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littlemanpoet 05-16-2005 07:44 PM

What breaks the enchantment?
 
Warning:this thread may be hazardous to the enchantment Tolkien's stories weave on you. Proceed at your own risk.

Tolkien wanted his readers to experience "secondary belief", which is to experience the story of The Lord of the Rings (as well as his other writings) as "real", at least while we're reading, and maybe afterwards as well. This doesn't mean we're deluded into believing that it's really real, although some of us might wish it were; and perhaps some of us do choose to be so deluded (I did for a while).

Here's my question: What, in Tolkien's writings, breaks the spell for you? Why do you think this is so? Was it a failure on his part, or is it something you bring to the reading?

I'll give one example from my own experience. In re-reading the Prologue to FotR, recently, I came across the section where it says that Hobbits learned building from Men, specifically the Dúnedain, who learned it from the Elves. In all my previous readings, I had no problem with this. This time, however, the notion seemed ludicrous. Why would Hobbits and Men need Elves to teach them how to build? Are Hobbits and Men so stupid that they couldn't learn how to build on their own? It's comparable to saying that Native Americans could not have invented canoes, but needed Vikings to come to the new world to teach them how to build such boats.

So that broke the spell for me. I had to remind myself that Tolkien was using old sources in which the Fairy Folk are said to have taught neolithic humans to build. But for me it didn't work ... this time.

So, that's my example. Maybe it's just my problem.

But do you have a place in which the spell was broken for you?

bilbo_baggins 05-16-2005 08:11 PM

I would have to say that the spell was broken for me when I read the stories again and realized that it was a little unlikely that Sauron would have been so foolish if he knew that prominent wizards like Saruman would frightened by his power to not keep a careful watch on who wandered where in his kingdom.

But the spell is still grasping on, not wanting to die. ;)

bilbo

mormegil 05-16-2005 09:18 PM

O! Tra-la-la-lally
 
Perhaps what ruins the enchantment for me is "The Hobbit" in general. I enjoy the story and think it's enjoyable to read but I just can't take it as seriously as I do the others. I view it more as a bed time story I will read to my children than as phenomenal fiction. This is not to discount Tolkien in any way. I believe his intended audience was the younger folk and he met that very well. In fact I would classify it as highly superior to similar books in the genre.

One of the greatest difficulties I have with this book is the elves. They seem more to act like a druken hobbit than a regal elf. Especially the singing part when the company enters Rivendell.

Needless to say I don't read TH nearly as much as the others due to this fact. It's too light and whimsical for my taste to make it common reading.

Imladris 05-16-2005 09:23 PM

The thing that first comes to mind is the "geography" chapter in the Silmarillion, where he goes into great detail about the land, it's names, etc. That to me was a huge turn off, a great thing to break the enchantment of the Silmarillion.

As for LotR - - the ent chapter was very...I don't know why, but it broke the enchantment for me....hmmm. Still trying to figure out why though.

Celebuial 05-17-2005 04:31 AM

For me it was also The Hobbit that broke the spell. This may have been because I read it after reading LotR, but like Mormegil I find the elves to be too...well foolish. They seem much more child-like and joyous than the sad knowledgeful beings that seem to appear in The Sil and LotR. They didn't seem to have a care in the world. I also found that I could not take the whole book seriously as there weere too many comical situations with comical solutions. Because of this I've only read The Hobbit twice, compared to the times I've read LotR this seem's somewhat insignifican't. However, I do think that ity's a great way to get a good idea of Hobbit nature.

Occasionally stupid adaptations made by Fran, P-j, and Phillipa ruin it for me. For example during the death of Saruman in ROTK EE all the fire and special effects made me think that 'magic' as they were presenting it was a completley ludacrous concept. I s'pose I just have the actuall events as they happened in the books in mind when I watch scenes like that from the movie, reminding myself that in the book they seem quite real.

The only other things that seem to break the enchantment for me is when I read other books that 'copy' they never quite pull it off which makes some parts seem less believable. This oviously can't be Tolkien's error, as for me it's not his writting but that of others that dirupts the illusion of reality. Maybe it's not even the fault of other writers but my own for seeing hints of Tolkien that they may not even have intended to be in their own work.

On the whole though the enchantment remains intact and I not only see this whole universe but am actually there watching it unfold about me.

Selmo 05-17-2005 06:24 AM

What broke the spell for me was, as I'm sure Tolkien intended, was the last line of Lord of The Rings: "Well, I'm back".

Sam was back in The Shire, in the world of daily work, of growing things and of raising a family; magical enough in their own way but, for Sam, that special enchantment that the Elves had brought to Middle Earth was gone, had sailed into the West.

I, too, was back in the real world. The tale was told and the magic had departed.

Fortunatley for me, the magic returns every time I pick up one of the Professor's books.

.

Bęthberry 05-17-2005 07:28 AM

Interesting how so many discussions touch on similar aspects. This is currently one of the issues in the Chapter by Chapter discussion.

I have been told ;) that my suggestion of some kind applicability of the Lilith myth to Shelob is a no-no: it brings outside "baggage" from the Middle East into Middle earth and destroys the illusion that the subcreated world is the extant one. I am supposed to hold this in abeyance and deny any similarity while I read. Yet for me, this application does not destroy my sense of Middle earth. It simply expands upon a context. Perhaps another way of explaining this for me is to say that the allusions are subtle enough and the character Shelob well formed enough in her own right that I don't drop out of Middle earth.

Yet just a few chapters back I did feel that the spell was gone, in "Journey to the Cross-Roads." At the time we discussed the chapter I said I was unconvinced by the descriptions of incarnate evil. And that, while I liked the graffiti on the fallen statue of the king, much of the symbolism seemed forced. It pointed, for me, too much to the effect Tolkien was striving for "consciously in the revision."

So, I am going to posit something here. It is not so much the semantic meaning of a situation or event that destroys the spell of created world: it is how that particular bit of world is written. Faramir may have jumped forth fully clothed from Tolkien's mind, but his depiction is written with fidelity to some hidden imperative in the story. "Journey to the Cross-Roads" was written after substantial parts of this Book were planned, when Tolkien realised he needed to add some extra time in to balance the two plotlines. Somehow, this kind of planning created 'overwriting' for me. It didn't for others.

How to account for that difference might be interesting. But for now my only way of understanding what breaks the enchantment is the ability of Tolkien's words to hold for me the meaning the story wants. That likely begs the question of what we as readers bring to the text.

Related to this might be the issue of why Tolkien holds no enchantment for some readers, even readers of science fiction and fantasy. They're gone from the start. Does it come down to a willingness to be enchanted? Heart's desire as a reading strategy?

Kath 05-17-2005 08:34 AM

The thing that breaks the enchantment for me is having to analyse the books. I don't mean finding the history behind the writing of it as in my mind Tolkien lived within his created world and the revisons and additions that he made were done to better tell the story of an already full formed creation that just needed writing down. These remain, for me, in the context of Middle Earth and so the enchantment remains.

