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HsojVvad
04-12-2009, 19:01
I am watching Fellowship of the Ring extended edtion again, for the umpteenth time. Just noticed when he got ambushed from the goblisn the he panicked and put the ring on to become invisible and run run or hide away.

For someone who is a King, he didn't show much leadership there. So is he really a coward or was it that the Ring made him do it?

I just find it so shamefull espically for the King of Gondor to be acting like that. Hell his Father stood up to Saruon and didn't even crap his pants. So for Isilidur to be scared from being ambushed from goblins seem very cowardly.

What are your opnions of this?

Xollob
04-12-2009, 19:44
Isildur was a bit of a plank, hence why the ring took over him, and made him runaway at the battle of goblin ambush, so he'd get killed, a goblin would pick up the ring, and sauron whould be whole again

Dr Death
04-12-2009, 21:04
Well if you're going by the books then your analysis is a hyper-simplification HsojVvad. Isildur by the books (particularly 'The Disaster of the Gladden Fields' in Unfinished Tales) is far more complex (well, he would be, he doesnt have to be characterised in a grand total of three minutes of screen time). In the books the Gladden Fields isnt really an ambush as such, it's more of a general skirmish, and Isildur aquits himself quite admirably before finally being urged to make a dash for it by a squire.

More generally, though marred by his moment of weakness with the Ring Isildur was not a bad bloke- he risked life and limb to steal the fruit of the White Tree of Numenor preserving its line, he captained one of the ships during the escape landing with his brother Anarion in a completely different part of Middle-earth to their father and managing to found and rule a kingdom right from scratch, and he was doing the dutiful thing in going north and taking up his father's rule in Arnor when the Disaster of the Gladden Fields happened so he wasnt a bad king fundamentally- just, like Boromir, he fell at the test.

Dr Death

Whitwort Stormbringer
04-12-2009, 21:46
As Dr Death points out, the books paint a very different picture of Isildur. Furthermore, it is difficult to say that almost any other human wouldn't have fallen to the influence of the ring, sooner or later, and he had much more exposure to it than being offered once or twice like Aragorn and Faramir, who are typically held up as "those who resisted the ring." They had the willpower to turn it down, but they never had the burden of carrying it around, chipping away at them.

To put things in perspective, Isildur had the ring for at least a year before dying at the Gladden Fields (Third Age, year 2). Lord of the Rings takes place over approximately 1 year (other more knowledgeable members may correct me on this), and look at the toll that the ring took on Frodo. Isildur didn't ditch his men and flee by his own initiative, but rather was convinced (since the Numenoreans were vastly outnumbered) that it was more important for him to survive than to die in a pointless battle.

HsojVvad
05-12-2009, 01:56
I only read, The Lord of the Rings books, I havn't read the other. What is Unfinished Tales? Maybe I will try it out. But I had a hard time reading LotR. The first 100 pages of Fellowship was the worst, then I couldn't put the book down after that. How is unfinished tales?

I was only going by what I saw in the movie, hence I was asking, was he really like this or not. I am glad to see that you guys say he isn't like this. After all they say it's the lineage of Isilidur. From seeing what I saw, how could anyone be proud from being the linage of Isilidur lol. But good to know he wasn't like this, and it was the ring that took over. I guess it just shows you how resiliant the Hobbits were to the Rings power I guess.

Thanks guys.

Pacorko
05-12-2009, 02:33
I wouldn't paint him as coward, but rather a petty man or one of broken spirit, both in the books and in the movie. Even when he tries to make a brave stand in the big fight on Gladden Fields, he wasn't determined to die there and then, just tried to lead his men out yet another fine, fine mess there got themselves in (points for those who get the reference!:p).

I say that his weakness of character and spirt i what makes him utterly fail in yielding the ring, and then to bear the burden which ultimately sends him to his grave.

But a "coward", he wasn't. Certainly not an epic hero and neither an Aragorn nor a Faramir. Heck, not even a Boromir!

Whitwort Stormbringer
05-12-2009, 03:01
fine, fine mess there got themselves in (points for those who get the reference!:p).
Skanic?


Certainly not an epic hero and neither an Aragorn nor a Faramir. Heck, not even a Boromir!
Maybe not Aragorn or Faramir, at least they had the strength to deny the ring when offered to them, but Boromir was a slave to the ring almost as soon as he was in its presence. For all his martial prowess, I feel like he was particularly vain amongst men (others may surpass him in this, but he is most prominent), and only upon his deathbed did he really recognize his own weakness.

Faramir and Aragorn simply were able to hold it together long enough to "just say no" when offered the ring, but if either had to carry it on his person for any period of time my feeling has always been, who knows what they would have done? The strength of many of the good characters (Aragorn, Faramir, Gandalf, Galadriel) seems to be simply in knowing that they can't control the ring, so their only option is to deny it.

This segues into my feelings on the film portrayal of Faramir, which to me missed the crucial point. In the movies he originally gives in to the ring, more or less, out of vanity, but then is convinced otherwise. In the books his opinion is more of the "I'm not touching that with a 10 foot pole" approach and he is what Boromir should have been, but Boromir was too convinced that he had to save his kingdom through use of the ring.

@ HsojVvad:
Unfinished tales is pretty hit-or-miss, depending on how into it you are. It's mostly in the form of short stories, however, so in that respect at least you'll have the ability to pick and choose what you feel like reading. Honestly, though, if you really want to move on from Lord of the Rings I would first recommend Children of Hurin, which is a good self-contained story. Bits and pieces may not make sense without further background, but that's true of LotR too. If you enjoy that, check out the Silmarillion and the various other unpublished writings (History of Middle Earth, Unfinished Tales, Lost Tales, Shaping of Middle Earth, etc.).

Condottiere
05-12-2009, 05:44
Isildur received the Ring at a critical moment in time that changed the history of the world. He should have cast it away, but at that moment, like a battery, it might still have been pulsing with the might and the will of Sauron, and might have been able to rather easily manipulate Isildur, especially since it was in contact with him.

He had just lost his father, and undoubtedly many friends, his ambition to re-establish the Numorean empire and the fear of the future. The Ring was both a symbol of his victory over Sauron and a powerful talisman, why not keep and use it?

Isildur might have become more self-centred during his stewardship of it, which was why he might have easily been under the impression that his continued existence was essential.

Not cowardice, but perhaps misguided.

Spider
05-12-2009, 09:53
Isn't one of the central themes of the book that no-one can resist the ring.

The story is quite specific that it paints those as wise and powerfull for resisting the rings influence...by not taking it in the first place.

Because they know that they won't be able to resist its evil and before long they will either be another ringwraith or another dark lord (in the case of Galadriel and probably Gandalf).

Isildur had no way of knowing that the trinket he took from the being that had pretty much wiped out his family, homeland continent and initiated a war that devastated much of middle earth, was totally evil and somewhat sentient. Once he picked it up, did he even have much choice after that?

de Selby
05-12-2009, 10:20
Indeed.



This segues into my feelings on the film portrayal of Faramir, which to me missed the crucial point. In the movies he originally gives in to the ring, more or less, out of vanity, but then is convinced otherwise. In the books his opinion is more of the "I'm not touching that with a 10 foot pole" approach and he is what Boromir should have been, but Boromir was too convinced that he had to save his kingdom through use of the ring.



In PJ's commentaries I think he mentions that they deliberately made Faramir's decision seem a bit more wobbly because they thought the idea of him turning it down flat undersold the power of the Ring. I tend to agree with you that never allowing himself near it was the secret of his success. Just say no kids!

Dr Death
05-12-2009, 12:21
Faramir and Aragorn simply were able to hold it together long enough to "just say no" when offered the ring, but if either had to carry it on his person for any period of time my feeling has always been, who knows what they would have done? The strength of many of the good characters (Aragorn, Faramir, Gandalf, Galadriel) seems to be simply in knowing that they can't control the ring, so their only option is to deny it.

This is the crucial fact (and perhaps why the Ring is so applicable to drug addiction)- knowing your limitations and rejecting the Ring out of hand is the only real way to survive its influence- those that posess it almost universally fall to its power). Rejection of the Ring has more to do with wisdom than will-power. Bilbo- the only person to have prolonged contact and yet reject it, posessed both qualities, coupled with a lack of ambition to actually do anything with the Ring (such as getting back at rivals, building empires, defending his land) it was simply a useful trinklet to him. His innocence of intention ultimately shielded him from the corrupting effects the Ring had on the more ambitious.


Maybe not Aragorn or Faramir, at least they had the strength to deny the ring when offered to them, but Boromir was a slave to the ring almost as soon as he was in its presence. For all his martial prowess, I feel like he was particularly vain amongst men (others may surpass him in this, but he is most prominent), and only upon his deathbed did he really recognize his own weakness.

Boromir is the only case in all of Lord of the Rings where i actually find the film's portrayal more convincing and complex than the books. What Sean Bean (and the screenplay) managed to bring out was a lot of the underlying motivations which Tolkien only hints at in Boromir. From that standpoint i cant agree with you that Boromir is particularly vain. Boromir to me is a man who is tragically out of his depth. He's a military man, used to dealing with tangible realities and yet here he is confronted by all this talk about temptation and corruption, malignant wills and long lost lore. He fails to see its pertinence and its importance to the daily suffering of his country and quite naturally beleives his own personal experience of Mordor's attacks to have more weight than the opinions of some comittee of elves, dwarves and wizards hundreds of miles behind the front line. When presented with the matter of the Ring, the only thing he can truly understand and see in it is the potential to end the suffering- to change the fortune of the war for his people and to gain the glory so richly deserved for himself and his armies who have taken the strain.

I quite like the fact Boromir is a representative of the cynical viewers in the film. Without him it would seem a bit too high fantasy and pretentious, but his presence gives the viewer someone they can relate to and a parable of where that outlook would land them.

Dr Death

Pacorko
05-12-2009, 17:28
Dear, Doctor:

You've said it. With Boromir, things are far more complex (thank goodness for the movie) than the cardboard characterisation Tolkien delivers in his scribblings--and this I firmly believe that generally applies to everyone else in the book as the tale is an epic and most of the characters are nothing but archetypes.

Boromir is a tragic hero, and as such, it's his failure to realize that desperation/despair leads to bad decisions even when having the good of his people in mind, the very thing that makes him all the more complex. He's a sort of an Achilles rather than an Heracles (whose vanity indeed dommed him), so to speak.

That said, I have always liked Boromir the best and feel vindicated by the movie and Sean Bean's excellent portrayal.

Whitwort Stormbringer
05-12-2009, 18:54
Agree with Dr. Death and Pacorko - PJ's Boromir was much more believable and likable than Tolkien's. The film version certainly justifies his desire to use the ring much better than the books, especially the extended edition's scene after his victory at Osgiliath.

The Anarchist
05-12-2009, 20:51
Big point in Isildurs favour he grasped his fathers broken sword when all seemed lost and cut off Saurons Hand. the coward would ahve begged for his life, given up or fled in this moment, Isildur faced the greatest evil of his age and did so with courage, so I dont think he can ever be called a coward. however he was vain, and soemtimes foolish man and his choice at the gladden fields as portrayed in the film was a low one....but then the book tels a different story

Dr Death
05-12-2009, 20:55
this I firmly believe that generally applies to everyone else in the book as the tale is an epic and most of the characters are nothing but archetypes.

