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"There are very real differences between Tolkien and his emulators"
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Beren IV
Gondor


Jun 3 2007, 6:53am

Post #51 of 75 (142 views)
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No, I think we actually do agree [In reply to] Can't Post

There certainly have been some episodic situations in which women fought in large numbers, but I agree that most of the time the number of women in combat has been few, but non-zero, and I don't know how non-zero. In medieval armies, or more precicely around medieval armies, women found themselves in combat situations routinely, but generally speaking I think that the woman's first goal if she found herself in such a situation would be to get out of it, the reason being that the woman is typically not a soldier, and while she is armed, she is armed just in case she needs to be and not because she actually intends to use her weapons. A probably fairly common situation, for example, would have been a soldier's wife hunting rabbits or other small game for the stewpot and armed with a lightweight bow for doing so, which could double as an actual weapon if she got into trouble, but such was not its original intended purpose. Female soldiers were rare, and always have been, except in those situations of insufficient manpower which you note, and I can add a few medieval examples to your modern examples.

This means, of course, that those women who were soldiers, and are soldiers, are because they want to be for some reason, and are not simply expected or coerced, like probably most male soldiers in history. This means that, as you say, they are likely to be more dedicated and, consequently, superior, as combatants, the fact that men tend to be larger and stronger than women on average notwithstanding. Even in melee where strength and physical prowess matters (more than in a moden military, anyway - not that it doesn't matter in a modern military), skill and determination still trumps physical prowess. This is why Norse berserkers were so fierce.

One thing that I can say about numbers and ratios is that the number of female combatants in the "heavy" armored combat in the Society for Creative Anachronism seems to be about 10% - which is hardly rare, although SCA armies are still overwhelmingly men. Among unarmored rapier combat, the number does seem to be around 50%, but I think that's a result of the fact that the men who would be fighting rapier are off fighting "heavy" instead. "Heavy" fighters also greatly outnumber the rapier fighters in large events, so I think that the sex ratio among the rapier fighters is probably an afterthought. The SCA is extremely egalitarian in terms of what is expected of people of a given sex, so I suspect that the sex ratio of SCA combatants is determined by the instinctual differences between the average male and the average female. Because of the Valhalla-like situation in which the dead fighters after a battle can get up and do it again, the availability of men isn't a problem, but at the same time, this also means that a combatant that is inferior for whatever reason isn't risking his or her life going out to fight.

As far as this applies to Tolkien, it is clear that Humans in his world generally have social expectations about what is proper for men and for women, although the strength of those expectations does (realistically) vary from society to society: the Rohirrim, for instance, don't seem to have any problem with Eowyn being the command-general defending Edoras and then Dunharrow while Theoden and Eomer set off to besiege Isengard. Eomer does remark to Imrahil that only one woman of the Rohirrim rode to the Pellenor, but in his own reaction to her apparent death, Eomer seems more shocked and dismayed that it is his sister that went to battle, and not just any woman of the realm. Imrahil, by contrast, seems stunned to see a woman in battle at all, and a lot of the Gondoran records (which those in the Tale of Years and elsewhere) make a point about the various barbarians having female warriors. I think it stands to reason that Gondor is a likely a good deal more sexist than Rohan, although it is unclear whether Tolkien believed that this is a good thing or not - Eowyn might have been "cured" of an illness by meeting Faramir, but by the same token, the story and the war would have turned out very differently if she hadn't gone to Gondor to fight!

Tolkien's concept of the Elves varied quite a bit over the course of his writing career; the Elves in the Book of Lost Tales seem quite a bit more sexist than they are as described in his essay, Laws and Customs Among the Eldar, in Morgoth's Ring. If Elves have sensibilities similar to Humans as far as how their sexes are likely to behave, then I would say that, in the context of LACE, the sex ratio of Elven armies will probably be quite close to that in SCA armies. However, Tolkien also says in LACE that Elves are less dimorphic than Humans, which would imply an army with a higher percentage of women than what the SCA typically levies. And yet, if Tolkien himself regarded women acting as soldiers to be a sin, then the Elves would do it even less because the Elves are basically good. So, when Galadriel fought to defend her Teleri relatives in the Kinslaying, was she a heroine... or a sinner?


By the way, regarding the Amazons - er - Scythians, the evidence for women amongs their warbands comes from archaeological burials of skeletons, originally interpreted as adolescent boys but revealed to be women on closer inspection, buried with weapons of war that they apparently used. There were of course Scythian men buried with weapons of war also. I do not know the ratio of male grave sites to female grave sites furnished thus, or even if that ratio has ever been recorded. It is also probable that the graves that have been unearthed belong to people who had a high standing in the tribe and who were otherwise wealthy, because the people of less wealth would have more likely been buried in a less preservable fashion. This presents a possible bias, as I can certainly envision a situation in which noblewomen would be expected to be fighters but common women would not be. Nonetheless, I think that it is now generally thought that the inspiration for the Amazons in Greek Mythology was the Scythians or a tribe related to the Scythians with similar customs.