The problem begins when you try to analyse the writing style Tolkien used. We did this in an English lesson one year and it ruined the story for me for months afterwards. I think the enchantment lies in the ability to let go the consciousness of reality and lose yourself in a world where you can believe the happenings are real. When you begin to look behind the words, not for hidden meanings between characters, but for clues as to why Tolkien used these words rather than these words, it is difficult to remain lost in the world and so the enchantment is broken.

I think I would agree with mormegil and Celebuial about the Hobbit had I read it after LotR and the Silmarillion. Then it would have seemed childish and of a lower standard than the other books. I, however, read it first and at a young age, and I think it is because of this that it retains its enchantment on me. It is linked with my childhood and so I don't want to let go of the world I loved at that time.

The end of the book and the line "Well, I'm back." does not bring me out of the world because to me it is not the end of the story. Though the characters being followed finish their adventures, there is always a new character waiting to take it up again.

davem 05-17-2005 09:28 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bb
I have been told that my suggestion of some kind applicability of the Lilith myth to Shelob is a no-no:

I think my exact words in the current chapter thread (post 51) were:

Quote:

I wouldn't deny your right to find any kind of applicability in the text. My point was that I can see more differences than similarities between Shelob & Lilith.
Isn't the greatest risk of the spell being broken if we don't firmly shut the door between the worlds behind us, so that the noise of the outside, 'primary' world remains to disturb us.

Bb tells us that what broke the enchantment for her in the JTCR chapter was the descriptions of incarnate evil - ie some of those 'primary world' noises had become loud enough to distract her from what was happening in the story. Or perhaps it was that her own 'secondary reality' (her subconscious) was clashing with Tolkien's & that clash broke the spell. I don't know.

Its interesting that some things, some connections we make - whether its a connection with 'children's literature', a particular religious morality, or whatever will break the spell for us, while others won't - connections with other myths or symbols. So, it seems to be an entirely subjective thing - its not the author's fault. He doesn't break the spell - we do, by what we bring to our reading. Its not the author's faillure, but our own - if it was the author's failure it the spell would be broken for every reader at the same point in the story. The fact that what breaks the spell for some doesn't break it for others proves that the author has not failed.

I think the point is that if the artist does their job well, & we don't fight too hard, put up too many obstacles between ourselves & them, don't allow (or make) too much 'noise' to disturb us then there is a greater chance that the spell will remain effective.

A bit like someone talking in the cinema - it will distract us from the movie, take us out of the secondary reality, & jerk us back into the primary world of sitting in a big darkened room watching flickering images on a screen. Of course, it is entirely possible that the disturbing voice which breaks the spell may be our own!

Another question would be why we're so prone to disenchanting ourselves? Perhaps we've forgotten how to shut up & listen, or maybe we've simply gotten so used to only listening to ourelves that anything which contradicts or challenges our own 'secondary world' of beliefs, values, concepts & connections can't hold our attention - we simply want to be told what we already know. If an author says something that can't be fitted easily into our own secondary reality then we stop listening & walk away.

Speaking for myself, I can't think of anything which 'broke the spell' - the effect was rather the opposite - I even carried some of the enchantment out of the secondary world with me, which changed the way I experienced the primary world.....

mark12_30 05-17-2005 10:56 AM

There is Aslan; there is deep magic from the Dawn of Time; and then there is Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time.

mormegil 05-17-2005 11:01 AM

davem,

I enjoyed your post and thoughts but I had some questions about it that I hope you could clarify for me.

Quote:

Isn't the greatest risk of the spell being broken if we don't firmly shut the door between the worlds behind us, so that the noise of the outside, 'primary' world remains to disturb us.
How does one go about dropping all of the "baggage"? I just find it improbable that one would be expected to do that. If you know of a way please tell me. I try and supress all of my primary world views but I just don't see that it's entirely feasible. Which leads me to my next question.

Quote:

So, it seems to be an entirely subjective thing - its not the author's fault. He doesn't break the spell - we do, by what we bring to our reading. Its not the author's faillure
I realize that we are speaking about well written books, but isn't it a bit specious to assume such infallibility in an author? If the author's intent is to enchant us, then is it not his or her responsibility to do so with our baggage in mind? This would make it so that obviously not everybody would be fully enchanted all of the time. This would make more sense to me and would give an explination why all great litterature isn't univerally loved. (As much as I can't understand it I'm forced to say that not all people are raptured by Tolkien.)

Obviously you used my explination of TH in your remarks and called it my view of "children's literature" as the reason I don't enjoy the hobbit as much as the other books. But I would disagree, I read TH first and enjoyed it but wasn't enchanted whereas children are able to read it and receive the enchantment but they don't receive it while reading LoTR. Why? Because the author intended them to be for different people. I personally feel that he captured his intended audience in both books but they are intended for different age groups.

I do not disagree that if we bring excess primary world baggage into the secondary world then it doesn't matter how well written a story we won't be enchanted. But to assume a universal liking of "good literature" if we drop all baggage is short sighted, because it is impossible to affect everybody universally.

Hope this makes some sense.

davem 05-17-2005 11:18 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mormegil
How does one go about dropping all of the "baggage"? I just find it improbable that one would be expected to do that. If you know of a way please tell me. I try and supress all of my primary world views but I just don't see that it's entirely feasible. Which leads me to my next question.

I accept that we can't do that completely, my point is that we have to try to do it as far as we possibly can. We need to know ourselves well enough to recognise what baggage we are carrying, so that we are less likely to project it into the text, or worse, onto the author.

Quote:

If the author's intent is to enchant us, then is it not his or her responsibility to do so with our baggage in mind?
But how could an author know what baggage each of us is carrying & so take steps to deal with that? It doesn't matter how good the book or movie is, we can still break, or have broken for us, the artist's spell if we choose, or if circumstances conspire against us.

The point I was making was that if, say, Tom Bombadil breaks the spell for some readers but not for others, if the style of TH breaks the spell for you but not for me, or the approach taken in JTCR breaks the spell for Bb but not for another reader, then we can't blame Tolkien for failing in his intent to enchant, because the spell has worked on some readers & that proves its efficacy. If it fails with other readers it cannot be because of a failure on Tolkien's part. If every reader had the spell broken by TB, or the style of TH, then it would be a failure of the author.

mormegil 05-17-2005 11:22 AM

Quote:

The point I was making was that if, say, Tom Bombadil breaks the spell for some readers but not for others, if the style of TH breaks the spell for you but not for me, or the approach taken in JTCR breaks the spell for Bb but not for another reader, then we can't blame Tolkien for failing in his intent to enchant, because the spell has worked on some readers & that proves its efficacy. If it fails with other readers it cannot be because of a failure on Tolkien's part. If every reader had the spell broken by TB, or the style of TH, then it would be a failure of the author.
Just to make sure I understand you view correctly, If even one person is not disenchanted at all then the author did not fail? Or would it be more of a majority of people? But if it's a majority which population is it based on? The people who enjoy the book or the entire population that has ever read the book?

davem 05-17-2005 11:38 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mormegil
Just to make sure I understand you view correctly, If even one person is not disenchanted at all then the author did not fail? Or would it be more of a majority of people? But if it's a majority which population is it based on? The people who enjoy the book or the entire population that has ever read the book?