I'm afraid i'm going to have to take your praise with a pinch of salt then. Tolkien's characters have layers of complexity and subtlety that Peter Jackson frequently missed entirely. While i like the films for what they are, the subversion and sometimes outright contradition of the films to the books greatly demeans the characters in question and in several cases the films rely on hackneyed modern day cliches to explain the motivations of the characters to the audience. If Tolkien's characterisations are 'nothing but archetypes' then PJ's are nothing but stereotypes, however i beleive neither extreme to be a true representation of what the respective mediums portray.

Tolkien's characters in fact frequently subvert what is expected of the archetype, and their personal ambiguity and complexity is realistically renegated to second place next to their decisions. Tolkien's characters do not need to vacilate playing out their personal doubts in their actions as they do in the films (such as Theoden's postponed decision to aid Gondor or Frodo's outburst of suspicion in sending Sam home). Instead Tolkien evokes these feelings and tensions through careful use of dialogue, short 'point of view' accounts (frequently from the point of view of a sleepy hobbit overhearing discussions they wasnt supposed to) and snippets of pertinent historical detail.

Boromir is the exception. I think it plays very much in the films favour that they werent afraid to explore it and some scenes which feature not so much as a line from the book are turned into moments of intense empathy by a deft authorial touch and a powerhouse performance by Sean Bean. One of the best is of course the 'It is a strange fate...' monologue on Caradhras but the other notable is his talk with Aragorn in Lothlorien and even minor flashes like his demand to "Give them [the Hobbits] a moment for pity's sake!" after Gandalf's death and his faltering conversations with Frodo, full of respect but at the same time tinged by jealousy of the Hobbit's charge and guilt of the foreknowledge of what he may resort to. Those little moments really do count for a lot and i actually find that Fellowship of the Ring where they are used to develop characters 'on the run' acheives more in respect to 'personal journeies' than all the grand gestures of the later films.

Dr Death

Pacorko
06-12-2009, 22:41
Dear Doctor, I see where you are coming from, but really for all the grandiose intent in Tolkien's efforts, the results are merely an entertaining read, not a redefinition of Literature as an art form, and with his copious amount of borrowing from most scandinavian myths, his portrayals were made to imitate many of these things and therefore became archetypical in nature.

Read without passion and with an analytical eye, one can see Tolkien did very little characterisation or character development on this part of his work. That's not saying the tale was bad, by all means, but I firmly believe he was most pretentious about his craft, while being unable to concoct truly developed and evolving characters with one notable exception.

That said, I find very little ambiguity in any of them, save for Gollum/Smeagol who is the most developed character in the story. What you point out as examples of characteristaion are merely tools to get the story flowing, not a display of a character's development as none ever deviates from its initial role and mindset, they just play the same part of the conflict every time trying to further their "cause" or "conviction" not evolving as players beyond said conflict, therefore I fail to see those "personal journies" you mention reflected on the text--save for Gollum/Smeagol, again.

But I will certianly keep all your ideas in mind next time I reread the book, as this is the fifth year since I last read it and I made it a tradition of sorts to do so every few winter Hollidays. Maybe I can extract more enjoyment out of it all.

Condottiere
07-12-2009, 01:02
I remember reading a Freudian interpretation of the Hobbit and LotR, it was illuminating.

Tolkien may have explained his works in an academic fashion, since he was after all one, rather than being pretensious, since his initial critics were from his circle of fellow academics.

Pacorko
07-12-2009, 01:34
No. He was indeed a very pretentious man, but the "legend" created around him by his son and the "undying love" of his legion of fans/sychopanths its what make many forget the man's and his works many failings due to their enthusiam about his books.

His pretentiousness was evidenced by his very public snide remarks aimed at the English Modernist writers who did not have a grudge with him, just no real interest in his "overwritten flights of fancy". Then, trying to explain your work of fiction in an academic fashion to your colleagues as an attempt to give it more validity is, under any light, pretentious. Not to mention his quite idiotic statement about his creation of a "wholly British mythology for England, who lacked one" (as stated by him in one of his last filmed interviews).

I mean, his fellow scholars would certainly have found out all the underlying intricacies without his continous nagging about the "real value and scope of his work", and the man should have not refused to accept the plethora of Celtic, Pictish, and Welsh folklore as the true "original English" myths.

But we are deviating from the original topic, and I don't want anyone coming here calling us names for not sticking to the topic at hand or have Brimstone or any other admin closing it just because it "deviated" and is no longer "hobby-related".

HsojVvad
07-12-2009, 02:28
OH please, keep this going guys. I believe the original topic has expired, since you have changed my mind, and I find new breath and learning new things with your discussions. I have no problem if you guys keep debating politely, it is enjoying, entertaining and educational.

Dr Death
07-12-2009, 12:18
Read without passion and with an analytical eye, one can see Tolkien did very little characterisation or character development on this part of his work. That's not saying the tale was bad, by all means, but I firmly believe he was most pretentious about his craft, while being unable to concoct truly developed and evolving characters with one notable exception.


I admit that i am an admirer of his work but i do believe i can maintain an analytical eye. I personally fail to see why people are incapable of seeing complexity in any character who isnt schizophrenic, which is perhaps why you only see complexity in Gollum. Complexity doesnt just come from grand dramatic gestures like Achilles' withdrawl from battle in the Iliad, it comes from a careful building of a character-portrait throughout a work. Gollum himself ultimately does not change from the beginning of the story to the end- he is still a treacherous, double-dealing addict by the time of his death- his short period of 'good work' during The Two Towers does not lead to any profound change in his character or his outlook which he maintains until his death. So i'm interested to hear why you consider him to be a standout exception to your general contempt of Tolkien's abilities when he is perhaps the least subtle and most consistant characters of the work.

There are far more engaging personal journeys in people who you would consider simple 'archetypes', Frodo, Samwise and Aragorn being among the most prominent, each of those has a fully rounded and convincing 'journey' from one state of mind to another and yet unlike less skilled writers who feel the need to showboat with their melodrama, Tolkien does not allow any one character to dominate his ensemble piece: the story comes first and the motivations are purely that- an underlying tapestry of emotional eddies which influence the story rather than shape it in themselves. To give you an example- in the real world each person is a complex individual, but that doesnt stop them having a day-job. Being leaders and captains of men is the day job of most of Tolkien's characters but there are many other facets to them, motivations and conflicts which ultimately come second to the peril they find themselves in but are nevertheless present in their words and actions.

Tolkien himself was a complex individual and i do rather object to your oversimplified analysis of his character. Tolkien was very pig-headed and stubborn but i wouldnt describe him as particularly arrogant or egotistical about his story. He himself regularly mocked his work regarding it as nothing more than a bunch of fairy stories which he was proud of in his own right but never expected to worth very much as a work of commercial fiction. He did however fight for his work to be accepted as a valid piece of literature, which he was entirely justified in doing, however for one reason or another, perhaps jealousy of his following amd an inability to characterise him as some common hack, the vast majority of the intellectual literary community have isolated him as an anomaly, outside either high art or pulp fiction and instead take pot-shots at him based on his opinions and intentions (which he is perfectly within his rights to change i should add) such as the 'Mythology for England' thing (such as you have picked up on Pacorko).

I do agree that Tolkien is certainly not above criticism but it seems that to a certain extent he has become the literary communities whipping-boy, a person who is refused entry, despite eligibility to the inner circles of literary excellence. The ridicule and undermining of his work and contributions to 20th century (and beyond) literature has become a game and objective unto itself. Tolkien effectively wrote himself a big 'kick me' sign by daring to put his embarrassing hobby up for publishing. The fact that his following is mainly of teenage boys has made ridicule even easier. Tolkien is never dignified with real literary criticism, Tolkien-baiting is more of a blood sport where various strutting intellectuals make a show of their flamboyant put-downs (such as Micheal Moorcock's 'Epic Pooh') safe in the knowledge that the beast will never be allowed out of the arena and into the real world of literary criticism where the hackneyed preconceptions and myths about Tolkien's failings might finally be put to rest. For me it's not so much a case of Tolkien being a 'special case' so much as basic literary injustice.

In any case, not being a literarti myself i dont have quite as firm a grasp of their objections to Tolkien being considered part of the 'canon' of literary achievers, but i have read a number of the criticisms and an equal number of defences and so while i express an 'un-expert' opinion it is not an uninformed one.

Dr Death

Condottiere
07-12-2009, 15:06
There is the story Leaf By Niggle, where Tolkien might have had himself in mind as he describes allegorically a creation process, which by it's nature must remain incomplete.

Pacorko
07-12-2009, 16:08
I admit that i am an admirer of his work but i do believe i can maintain an analytical eye. I personally fail to see why people are incapable of seeing complexity in any character who isnt schizophrenic, which is perhaps why you only see complexity in Gollum. Complexity doesnt just come from grand dramatic gestures like Achilles' withdrawl from battle in the Iliad, it comes from a careful building of a character-portrait throughout a work. Gollum himself ultimately does not change from the beginning of the story to the end- he is still a treacherous, double-dealing addict by the time of his death- his short period of 'good work' during The Two Towers does not lead to any profound change in his character or his outlook which he maintains until his death. So i'm interested to hear why you consider him to be a standout exception to your general contempt of Tolkien's abilities when he is perhaps the least subtle and most consistant characters of the work.

It is precesily because of this short time period when he allows to feel something for him other than revulsion, that makes him easier to really know, perhaps understand and at times hope he can be redeemed. Of course, we fail to see this is a plot that will not come to fruition and feel "betrayed" by him at the end.

That is character development, growth and ultimately self-recognition, me thinks.

Now, your choice of words is a bit off. The Lord of the Rings is nothing if not melodrama. It's not overly melodramatic, but it is melodrama in it purest form. Heck, it even has songs in it! ;)

Boromir is a tragic figure that we hope to know more of so we can understand his haughthyness and distant attitudes, but as Tolkien only employed the military hero template (or archetype) for him, no further layers are ever hinted at, we can only assume what they could be by our own experiences and biased interpretation.

Aragorn is the reluctant king, but the cause of his reluctance never goes beyond his unwillingness to be entangled in the complicated networks of power (a fear of bureaucracy, one might say) and the responsability for a whole people, not only just for himself. Yet, not even his love story with Arwen ever goes beyond the archetypical tale and really blossoms during the course of the story. There is no deeper conflict and by the time it consumates, even the storyteller seems to burn out and offer little extra detail to their characters when enthroned and about Aragorns change of heart about loosing his freedom to the resposibilities of rulership.

Frodo is always the infirm one. A small person launched head first into an enormous task. His love for adventure at the start of the book is nothing but childish infatuation as he proves time and again, he would much rather read the story than live it. The most remarkable aspect of his character remains tied to Sam's friendship which is yet another unaltered aspect during the whole story, never changing, always profound but something that can be taken for granted as it never ceases to exist, not even for a moment.