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


orcbane
Gondor


Jun 3 2007, 12:05pm

Post #52 of 75 (140 views)
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Yes, I would say [In reply to] Can't Post

we are fairly close. Your observations on SCA events are particulary interesting. It is an artificial experiment really, but such may reveal some valid insights. I am reminded of Sun Tzu's arming of the concubines with spears and Delbruck's giving his university students 20 foot pikes to see just what formations were feasible & which were not. A stray thought was the occasional report of women, entering the army disguised as men. I read a biographical book about a Russian woman, who served during the Napoleonic Wars, in a Russian Cavalry Regiment. She actually served for quite some time, before being discovered after being seriously wounded. The book is about 12 years old & called 'The Cavalry Maid'

Interesting topic. You should start another thread sometime just on this.


SilentLion
Rivendell

Jun 3 2007, 1:30pm

Post #53 of 75 (154 views)
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PJ and Arwen [In reply to] Can't Post

In general, I agree with you that PJ did a good job of filling in the Arwen character. I especially like her as the rider sent out from Rivendell to search for Aragorn and the hobbits. Glorfindel as presented in LOTR was a pretty generic elf anyway, and his presence in the story presents a problem because then we have to deal with Elven reincarnation and also why a fellow of his power didn't play a more prominent role in the War of the Ring. Arwen would have been first in line to go search for Aragorn because of their love, and given her combination of speed, strength, and healing ability, she might have been the best choice available to Elrond for the job.

I generally liked the other Arwen scenes throughout the movie. Unlike the book, where we get enough of the backstory to understand what Arwen is giving up to marry Aragorn, that requires some new scenes to explain to a moviegoer. All the Elf-scenes have an otherworldly quality to them, and you get the feeling that PJ was trying to create the sense that Elves live simultaneously in the visible physical work and the invisible spiritual world.

The scene I did not like is the segue into the Arwen dream sequence in the the Two Towers where Aragorn falls off a cliff and floats down a river (he later shows up at Helm's deep just before the seige starts). That whole scene, and even the ambush before it, seemed pretty gratuitous. Aragorn's thoughts could have naturally turned to Arwen when the elves reported for duty at Helm's Deep.


orcbane
Gondor


Jun 3 2007, 2:10pm

Post #54 of 75 (154 views)
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Nice! One ques, One slight differ [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
In general, I agree with you that PJ did a good job of filling in the Arwen character... Glorfindel as presented in LOTR was a pretty generic elf anyway, and his presence in the story presents a problem because then we have to deal with Elven reincarnation and also why a fellow of his power didn't play a more prominent role in the War of the Ring...
I generally liked the other Arwen scenes throughout the movie. Unlike the book, where we get enough of the backstory to understand what Arwen is giving up to marry Aragorn, that requires some new scenes to explain to a moviegoer. All the Elf-scenes have an otherworldly quality to them, and you get the feeling that PJ was trying to create the sense that Elves live simultaneously in the visible physical work and the invisible spiritual world...
The scene I did not like is the segue into the Arwen dream sequence in the the Two Towers where Aragorn falls off a cliff and floats down a river (he later shows up at Helm's deep just before the seige starts). That whole scene, and even the ambush before it, seemed pretty gratuitous. Aragorn's thoughts could have naturally turned to Arwen when the elves reported for duty at Helm's Deep.


Very well put I thought & pretty much how I felt. Glorfindal being reincarnated was news to me! I sort of wondered about him, and had trouble figuring out who exactly he was in the Sil. It seemed more than one Glorfindal was mentioned, but I probably just have it confused. Can you elaborate on who he was in the Sil ? One confusing aspect was I thought perhaps reincarnated elves only came back to Aman.

I have zero tolerance for floating Aragorns kissing Bregos & Arwens.

But the Warg fight I thought was awesome & is one of my favorites of the movie. I found the scenes thrillingly fast and did not mind the invention. Only Theoden shaking his sword around in a wargs mouth looked totally fake to me. The dismounted Rohan bowman who shoots with his bow held horizontal is the basis for my Avatar.


Beren IV
Gondor


Jun 3 2007, 6:16pm

Post #55 of 75 (152 views)
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Yes, I agree very strongly [In reply to] Can't Post

that removing Glorfindel by replacing him with another character is a good idea for the story continuity of LotR. Not only does it flesh out Arwen, but it solves an even deeper problem: the Lúthien issue. As I have said in the past, removing her and Beren permanantly from the world presents a hideous problem for continuity of the legendarium, because the two of them could be very useful in defeating Melkor later in the Last Battle. However, without Glorfindel's reincarnation, within LotR at least the reality for Elven afterlife could be functionally no different from that of Men, and realistically B&L could not expect to survive all three Ages and howevermuch longer it is until the Last Battle because despite how powerful they may be something that gets lucky and takes them down will come up, eventually.

As for Elves living in two worlds, they sort of do, I guess, but there is a problem there: Men do not live in more than one world at a time (though they may live in multiple worlds sequentially), and no other animal lives in more than one world at a time, either. This means that, psychologically, Men would more closely resemble jellyfish than Elves, because Men, like jellyfish, do not live in the spiritual world at the same time as the physical world. If Elves are supposed to be semi-angellic, magical beings, as they are in many fantasy worlds, then this isn't a problem, but in Tolkien's world Elves and Men are two kindreds of what are basically the same creature, so they should be more similar to each-other than Men are even to chimpanzees, let alone something as far removed from us as a jellyfish!