The author would have succeeded with that one person - which is the important thing - as far as both the author & that reader are concerned. It means that the author/artist has produced a true work of art, which has opened the heart/mind/soul of another human being to another world.

An artist's relationship is not with a 'mass' but with each individual reader/listener/viewer. Its a one to one thing. In Mythopoea Tolkien speaks of 'living shapes that move from mind to mind' - its a two way thing one mind puts out, the other takes in. Tolkien's 'relationship' is not with x million readers but with me as an individual & with you as an individual. Of course, there may be a failure of communication on this level - an artist can only do his/her best, but a reader, equally, must do their best. The artist only has to succeed in enchanting one person with their work to be considered successful, because the artist's intent is to 'enchant' the (generally speaking) unknown/unknowable recipient of their art. Tolkien succeeded in enchanting me, therefore he succeeded totally -in his intent, which was to enchant 'the' reader of his work.

Waits for in evitable argument.......

Bęthberry 05-17-2005 11:54 AM

Is the author Sauron?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by davem
Another question would be why we're so prone to disenchanting ourselves? Perhaps we've forgotten how to shut up & listen, or maybe we've simply gotten so used to only listening to ourelves that anything which contradicts or challenges our own 'secondary world' of beliefs, values, concepts & connections can't hold our attention - we simply want to be told what we already know. If an author says something that can't be fitted easily into our own secondary reality then we stop listening & walk away.

Speaking for myself, I can't think of anything which 'broke the spell' - the effect was rather the opposite - I even carried some of the enchantment out of the secondary world with me, which changed the way I experienced the primary world

We should no doubt be thrilled that we have in our midst such a perfect reader as davem who can train us all in his method of reading, so that we all read the same way. I bet he would be as good at identifying our baggage just as he is at psychoanalysing our blind self-interest which is the only thing possible, apparently, that limits our reading the way he does. ;)

Seriously, I think this model of reading is too circular: If you fall out of enchantment, the fault is always yours, because you, nasty reader, bring things in that don't belong. Learn to control your imagination, reader or do penance for bad thoughts. Bad reader. Submit totally to the will of the author! :( :p

davem 05-17-2005 12:13 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bb
Submit totally to the will of the author!

We should 'submit' to the art, not the artist, but the artist is the communicator of the art to us, so we should attempt in the first instance, & as far as we are able, to experience the art objectively.

Or, if I take your post for example, would you want me to make an effort - in so far as I can, to try & understand your points, the things you are trying to communicate to me, as objectively as I can, or would you be happy with me simply reading into them whatever I choose?

In other words, is it possible for me to understand what you're saying - if I pay attention & read your words carefully - or must I inevitably interpret what you write in my own, unique, idiosyncratic way?

And if I must do that, how can you object if I misunderstand or misinterpret what you write, or impose my own meaning on it? Shouldn't I have enough respect for you as a person, & for what you have made the effort to write & post here that I try, in so far as I am able, to understand what you intend?

Fordim Hedgethistle 05-17-2005 12:27 PM

(I think we may need to rename this the Canonicity Thread part 2 -- where's H-I???)

I have to say that I tend to approach this topic in pretty much exactly the manner described by Bethberry. There are parts of the story in which I find the writing itself to be somewhat stilted (the Professor can get carried away with his high-style at time, particularly in RotK: all those "and lo!" and hyperbolic similes) and these moments tend to shake my immersion in the world, simply because I shift away from the story itself to the manner of its writing.

But there are other things that shake the enchantment even more, and these are really the kinds of things that I think davem and Bb are crossing swords about (both here and in the CbC): there are times in the story when the Professor's rather old world, nineteenth century view of society is one that is so wildly out of whack with my own that I shift and shy away from the tale. I do not begrudge him his views, nor do I take issue with them directly -- he is free to write from one point of view, while I am free to read and interpret from another. But there at moments when he presents his own perspective as a universal.

For example, the fate of Eowyn. Now, don't get me wrong, I adore Faramir and think that he's a wonderful fellow to marry -- but the idea that Eowyn's best (and indeed only) fate is to forsake the martial heroism that has been her watchword throughout the story and to lay it all down so that she can become rather a cliched figure of healing and fertility... Well, let's just say that I tend to skim over that part a bit. Like I said above, the aspect of this that I find disenchanting is that the author seems to assume that there can be no other alternative or route for Eowyn to follow to redemption: it's not really presented as a choice for Eowyn to continue on as do Merry and Pippin (as people who are not 'really' or 'properly' soldiers, but who continue to act as soldiers and warriors, as martial leaders: they take something away from the War and from their battles). In this case, the Prof's point of view (women aren't naturally or properly warriors) becomes the only point of view.

So it's not that I am disenchanting myself -- quite the reverse, I think. Instead, it is a moment in which the author has attempted to cast a rather possessive spell upon me; he has tried to rope me in to his view of the world. Fortunately, Tolkien is not able -- and he does not want -- to force me to see anything his way, he merely offers a very seductive and appealing invitation. So taking my cue from figures like Frodo and Aragorn, I turn away from that seductive appeal and hold to my own view of the way things are. In this way, I may move away from the text, but the story is able to draw me back in with the broader appeal of its applicability.

davem 05-17-2005 12:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Fordim
but the idea that Eowyn's best (and indeed only) fate is to forsake the martial heroism that has been her watchword throughout the story and to lay it all down so that she can become rather a cliched figure of healing and fertility...

Well, without getting into that too deeply, I think that Tolkien, as someone who had seen the reality of warfare, in effect the wrongness, the immorality, of it (while acknowledging its necessity in certain circumstances), would not see 'martial heroism' as something admirable - after all, neither Merry, Pippin nor Sam follow Aragorn in his continued seek & destroy mission after the end of the War of the Ring. Eowyn chooses peace over war, to be a healer rather than a destroyer, & I think Tolkien is presenting this as a more moral, more grown up thing. Would we rather see her hacked to pieces by orcs, or spending the rest of her best years hacking them to pieces?

The world Tolkien created (or communicated, or made available) to us is self contained. We should first try & experience it for itself. Then we can analyse it & our own feelings towards it. We have to try & experience it before we can judge it, listen to the story we're being told. If we don't make that effort, how can we know whether we've got issues with Tolkien or with ourselves?