Now, dear doctor... It's not contempt for the work per se. It's just that as I've grown more and more conscious as both a writer and, most importantly, a reader I cannot believe the incredible hype about a book which is most certainly a great read, but certainly not a ground-breaking one.

My main "beef" is that the people's love for his creations seem to work as an apology of sorts for the less sucessful parts of his story or the less pleasant aspects of Tolkien's character.

Last, pretentiousness has nothing to do with egotistical, and there are many times when Tolkien is indeed arrogant about his creations. Of course it always was tied to the "side" he was talking to. When among his friends or supporters he was much more lighthearted (as we all would be) than when facing even the slightest of criticisms.

Still, as I've said, I never tire of rereading the book and still have The Hobbit on my "best books ever" list and is in fact the book I always give as a gift to any young 'un who states he would like to start reading or wants to read "something different and not for little children".

Thank you for sharing your views and making me question mine. I know know I will read the book under a different light and will certainly work harder to find those subtleties in characterisation. I now will try to read it with your eyes which will be an enjoyable challange in and of itself.

Cheers!

Spider
07-12-2009, 20:01
As much as i love the books, they are at their best when considered in terms of a world created. The size of Tolkiens Arda is awesome. But the writing is...er...showing its age.

I'm not necessarily criticising it for that, i can't help thinking that if George R Martin had written it things would have much more brutal than "classic".

But then again if all the fellowship has been horribly killed by Boromir while they were sleeping (which would be more in line with Martins writing) then that might not have been better. :)

Dr Death
08-12-2009, 10:15
Now, your choice of words is a bit off. The Lord of the Rings is nothing if not melodrama. It's not overly melodramatic, but it is melodrama in it purest form. Heck, it even has songs in it!

Well i was using melodrama in the sense of an adjective not in the sense of a noun- i was not speaking in terms of genres. The Lord of the Rings does, as you say, fit the requirements of melodrama as a genre but it is not one of those tales which revels in lots of supposedly deep questions which instead boil down to simplistic and not very convincing angst, or (as with many of the films changes) adding layer upon layer of superlative (often oversimplified) conflict and thus muddying the dramatic tension of the core conceits.

In terms of genre, i beleive i have mentioned Tolkien referred to it as a romance. It's kind of interesting since because of its heavily mythological roots it does defy the judgement of a conventional modern novel and yet.... not to put too fine a point on it... it is one. Finding something with which to compare it therefore is tricky and perhaps why Tolkien has become such a literary liability almost, a halfcast epic-poem whose author refused to accept it as simply an ironic usage of an outdated mode to explain allegorically a modern situation. If he had accepted it perhaps he would be viewed with the same kind of relative affection as his friend C.S. Lewis who embraced the juvenile following of his most famous novels, content that he would be taken seriously and regarded favourably by the intellectual community based on his other works.

Tolkien was nowhere near as compromising as Lewis; once he had been convinced his 'silly fairy stories' were good enough to be published he expected them to be taken as seriously as any paper he wrote or lecture he gave. It seems that this is what you are referring to when you talk about Tolkien's 'pretention', or perhaps you see his work as nothing more than an inflated intellectual's fanfiction to the myths and legends he was inspired by. Perhaps he is not the new Virgil but the pattern of creation is very similar. Tolkien however managed to avoid the temptation to make his work a political allegory while still making a work which was applicable both to his own time and to further generations while Virgil's Aeneid will continue to remain strictly applicable to the outlook of the political pressures he was under. I hope and believe Tolkien will attain something of the same reverence granted to Virgil once the bitterness towards his anomalous success has faded from living memory.

If you have any doubts about Tolkien's writing ability i do recommend you read Tom Shippey's book 'J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century' if you have not already done so. That book pretty much confirmed what i my personal reading was suggesting to me and shows through a number of case studies quite how supurb a grasp Tolkien had both of literary conventions and his instinctual eye on how and when to avoid them. I do however commend your willingness to reassess Tolkien but it does require a subtler eye to avoid reducing his characters and writing to cliches.

Dr Death

static grass
08-12-2009, 10:50
Boromir is a tragic figure that we hope to know more of so we can understand his haughthyness and distant attitudes, but as Tolkien only employed the military hero template (or archetype) for him, no further layers are ever hinted at, we can only assume what they could be by our own experiences and biased interpretation.


I am always amazed that people thing Boromir is so 1D. He is anything but! Boromir is an accomplished warrior and commander. Steadfast in battle Boromir commands the respect of all around him.

He is supremely aware of his abilities, riding alone to the council of Elrond should be evidence of that. Not to mention the one liner "Gondor needs no king".

He is also aware of the irony that it should be the hobbits who have the ring rather than Gondor (or him). Who else but Gondor to use the ring against Mordor? Boromir's flawed perception of the ring and of war itself reveal Boromir to be intelligent yet not learned. The bitter struggle has shaped Boromir's mind to one thing defeating Mordor.

However his relationship with his father and Faramir, is beautifully wrought without being overly done. Boromir delights in his fathers love, knowing he can do no wrong and that the fate of Gondor will rest on his shoulders if it does not already. Denthanor locked in his tower lives his life through his eldest son basking in the hope and glory he brings Gondor even when he knows the war is already lost.

Contrast this with Faramir, who fights a shadow war picking apart Saurons forces before they can reach battle, however none of his victories merit tale nor praise from the father. Faramir has turned to Gandalf as a father, and fights a war in the style of the rangers of the north. Knowing his achievements will earn little recognition at home.


Tolkien is the master of getting so much out of so few words.

kdh88
09-12-2009, 15:46
It is precesily because of this short time period when he allows to feel something for him other than revulsion, that makes him easier to really know, perhaps understand and at times hope he can be redeemed. Of course, we fail to see this is a plot that will not come to fruition and feel "betrayed" by him at the end.

That is character development, growth and ultimately self-recognition, me thinks.

Now, your choice of words is a bit off. The Lord of the Rings is nothing if not melodrama. It's not overly melodramatic, but it is melodrama in it purest form. Heck, it even has songs in it! ;)

Boromir is a tragic figure that we hope to know more of so we can understand his haughthyness and distant attitudes, but as Tolkien only employed the military hero template (or archetype) for him, no further layers are ever hinted at, we can only assume what they could be by our own experiences and biased interpretation.

Aragorn is the reluctant king, but the cause of his reluctance never goes beyond his unwillingness to be entangled in the complicated networks of power (a fear of bureaucracy, one might say) and the responsability for a whole people, not only just for himself. Yet, not even his love story with Arwen ever goes beyond the archetypical tale and really blossoms during the course of the story. There is no deeper conflict and by the time it consumates, even the storyteller seems to burn out and offer little extra detail to their characters when enthroned and about Aragorns change of heart about loosing his freedom to the resposibilities of rulership.

Frodo is always the infirm one. A small person launched head first into an enormous task. His love for adventure at the start of the book is nothing but childish infatuation as he proves time and again, he would much rather read the story than live it. The most remarkable aspect of his character remains tied to Sam's friendship which is yet another unaltered aspect during the whole story, never changing, always profound but something that can be taken for granted as it never ceases to exist, not even for a moment.

Now, dear doctor... It's not contempt for the work per se. It's just that as I've grown more and more conscious as both a writer and, most importantly, a reader I cannot believe the incredible hype about a book which is most certainly a great read, but certainly not a ground-breaking one.

My main "beef" is that the people's love for his creations seem to work as an apology of sorts for the less sucessful parts of his story or the less pleasant aspects of Tolkien's character.

Last, pretentiousness has nothing to do with egotistical, and there are many times when Tolkien is indeed arrogant about his creations. Of course it always was tied to the "side" he was talking to. When among his friends or supporters he was much more lighthearted (as we all would be) than when facing even the slightest of criticisms.

Still, as I've said, I never tire of rereading the book and still have The Hobbit on my "best books ever" list and is in fact the book I always give as a gift to any young 'un who states he would like to start reading or wants to read "something different and not for little children".

Thank you for sharing your views and making me question mine. I know know I will read the book under a different light and will certainly work harder to find those subtleties in characterisation. I now will try to read it with your eyes which will be an enjoyable challange in and of itself.

Cheers!

It is also worth remembering that many "archetypes" were not at the time of Tolkien's writing; they occured only infrequently, espescially as serious characters in adut literature. It was other authors' repeated imitations of these characters that made them into what may now seem cliches.

Pacorko
09-12-2009, 16:22
It is also worth remembering that many "archetypes" were not at the time of Tolkien's writing; they occured only infrequently, espescially as serious characters in adut literature. It was other authors' repeated imitations of these characters that made them into what may now seem cliches.

I'm afraid you are pidgeonholing it to "fantasy archetypes" which, by and large amount to squat.

I'm referring to true literatary archetypes, as found in The Illiad, the Volsungga, the Mahabaratha, Beowulf, the Arthurian mythic cycle, the Assirian mythic cycle, The Excellent Adventures of Baron Munchaussen, Shakespear's body of work, Victor Hugo's Flaubert's, Dostievski's, etc...

Those "quintessential" representatives of certain aspects of the human condition through the ages. Those archetypes, not the "warrior", the "ranger", the "doomed cavalier" or other some such born out of the need to label a character within a referential framework pertinent to its "genre".

That's why, Static Grass, I insist it's people that's reading too much into Tolkien's use of Boromir than any real complexity intended by him (which I truly believe was not because of inability, it was just a case of not caring to do so as the characters were not that important, the story and its grandiose scope were everything... again, he always intended it as an epic "romance").

Now, my good Doctor I must admit I remain unconvinced by most claims about Tolkien's "many subtleties". He was rather straightforward with his prose (as befits any high scholar), and is evidenced in most of his published books and rather good, but not excellent, with is poetry. Then, methapors were never his strong point and his allegories weren't overly complicated, and these are the very things that hint at "subtleties" in any text.

So, you'll excuse me if I place not too much value on Shippey's text and its highly pretentious title. Not ever when in the very same century we have a Virginia Woolf, a James Joyce, a Gabriel García Márquez, a John Steinbeck, a Camilo José Cela, an Ernest Hemingway, a Julio Cortázar, a Tenessee Williams, one Kenzaburo Oe, one Yukio Mishima, the last two greatest works by Joseph Conrad, heck even a Jorge Luis Borges (another wise but overly pretentious man)... and a lot more writers who could more justifibly be used to make such a claim.

But, as I've said, Tolkien's works had an impact in me when I was younger and still reread them and remember them fondly. I like them a lot, just do not believe there's too much into them as self-contained objects evene when the enthusiats' opinions point to the contrary. To put it as simply as I can: the book gives a lot less than what the (enthusiast) readers put back in.

Yet, that's not a bad thing at all.

Dr Death
10-12-2009, 12:39
I find it kind of ironic Pacorko that you have such strong objections to pretension when your entire writing style is rather pretentious itself. While it's nice to see some eloquence and manners in a forum debate, all this "my dear doctor" and "as both a writer and, most importantly, a reader" stuff seems a bit like a leather armchair in an underground station. I know this may seem like personal criticism at the expense of literary criticism but i just wonder whether what you see in Tolkien is partly due to what you dislike about yourself.