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


SilentLion
Rivendell

Jun 3 2007, 6:38pm

Post #56 of 75 (154 views)
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Glorfindel was one of the leaders of the Elven City Gondolin in the First Age [In reply to] Can't Post

Gondolin was probably the greatest elf city in middle earth, and because it was very cleverly hidden, was the last of the High Elven (Noldor) realms to fall. It was the place where Bilbo's sword Sting and Gandalf's sword Glamdring were forged, and maybe also the Ellesar that Aragorn carried.

From the descriptions in the Silmarillion, Glorfindel would have been about third in command in military situations in Gondolin, after Turgon the King and Ecthelion Captain of the Tower of the Fountain. The first Glorfindel died in an duel with a Balrog, leading the survivors out of Gondolin along a high mountain pass, and the survivors included a 7 year old Earendil. The battle of Glorindel with the Balrog played out a lot like the duel of Gandalf and the Balrog in LOTR, with both slaying the other and plunging off a sheer cliff into an abyss.

It's not 100% clear that the Glorfindel in Rivendel is the same as the Glorfindel in the First Age, but Tolkien has written that Elven names are not repeated and reincarnation is possible for Elves, although reincarnated Elves generally don't leave Valinor. Anyway, if a reincarnated Glorfindel was hanging around Rivendell, he would have been a major dude, on a level with Elrond, Galadriel, and Gandalf, so it's not clear why he didn't show up anywhere else.


SilentLion
Rivendell

Jun 3 2007, 11:28pm

Post #57 of 75 (137 views)
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Interesting ideas about Beren and Luthien [In reply to] Can't Post

I always thought the characters that leave the narrative are the ones who got things right. Beren and Luthien achieved their part in the 'Great Drama' of Arda, and were ready to move on to whatever lies beyond the circles of the world. The characters who are stuck behind are ones who have not yet achieved the role they are meant to play, usually due to some character flaw, but also have not fallen utterly into darkness. For example, Galadriel (who as a young elf wished to rule a realm of her own) is stuck in Middle Earth until she finally is offered the Ring and rejects it. In the Last Battle, one man with an important part to play is Turin Turambar, who never intentially does evil, but most of his actions turn to evil because of his pride. Another with an important part to play is Feanor, the greatest of all Elves in talent, who created many good and wonderful things, but whose possessiveness led to great evil. After the Last Battle is over, he will finally unlock his Silmarils and release the light for all to share. Maybe Tolkien's version of "Only the good die young."

As far as Elves existing in the spiritual plane and physical plane at the same time, I agree with you that it's hard to really square that with Elves and Men being close kin. However, I think there's a scene in the Fellowship of the Ring where Gandalf offers that explanation to Frodo after he wakes up in Rivendell (I can't look up the exact quote. My well-worn FOTR copy fell apart a few months ago, and I'm under orders not to buy any new Tolkien books because Father's Day is coming up). Gandalf tells Frodo that the Ring allows him to be aware of the wraith-world, the way the Elves are all the time. Perhaps Men do exist in both planes but are just too oblivious to be aware of it without some sort of magic.


Beren IV
Gondor


Jun 4 2007, 12:22am

Post #58 of 75 (142 views)
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It's too bad Tolkien never redid the Fall of Gondolin in the same detail as it is in BoLT II! [In reply to] Can't Post

 

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


Beren IV
Gondor


Jun 4 2007, 12:45am

Post #59 of 75 (138 views)
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The problem at the very core [In reply to] Can't Post

of what I am talking about is that the departure of B&L indicates, as you say, that there is something better and more important beyond the world then Arda. This kills the story. It makes the entire legendarium and everything in it quaint and irrelevant, and not worth reading about. This is the one fatal flaw that Tolkien's unpublished works all share in common but The Hobbit and LotR do not: the author's merging of his imaginary material world together with his religious beliefs, in which the material world is basically a footnote in the grand scheme of things, has been edited out of the finished works but still remains in the unfinished versions. For this reason, The Hobbit and especially LotR are masterpieces, and the other works are interesting only in the context of the two published volumes or as inspiration for fan fiction of one sort or another that attempts to "complete" these unfinished stories.

The situation with Beren and Lúthien is to me perhaps the most frustrating instance of this flaw, but it comes out in a number of other places also, notably in the destruction of Númenor by Ilúvitar (and not by the Valar), in the revocation of the earlier version which Elven spirits reincarnate into their children instead of being "released into Aman", and most of the dialogue of The New Shadow, the Debate of Finrod and Andreth, and some of the elements of Elven reproductive behavior and ecology described in Laws and Customs Among the Eldar. I do understand the wisdom of mortality; indeed, Galadriel, at the end of the Third Age, I think wishes that she could die, so I don't have any problem with the physical mortality of B&L's bodies. That said, of all of the people in the history of Arda who should be the ones to finally defeat Morgoth (the nature of which I also disagree with, although that is a story for a different day), I have to say that Túrin comes out right near the very bottom of the list. I would rather see Gollum do that than Túrin, and Gollum isn't very appropriate either, shall we say.

