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Old 05-20-2005, 02:50 AM   #66
Illustrious Ulair
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Location: In the home of lost causes, and forsaken beliefs, and unpopular names,and impossible loyalties
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davem is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.davem is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
First, Tolkien says in his letters over and over again that his Middle-earth is NOT utterly different from our own world, but feigned history of an era in this world. Second, whereas the Shire is obviously part of the feigned history, it serves as a sort of mediation between the primary world and the rest of Middle-earth.
Well, it does for some of us. I find it interesting that while the book begins in the quiet of the Shire the movie doesn't. Of course the book has the prologue, whiich gives us some background history & scene setting, but our first entry into Middle earth is via the Shire - in fact, as I pointed out in the cbc discussion first of all we 'hear' the voice of the storyteller, then we hear the voices of some secondary characters, & thirdly we get some descriptions of the actual place - & this 'place' is (for some of us) 'homelike'. Well, to be more precise its like things used to be. But that doesn't apply to every reader. I suppose for many readers the Shire is just as fantastical a place as Rohan or Lorien.

Now, Tolkien may have intended that the Shire serve as 'a sort of mediation between the primary world and the rest of Middle-earth' but it won't serve that purpose for every reader, so it has to convince us of its reality within Middle earth - it can't simply be a 'framing device' like the Wardrobe or a spaceship.

So, it must be possible, initially, to just experience the Shire as a part of the Secondary World or it will not convince us of its secondary reality - it will come across as simply a means to the end of getting us from the primary to the secondary world. We shouldn't need to bring any prior knowledge or experience to the secondary world in order that it be understandable to us - our experiences (our baggage) should not be required. So, we can just listen to the story being told - no listener will be in a superior position, or better able to experience the story, or have a greater or lesser capacity to be enchanted. In short, whatever your accademic backkground, however 'smart' you are,however many books you've read, you won't be in a superior position to any other reader/listener.

Secondly, you can begin to analyse what the author wished to do. Was the approach Tolkien took in presenting the Shire (rather than the Shire itself) intended to serve as a framing device, or to serve a mediatory role by being shown as not all that different from the primary world? Was he making some kind of 'political' statement about how things were better 'once upon a time'? Or is he trying to communicate what he considers to be the 'spirit of the ordinary English person', etc, etc. Is he making use of old beliefs, or trying to account for old traditions - the Shire was established by Marcho & Blanco, England by Hengist & Horsa, etc. Is he making philological 'in jokes' - the name Durin literally meant 'doorward' & the secret door in the mountainside opens magically when the last light of the sun on Durin's day hits the keyhole, etc.

That's all very interesting stuff, but doesn't add to the enchantment. In fact, the more of that stuff you are aware of, particularly if you have it in the forefront of your mind as you read, the less likely you will be to fully enter into the secondary world & be enchanted. The same goes for too much awareness of literary technique - if you're constantly analysing the way the story is written you'll never fully immerse yourself in the world the words are creating.

Finally, you can start analysing your own responses, bringing in your own feelings, memories & education, all the stuff you've learned & has made you the person you are.

Now, I know some will immediatley respond to this by saying that it is the 'person we are' that reads the book, so what I've placed third should (indeed must) come first. I can see this argument, but I think the approach I've described is the one we should strive for - even if we fail to fully achieve it. Also, I have to say that if the art, the secondary world, is sufficiently 'enchanting' we'll find it less of a struggle to do it.

Last edited by davem; 05-20-2005 at 02:59 AM.
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