So, you'll excuse me if I place not too much value on Shippey's text and its highly pretentious title.

Isnt the first law of literary appreciation not to judge a book by its cover? The title i would imagine was chosen due to it's deliberate provocativeness in an attempt to challenge the likes of yourself with a proposition which is then to be argued within it's pages. To be quite honest i'm suprised that someone of your intellectual calibre and eye for subtlty would miss the barely concealed intention.

But now that i've made a couple of pot shots, down to the proper business of Tolkien and his style.


Then, methapors were never his strong point and his allegories weren't overly complicated, and these are the very things that hint at "subtleties" in any text.

In my opinion Tolkien's entire work is based on metaphor: The Ring, Sauron 'The Eye', Wraiths and the 'wraithing' process, the corruption of power, the reliance of grand war upon the 'extraordinary heroism of quite ordinary people', innocence as protection against corruption. You may say that "metaphors were never his strong point" but i think that's frankly rubbish- he was capable of the most extraordinary complexity and depth while still allowing them to be interpretable by the casual reader. This i would actually put forward as part of the defence against your accusations of pretension: The majority of the authors you cite hinge their appreciation upon wide literary knowledge and often reams of commentary, whereas Tolkien demands no prior literary background (though there's certainly more to be found if you do have a knowledge of his inspirations) to appreciate his works and to understand their core messages.

And this is where the whole notion of allegory vrs applicability swings triumphantly into the scene. Tolkien, as we all well know was a bit down on allegory- in fact he had something of a grudge against it. However he was not above using it in specific instances. As Tom Shippey points out (for those who can be bothered to read his book) Tolkien only considered worth in allegories that 'worked': those which manage to encapsulate the whole issue or argument in question with allegorical representations, without confusing them with extraneous features which do not feature a direct equivilent. This he showed in his allegory of the tower at the start of his 1936 lecture 'Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics' which is an allegory 'that works' about the history of Beowulf criticism.

However just because Tolkien purposely avoided allegory in his literature does not mean his work lacks complexity (as you argue) or is meaningless/escapist (as other critics have argued). Indeed allegory rather limits the meaning a work can have, binding it forever to it's allegorical bedmate. 'The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe' written by Tolkien's close friend C.S. Lewis is plainly an allegory and while it may survive as a children's story for as long as literature exists, as read by an adult or any child who has taken R.E. it will remain bound to its biblical source. Equally Plato's 'The Republic', while undoubtedly one of the cornerstones of philosophy will only have pertinence to those who have an understanding of the classical Greece he was writing in. As for James Joyce and 'Ulysses' i must confess i have not read it, but just for the sake of a quick philistinic (and wholly ironic) snub, it's a rare remake which is as lauded as the original ;).

Tolkien's work therefore does not indulge allegory but it does however feature applicability- the ability to explain to us the constants of human behaviour rather than simply one specific instance frozen in time. 'The Lord of the Rings' works because it is both a fantastically well told tale but also because we can find meaning in it pertinent to our own lives. In a sense we bring our own lives to the story: the process is two-way. With such a wealth of characters in 'The Lord of the Rings' there will always be one which you can find a likeness to, a kindred spirit, pertinent to your particular outlook and circumstance. You could say these are archetypes but Tolkien renders them in enough detail (frequently by subverting the expectations of the archetype) that they are anything but cardboard-cutouts or placeholders (in fact archetypes tend to come with more internal conflict- Tolkien's characters are more like real people).

Anyhoo, whether this convinces you or not i do love a good ramble but i better cut it off here for now.

Dr Death

Pacorko
10-12-2009, 22:33
Doctor... The "dear" thing is not born out of pretention but rather a pot shot at the T man's epistolary fencing matches, and in a way taking our exchange to much more pleasant if still unreconciled form of civilsed headbutting.

Provocativeness notwithstanding, I must say that essays by apologists of any kind have never rocked my world, but just for the sake of picking the gauntlet, I'll order it as soon as I'm done with my translation work this afternoon and hope it arrrives after the hollidays' madness (and my downtime).

Now, it may be a thing of language barriers but metaphors are meant to provide certain complexity to their subject and archetypes are meant as easy-to-recognize-and- identify-with. Then, the whole LotR is an allegory of the Great war and the ascent of a totalitarian regime (which I do not believe was fascism, but rather communism in Tolkien's mind) that crushes the good peoples' aspirations of freedom and self-determination.

As anyone will tell you, in a well-told story the audience (readership in this specific case) cannot help but pick and choose and relate to all of the characters at some point. This is where I find Tolkien work is limping a bit. Most people reading it seem relate to one or two characters, (Frodo and Aragorn, mainly) and aspire to be one (Gandalf) instead of travelling through the myriad facets offered by the rest of the whole cast.

That's why I insist I see no complexity in the tales of and the characters themselves as people continually miss or disregard relating to all those other "personal journeys" and fail to see several defects in many of the "good" characters and little to no tragedy on many of the evil ones (which are all exquisite in their simplicity, I must say). In this I think it fair to point out that it was Tolkien's lack of finesse in creating more a more appealling pantheon, so to speak. Were his metaphors indeed more easily accesible to the causal reader, then we wouldn't see the "favourite's game" played over and over again by the majority of the enthusiasts.

But at least you convinced me to read an apologist, so...

Touché, dear doctor. Touché. This day is yours.

static grass
11-12-2009, 14:58
Now, it may be a thing of language barriers but metaphors are meant to provide certain complexity to their subject and archetypes are meant as easy-to-recognize-and- identify-with. Then, the whole LotR is an allegory of the Great war and the ascent of a totalitarian regime (which I do not believe was fascism, but rather communism in Tolkien's mind) that crushes the good peoples' aspirations of freedom and self-determination.



LotD is not an allegory for either world war. Tolkien said this himself during his own lifetime yet many insist that it is.

Never the less all Tolkien would avoid allegory for the reasons Dr Death pointed out. Tolkien was only human and some have interpreted the relationships the hobbits showed during the book as being reference to Tolkiens own experiences and personal observation from during the great war in which he served.

On occassion Tolkien does use Allegory to make a message, I think the Dead Marshes are good example of this, the Dead Marshes representing hellish no mans land of WW1.

Dwarf Supreme
11-12-2009, 17:13
I could be wrong, but I could have sworn that I read somewhere that Tolkien stated he didn't write any allegories in LotR.

Condottiere
11-12-2009, 20:31
Tolkien says many things, but that didn't mean he didn't do them or that didn't he know how he was expressing himself. The Hobbits and the Shire were obviously rural England, and he was probably distressed by both how industrialization and war effected his country and it's people.

Dr Death
12-12-2009, 13:49
But at least you convinced me to read an apologist, so...

Yes.... pity that's not really my aim :p


As anyone will tell you, in a well-told story the audience (readership in this specific case) cannot help but pick and choose and relate to all of the characters at some point. This is where I find Tolkien work is limping a bit. Most people reading it seem relate to one or two characters, (Frodo and Aragorn, mainly) and aspire to be one (Gandalf) instead of travelling through the myriad facets offered by the rest of the whole cast.

I'm not entirely convinced by this argument since you seem to be judging greatness on the habits of the work's readers (what would that say about 'A Brief History of Time' i wonder?). Putting aside its validity as a critique of the work though (because in my opinion it doesn't have any), i think the 'favourites game' is an inevitability of any book with such an ensemble cast. It doesn't mean the readers are incapable of empathising with other characters, merely that some reflect the reader's outlook and sympathies more than others. I think it's also a bit of a by-product of the fact that most people read 'The Lord of the Rings' in their youth, when you are more inclined to polarise your opinions, forming very close bonds with things you like and also have a narrower experience of the world with which to empathise. As you get older of course you have more experience to work with and so can find points of connection with more characters, and if you can’t then you can understand them intellectually and so form an emotional bond that way.


That's why I insist I see no complexity in the tales of and the characters themselves as people continually miss or disregard relating to all those other "personal journeys" and fail to see several defects in many of the "good" characters and little to no tragedy on many of the evil ones (which are all exquisite in their simplicity, I must say).

Ahhh, so you accept there are personal journeys and complexity in the good characters? And furthermore that it is only your fellow readers' inability which causes you to be blind to the existence of complexity? I daresay that's not what you meant since that's far far too trite a reason, so something must have got lost in translation there, but that's how it renders down technically.

As to the lack of existence of complexity in good and evil, this is one of the biggest misnomers ever levelled at Tolkien. Throughout 'The Lord of the Rings' and even more overtly in his tales of the First Age, Tolkien poses his readers questions on the definition of Good and Evil in Middle-earth. Tolkien makes clear that good people are perfectly capable of evil deeds and that even the best intentions can be twisted. This is the inevitability which is common to all Tolkien's villains; they all started out good but ultimately fell.

However it is not just the villains which are subject to these traits. Tolkien imbues many of his most morally upright characters with complex flaws and twisted dark sides. The elves for example have a desire and exhibit a repeated tendency to lock things in stasis; preserving them as they themselves are preserved and frequently causing huge amounts of harm in doing so. In 'The Lord of the Rings' we see this in Galadriel who sustains Lothlorien by the tainted power of Nenya. The destruction of the Ring will mean the loss of the otherworldly oasis of Lothlorien (and also Rivendell). Thus when Frodo offers her the Ring, the temptation is not simply some ephemeral notion of 'power' but a means to postpone the inevitable decline of not just her realm but her people and ultimately the elven presence in Middle-earth itself. We, like Frodo are confronted with the question of what price we are willing to pay for the sake of 'victory'.

This theme, common to many elven flaws aside, Galadriel is a compellingly complex character herself. We see her as this wise 'grande dame' of the elven world: the perfect fairy queen; sinister but benevolent. But throughout Tolkien's wider writings he explored quite what Galadriel was all about. Galadriel is a teenage runaway, a family traitor, a supplicant in a rival court, a fugitive, an empress, a survivor, a veteran, an oracle and a witch (and those are just a handful of her roles). We might not get probing insights to her day to day psychology but the character portrait which is built up through the layers and juxtapositioning of those 'archetypes' create an intensely complex character who goes far beyond just the 'fairy queen' that is her main role in 'The Lord of the Rings'.

Then you have characters for whom psychology is everything: Denethor is the big example. Denethor actually comes as something of a pair- paralleled and contrasted with Theoden: both old men who have lost their sons (if this seems familiar to any of you it's the words of Tom Shippey in the DVD extras to the Return of the King). Their reactions to their closely matching circumstances are used as a moral lesson, a tale about the dangers of despair. However Theoden is not the only counterpart Denethor has. Micheal Drout points out the relationship between Denethor and the Witch King. He explores the nihilistic despair of Denethor and the desire in it to obtain the state of his greatest rival. Gandalf must contend with hollow men on either side of the battlements.



At any rate considering i've been typing this particular post over three separate sessions i think it's about time i just posted it and have done. I would love to rattle on further about each individual characters subtleties but i dont have the space. However i would like to just quickly mention the issue of allegory.