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 4 2007, 11:15am

Post #60 of 75 (140 views)
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I think there are several reasons [In reply to] Can't Post

The Sil does not work as a story in isolation, but works wonderfully as a backdrop to LotR. First of all, The Sil does not have its own backdrop, and therefore lacks the sense of depth we find in LotR. Not only that, but because The Sil lacks its own backdrop, Tolkien tends to explain everything in The Sil -- and as Tolkien himself discovered, stories work better when not everything is explained, especially if an explanation exists (Letter 144).

Thus if Tolkien had kept the idea that death is a gift to himself and remained ambiguous about it, he would not alienate all the readers who, like you, object to the whole idea. Even in The Sil Tolkien discarded the Second Prophecy of Mandos, which went so far as to explain the end of the world, as well as Turin's fate. Again, it explains too much.

The other big flaw in The Sil is that it does not give us nearly enough detail about the moments that matter, the human moments, the moments of doubt, of anger, of sorrow, and of laughter, although the last may be in short supply. Everything is seen from the remote perspective of the objective narrator or historian, so that we get too much explanation and not enough emotion. Thus you express below your desire that Tolkien had written about The Fall of Gondolin in more detail -- but I only think it would have worked if Tolkien had also removed much of the explanation we get in The Sil, and focused on the story from the perspective of the individuals with whom we can identify.

I think what would have worked would be three stories about Men in the First Age, the story of Beren, of Hurin/Turin, and of Tuor/Earendil, each backed up by the story of Feanor and the Valar and Eru, but with the same level of ambiguity we find in LotR. But Tolkien had not hit upon that technique yet when he wrote those stories. We see it in bits and pieces, here and there, but for the most part Tolkien summarizes the good parts and overexplains. He is really offering the author's viewpoint of the story, the outline that comes before the execution, and he never got around to really writing any of these stories in detail, from the perspective of the heroes and heroines. Even The Children of Hurin, I will argue in the coming weeks, both summarizes and explains far too much.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 13 2007, 9:17pm

Post #61 of 75 (154 views)
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Glorfindel's reincarnation. [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien's late decision to resolve the identity of Glorfindel once and for all as one person, in texts not published in his lifetime, was a key aspect of dna's encyclopedia entry and subsequent discussion:

1. The Fall of Gondolin

2. The Lord of the Rings

3. (Notes on reincarnation)

4. The Silmarillion

5. (Confusion in the period 1977-1996)

6. The Peoples of Middle-earth

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Discuss The Children of Húrin in the Reading Room, June 11-October 14.


NiennaSorrowing
The Shire

Jun 15 2007, 6:10pm

Post #62 of 75 (134 views)
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I know I am incredibly late to the party, but I just had to say this. [In reply to] Can't Post

The things you give as "flaws" in the Silmarillion are exactly why I prefer the Sil over LotR.

I've always found LotR to be rather trite; entertaining as a story but nothing more than that. It certainly cannot evoke in me the depth of passion, of delving into the work and the world as the collected versions of the Sil can. This is primarily because it is told in such an "immediate" manner; I am overburdened with knowledge and have no sense of mystery. That makes it much more difficult for me to care, in a deep and profound way.

I can emotionally connect with Maedhros through my lack of knowledge of his dialog much more than I can with Aragorn or Frodo through my intimate knowledge of everything they say. Asking myself, "what must Maedhros have said before the attack on Sirion, what would have been going through his mind as he acted so contrary to his fundamental character -- did he think of Fingon, beaten into the dust at the Nirnaeth? Did he think of his brothers, slain in Doriath? Did he curse his father before the end, or the Valar? Was his one, unending thought of Thangorodrim, or did he ever remember happier days in Aman?" brings me to a greater emotional commitment to the tale than would knowing exactly what he did think and say before leading the attack on the Havens. I can say, "Ai! What must Maedhros have thought", instead of saying, "this is what he thought", and that means so much more.

In LotR, I can recognize dialog as beautiful and meaningful (Do not be so hasty to deal out death in judgment) and characters as developed and interesting, but I do not have that fundamental emotional connection to them. Nor do I have that deep an emotional connection to the characters we see lain out more clearly at the end of the Quenta -- Turin, for example, who we get so much dialog from; Maeglin, whose mind and motivations we know relatively clearly. It is the characters who are only sketched in -- the Noldor, Melian, Elwing and Earendil -- that I can return to again and again in interest and love.

Moreover, it is the cosmology that I find fascinating, as well as the history -- what does it mean, that Arda was only created in the thought of Iluvatar after Melkor first sowed discord into the Music? To what extent can we claim that Arda is marred because Melkor had a hand in its making, and to what extent is it because he poured his essence into, making it his Ring? If some sorrow is considered "holy", as implied by Nienna, one of the greatest of the Valar, being the "Weeper" and weaving sorrow into the fabric of the universe before it was made, what part of sorrow is an unnecessary grief caused by the marring of Arda and what part of it is necessary for wisdom? If the ability to escape from the Circles of the World given to Men is considered a "gift", then what does say about the necessity of impermanence to joy, or grief? All of this is what keeps me coming back to the Sil, again and again, whereas I read LotR once a year, out of habit, and enjoy it but am not sad when I finish and tuck it away for another year.