Lalwendë 05-17-2005 12:45 PM

One thing I have struggled with in LotR is the politics, and the underlying political messages which I dislike intensely. I do not like the idea that certain 'classes' of people are somehow more superior than others, and hence am not entirely enraptured with Elves. I also have misgivings about Sam's place in this story. But, while I sometimes ponder these matters, I have to drop them from any serious consideration of the work as they are irrelevant.

Why are they irrelevant? This is a secondary world and such matters do not trouble those who live therein; the Elves are not a snooty upper class, they are benign, and Sam's under-education is not a burden to him, he is not shown to be a buffoon or a village idiot. If I was to have Middle Earth entirely correct to my own political beliefs then it would a sanitised mess. I have the same experience when reading Jane Austen - I wonder to myself where the servants are? I think it's all very well the Bennett sisters bemoaning the lack of rich suitors, but what about the poor girls who serve up their food and sew their gowns? Again, I have to suspend such thoughts in order to enjoy the books.

Writers by necessity focus on a narrow field of vision, they simply cannot take in all of the world or such vital matters as plot and characterisation would fall by the wayside in the pursuit of considering all the potential readers. When I hear critics saying of LotR that it lacks strong female characters I do get cross as this is missing the point. Criticism like that takes the nature of art out of context. If every piece of art must consider every experience of humankind then art would quickly become bland and grey and boring. LotR, like Jane Austen's work, homes in on one vision of a/the world and deals with that. Authors simply cannot take all of our baggage into consideration or what they wrote would become stilted and dull. Either that, or the author who managed to pull off this feat would be incredibly rich, as no author has managed that. The fact that Tolkien is one of the most popular authors in the world must mean that he goes at least part of the way.

If someone fails to be enchanted by a book, then they simply put it down and try a different one. If someone fails to be won over by a particular passage then this might diminish their enjoyment. It isn't the fault of the author unless they are universally seen as a terrible writer (in which case they probably - hopefully? - wouldn't be published). I think what it boils down to is both taste and the fact that we all do carry baggage with us when we open a book. If we can't suspend our 'baggage' then we can't take on board what we are reading.

Bęthberry 05-17-2005 12:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by davem
we should attempt in the first instance, & as far as we are able, to experience the art objectively.

Or, if I take your post for example, would you want me to make an effort - in so far as I can, to try & understand your points, the things you are trying to communicate to me, as objectively as I can, or would you be happy with me simply reading into them whatever I choose?

In other words, is it possible for me to understand what you're saying - if I pay attention & read your words carefully - or must I inevitably interpret what you write in my own, unique, idiosyncratic way?

And if I must do that, how can you object if I misunderstand or misinterpret what you write, or impose my own meaning on it? Shouldn't I have enough respect for you as a person, & for what you have made the effort to write & post here that I try, in so far as I am able, to understand what you intend?


Is there one, right, unvarying, unchanging way to interpret a text? Has the enchantment of Tolkien always been the same? Were the hippie American university students who adorned their rooms with "Frodo lives!" wrong? Were the first readers who looked aghast at them right? What about the tree huggers? Or are later readers now, who have the benefit of The Silm and HoME, the true standard bearers? Is there one author who, over time, has invariably been understood in the same way? Not the Bible, not Dante, not Cervantes, not Dickens, not Dostoyevski, not Kante, not Kafka, not Joyce, not Woolf. Etc.

I don't disagree with you that we must do our best to try to listen to the "voice" that speaks to us, to respect the "Other." But has this truly been your method here with our posts? As you yourself noted in the current Chapter by Chapter thread, that thread generated far more discussion than the previous one, where people did not have disagreements or differences. In fact, you yourself said you were posting not so much to disagree as to keep the discussion going.

Was this disrespectful? Or was it an effort to stimulate the discussion, to engage in the free intellectual play of words? Frankly, I don't think you *do* respond to what you think I mean. I think you respond in order deliberately to misinterpret, in order to generate futher discussion. It is a playful move, not at all disrespectful, but it represents in fact how humans make meaning. "Misprision." If all we ever posted was, "eh, wow, me too!", well, I don't think there would be a Barrow Downs discussion board.

Some forms of disagreement are far more serious, particularly when there is a deliberate attempt to silence the "other" who thinks differently, responds differently, sees things in a slightly different perspective. To characterise those who don't 'achieve the reading success you do' as people who are blind to other ideas, blind to the ideas of the author and who don't like to be challenged and who impose their will upon a text, moves too closely I think to this negative consequence of disagreement.

As I see your posts here in this thread, your theory of reading has no place for historical change of meaning, has no place for the generation of new awareness, has no place for the future, no explanation for imagination. (Forgive me if I see definite elvish traits here.) It is you, I fear, who would impose on readers, as a text themselves, your own reading, because you think you know how to interpret Tolkien, since the enchantment is always and ever with you. 'I am completely happy and in thrall to the text, therefore I think as Tolkien wants me to think.' There's something solipcistic there that worries me.

Of course, we could just be dancing on the head of a pin.

EDIT: cross posting with Fordim, davem, and Lalwendë. don't have time now to respond to their latest.

drigel 05-17-2005 01:00 PM

internal or external?
 
Quote:

there is a greater chance that the spell will remain effective
Quote:

Tolkien is not able -- and he does not want -- to force me to see anything his way, he merely offers a very seductive and appealing invitation.
Whether it's in our genes or some kind of shared family history that gets passed down over the generations, Tolkien was able to harness it, and fashion such a compelling invitation that for some (like me), the pull into fairie was as unstoppable as any force of nature.

The cause of its success was that Tolkien was able to tap into such a huge, diverse population's internal imagination. It's within us, after all. There was no magic wand that caused it. The genious of it was that -as repeated here so many times and in so many ways - in the kernal of the myth lies a Truth that transends cultures. Beth I do agree with you - it begins with awareness, or cognizance. Then if one can steer his/her own ship right, there is also willingness
and of course humility. :) This goes back to how some people are more "imaginative" than others, and why. This could also be considered a state of perception, or even by some as a psychological condition ('63 acid tests, anyone?). I wonder that sometimes when I find myself in my boxers, hands outstretched at the sunrise, my dog looking on with bewilderment... :)

I always viewed that Tolkien is best analyzed in a good Humanities class, not an english class. That being said, any I find the spell broken of course when someone interprets the work. Sometimes it works - "oh yea that was right on", sometimes its "eh, - not really", sometimes it doesnt. Either way, it's my love for the work that makes me appreciate other's views.

davem 05-17-2005 01:20 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bb
Is there one, right, unvarying, unchanging way to interpret a text? Has the enchantment of Tolkien always been the same? Were the hippie American university students who adorned their rooms with "Frodo lives!" wrong? Were the first readers who looked aghast at them right? What about the tree huggers? Or are later readers now, who have the benefit of The Silm and HoME, the true standard bearers?