Tolkien did of course deny the presence of any allegory in his work but i think we can agree that just because an author says something doesn't mean he actually achieved it. By the same token though, while Tolkien was clearly influenced by his time i truly believe that he avoided the trap of allegory (Whichever particular angle of allegory you wish to take- rise of fascism, rise of communism, industrialisation of rural england, nuclear power whatever). Perhaps the fact that there's such a choice of possible allegorical interpretations should lead us to accept 'The Lord of the Rings' as in Tolkien's words, 'Applicable' rather than 'Allegorical'. Certainly if it was the author's intention for his work not to be taken as an allegory we should respect those wishes and while Tolkien was undoubtedly influenced by the tensions of his time he manages to weave the themes of his sentiments and arguments on the matter into 'The Lord of the Rings' without it becoming a simple 'fantasisation' of the times he was living in.

Dr Death

Pacorko
12-12-2009, 18:57
Ahhh, so you accept there are personal journeys and complexity in the good characters? And furthermore that it is only your fellow readers' inability which causes you to be blind to the existence of complexity? I daresay that's not what you meant since that's far far too trite a reason, so something must have got lost in translation there, but that's how it renders down technically.

You're right, Doctor. I'm not really stating that. I'm trying to express that if a broad and quite diverse audience can't see but the same thing on a tale, then the tale has little else to offer but that (rather obvious, some might say) feature, unless it's highly methaporical or allegorical and can be apllicable to many instances --and this is yet another of Tolkien's pulling the enthralled interviewers' leg. Allegories are nothing if but "applicable" to certain events. Just how applicable meassures the success and longevity of said allegory. To me, this is him just not wanting to accept any ties to his roots/sources, worries or contemporary issues as this would have "demythified" his work, post-scriptum and with its intended success growing in his eyes.

Then, the "personal journeys" quote is using your words to try and point out that the reader should be doing a to and fro between all the characters, to really make a claim that there's complexity in the rest of the characters. As the reader jumps from emphataizing with one, to understanding another's motives, to feeling klet down by yet another's inadequacies, we could agree this is the about a compex tale that illustrates character development (or "personal jorneying") through the reader's experience.

I know it seems a bit odd to judge a book by its readership, but in this case I think it's only proper as it's now 5 generations of readers who haven't discovered anything more subtle or complex, and still relate most to the same two characters, and aspite top be one. With such a broad frame of reference, the tale's analisys should have evolved by now, and each new group of readers would have discovereed yet another layer in the "complex" characterization made by Tolkien.


As to the lack of existence of complexity in good and evil, this is one of the biggest misnomers ever levelled at Tolkien. Throughout 'The Lord of the Rings' and even more overtly in his tales of the First Age, Tolkien poses his readers questions on the definition of Good and Evil in Middle-earth. Tolkien makes clear that good people are perfectly capable of evil deeds and that even the best intentions can be twisted. This is the inevitability which is common to all Tolkien's villains; they all started out good but ultimately fell.

But neither redemption nor damnation makes not one a complex man, just a redeemed or damned one. It's the reasons why, the angst and the process that make for complexity in a characters perosnal tragedy. Melkor was just rebellious, Sauron was his faithful crony and likewise rebelled against Eru-Iluvatar and his Valar. Denethor was just a petty, proud and misguided man. The Dwarves' life of hardship and toil shapes their demeanour, the Hobbits are safe because they remain hidden and ignorant of the world's conflicts... everything just is as stated and remains that way for the whole of the story (and most of the others) beacuse Tolkien was sparse with his characterization, and therefore rather uncomplicated about his characters.


However it is not just the villains which are subject to these traits. Tolkien imbues many of his most morally upright characters with complex flaws and twisted dark sides. The elves for example have a desire and exhibit a repeated tendency to lock things in stasis; preserving them as they themselves are preserved and frequently causing huge amounts of harm in doing so.

But again, it never is explained why they feel compelled to or what conflict it brings them to act in such a way. For me, it's actually the elves the less developed and appealing of his creations (with the probable exception of Elrond), they just are that way.

I mean, a dog is equally capable of acting like a a good pooch or a stupid biter, and that doesn't really make it all that complex.


In 'The Lord of the Rings' we see this in Galadriel who sustains Lothlorien by the tainted power of Nenya. The destruction of the Ring will mean the loss of the otherworldly oasis of Lothlorien (and also Rivendell). Thus when Frodo offers her the Ring, the temptation is not simply some ephemeral notion of 'power' but a means to postpone the inevitable decline of not just her realm but her people and ultimately the elven presence in Middle-earth itself. We, like Frodo are confronted with the question of what price we are willing to pay for the sake of 'victory'.

No. That's you interpretation. Frodo never really questions himself, he offers the ring to a "mightier" being than him because he knows his "insignificant" in the grand schem of things.

Galadriel NEVER expresses your words. It's what you (and we all discover) once the tale is finished. We know that the leves are waning, but we never read that the destruction of The One Ring will seal their fate and make them travel West, until the very end. Thus, I see no complexity or vexation in Galadriel for she never refuses her doom, attempts to change it or even hint at her race's exodus.


This theme, common to many elven flaws aside, Galadriel is a compellingly complex character herself. We see her as this wise 'grande dame' of the elven world: the perfect fairy queen; sinister but benevolent. But throughout Tolkien's wider writings he explored quite what Galadriel was all about. Galadriel is a teenage runaway, a family traitor, a supplicant in a rival court, a fugitive, an empress, a survivor, a veteran, an oracle and a witch (and those are just a handful of her roles). We might not get probing insights to her day to day psychology but the character portrait which is built up through the layers and juxtapositioning of those 'archetypes' create an intensely complex character who goes far beyond just the 'fairy queen' that is her main role in 'The Lord of the Rings'.


TOUCHÉ!

We need complementary reading to find all this "complexity" about her character. In the LotR per sé. Tolkien doesn't even hint at it. Galadriel just exists as stated by him without any furhter meaning or intent.

I don't think it's fair nor pertinent to judge a character's complexity in one work, based on a game of intertextuality and its (the character's) development in other texts.

All this "complexity", you (and me, and Tolkien, and ) bring with yourself (ourselves). It's not present in LotR.


And... I too, shall return, Doctor. ;)

Iracundus
13-12-2009, 03:51
But again, it never is explained why they feel compelled to or what conflict it brings them to act in such a way. For me, it's actually the elves the less developed and appealing of his creations (with the probable exception of Elrond), they just are that way.

From Tolkien's wider writings and the Silmarillion, we do get a conception of why they act this way. The Elves, like the Valar in a way, are trying to preserve a fragment of the world as it might have been if not for Melkor. Tolkien however in his own writings says this is like pausing in reading a book at a favorite chapter and never progressing with the story. For the Elves, it is trying to halt things and keep them as they were as when they were fresh and newly awakened to life. They at some level don't want to progress with the story of Creation as it means change, and they want things to stay in a timeless eternal "paradise" of their own.



Galadriel NEVER expresses your words. It's what you (and we all discover) once the tale is finished. We know that the leves are waning, but we never read that the destruction of The One Ring will seal their fate and make them travel West, until the very end. Thus, I see no complexity or vexation in Galadriel for she never refuses her doom, attempts to change it or even hint at her race's exodus.

There is that moment when Galadriel is tempted to accept the Ring and become a "bright queen" instead of a dark lord. However that is the same slippery slope and temptation that Gandalf himself faces. Tolkien writes that if Gandalf had succumbed to the Ring, it would possibly have been an even worse thing because he would have overthrown Sauron, only to make Good a hateful thing because of trying to force others to do good, which because of the coercion would not have been morally or metaphysically Good in Tolkien's Middle Earth paradigm.

Pacorko
13-12-2009, 04:15
You miss the point, Iracundus. Those things you mention are additional readings in the case of your first statement, and Tolkien's explanations after the work was published, none were even hinted at in LotR.

As I've said it for a bit now: You (me, and most avid readers and apologists) bring much more baggage and complexity into the book and its characters, thanks to your additional references/knowledge and Tolkien's post-scriptum dissertations. None of these are present in the book, and a book is always intended to be read as it was written.

So, I'll say LotR is part of far more complex body of work, but it's not the tale full of "complex" characters many make it out to be.

Iracundus
13-12-2009, 04:44
The bit about Galadriel becoming a bright queen is from the LoTR directly. No additional reading is necessary for that and by itself it shows the temptation of the Ring. It seems you have an axe to grind against Tolkien by the way you accuse others of being "apologists" when they don't instantly agree with your position.

Condottiere
13-12-2009, 06:01
And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!

She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued
a great light that illuminated her alone and left all else dark.
She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful
beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful.
Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again,
and lo! she was shrunken: a slender elf-woman, clad in simple white
whose gentle voice was soft and sad.

"I pass the test," she said. "I will diminish, and go into the West
and remain Galadriel"

Dr Death
13-12-2009, 12:37
We need complementary reading to find all this "complexity" about her character. In the LotR per sé. Tolkien doesn't even hint at it. Galadriel just exists as stated by him without any furhter meaning or intent.

I don't think it's fair nor pertinent to judge a character's complexity in one work, based on a game of intertextuality and its (the character's) development in other texts.

But then to ignore other works in which they appear in a more prominent role and judge an author's writing skills only by their development as a bit part is equally wrong: It's like rating Homer's treatment of Odysseus on the Iliad, ignoring the Odyssey.


No. That's you interpretation. Frodo never really questions himself, he offers the ring to a "mightier" being than him because he knows his "insignificant" in the grand schem of things.

Galadriel NEVER expresses your words. It's what you (and we all discover) once the tale is finished. We know that the leves are waning, but we never read that the destruction of The One Ring will seal their fate and make them travel West, until the very end. Thus, I see no complexity or vexation in Galadriel for she never refuses her doom, attempts to change it or even hint at her race's exodus.

That said, just to check that i wasn't imposing my own wider knowledge of Tolkien's works on a fairly dim memory of the specifics of detail in Lord of the Rings, i have just had a quick read of the pertinent chapter (The Mirror of Galadriel) and it is, as i thought, all there. In the space of three pages at the end of that chapter Tolkien manages to spell out with explicitness and eloquence: The price of the destruction of the Ring on the Elves, the complex and conflicting feelings of Galadriel as both representative of her people and as a person in her own right, her temptation, a foretelling of the potential peril of the choice, her rejection and her sacrifice. As well as this he introduces and explains the nature of Galadriel as a Ringbearer, reveals the unique link between her and Frodo and shows the growth of Frodo in stature and wisdom gleaned through his contact with the Ring.

I would advise an exercise in close-reading before you start flinging those accusations around again.