Essentially, to me LotR is a story, it is an entertaining read (and one I care deeply about) but has no deeper meaning; the Sil and Associated is a mythology, it speaks to me at the core of my being.


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 15 2007, 7:17pm

Post #63 of 75 (99 views)
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Catching up on old posts, I see! [In reply to] Can't Post

I suppose I can see your point of view. For example, I love the philosophical chapters of War and Peace which are often skipped in the abridged versions. And I enjoy philosophical or metaphysical discussions about Tolkien's Secondary World which depend quite heavily on what he wrote in The Sil or HoME, and only hinted at in LotR. I also enjoy teasing out clues about what is going on inside the heads of characters like Aragorn, who are much more opaque than the hobbits.

But I would never read The Sil without LotR, and I found it difficult to maintain my interest in the last discussion of it except when the discussion turned to LotR. For me, LotR is the puzzle, and The Sil is the key. The puzzle can exist just fine without the key, or in fact might be all the more fascinating without it. But the key without the puzzle is pointless.

Now I can see that the outlines of stories within The Sil could provide fodder for endless speculation. Just as I enjoy reading history, at times, more than historical novels, so I can see reading The Sil instead of LotR. But personally I read history slowly, and have no problem setting a history book aside for other matters, whereas when I fall in love with fiction I am liable to stay up until the wee hours kneeling on the floor reading it, or find myself reading it in the bookstore before paying for it. It is as if I enter a sort of trance. History, or fictional history such as The Sil, or mythological tales such as The Bible, do not affect me in this manner.

Actually this may have something to do with the way I have learned history. I was never interested in history in school, but went from fiction to historical fiction (including quasi-historical fantasy), to history books for the general reader. I'm afraid I'm still not a serious history student, and probably never will be. I read history to put the fiction I have read into context. I love to look up the history of pirates, for example, after watching Pirates of the Carribean, or reading Treasure Island. But fiction still comes first for me. That's just me, though.

Going back to how your parents raised you, I know there are people who were raised on the Bible and know it so well that they can discuss it endlessly. Because it is such familiar territory it almost doesn't matter whether it is great writing. It is as familiar to them as their back yard, and transcends normal standards of writing. There are many such religious books, and because they are the center of a religion they are studied and discussed endlessly, and because they are studied and discussed endlessly they almost become fascinating no matter what an outsider would think. There are secular works like this as well, for example the U.S. Constitution.

I don't mean this as any kind of slight, and I wonder if your upbringing has anything to do with your preference for The Sil. I also wonder if your reading of LotR was forever tainted by your intimate knowledge of The Sil, for since you had already read the key to the puzzle, the puzzle may have seemed rather trite. Most people needed the hobbits to introduce them to this strange world, but for you I imagine the hobbits may have been a distraction from the continuation of the history found in The Sil. I know C.S. Lewis was not a big fan of the hobbits, especially at the beginning of the book, and I have always had a feeling that Christopher Tolkien is no longer a fan of the hobbits either, although he apparently loved them as a child.

I am reminded of Aragorn's reaction to Bilbo's elaborate, inventive, and entertaining poem about Earendil, which was nonetheless by no means as serious as anything in The Silmarillion.

"Aragorn insisted on my putting in a green stone. He seemed to think it important. I don't know why. Otherwise he obviously thought the whole thing rather above my head, and he said that if I had the cheek to make verses about Eärendil in the house of Elrond, it was my affair. I suppose he was right.'"

But see I just love what Bilbo says about Earendil, and for me it makes reading the whole of The Silmarillion worthwhile, just to appreciate the humor of this comment!

Now that I think about it, I also read LotR at a very early age, and religiously thereafter, so perhaps I am the one who has fond feelings for it that transcend any objective measure.


(This post was edited by Curious on Jun 15 2007, 7:25pm)


NiennaSorrowing
The Shire

Jun 15 2007, 8:07pm

Post #64 of 75 (146 views)
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I am! But I am so delighted I found this place; indulge me. [In reply to] Can't Post

Ah, the analogy to history and historical fiction is interesting. See, I love history, indeed, had I not fallen in love with biochemistry and laboratory work I probably would have become a historian. Again, it is because I love teasing out mysteries -- what did happen then, what were people's motivations? We have this much evidence, here, how can we interpret it, what is the most logical conclusion to be drawn. But I love historical fiction as well -- it provides so many different interpretations that the facts are only enriched. When I was seriously interested in the Scottish Wars of Independence, I must have read a dozen novels on Robert the Bruce. But it is that multiplicity of interpretation that I love so much -- it is similar to why I love fanfiction of the Silmarillion (and do not so much enjoy fanfiction of LotR): reading a dozen authors' takes on what was going through Fingolfin's mind when he challenged Morgoth can only bring to me a greater appreciation of the story. You cannot do that with LotR; everything is already said. There is only one way in which Faramir rejected the Ring.

