard of Bingen, noted that in medieval thinking, green was the "earthly expression" of white.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

Mar. 12-18: Tolkien's Art for Children.


Curious
Half-elven

Mar 15 2007, 8:53pm

Post #23 of 57 (139 views)
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And seeds, i.e. nuts. [In reply to] Can't Post

 


squire
Valinor


Mar 15 2007, 8:57pm

Post #24 of 57 (172 views)
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You're right, except about the nuts [In reply to] Can't Post

Nuts come out of fruit, of course, but when speaking of fruit, do you see nuts? I see fruit.

You've had "Tree" on your list from the beginning, and maybe you should add Seed and/or Fruit. A nut is only a particular type of seed, and is only vaguely associated with some fruits. Fruit, and Seed, have far more metaphorical associations with fertility and growth than nuts do, and are probably a lot more important to Tolkien, given his obsession with death and rebirth.

In the Sil, Yavanna plants seeds across Arda, which begin to grow and blossom when the sun comes up. The White Trees of the Elves and Dunedain are always passed on via their seed or as "seedlings"; and though they are not descendants of the original White Tree Telperion, still their progenitor Galathilion was made specifically by Yavanna to look like Telperion, lacking only the power of light. They must be the same "species", then, and nuts have nothing to do with them.

Mallorns are different, of course, and belong to Lord of the Rings. Although they are Elvish, their nut is given to the hobbits, as far as I can see, and is only retroactively bestowed upon the Elves as well in that late Unfinished Tales moment.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
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squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


Pallando
Lorien


Mar 15 2007, 10:05pm

Post #25 of 57 (155 views)
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Sorry for the eponymity, but I'm really *curious* ... [In reply to] Can't Post

... as to WHY, C., you would ask such a seemingly ... unusual ... question? I know you must have a doozy of a reason!


__________________________________________

For I also am a steward. Did you not know?

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