You do have something of a point though (despite landing on it rather inadvertently). Tolkien's characters are not 'mathematically' complex as i would refer to it. In an ensemble piece like 'The Lord of the Rings', it is impossible to give each and every of the 20-odd 'major' characters a full emotional journey with each their fair share of emotional angst demanded by the modern novel. Rather Tolkien's characters follow a distinctively more ancient mode of development as exemplified by Beowulf: the development of character over the length of their biography, from the point the change begins to ultimately the point at which their life ends (or mythological equivalent). This biographical approach to development i personally find to be more realistic and compelling than the hackneyed 'Road to Damascus' moments utilised by other authors and so beloved of cinema-goers. Of course there is another outlook that actually says that in reality people don't change, and that the entire notion of an 'emotional journey' is flawed because ultimately it doesn't exist in real life. While i think Tolkien did believe in change (as we can see in the fall and redemption pattern of many characters), in most cases it is a far subtler and more profound than the sweeping drama of am emotional 'about face'.


But neither redemption nor damnation makes not one a complex man, just a redeemed or damned one. It's the reasons why, the angst and the process that make for complexity in a characters perosnal tragedy. Melkor was just rebellious, Sauron was his faithful crony and likewise rebelled against Eru-Iluvatar and his Valar. Denethor was just a petty, proud and misguided man. The Dwarves' life of hardship and toil shapes their demeanour, the Hobbits are safe because they remain hidden and ignorant of the world's conflicts... everything just is as stated and remains that way for the whole of the story (and most of the others) beacuse Tolkien was sparse with his characterization, and therefore rather uncomplicated about his characters.

What terrible oversimplifications you practice. If you want i can tell you why but my advice is to actually read, analyse and appreciate rather than browse, simplify and criticise.

Melkor was not simply rebellious, he was envious of the gift of creation. Unsatisfied with being indebted to the power of Eru-Iluvatar, he denied that Eru alone was capable of pure creation seeking his source (the 'Secret Fire') but unable to locate it (since it was an aspect of Eru himself) he instead sought to undo the creation, expending his own being in the quest to destroy. He was an Atheist, but through the creeping inevitability of his own failure was driven to Nihilism and yet that was futile for he would never have enough 'being' to undo all that had been made.

Sauron was corrupted too. He was not an Atheist and indeed wasn't vaguely jealous of the ability of creation being originally a Maia of Aule, the great craftsman. However Sauron's fall came as a result of his 'apprenticeship': he came to love order, power over the works of his hands and so gradually fell into megalomania. In Melkor's rebellion he saw the way to fulfill his ambitions but through his long contact with his new master, he inherited something of Melkor's nihilistic insanity. When Sauron inherited Morgoth's role as 'Dark Lord', he put a different spin on it: he didn't wish to simply destroy, but anything he could not control must be eliminated. Sauron's attempts to destroy the defiant Numenoreans resulted in the breaking of the world and he interpreted this as the Valar abandoning Middle-earth which was now his for the taking: he was the highest being left in Middle-earth and thus it was his by right to rule.

Denethor was the latest in the line of stewards, rulers of a kingdom in all but name for over a thousand years. His people had held the line against Mordor throughout the long years of the King's absence without thanks from their so called 'allies' and without leadership or aid from their absentee head of state. In his youth Denethor had played second best to his father's favouritism of a young captain called Thorongil and in his middle-age he repeated that mistake, favouring his eldest son while his youngest was mentored by the light-hearted herald of woe- Gandalf. With the death of his wife and favourite son, and with the jaws of Mordor closing in on him Denethor turned to find hope or at least counsel in the Palantir of Minas Tirith but instead lost the battle of wills with Sauron and saw only the assault of his city, the capturing of the ringbearer and his supplanting by his old rival. When his surviving son was brought back to him on the brink of death caused by his orders he was driven to madness, and instead of retaining hope in the face of despair and proactively 'going down fighting', he refused his enemy the pleasure, seeking the oblivion that his chief opponent: The Witch King had obtained. In doing so it is strongly hinted that he caused the death of his other counterpart: Theoden, delaying Gandalf's organisation of the sortie that might have saved his life.

Those are just three examples. Now tell me what about them isn't complex?

Dr Death

Condottiere
13-12-2009, 13:45
The problem with invoking Homer is, that the Illiad may have passed through a number of hands before it was finalised, and it seems not the same set of authors completed the Odyssey.

Pacorko
13-12-2009, 16:06
And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!

---snip--

"I pass the test," she said. "I will diminish, and go into the West
and remain Galadriel"

Yes, yes... and where does it change anything we didn't know since the council Rivendell and Elronds few musings? The fate is always there and this is bare a dramatic moment to reiterate what we already know: the Ring corrupts everyone.

But as to the far more complex nature of Galadriel we still need to read at least two other books, published after LotR. Other than that, anyone is inferring the fate of elves, her vicissitudes and any other layer of complexity about her.

Doctor, you still bring things out of your additional reading of books by Christopeher Tolkien (or what he claims to be his father's drafts) and your interpretation of cause/effect on each of those character as pointed out in text by other people. So, even when they do shed a bit more light on the characters, they are just external to the work we are talking about. Such complexity is never present in the text of LotR. You keep importing it.

A book should be analyzed in and of itself. Context may help to understand the author's mind, his times, tribulations and general issues at the time of writing, but the text must be taken individually to really weight its particular value.

You keep making LotR greater than it really is because of the many post-humous reference works and the various Tolkien's "what I meant", "it's applicable", "in reality, the character..." moments after the book turned into a rather popular publishing success.

There's nothing wrong with it, as such a practice only complements your enjoyment/understanding of the greater body of work. I see it as a flaw only when it blinds anyone to the real content and execution of any single book, even if it's part of said greater body of work. You mates, might not like it, but that's how literary research and analysis is conducted.

Now, I was "recovened" for using the word "apologits" as if meant to offend people who don't agree with me. My good Iracundus, I'm far from being such a petty soul. Apologist is merely a label for the camp some people might find themselves in when defending a certain cause.

Some here accuse of having an axe to grind with Tolkien (not really, I don't waste my time with dead people who had flaws but are beyond the reach of our opinions), of being a detractor... even when I love his works and reread them. But I guess I'm a detractor the moment I am not willing to be swayed by post-humous books in order to state that a book is far more complex and grander in scope that what the actual book really is, or that is was better executed that the actual text atest.

That's my camp. I take no offense at anyone calling me a detractor or at the Doctor's opinion of my "terrible oversimplifications". This is just an exchange of ideas by various individuals with drastically different outlooks.

So, please, don't make/take it personal when only labels are being used.

Suicide Messiah
13-12-2009, 17:21
Tolkiens books impacted my life before i'd even read them. Thats some greatness right there.

Condottiere
13-12-2009, 21:06
The creative process is fascinating, sometimes, when viewed by itself. Not all of us are as talented and visionary as Tolkien, but when you do make notes that show how ideas and concepts develop, you notice whether they are original or not, and if derived, from what sources they are drawn.

Finally, how you fit them into the overall scheme of the universe you are attempting to construct, what compromises, if any you are willing or have to make. Tolkien did start during the period of the Great War the basis of his mythology, and completed the derived work LotR after the Second World War, with lots of notes inbetween.

Dr Death
14-12-2009, 11:02
Some here accuse of having an axe to grind with Tolkien (not really, I don't waste my time with dead people who had flaws but are beyond the reach of our opinions), of being a detractor... even when I love his works and reread them. But I guess I'm a detractor the moment I am not willing to be swayed by post-humous books in order to state that a book is far more complex and grander in scope that what the actual book really is, or that is was better executed that the actual text atest.

Please don't try to martyr yourself, I am not trying to lynch you or say that you cannot have opinions, i am merely trying to challenge those of your opinions which are based on hackneyed assumptions about Tolkien's style and ability. My argument for Galadriel i showed had all the information within the main text of Lord of the Rings (even avoiding the appendices).


A book should be analyzed in and of itself. Context may help to understand the author's mind, his times, tribulations and general issues at the time of writing, but the text must be taken individually to really weight its particular value.

You keep making LotR greater than it really is because of the many post-humous reference works and the various Tolkien's "what I meant", "it's applicable", "in reality, the character..." moments after the book turned into a rather popular publishing success.

I believe 'The Lord of the Rings' stands up on it's own merits with or without Tolkien's further writings, however so much more can be gleaned about it through close-reading (rather than taking it at face value as a fantasy adventure story) and analysis of Tolkien's style and subtleties.

To throw the spear back at you though- there is an argument, and one that i occasionally have sympathy for, that all literary criticism is based on a reader's perceptions: that writers do not consciously invest all these patterns and motifs into a work for people to find but that they are things that those with too much time on their hands to claim the author intended. These theories snowball into a perception of complexity that may not even be there. Amid that argument i would say Tolkien's posthumous writings (which i find it interesting you express skepticism of their integrity) and his letters at least give the analysist some view of what he intended rather than the flights of fancy of intellectuals.

However, that is very much a philistinic viewpoint and i do believe that patterns are genuine even if invested subconsciously according to the individual narrative rhythm of the author. Tolkien was unusual but accomplished and managed to do things both in terms of characterisation and story-telling that other authors simply could not pull off. As i said way back in the mists of time in this thread- it's about time Tolkien was given the same serious style of literary analysis rather than the casual sniping of those who don't consider it worthy.

In any case i do believe this debate has run its course, so unless there is any new grand argument to be made i think this can safely revert back to discussion of Isildur :)

Dr Death

Pacorko
14-12-2009, 19:03
Martyr? Me? Never. Just stating facts and an opinion, Doctor. The book only talks about Galadriel' fate, but it us who that the leves are leaving from additional readings, and her temptetation and following success are can be taken for an allegory of the fate of all elves, once you know the ending of the book. Only then and not one minute after. Anything else is personal baggage happily brought along to make for a "grander tale".

As to why I'm a bit skeptic about Tolkien's authorship on the majority of those of "his books" post-humously published, I will only say three words: Guy Gavriel Kay.

Four days spent with the man, with me being his interpreter in his readings, conferences and chatter during his stay on my country, and of course our breakfasts, meals and dinners together during the same period of time and the vast amount of subjects we talked about.

Just that.

Finally, many have given and still give Tolkien's works thorough and serious analyses, and the only reason he isn't recognized as a bigger and better author than he really is, is because here really isn't, and that only has to do with how his work is presented. His work alone, published while he still was alive. Not his prattle about intent, avoidance and disregards, not about his extended drafting of his whole "mythology".

It's because of Tolkien's very own letters that many critics just have said: "well, then... it was not properly executed", "falls short of its high mark" or "it lacks veracity in justification and believeability in execution", along with many, many more statements I'm sure you are familiar with.

I agree, fantastic literature is seen as pure escapism by most critics and that puts all of us in a rather uphill battle against academic prejudice. Yet, not all criticism is off the mark and regarding LotR, I'm pretty sure many PhD and Masters in Literature (such as my wife PhD in Fantastic and Medieval Lit, and her colleagues) just see a nice tale, told adequately without complexity in scope--even if its epic--, characterization and allegorical content, as presented by the author. Quite recommendable, yes. Very entertaining for most of the time, of course.

But not all it's cranked up to be, neither ground-breaking not genre-defining.

Ultimately as you said it is the reader who makes his own judgements about a books significance and relevance, but that doesn't make it better than a fair, unbiased analysis by intellectuals dedicated to the field/genre/style the book belongs to.