I am sure my upbringing had a great deal to do with the greater value I set upon the Sil; LotR was always too contained, with not enough beauty and majesty and tragedy, even though the story was glorious. It was always too bogged down in dialog. And while I don't dislike the hobbits, I don't really value them as characters -- rather, I value what they represent: Frodo, endurance beyond hope; Sam, loyalty until the end of all things; Merry, courage in the face of danger; Pippen, cheerfulness in the face of disaster. They speak to me through their representation of these things, not through what they say or do directly.

Because it is alway that immediacy which removes me from the story. I can be moved to tears by contemplation of Maedhros -- in fact, I was last night, when I contemplated Maedhros after the Nirnaeth. (Manwe did not rescue me from Thangorodrim out of mercy, the Maedhros in my head said, There is no mercy for people like me. I died there, on the precipice -- Findekano gave me life, for a little while, but now he has taken it back, and I am dead again.) Or similarly, I can be moved to great joy, considering what Beren must have felt when Luthien rescued him from the dungeons of Sauron. For me, I can more easily understand the pit of black despair Maedhros must have felt after the Nirnaeth by knowing only that he must have felt it, rather than attempting to understand the pit of black despair Denethor fell into because I am told he did. Or the joy of Tuor upon seeing Gondolin for the first time is greater than the joy of Sam seeing Gandalf alive because around the former no words are set to describe it.

I do love LotR; I don't want you to misinterpret that. It is just that comparatively, it does not speak to me in the same way the (multiple variations of) the Sil do.


I adore that poem. It's possibly the best Tolkien ever wrote -- I don't have a particularly high opinion of his verse writing ability, and despite my love of the story of Beren and Luthien I've never managed to get all the way through the Lay of Leithian; I always end up wincing at the contrived rhyme and putting it down. But: There flying Elwing came to him/And flame was in the darkness lit/More bright than light of diamond/The fire upon her carcanet. Such beauty. (Although I've always wondered -- isn't a carcanet a type of necklace? How then does she "bind the Silmaril upon his brow"? It's not a headband. *sigh*)

I also love Bilbo's comment: if I had the cheek to make verses about Eärendil in the house of Elrond, it was my affair! But I love it because it connects LotR to the greater backstory, and that is what gives LotR the depth it has, and that is why I do love LotR. It's depth, which comes from resting on the Sil -- but if I did not know the Sil as well as I do, I would not be able to appreciate LotR as much as I do.


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 15 2007, 8:28pm

Post #65 of 75 (103 views)
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I might like to read fanfiction [In reply to] Can't Post

based on The Silmarillion. I actually got excited about filming Children of Hurin because I am not attached to Tolkien's own version of the story, and perhaps I would enjoy Sil fan fiction more than LotR fan fiction. There are a wealth of stories to be told. Have you written any yourself?


NiennaSorrowing
The Shire

Jun 16 2007, 12:37am

Post #66 of 75 (106 views)
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Sil fanfiction and LotR fanfiction are very different things. [In reply to] Can't Post

I have written a great deal, but most of it is in "fragment" form -- a snapshot of a particular event, or rather a series of snapshots, a dozen different ways it could go. I always write down the scenes that come into my head when I am contemplating a particular passage, so I might have a hundred of separate fragments from different times in my life. I find it fascinating to go back and look at how my perspective on one section has changed through my life (and I'm only 23, so I have a long time ahead of me to keep collecting these thoughts -- one day when I'm 90 I want to be able to look back on what I thought about Feanor when I was 9). The majority of this I don't post as "fanfiction", though, because they're more like internal meditations.

I have written some more formal pieces that would be recognized as normal fanfiction, though, mostly revolving around the Sons of Feanor, and Maedhros in particular. I'm currently working on a snarky, tongue-in-cheek retelling of the rescue of Maedhros from Thangorodrim -- one with a lot of swearing and not much poetry, where Fingon doesn't do anything so absurd as take along a harp and sing a song of Valinor, but rather runs into a rock wall while blind from the darkness Morgoth has set about the feet of Thangorodrim and curses so loudly that Maedhros hears him. More like how such a rescue would actually go, that is. ;) (Before you ask for any of my Maedhros fic, however, I will warn you that in some -- not all, but some -- of the stories, Maedhros and Fingon are lovers, or, by the laws of the Eldar, married. Yes, I know Tolkien would spin in his grave, but I'm sure he's so busy spinning in his grave from all the Legolas-love-interest self-inserts following the movies that he hasn't the time to add an extra rotation because I've given Maedhros and Fingon a romantic love. If you would like any of my Maedhros stories and would not like the Fingon/Maedhros ones, just specify that.)

If you are interested in this, I can link you to some of my favorite Silmarillion fanfiction. It's all told in the more "immediate" style, so it involves the "personal" moments, and you can get many different perspectives one one story. Of course, any rec list made by me is going to be heavily biased towards the Noldor, and not involve much of Men beyond Beren and Tuor -- although I do have a couple Turin recs floating around somewhere -- but you'll have to take what you can get. ;)


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 16 2007, 2:17am

Post #67 of 75 (109 views)
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Fascinating discussion you're having way down here. [In reply to] Can't Post

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote to Christopher in the 1940s about the latter's deep interest in "Celebrimbor", probably based on just one or two references in the text of LotR as written to that date.