I'd say all were 'enchanted' by the text, but in different ways. the author (the enchanter) is not responsible for the result of the enchantment, only for the intent.

Quote:

Frankly, I don't think you *do* respond to what you think I mean. I think you respond in order deliberately to misinterpret, in order to generate futher discussion. It is a playful move, not at all disrespectful, but it represents in fact how humans make meaning.
My point, from the beginning, has been that an attempt to understand what an author intended should be our prime objective - other objectives may, or may not, follow, as we are so inclined - whether to gain a better understanding of the story, the author, or of ourselves. In what way have I 'deliberately' misinterpreted what anyone said? I said in post 51 that I didn't object to your applying ideas about Lilith to Shelob, but that I wasn't convinced they worked. I was arguing about what you were applying to the text, not with your right to apply it.

Quote:

As I see your posts here in this thread, your theory of reading has no place for historical change of meaning, has no place for the generation of new awareness, has no place for the future, no explanation for imagination. (Forgive me if I see definite elvish traits here.) It is you, I fear, who would impose on readers, as a text themselves, your own reading, because you think you know how to interpret Tolkien, since the enchantment is always and ever with you. 'I am completely happy and in thrall to the text, therefore I think as Tolkien wants me to think.' There's something solipcistic there that worries me.
What I'm saying is not denying a place for 'historical change of meaning', nor does it leave 'no place for the generation of new awareness, no place for the future, no explanation for imagination'. (Perhaps I'm not the only one guilty of reading things into other's post's that they didn't put there?) All I've ever said was that the experience of the art (in as pure a degree as we are capable of) must come first, then we must (again as far as we are capable of doing it) attempt to understand what the artist intended to communicate, what he/she wanted to say to us, then, finally, can come - if we so desire it - our own interpretation of the text/painting/symphony.

My theory - take it or leave it, but please don't think I trying to silence all alternatives. I believe in my position, so I'll defend it, but I wouldn't expect any less from anyone else.

Bęthberry 05-17-2005 02:16 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Fordim Hedgethistle
. . .
But there are other things that shake the enchantment even more, and these are really the kinds of things that I think davem and Bb are crossing swords about (both here and in the CbC): there are times in the story when the Professor's rather old world, nineteenth century view of society is one that is so wildly out of whack with my own that I shift and shy away from the tale. I do not begrudge him his views, nor do I take issue with them directly -- he is free to write from one point of view, while I am free to read and interpret from another. But there at moments when he presents his own perspective as a universal.

. . . .
the aspect of this that I find disenchanting is that the author seems to assume that there can be no other alternative or route for Eowyn to follow to redemption: it's not really presented as a choice for Eowyn to continue on as do Merry and Pippin (as people who are not 'really' or 'properly' soldiers, but who continue to act as soldiers and warriors, as martial leaders: they take something away from the War and from their battles). In this case, the Prof's point of view (women aren't naturally or properly warriors) becomes the only point of view.
. . . .

So it's not that I am disenchanting myself -- quite the reverse, I think. Instead, it is a moment in which the author has attempted to cast a rather possessive spell upon me; he has tried to rope me in to his view of the world. Fortunately, Tolkien is not able -- and he does not want -- to force me to see anything his way, he merely offers a very seductive and appealing invitation. So taking my cue from figures like Frodo and Aragorn, I turn away from that seductive appeal and hold to my own view of the way things are. In this way, I may move away from the text, but the story is able to draw me back in with the broader appeal of its applicability.

Ah, welcome, Lurker!

I find much to commend in this idea that the text invites readers to share a world perspective which is presented as universal when it is not. It is invitingly but gently presented, yet remains one which is not tenable for some in this century. The issue of Eowyn is a good one, as it appears axiomatic that she must marry someone. She cannot simply choose to become a healer or, more independently and originally, a loremaster, but must, perhaps because she is an aristocrat or perhaps because she is a woman, marry and create part of the new hierarchy in Ithilien. We know that Merry and Pippin marry, but their marriges are marginal to the story and, indeed, their part of the story ends far away from their families. They are given other activities, events after their wartime effort, as leaders in their community: Eowyn has only the dynastic marriage. The cage may be gilded, but it is still a cage.

The idea that one must put aside one's own world view or perspective--especially when it is referred to as 'baggage'-- in order to be enchanted by the text, well, that sounds too much like old time seduction to me, old world marriage of subordination rather than equality. ;)

davem 05-17-2005 02:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bb
The issue of Eowyn is a good one, as it appears axiomatic that she must marry someone. She cannot simply choose to become a healer or, more independently and originally, a loremaster

At the risk of being accused of being argumentative for the sake of it, or deliberately misinterpreting what is being said ;), I have to say that if something like that had been the outcome of Eowyn's story it would have broken the spell for me, because it would have made that part of the story nothing but an allegory of feminism - & a bad one at that. Eowyn assumes the right & proper role of someone of her rank & station in a world like Middle earth.

She simply would not have thought of doing what you suggest because of the culture she was brought up in. The fact that she was a 'shieldmaiden, daughter of kings' accounts for her decision to take up arms & fight - alongside her despair in her failed hopes for Aragorn - but to take a step against the whole cultural background of the world she inhabited would have come across to me as ridiculous & unbelievable. Things like that didn't happen in Middle earth. This is why I say we must come to the story as free as possible of our own values & pre-conceptions. I think we gain more from accepting that world as it is, the fates of its inhabitants as what they are, & then analysing our reactions to them. Eowyn is not a 21st century woman, with all the options of a 21st century woman. She is (quite convincingly for me) a woman of her time. To feel 'disenchanted' by the fact that she is not something she could never possibly have been seems (to me) to support my argument that if we carry our own baggage with us into the secondary world we'll never have a full experience of it.

the phantom 05-17-2005 02:55 PM

Davem is right about many readers who break the enchantment themselves when it isn't necessary.

A lot of people, not just when they read but in the real world as well, walk around with a lot of chips on their shoulder, and they seem to want people to knock them off. They are always ready to be shocked or insulted by something that doesn't chime with them. They love to be offended, and will go over a book, a movie, or a conversation with a fine toothed comb and try to find things that make them mad.

These people obviously are going to have an impossible time being entirely enchanted with Tolkien's books like Davem. The Eowyn thing that people have mentioned, the issue of some people or species (elves) being better than others- there are some people that are just never going to get past things like that if they don't entirely agree with them. These people either don't want to (or are incapable of) doing what I call "glossing over".

When I am watching a movie, I always try as hard as I can to be sucked in and be enchanted. Whenever a character expresses some opinion that I think is stupid, I don't think about it. I bat it aside. I sort of ignore it. As long as the enchantment-breaker is something minor (in other words, as long as it is not the primary focus or theme of the movie/book), I do not allow it to break my enchantment.
Quote:

Speaking for myself, I can't think of anything which 'broke the spell' - the effect was rather the opposite - I even carried some of the enchantment out of the secondary world with me, which changed the way I experienced the primary world.....
Me too.