So, yes... Isildur. Not a coward, by anyone's standards.

Suicide Messiah
14-12-2009, 23:14
neither ground-breaking not genre-defining.

I'm not about to lock horns with you or the doc on this subject but surely LotR, whatever its faults was both of these things. Isnt that why people want to jump to its defence? I was under the impression that Tolkiens great triumph wasnt writing an excellent stroy but having an undeniable influence on, for lack of a better word, pop culture. Laying the foundations of the fantasy universe floating about in the public consciousness.

Besides, wasnt his main goal to create a myth cycle that would last, be retold and be interpreted in different ways? Or did I just dream that? :p

Dr Death
15-12-2009, 11:07
An entertainingly comprehensive Parthian shot Pacorko, excuse me for chasing you down on it though.


Martyr? Me? Never. Just stating facts and an opinion, Doctor. The book only talks about Galadriel' fate, but it us who that the leves are leaving from additional readings, and her temptetation and following success are can be taken for an allegory of the fate of all elves, once you know the ending of the book.

Have you actually taken the time to read the pages i referred you to? The whole Lothlorien/Galadriel situation is spelled out there without any supplementary reading, even from the appendices. Please acknowledge the information presented and not continue to ignore it as you have done so far.


As to why I'm a bit skeptic about Tolkien's authorship on the majority of those of "his book" post-humously published, I will only say three words: Guy Gavriel Kay.

Ahhh, so a single author's help in reconstructing one chapter of one work in the posthumous repertoire simply because the author never got round to updating it himself and who is fully accredited, approved by the author's literary executor is enough to warrant the creation of a conspiracy theory which invalidates all other posthumous writings? .....Personally i don't buy that argument.


agree, fantastic literature is seen as pure escapism by most critics and that puts all of us in a rather uphill battle against academic prejudice. Yet, not all criticism is off the mark and regarding LotR, I'm pretty sure many PhD and Masters in Literature (such as my wife PhD in Fantastic and Medieval Lit, and her colleagues) just see a nice tale, told adequately without complexity in scope--even if its epic--, characterization and allegorical content, as presented by the author. Quite recommendable, yes. Very entertaining for most of the time, of course.

But not all it's cranked up to be, neither ground-breaking not genre-defining.

Ultimately as you said it is the reader who makes his own judgements about a books significance and relevance, but that doesn't make it better than a fair, unbiased analysis by intellectuals dedicated to the field/genre/style the book belongs to.

While i can appreciate your persuasion by your wife's stance, there are just as many (if not more) equally qualified people who take the other view- that 'The Lord of the Rings' (and indeed the wider creation of Tolkien) is ground breaking. Perhaps in this fantasy-saturated period we do not see the historical significance of Tolkien's creation but it stands the test of time as the most comprehensive reinvention of a 'dead' literary style in all of 20th century literature (and it seems set to retain it's title into the 21st). You made the argument that if in half a century since it's publishing no-one (a patently false oversimplification) has found anything deeper in it then there must be nothing there to find, well, i turn it back on you and say that if it is so meaningless and simplistic why do people continue to find relevance in it over the same time-frame?

Like it or not, Tolkien's tale with it's 'simplistic' characters and 'face-value' meaning has continued to speak to a wide ranging audience from academics to teenagers each finding pertinence and answers to their own issues. Significance is subjective but success speaks for itself and so it is the prerogative of the skeptics like yourself to square that with your own beliefs.

Dr Death

Pacorko
15-12-2009, 17:35
Doctor, I've got a lot more to do before I go and reread this winter breaks' book, and I've see no point in discussing it further before I do so, thus I've got nothing more to add about the apparent well-developed "fate of the elves and Galadriel's". Memory fails, yes, but if I can remember Feanor's fate was explained in a single, dry and rather mediocre line, I'm sure I would remember such an example of suscint writing that in a few paragaphs/pages tell the "complex tale" of the elves' decline exposing their ethos, pathos and angst/acceptance born out of said fate. Still, I must reread the thingy, yes.

Now, I would suggest to not take your limited scope as to what I know and talked about with one man, as a reason to disquilify my particular ideas. Especially when this was the man that saw practically the ENTERITY of Tolkien's drafts, not just of one book as you so misgudedly point out. Still, I know this will not change the fact that you belive Tolkien is far greater a literary figure than he really is.

He did not reinvent anything, that's another false claim. Fantastic literature was doing fine, even when there were no elves in most of the world,. He just seeded the path for a "subgenre" which became quite successful and popular. Swords and Sorcery, Romance and Epics were still crafted in the western hemisphere and the rest of the world. Tolkien just put a bigger effort to make less pulpy and more cohesive, but he did not broke into any new grounds. He just "formalized" a style, if you will.

As you say, like it or not, I cannot help but think that your judgement of his work is born out of a passion for his "legend", and not entirely out of a clinical analysis of his individual texts. Of course, that too is your prerogative, and a such I understand it. But I must point out that it really gives me a rather fuzzy image about you when you keep trying to debase my ideas and opinions taking pot shots (now at my wife and colleagues, whom you don't know and who like the damned book, just don't swear by it) and, to use your own words, there are many more detractors with bigger credentials than those apologist/supporters you continually refer to. That's why Tolkien isn't a bigger figure in Literature. The sheer numbers of "well-read, well-known, quite qualified nay-sayers" outweight the differing opinions.

Every book is inevitably completed by each reader, and that's a good thing. How that reader completes it, varies. Literary analysis serves us to see, not find, what is underlying the text. Not the author's mind, nor the interextuality (which in this case is absolutely debatable for all we know about Middle Earth came after LotR and that makes room for serious and justified doubts), just what is told and its possible significance/relevance to the rest of the events present in the text.

Everything else, are flights of fancy by intellectuals, laymen and stubborn, old codgers such as ourselves.

Take care and let's keep this for further discussion during Winters' break, shall we?

Just let me be done with this years' final tasks, then get the book and start reading those passages you pointed me at.

Cheers.

Dr Death
16-12-2009, 12:09
Now, I would suggest to not take your limited scope as to what I know and talked about with one man, as a reason to disquilify my particular ideas. Especially when this was the man that saw practically the ENTERITY of Tolkien's drafts, not just of one book as you so misgudedly point out.

Saw, yes, but you seem to be implying some grand conspiracy to corrupt and thus invalidate all posthumous writings which is something i simply don't buy. I bow to your superior knowledge having actually met Guy Gavriel Kay but i sincerely doubt that he would have told you things that would implicate him in one of the biggest examples of literary fraud of the modern era.

A case cannot be based on evidence that cannot be presented so unless you are generous enough to allow us privy to the damning smoking gun present in your off the record chats with Guy Gavriel Kay it has no relevance to our debate and you must leave such superior knowledge at the door.


Still, I know this will not change the fact that you belive Tolkien is far greater a literary figure than he really is.

He did not reinvent anything, that's another false claim. Fantastic literature was doing fine, even when there were no elves in most of the world,. He just seeded the path for a "subgenre" which became quite successful and popular. Swords and Sorcery, Romance and Epics were still crafted in the western hemisphere and the rest of the world. Tolkien just put a bigger effort to make less pulpy and more cohesive, but he did not broke into any new grounds. He just "formalized" a style, if you will.

There had been fantasy novels yes, but Tolkien was no novelist. Tolkien i consider to be of the same ilk of Elias Lonnrot and Snorri Sturluson though in a more creative capacity- the creator and compiler of a mythology for his time. In this he is pretty unique, especially in terms of the British who are a very cynical bunch by nature, creating a work which has entered into the public consciousness both in pop culture and high culture. Middle-earth has become (to lean on Tom Shippey's terminology again) 'part of the cultural furniture' of Britain (and beyond). Though we're long past believing in orcs lurking in the woods, everyone; Tolkien reader or not, knows who Bilbo Baggins is.

You talk about how i only see the legend, but to an extent Tolkien is a legend, that was his objective- to create a modern set of legends and the legend of Tolkien is the very thing that makes its mark on the literary world. To quote Thucydides "My work is not a piece of writing designed to meet the taste of an immediate public, but it was done to last for ever"- that's a line that could have come from Tolkien's own lips (with all the haughty bullishness in the line). Then again, as with Thucydides, i believe that Tolkien's work doesn't have to depend on all that death or glory, like me or loathe me rhetoric.

I do however take mild exception at how you characterise anyone who disagrees with you as either incapable of rational analysis due to enthusiasm or a simple minded 'apologist' who sees all Tolkien's failings (and he does have many) as blessings in disguise.

I would also like to make perfectly clear that i did not take any pot-shot at your wife, i said i could "appreciate your persuasion by her stance" by which i meant literally that- someone of her qualification would make a persuasive argument, all the moreso with her closeness to you- couples tend to share similar opinions, so there is no hidden meaning, no 'and what would she know?' sneers, just an appreciation that your opinion is shared, with a mildly raised eyebrow of 'Why doesn't that surprise me?'. I see nothing more inappropriate in that than you bringing her opinion up in the first place. I mentioned a mate of mine earlier who you can 'shoot down' if you see fit but i honestly see no justification in doing so. You talk about not making this personal and yet in the next post you bring in your own wife into it as support for your argument, and just because the mental image makes me laugh- it's like using my own mum as a human shield! :D

If you are so mortally offended though that this is a breaking point i see no resolution to this argument anyway so you are perfectly within your rights to shake on it and call a draw. We are highly unlikely to completely change each other's opinions with our own, so agreeing to disagree may be the wisest course - not just for the new year but for this entire debate. Can we get a lock on this?

Dr Death

Pacorko
17-12-2009, 22:04
There you go again, decontextualizing things a bit. I do think my mentioning other people's views, only makes it clear that I am not alone in thinking Tolkien is viewed with more passion than objectivity. Simple as that.

Now, I take no mortal offense. I merely point out that, to your eyes, it seem it's only your side of the argument that has well-rounded opinions, views and analyses and you carelessly disregard other views by people who are quite prepared to sustain their views in ANY academic forum.

Finally, when I mentioned "saw", I see I must have written "read, organized and complied" to give it a bit more validity, but really I saw no point. Neither me nor Guy are interested in burning Christoper at the stake. It's not conspiracy theory, it's not even against J.R.R. Tolkien or his estate. We just don't buy all the bs spread about the whole thing because a) he was there and b) I trust his word and respect my promising him not to go nay further into this matters. His words formed my opinion about the whole matter, and as these were made on a personal basis, I have neither the authority nor liberty to further expand about this subject.

Whether it is a literary fraud or not, that's only if people were actually harmed in any way by the books put out after J.R.R. Tolkien's death.

So far, I see no one complaining nor angry at what they've bought, so...

I shake on it, and look forward to further discussing other topisc or revisiting this one with you.

So, 'tis locked!

yabbadabba
18-12-2009, 18:17
This what puts me off literary reviews :rolleyes:

Its a great book, one of the very few I personally find rereadable on a yearly basis (as opposed to far longer). People can read into it a secret message from Tolkein claiming he was Lord High Priest of the cult of the Wombles as far as I care, its still a great book and alot of his work not bodged by Christopher still remains so.

ps whats all this hot air got to do with Isildur being a coward?