But what makes Tolkien's untold stories more interesting than any sketchy narrative by other authors?

And what makes a text mythological?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Discuss The Children of Húrin in the Reading Room, June 11-October 14.


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 16 2007, 2:28am

Post #68 of 75 (93 views)
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Sure, I'm interested. [In reply to] Can't Post

I've seen some very good fan fiction, and also lots of bad stuff. But I'm always interested in the good stuff, and I would like to see how the Sil fanfiction differs.


NiennaSorrowing
The Shire

Jun 16 2007, 2:39am

Post #69 of 75 (107 views)
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I'm always happy to pimp my favorite authors. [In reply to] Can't Post

While I'm assembling a rec list, I will offer you one of my own fragments, something I wrote yesterday while at work:


"My brothers lie dead in Doriath," Maedhros said, with emptiness in his eyes. "I held them when they were born; I fed them and washed them and brushed their hair. I watched them grow and comforted their tears." He moved closer, and now there was something in his eyes: a burning light, too similar to what had been seen in Feanor's before the end. "They are buried in Doriath because of me. I killed them. I held them in my hands when they were no more than squalling babes and then I sent them to their deaths. For what? For the sake of a pretty jewel and our father's accursed oath. Do you think I will stop now? When I have already damned us all?" He turned to go. "We leave for Sirion in the morning."

"This will be the death of us," Amrod said.

"We are already dead, Ambarussa," Maedhros said without turning round. "We are already dead."


[Important question: Fingon/Maedhros slash, Y/N? What level of porn is acceptable? I don't want to rec you a NC-17 fic and have you be horrified at the intrusion of sex into your Tolkien. Or do you only want het because that is all that Tolkien would have approved of? However, I can assure you that I will never, ever rec you any Beren/Luthien where they go beyond chaste kisses. There are some things even I think are too holy to touch.]


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 16 2007, 3:31am

Post #70 of 75 (102 views)
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Does "rec" mean "recommend"? [In reply to] Can't Post

I am hopeless with internet acronyms.

What do you think of this study (from Modern Fiction Studies in 2004), which partly considers slash fiction inspired by Tolkien's fiction and Jackson's films?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Discuss The Children of Húrin in the Reading Room, June 11-October 14.


NiennaSorrowing
The Shire

Jun 16 2007, 3:39am

Post #71 of 75 (78 views)
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*laughs* [In reply to] Can't Post

It means either "recommend" or "recommendation", depending on whether it's used as a noun or a verb. A "rec list" is a list of recommendations; if I "rec" something to you, I'm recommending it.

I haven't seen that study, but I'm reading through the link you gave me now; and it certainly seems interesting. I'll get back to you when I've finished it. (I'm also trying to write a reply to your comment above, but it's a bit more involved so it's taking a while.)


squire
Valinor


Jun 16 2007, 3:43am

Post #72 of 75 (126 views)
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Do you find the novelistic style fulfills the unspoken promise you've praised? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm fascinated by your ability to project, through lack of dialog in the stories, your own internal dialogs onto The Silmarillion's characters - something you say you're unable to do with the Lord of the Rings characters because they already have the author's dialog to constrain your imagination. (My first reaction was, I'm sorry to say, that if you think The Lord of the Rings is overcharacterized by dialog and explicit motivations, I'd hate to think of how your brain would explode on reading any mainstream literary fiction written since about 1850.)

But never mind that. What I notice about your fanfic on Maedhros here is that, when he speaks, he doesn't seem true to the mythological stature of the story as Tolkien writes it. Tolkien's Maedhros would not contempuously refer to a Silmaril as a "pretty jewel" - if he could do that, he could also void his oath. As Tolkien explained in one of his letters, the mode of speech of his characters is constrained by the mode of thought he is trying to evoke: heroic, unironic, unselfconscious. The Sil may be difficult for modern readers to sympathize with (and LotR may be a more successful compromise along these lines), but it is written that way on purpose: the distancing is experimental on Tolkien's part but it is intentional. To render the characters' inner thoughts in modern psychological idiom, with overtones of self-contempt and angst, seems to go against the point of the story.

Lastly, as per your P.S.: I'm not a fan fiction fan, but why would you think Beren/Luthien humping is too "holy" to portray, when Tolkien himself portrayed it (Lay of Leithian, 745-785); but Fingon/Maedhros humping is ok to portray although as you admit Tolkien would have been appalled at the very thought? Isn't it all the same in fan fiction? "Anything goes", by definition.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


NiennaSorrowing
The Shire

Jun 16 2007, 4:17am

Post #73 of 75 (92 views)
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*laughs again* [In reply to] Can't Post

Aiya. I haven't had this much fun since the old Purist v Revisionist days on TORC.