Lalwendë 05-17-2005 02:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bethberry
The idea that one must put aside one's own world view or perspective--especially when it is referred to as 'baggage'-- in order to be enchanted by the text, well, that sounds too much like old time seduction to me, old world marriage of subordination rather than equality.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Fordim
Well, let's just say that I tend to skim over that part a bit. Like I said above, the aspect of this that I find disenchanting is that the author seems to assume that there can be no other alternative or route for Eowyn to follow to redemption

But what are we to do in order to become enchanted and immerse into the world which is being presented to us? As Fordim says, he has to skim the part about Eowyn accepting marriage as a happy outcome. I too have had to skim parts of the text which make comments about Hobbits being 'unlettered' as though it makes some kind of statement about their status in The Shire, but as I prefer not to rankle at what is being said about this world (which is most definitely not our world), I have to suspend my beliefs. Nowhere does Tolkien make statements which could be said to be outrageously racist, sexist or anything else, he merely presents us with how the world is in this other place. I would not expect Shakespeare or Austen or any other writer to present us with anything other than the world they are presenting us with; they are not presenting us with our world, so I don't expect to see our world.

To do otherwise is like reading a Bible with a magic marker. Fine if you want to look for examples of things which do not concur with our experiences, beliefs or politics, but not so fine if we want to simply experience the world as seen through the eyes of the characters.

Bęthberry 05-17-2005 03:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by davem
At the risk of being accused of being argumentative for the sake of it, or deliberately misinterpreting what is being said ;), I have to say that if something like that had been the outcome of Eowyn's story it would have broken the spell for me, because it would have made that part of the story nothing but an allegory of feminism - & a bad one at that. Eowyn assumes the right & proper role of someone of her rank & station in a world like Middle earth.

She simply would not have thought of doing what you suggest because of the culture she was brought up in. The fact that she was a 'shieldmaiden, daughter of kings' accounts for her decision to take up arms & fight - alongside her despair in her failed hopes for Aragorn - but to take a step against the whole cultural background of the world she inhabited would have come across to me as ridiculous & unbelievable. Things like that didn't happen in Middle earth. This is why I say we must come to the story as free as possible of our own values & pre-conceptions. I think we gain more from accepting that world as it is, the fates of its inhabitants as what they are, & then analysing our reactions to them. Eowyn is not a 21st century woman, with all the options of a 21st century woman. She is (quite convincingly for me) a woman of her time. To feel 'disenchanted' by the fact that she is not something she could never possibly have been seems (to me) to support my argument that if we carry our own baggage with us into the secondary world we'll never have a full experience of it.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lalwendë
I would not expect Shakespeare or Austen or any other writer to present us with anything other than the world they are presenting us with; they are not presenting us with our world, so I don't expect to see our world.

My disappointment over the lack of choice granted Eowyn has nothing to do with late 20C/early 21C femininism, davem and Lalwendë. (Believe it or not, I'm not one.) It has to do rather with the fact that Tolkien's Middle earth is a construct of late Victorian/early Edwardian culture rather than a universally applicable culture.

In early Medieval Europe, women were as educated as men in monasteries and nunneries. And sometimes noble women inherited vast estates and managed them in their own name and right. Julian of Norwich, Hildegard von Bingen, St. Bridget (Sweden) were all learned and highly respected women. The French poet Christine de Pizan earned her living as a writing. St. John's College, Oxford, owes its (initial) wealth to its founding patroness. There is much evidence for the equality of women in Viking cultures. I could go on.

Austen did not presume to present a culture of universal significance. Her novels are thoroughly and completely grounded in her early 19C culture.

In short, my disenchantment has to do not with my purported baggage from my own time, but with the "baggage" (I use this word simply because you have chosen to continue to use it) of his own time which Tolkien brought to Middle earth. There were other choices available to women like Eowyn in early culture but Tolkien choose the one most predictable according to his own cultural viewpoint. Eowyn, in short, is a late Victorian/ Edwardian imposition upon the kind of early culture whose history/mythology Tolkien was trying to create. I grant that all kinds of narrative imperative makes the marriage with Faramir attractive, but it still represents a perspective limited to Tolkien's own time rather than the universal world view which he tries to create in Middle earth.

Do I still enjoy reading him? Yes, of course. Do I think he was one of the best? Yes, of course.

davem 05-17-2005 04:18 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bb
There were other choices available to women like Eowyn in early culture but Tolkien choose the one most predictable according to his own cultural viewpoint. Eowyn, in short, is a late Victorian/ Edwardian imposition upon the kind of early culture whose history/mythology Tolkien was trying to create. I grant that all kinds of narrative imperative makes the marriage with Faramir attractive, but it still represents a perspective limited to Tolkien's own time rather than the universal world view which he tries to create in Middle earth.

But the issue is not whether or not there were 'other choices available to women like Eowyn in early culture' but whether there were other choices in the culture in which she existed - which was not the medieval period of our world, but the end of the Third Age of Middle earth. This is what I'm talking about - whether its bringing a Middle eastern demon into our reading of LotR or our knowledge of Medieval history - they don't apply. Eowyn is a product of her culture not of ours - either now or 800 years ago. This approach will inevitably lead to disenchantment because if we expect Eowyn, or any other 'Middle earthian' character to behave as if they belonged to another cultural or historical epoch we'll inevitably be unconvinced by what they do.

Middle earth may (or may not) reflect Tolkien's own value system - this is why I said that after experiencing the art for what it is in & of itself we should (if we wish) try & find out what the author was telling us. It may be that we then find out that the art he produced wasn't always entirely in accord with what he himself believed. After that we can ask 'What do I think about the art, the author him/herself & what does it mean to me?'. If we take the latter approach in with us from the start we'll never have any chance of being affected by the art itself, only by our own responses to it.

That's why I don't accept that:
Quote:

Eowyn, in short, is a late Victorian/ Edwardian imposition upon the kind of early culture whose history/mythology Tolkien was trying to create. I grant that all kinds of narrative imperative makes the marriage with Faramir attractive, but it still represents a perspective limited to Tolkien's own time rather than the universal world view which he tries to create in Middle earth.
Because Eowyn is hardly a typical Victorian/Edwardian lady. The question is not whether the end of Eowyn's story - marriage, children, becoming a healer to & guide for her people - is what was expected of a character in a Victorian/Edwardian novel(not to say a real Victorian/Edwardian woman) but whether, within the culture in which she exists it is a convincing ending. I think it is. It is right for her - in my reading. In fact, I can't think of a more satisfying ending for her. She can heal & study lore & be a wife & mother as well as being the second most powerful woman in Middle earth after Arwen. Your alternative, which only allows her the first two (or rather only one of the first two) options, seems insufficient reward for everything she has done & been through. And to condemn it as representing

Quote:

a perspective limited to Tolkien's own time rather than the universal world view which he tries to create in Middle earth.
is asking a bit much of the poor professor - isn't it inevitable that his perspective was limited by his own time? After all, he didn't possess the psychic ability of Shakespeare (as revealed to us by Mr Steiner) to know the future ;)

littlemanpoet 05-17-2005 06:49 PM

How do you guys do it!?
 