Condottiere
19-12-2009, 02:43
I believe the metaphysical nature of Tolkien and his works was broached.

bufordbugman
19-12-2009, 05:57
Well, Pacorco and Dr. Death certainly have gone a few rounds, no?

I find myself agreeing with Dr. Death more often than his rival. Pacorco has made one excellent point, however: that "Tolkien was sparse with his characterization." Dr. Death, surely it is hopeless to deny this so categorically. I am a huge fan of Tolkien's writings and achievement, but must admit that there is a certain flatness to most of his characters. This does not render them uninteresting, or unlovable, or even un-complex -- merely not as fleshed out emotionally or in terms of growth over time as the finest characters we find in other great works of fiction.

But admitting this relatively simple, and to me, unassailable point is no basis to deny aspects of the depth and greatness of Tolkien's work. Among many other things that might be adduced, the world he creates is immensely rewarding and complex; the moral challenges and the descriptions of them are profound. The work is patently not one of allegory in the strict sense of the word -- "applicable" as Tolkien and Dr. Death prefer to say seems much closer to the truth. And to deny the massive impact of LotR on the fantasy genre or the popular imagination sounds completely churlish.

My $.02!

Steam_Giant
19-12-2009, 15:41
'Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible; and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works' JRR Tolkien

Thanks to Pacorco and Dr. Death for a good read.

Jallan
21-12-2009, 01:40
There you go again, decontextualizing things a bit. I do think my mentioning other people's views, only makes it clear that I am not alone in thinking Tolkien is viewed with more passion than objectivity. Simple as that.This does statement seems to me to be more passionate than objective.

I am unaware of any accepted criteria which allows anyone to set, objectively, the worth of any author. One comes down to just plain popularity, sometimes popularity among a particular group of people, say university English teachers and researchers. But among them, as among non-university English teachers and researchers, there are grave differences of opinion about how much a particular piece of literature is worth compared to another peace of literature. The same person may highly esteem a work at one period of his or her life and not find it to be anything special in another period of his or her life.

Any literary valuation is as much subjective as objective.


Neither me nor Guy are interested in burning Christoper at the stake. It's not conspiracy theory, it's not even against J.R.R. Tolkien or his estate. We just don't buy all the bs spread about the whole thing because a) he was there

as was Christopher Tolkien who in The Silmarillion also expressed doubts about publishing much or anything of his father’s unpublished writing. But Christopher Tolkien later changed his mind.


and b) I trust his word and respect my promising him not to go nay further into this matters. His words formed my opinion about the whole matter, and as these were made on a personal basis, I have neither the authority nor liberty to further expand about this subject.

This appears to be the authoritarian fallacy. Something is true because an supposed expert says it is true. Surely it should be shown to be true based on reason. Since you refuse to present these reasons, others must accept or reject on faith alone.


Whether it is a literary fraud or not, that's only if people were actually harmed in any way by the books put out after J.R.R. Tolkien's death.

Not so. If, for example, the play Vortigern and Rowena had been better forged it might have been taken as indeed a lost work of Shakespeare. That would not have harmed anyone. But it would still have been a literary fraud.

What might be considered a literary fraud is Gay Kay persuading Christopher Tolkien to allow a version of the fall of Menegroth to be published that was not based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing but on his own ideas. Christopher Tolkien himself later expressed his regret that something was not devised that was closer to what his father wrote.

I do not claim that version of the fall of Menegroth in the Silmarillion harms anyone.

Dr Death
22-12-2009, 12:41
Well now that me and Pacorko have broken off from our bout of antler-locking i think i can tentatively re-enter the fray or at least strut around the outside of it :D.


"Tolkien was sparse with his characterization." Dr. Death, surely it is hopeless to deny this so categorically. I am a huge fan of Tolkien's writings and achievement, but must admit that there is a certain flatness to most of his characters. This does not render them uninteresting, or unlovable, or even un-complex -- merely not as fleshed out emotionally or in terms of growth over time as the finest characters we find in other great works of fiction.

In this i will concede..... To a point. Tolkien was not a writer who had a whole cast of colourful characters and spent huge amounts of time painting a picture of their dress-sense, tics, mannerisms and assorted body language. He was no Charles Dickens as it were.

He also did not spend huge amounts of time narrating character's thoughts- concepts and conflicts are usually told through dialog. However i do not consider this to be evidence of any lack of ability as a writer, or to make his characters one-dimensional, rather i consider this to be simply a stylistic choice based on the requirements of the narrative pace and the 'genre' in which he writes. It's also got a lot to do with the ensemble nature of the piece. With so many characters, it's impossible to provide full 'journeys' for each and every character (hence the 'favorites' game with some of the key characters) and so the journeys of some supporting characters do become archetypal: exemplars for certain themes Tolkien explores (though the characters themselves i consider to be very nicely rounded).

Personally though, in my experience the opposite to Pakorco's views on fan favorites is true: the defining feature of many Tolkien fans is there attachment not to the main 'developed' characters but to smaller parts, even insignificant ones. I call these particular character 'cult characters' and they include the likes of Glorfindel, Haldir, Ugluk, Beregond, Forlong and the Sons of Elrond. For some strange and quite inexplicable reason many people develop attachments to these underdeveloped and journey-less 'bit-parts' entirely disproportionate to their role in the story. I think this is another part of Tolkien's unique style- the concept of the unfinished tale. Tolkien textures his story with all these characters who pretty much come out of no-where and disappear just as suddenly. By the laws of modern story-telling this is a plain fault- you have to tie up the tale of anyone you introduce but because of Tolkien's purposeful subversion of those laws it works- we do not expect him to give a 'happily ever after' to every one of dozens of names introduced in the tale.

As he says in his letters- there is room for 'other minds and hands' to work on his mythology and while few would dare and fewer still would succeed in making something worthy, the space is left for our own unofficial imaginings of Tolkiens 'Rings' Cycle. This i would suggest is a bit of a failing on Tolkien's part- that while he aspired to create a mythology which others could adopt he was so fearsomely conservative and prescriptive with his own work on which it was to be based. His collaborative aspirations were squashed by his own jealous guarding and authoritarian voice concerning it- a bit like how communism went wrong in Russia. However that does not invalidate the huge contribution to the imaginative landscape of literature and the depth of thought present in Middle-earth/The Lord of the Rings.

Dr Death

Tokugawa100
22-12-2009, 19:54
Dear Doctor, I see where you are coming from, but really for all the grandiose intent in Tolkien's efforts, the results are merely an entertaining read, not a redefinition of Literature as an art form, and with his copious amount of borrowing from most scandinavian myths, his portrayals were made to imitate many of these things and therefore became archetypical in nature.

Read without passion and with an analytical eye, one can see Tolkien did very little characterisation or character development on this part of his work. That's not saying the tale was bad, by all means, but I firmly believe he was most pretentious about his craft, while being unable to concoct truly developed and evolving characters with one notable exception.

That said, I find very little ambiguity in any of them, save for Gollum/Smeagol who is the most developed character in the story. What you point out as examples of characteristaion are merely tools to get the story flowing, not a display of a character's development as none ever deviates from its initial role and mindset, they just play the same part of the conflict every time trying to further their "cause" or "conviction" not evolving as players beyond said conflict, therefore I fail to see those "personal journies" you mention reflected on the text--save for Gollum/Smeagol, again.

But I will certianly keep all your ideas in mind next time I reread the book, as this is the fifth year since I last read it and I made it a tradition of sorts to do so every few winter Hollidays. Maybe I can extract more enjoyment out of it all.


I agree.

I read the books because somebody told me something about ground breaking literature.
It was a great story but not the best literature Ive ever read, the characters are a bit bland and there is no development.

Peter Jacksons movies were brilliant, the characters developed over the movies into the heroes they would become.
Especially the hobbits.
Gimli and Legolas's only real development is that dwarfs and elves naturally dont like each other and they become best friends.
Still their humour and competitive rivalry throughout the movies was one of the best parts of the move.

Legolas: 22, 23, 24.
Gimli: 17, 24, 69.

canucklhead
22-12-2009, 20:34
The movies failed to fully deveop the Hobbits into the heroes they were to become by leaving out the raising of the Shire. Without that essential scene, the four Hobbits kicking ass and taking names, unafraid and unprotected by the great heroes of the story, they really do show that they have changed.

But the movies were entertaining.

As for the books not being ground breaking literature. Absolutely correct. The actual literature was a modernist epic poem, with all the repetitive flourishes and cliche'd descriptions inherent in the style.

Where it was ground breaking was in it's development. Until that point, and even after, Heroic tales of fantasy in lands other than our own Earth, were always stories told about people, who lived in a fantasy land.

LOTR was a fantasy world, in which Tolkien told some of the stories from it's history. He first built Arda, and gave it a totallity, or at least tried to. then he selected tales from it and expanded on them.

In that sense, it was ground breaking. Perhaps it means less to some of us, who don't care how accurately designed the language were, or how full the backgrounds. But it did happen.

Tokugawa100
22-12-2009, 22:26
Indeed it was sad that they cut out the Scouring of the Shire, but the hobbits did do some growing up.

Sam battled Shelob and won, then stormed an orc fortress, killed "I cant remember his name" and then helped Frodo to destroy the ring.

Merry and Pippin instigated the fall of Isengard.

Frodo just kinda went along with everything and di his best not to go insane.

Condottiere
23-12-2009, 01:56
If you think about it, the Hobbits went on the Middle Earth equivalent of the Grand Tour; Tolkien, being a moralist, purposely left out any mention of the doxies. Gandalf and Aragorn would have been the facilitators.

Dr Death
23-12-2009, 11:34
The movies failed to fully deveop the Hobbits into the heroes they were to become by leaving out the raising of the Shire. Without that essential scene, the four Hobbits kicking ass and taking names, unafraid and unprotected by the great heroes of the story, they really do show that they have changed.

I'm not as convinced that the Scouring of the Shire is as essential to the growth of the Hobbits as people often assume. By the time of the Scouring of the Shire, the Hobbits have already done the developing- the Scouring of the Shire is simply an end of term exam showcasing how far they've come. This i believe is one of the critical mistakes in assessing Tolkien's use of 'personal development'- people demand these 'road to Damascus' moments where everything is spelled out in order to assess development rather than being able to pick up on the incremental change of perception and attitude which is the reality of human behavior. Realism is not obtained through the kind of 'Either get busy living or get busy dying' rhetoric and motivational platitudes beloved of the big screen and while those moments make for fantastic drama, they are dramatic precisely because they almost never happen in real life.

With the Scouring of the Shire, the major purpose of it is to show that after enduring so much, after going through the crucible of war, the very world you looked forward to returning to no longer exists. Tolkien made this apparent in a very visual, dramatic fashion, however i believe the films achieve just as evocative an effect more along the lines of Remarque's 'All Quiet on the Western Front', depicting a subtle but profound alienation to the otherwise unaffected world

Dr Death