The reason why any other novel does not bother me with its amount of dialog -- and trust me, I never stop reading -- is because I am not after a deep emotional connection. (An emotional connection, yes -- I am not trying to say at all that novels leave me cold; the good ones do not -- but not deep to the level of the Sil.) I am after what I get from any fictional book -- a good read, hopefully one I will return to and enjoy multiple times over the course of my life. I am not seeking something that is almost (although I really hesitate to use this word) spiritual. And that is the difference between the Sil and LotR, for me.

With concerns to my fanfiction, I am not trying, in any way, to be Tolkien. I am not trying to write what Tolkien would have written. I am trying to write what I write. This is only the latest of many, many versions of Maedhros before Sirion that I have written, and I will write many, many more. It is couched in certain emotional terms that have resonance for me, at this time, because that is meaningful for me. And that is what I am trying to say about the value of the Sil and Associated for me -- the Sil offers me the opportunity to do that, to take what is meaningful to me at a certain time and to understand it better by viewing it through the lens of these stories.

Although I am not usually this knowledgeable about my own motivations behind what part of the Sil I pick to contemplate at any particular time, I do know that right now, I am focusing on Maedhros's relationships to his brothers because my sister has just announced she and her husband are trying for a baby. (It was not a conscious decision to focus on that part of the mythology, it was just that about a week ago I realized I was writing nothing but Maedhros and his brothers and sat down to figure out why.) I am going to be an aunt, and to me that is a big issue; I have never had much contact with children before. So if I see what version of Maedhros I produce by working through his life, it will help me to understand what I am currently feeling after having heard that I will be an aunt.

Looking at the fragments I have written lately, I am obviously terrified of failing the child.


And as to the definition of fanfiction you offer -- interestingly enough, I am currently involved in a discussion over at my lj (er, LiveJournal) about that very thing: fanfiction, in my mind, is not "anything goes", there are specific boundaries that must be operated within to produce something that is true to the spirit of fanfiction.

But that is a long debate and not one with relevance to this issue, except to point out that I do not agree with your definition of fanfiction. The answer is: I will not rec Beren/Luthien smut because I do not feel comfortable thinking of Beren and Luthien in a sexual manner; it is not the way I view their tale and therefore not what I am interested in. I will rec -- and write -- Fingon/Maedhros smut because it is something I feel has importance to their story, in one of the incarnations of the story as I see it.


I realize, reading over this post, that it is easy to get the impression that I value the Sil only as a tool to my own subconscious. This is not true. I value it as a story, as a mythology, as a created work. But it is also what I use to understand myself and my view of the world better, and I do not think that my appreciation of it as other things can ever be separated from that.


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 16 2007, 11:05am

Post #74 of 75 (76 views)
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Maybe not [In reply to] Can't Post

NC-17, at least for now.

I'm fascinated by the slash phenomenon, though. From what I understand the authors are often or even primarily female, even thought the relationships depicted are often or even primarily between males. In the case of Tolkien fanfic, at least, this may be due to the predominance of males in the story.

But now you say you would be reluctant to touch Beren/Luthien, which along with Melian/Thingol is one of the most explicitly erotic relationships in all of Tolkien. (I know that's not saying much, but I think you know what I mean.) Why are the male/male relationships safer to describe?

In fact from the little I have read, even in general fanfiction with no explicit sexual content, the authors are more often female than male. We just got done discussing Tolkien illustrators, including Tolkien fan art, and it seems as if all of the fan artists of note are female, and usually draw Tolkien's elves or men. The many handsome male characters in the movies also clearly appealed to a large female audience.

I'm not sure where I am going with this, but I would be interested in your take on it, since I am looking at the phenomenon from the outside in. (I do recall one male fanfiction author and artist who used to frequent this website, although I haven't seen him on the new boards. At least he had a male nickname.)

I wrote this before I saw squire's similar question and your answer, but if you have anything to add to that, I will read it with interest.


(This post was edited by Curious on Jun 16 2007, 11:13am)


Curious
Half-elven

Jun 16 2007, 12:11pm

Post #75 of 75 (166 views)
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Very well written, but [In reply to] Can't Post

the article didn't really do anything to explain the slash phenomenon to me. It just defined it, I guess, with a heavy emphasis on Frodo/Sam.

I certainly agree with the article that Tolkien himself had nothing of the sort in mind, unless you consider Tolkien's depiction of a male/male relationship as part of a spectrum of male/male relationships. I thought the exploration of what Tolkien did have in mind was the strongest part of the article. I also thought the comparison and contrast of Frodo and Sam's relationship in the books and the movies was quite well done. I wish the exploration of the slash phenomenon had been as thorough.

I'm particularly interested in the predominance of female authors in slash fiction, which leads me to believe that for most participants the slash phenomenon is not about homosexuality at all, but rather about heterosexual female fantasies involving male/male relationships. We can certainly see the reverse phenomenon when heterosexual males fantasize about female/female relationships.

I'm guessing, though, that there are many contrasts between the heterosexual female fantasies about male couples and the heterosexual male fantasies about female couples. I'm guessing that there are also contrasts between homosexual female fantasies about female couples and heterosexual male fantasies about female couples. I wonder whether there are also contrasts between homosexual male fantasies about male couples and heterosexual female fantasies about male couples.

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