All right, that's twenty-two posts in one day, some of you doing as many as a half dozen. I'd like to know how to get on the Barrowdowns payroll so I can quit may day job too, and have the time of day and security to keep up with the discussion. :p

Now back to catching up on the all the jousting....

Celuien 05-17-2005 07:46 PM

I'm almost afraid to come into this discussion. There's so much to catch up on, and in just a few hours!

For me, the enchantment of Middle Earth has always been that it seemed as if it could have been real. When I read, I try to turn off my "reality checker" with respect to the way things are in everyday life. If foxes comment on seeing hobbits, it's because that is the normal order of things in the book's world. It is Tolkien's story, and he therefore sets the conditions under which things operate while I'm visiting, so I feel that I need to try my best to become immersed in that world to appreciate it.

That said, I almost put The Hobbit aside when I read it for the first time. The depiction of the Elves and the general tone of the story jarred too much with the characters from the rest of books to remain believable. But as I've read more, even the "Tra-la-lally" chorus has grown on me, as long as I view it in the context of Bilbo's memoirs. I can easily imagine the different tone of The Hobbit being part of a narration to hobbit children seated around Mad Baggins' fireplace in Bag End. Then, the enchantment returns since I can find a way to fit all of the pieces into the larger picture. I guess what I'm trying to say is that as long as I can accept Middle Earth on its own terms, there are no limits on the enchantment of the story for me.

Maybe my approach to reading is part of the baggage that I bring as well. Although when I feel some commonality with the story I tend to enjoy it more, I've never tried to make what I read fit into my experience. I've instead viewed books as a window into another time and place, or a way to look at the world through someone else's perspective.

Boromir88 05-17-2005 07:57 PM

I think Celuien, brings up a good point. Is that we become so "enchanted" by the books is because it just seems so believable. I mean there's nothing like wizards, and elves, or balrogs, and a dark lord, and we know that it will most likely never happen. However, the story is just so convincing. So, what makes it convincing?

I think that Tolkien does a good job of setting limits to the "magical/fantasy" realm. And that's what makes his stories seem to be so real. There are never these all powerful beings, and everyone has a set limit. Gandalf has a set power, he can't chuck a mountain at someone and kill people. The Eagles have their own characteristics where they can't just take Frodo from the Shire and give him a ride to Mount Doom. (Seems to be the consensus of some people). The Dead Army are shades, but unlike Jackson portrayed them, they can't harm anyone. They cause fear in people, but they are unable to physically harm any person/thing on Middle-earth. So every force that we know to be not true, has it's own set of limits, and that makes LOTR just seem real.

Another part is just the description, we get these wonderful narrative paragraphs that puts images into our head as to what things would look like, and just imagine ourselves being there. As far as "Breaking the spell" I'll get to that some other time, I must be heading off. Great thread lmp.

mark12_30 05-17-2005 08:19 PM

There's fireworks. Then there's fighting wolf-riders with flaming pine-cones: "Fifteen birds in five fir-trees.". Then there's fighting ringwraiths on weathertop with flashes of white lightning. Then there's fighting balrogs. THen there's marshalling a war. And then there's visiting with Old Tom after all is said and done.

Which is the enchantment?

eowyntje 05-18-2005 03:12 AM

I think what breaks the spell for me is the word perfection, or anything similair in the books. I don't believe that anything or anyone can be purely good and as soon as something is described as such or comes close to perfection, I lose the magic and think "that can't be".
I've never liked the elves because to me they were always too perfect, more perfect then humans, and I never liked the thought of a better race existing. So for me the elves from Lotr often broke the spell. The less perfect elves in the Hobbit did not have that effect on me, neither did Galadriel, who was described as frightfull at first. But characters like Elrond are too unbelieveable to me.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Fordim Hedgethistle
For example, the fate of Eowyn. Now, don't get me wrong, I adore Faramir and think that he's a wonderful fellow to marry -- but the idea that Eowyn's best (and indeed only) fate is to forsake the martial heroism that has been her watchword throughout the story and to lay it all down so that she can become rather a cliched figure of healing and fertility... Well, let's just say that I tend to skim over that part a bit.

Though I understand perfectly that others might not agree with me, that broke the spell for me too. I could connect so well with Eowyn when the story started, I recognised myself in her and saw her as a person which could be very real. When she married Faramir and gave all that up I didn't understand her, I though it was the wrong dissision. If they were real, I'm sure Eowyn would eventually get bored and long for some action again.

davem 05-18-2005 06:16 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by eowyntje
I've never liked the elves because to me they were always too perfect, more perfect then humans, and I never liked the thought of a better race existing. So for me the elves from Lotr often broke the spell. The less perfect elves in the Hobbit did not have that effect on me, neither did Galadriel, who was described as frightfull at first. But characters like Elrond are too unbelieveable to me.

These reactions are obviously genuine, so I'm not saying you shouldn't feel that way, but it seems to me that it may be because you disapprove of what the characters do that breaks the spell, rather than what the characters do being unbelievable as such. This was the point I was making earlier, that rather than the author failing to cast the spell effectively it is we who break the spell.

Let's take the example of reading a novel set in WW2. What would your response be to someone who said the 'spell' was broken for them when it came to the Auschwitz episode, because 'the Nazis were just too nasty there' ?

Putting on one side the fact that the Elves of Middle earth are far from perfect beings, let's for the sake of argument imagine that they were absolutely perfect. All Tolkien would have to do is present them as perfect in a convincing way, a way that was believable within the world they inhabit. Once he has done that he has done what he set out to do. If the spell is broken for you wen you read about them because you have a problem with the idea of perfect beings per se, then that is not Tolkien's fault - your inability to to put up with perfect beings is part of the baggage you bring to your reading of the story. Tolkien would only be responsible if he failed to convince you that they were perfect.

In fact, from what you say, Tolkien made the Elves perfectly convincing but you just didn't like them.

Quote:

When she married Faramir and gave all that up I didn't understand her, I though it was the wrong dissision.
Neither of those reactions means Eowyn is not a convincingly drawn character, just that you didn't understand & or approve of what she did.

HerenIstarion 05-18-2005 07:00 AM

welly well, its my posting week after all, so why not?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
What, in Tolkien's writings, breaks the spell for you?

Nothing

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bęthberry
Does it come down to a willingness to be enchanted? Heart's desire as a reading strategy?

Yes

Quote:

Originally Posted by davem
This was the point I was making earlier, that rather than the author failing to cast the spell effectively it is we who break the spell

Provided that writer is of Tolkien's caliber, yes.

Bęthberry 05-18-2005 07:23 AM

Consummations devoutly desired
 
What we are being presented with here, eowyntje, is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

1. The supreme Author is never wrong in his art.
2. Reading is an act of complete submission to the will of the art.
3. therefore, any breaking of the enchantment is the fault of the reader.

How do we know who a Supreme Author is? Any author who manages to attract one reader for whom the enchantment is not broken.

Even if readers begin with the complete, utter, honest and sincere attempt to submit to be raptured, if anything happens to break that rapture, by definition it is always the fault of the reader. Readers are obviously fallen creatures and the Supreme Author is omnipotent.

Perhaps there is some kind of predestination involved? ;)

Even Fordim's explanation that when the text begins to announce itself as text rather than as "subcreated reality", so that readers pay more attention to the writing than to the spell/enchantment, will be said to represent the failure of the reader to remain enchanted. (This is in fact a good explanation of what happens when I read the Cross-Roads chapter and probably also what happens with the Eowyn character.)

Quote:

Originally Posted by Fordim Hedgethistle
There are parts of the story in which I find the writing itself to be somewhat stilted (the Professor can get carried away with his high-style at time, particularly in RotK: all those "and lo!" and hyperbolic similes) and these moments tend to shake my immersion in the world, simply because I shift away from the story itself to the manner of its writing.

The Reader in this case obviously lacks the desire to submit to everything as story by bringing in baggage such as aesthetic style.

And for those readers who choose to bring precaution with them on this night of seduction, well, we all know that certain forms of control have been declared WRONG as interfering with the Supreme Author's Will to choose who and when ideas are propagated.

;) :D

The Saucepan Man 05-18-2005 07:42 AM

An uncharacteristically brief interjection ...
 
I rather think that the problem here is the liberal use of words such as "fault" and "blame".

If a reader does not "get" what the author is trying to tell him or her, or if the "enchantment" is somehow broken, it is not necessarily the fault of either author or reader. It is simply that their views are, to some degree or other, incompatible, and that may well be for perfectly good reasons. It is not a matter of one or the other being wrong.

Some readers may well find a more fulfilling "enchantment" in stories other than LotR because those stories are expressed in terms with which they are more able to identify. Others may find that they have no need for "enchantment". Neither such approach, in my view, is a crime.

davem 05-18-2005 07:52 AM

Bb

Quote:

1. The supreme Author is never wrong in his art.
The ART is never 'wrong'. To the extent that the author produces true art he/she cannot be wrong. To the extent that he/she fails to produce true ART they are wrong.

Quote:

2. Reading is an act of complete submission to the will of the art.
In the first instance it is submission to the art itself, not to the 'will' of the Art (I'm not sure 'art can be said to have a 'will' of its own, so I'm not entirely sure what you mean here.)

Quote:

3. therefore, any breaking of the enchantment is the fault of the reader
Any breaking of true enchantment - ie where the author has successfully achieved the goal of true sub creation - would be the result of the reader breaking the spell. Well, assuming the author himself doesn't deliberately break it.

H
Quote:

ow do we know who a Supreme Author is? Any author who manages to attract one reader for whom the enchantment is not broken.
'Supreme author' is not a phrase I've used - because I'm not sure what it means.

Quote:

Even if readers begin with the complete, utter, honest and sincere attempt to submit to be raptured, if anything happens to break that rapture, by definition it is always the fault of the reader. Readers are obviously fallen creatures and the Supreme Author is omnipotent.
See answer to point 1

Quote:

Originally Posted by Fordim Hedgethistle

There are parts of the story in which I find the writing itself to be somewhat stilted (the Professor can get carried away with his high-style at time, particularly in RotK: all those "and lo!" and hyperbolic similes) and these moments tend to shake my immersion in the world, simply because I shift away from the story itself to the manner of its writing.



The Reader in this case obviously lacks the desire to submit to everything as story by bringing in baggage such as aesthetic style.
But I don't find parts of it 'stilted', & nor do many other readers, therefore Fordim is stating a personal opinion, not an objective 'fact'. Fordim is bringing personal 'baggage' to his reading of the text & so to his experience of the 'art'.

Quote:

And for those readers who choose to bring precaution with them on this night of seduction, well, we all know that certain forms of control have been declared WRONG as interfering with the Supreme Author's Will to choose who and when ideas are propagated.
Well, if one is not prepared to take risks in order to experience enchantment one cannot really complain if one remains unenchanted, can one? Though I realise that shutting up for 5 minutes & submitting oneself to a work of art in order for it to work its effect on one is a truly terrifying prospect & this is why I support the proposal that all art galleries display health warnings & that parental guidance stickers be applied to Bach cd's.

drigel 05-18-2005 08:22 AM

QUOTE]Readers are obviously fallen creatures and the Supreme Author is omnipotent.[/QUOTE]

yikes
So, if I submit to the enchantment I am weak willed? Or perhaps I am just to simple?
wow that sounds exactly like the academics and peers of Tolkien at the time of publication doesnt it? hmmm good thing the students got it..

I sit here in my studio with a pen and a blank piece of paper. You better believe I am the Supreme Author! I didnt make the paper or construct the pen, but the potential universe is all mine to create or destroy.

Nobody is perfect, author or reader. One can read the work one way or another. I daresay most on this site can maintain multiple frames of minds simultaniously when reading LOTR, as the threads show. I was under the impression this thread was about enchantment, not interpretation, values or judements. Methinks the whole point of the author avoiding allegory is being lost here...

Holbytlass 05-18-2005 08:36 AM

I feel the same as Mormegil about the elves in TH being different from LOTR. I always had 'glossed over' that part. I now thank Celuien for her/his idea about 'madbaggins' telling the story. I like it and works for me so I'm keeping it.
My head is reeling from the debate and I feel it is too far above me. LittleManPoet did give warning.
I appreciate all points being said but then I don't care. Allow me to explain...
Nothing being said as to where the responsibility lies is going to effect me. I am at a level where I can easily shrug off the real world and immerse into a 'secondary belief'. Of course, it helps when the artist is good at what they do. I will wholeheartedly agree that my simple and very gullible mind allows me to do this. Others have a way of thinking that is analitical and deep that may not allow them to completely immerse. There is nothing wrong with either.
I suppose that is what makes Tolkien such a genius to me because his writings have enraptured a broad-spectrum of thinkers. Of course, not everyone is one way of thinking. I'm simple-minded but not stupid. There may be those out there who feel sorry for me, don't. Because there are plenty of deep thinkers who I feel sorry for because they can't let something (i.e. a story) just be.
Examples that people have given to their disenchantment I find very interesting.


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