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Old 06-26-2007, 04:37 PM   #315
davem
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Originally Posted by Thenamir
The very point I've been trying to make, so far unsuccessfully, is not that such cultural minutia is non-existent (though it might be), but that whether or not it exists it is irrelevant to the enjoyment and understanding of the story as Tolkien intended it for a worldwide audience.
Its not 'irrelevant' if Tolkien put it in. Look at the nasturtians vs. nasturtiums thing. Its not a major theme in the book, & the bigger themes are accessible to everyone. But the little things which are interesting & enlightening in their own way too. If Tolkien had only wanted to focus on the big things there would be no Hobbits in the book.

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I have read all the foregoing posts about the varying interpretations of the noonday meal versus the evening meal, and come away not only unconvinced one way or the other, but reduced to a frustrating apathy about it. To me, if Tolkien had intended to make some kind of statement about the English classes, he was possessed of the wit, vocabulary, and intelligence to make it as obvious as he desired in the text, something that would be readily discerned in whatever language into which LOTR might be translated. The fact that it is not obvious (as shown by the fact that it has to be dragged through such pointed discussion) demonstrates to my own satisfaction that the niceties of meal timing were not uppermost in the author's intents.
Well, first of all, to me it is glaringly obvious - it screams out. But it wouldn't necessarily do so to a non-English reader. Look, this isn't about whether the mid-day meal is called dinner or lunch. Its about who calls the mid day meal what. 'Lunch' is a term used by one class & 'dinner' is used by another class. And for the record Bilbo & Frodo are certainly not the same class as Merry & Pippin. Merry & Pippin are the closest the Shire has to an upper class, yet they are clearly not 'upper class' in the sense that Aragorn, Elrond & Galadriel are - they are 'Gentry'. Bilbo & Frodo are middle-class - but of a particular kind - Bilbo in particular is a one-nation Tory & Frodo shows much the same inclinations. M&P, to my mind, are Blairites - which is why they will adopt a neologism like 'lunch' over 'dinner', because they are 'trendy liberals' - or like to think of themselves so (as long as they can keep their nice stuff & give orders to the lower orders when necessary. Bilbo & Frodo, like Sam & the Gaffer, will favour older terms like 'dinner'. Its not about the words, but about who is speaking them. Hence, these terms are not 'interchangeable'.

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LOTR is a genius fantasy with soaring overarching themes: Justice, mercy, defeat, triumph, comradeship, loyalty, honor, courage...and here we are consuming prodigious quantities of Net bandwidth discussing the definition of "dinner". PUH-lease, do you not see the absurdity of it?
Hobbits are 'absurd'. And in a sense that is the real point. Tolkien points up their absurdity repeatedly. 'We can't live too long on the heights'.
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Justice, mercy, defeat, triumph, comradeship, loyalty, honor, courage.
Yes, yes. The Sil is full of that - & there's no arguing about whether its lunch or dinner in there.....only thing is The Sil doesn't touch our hearts in the way LotR does. If you look at the greats of English literature - from Chaucer down through Austen to the Brontes & Hardy, you'll find subtle commentaries on social mores - & I dare say most readers miss out on a lot of them, or dismiss them as irrelevant to the bigger points the author is making.

Everything in LotR is in there because Tolkien chose to put in there. To say 'I acknowledge it's there, but it doesn't interest me' is fine. To say 'It's not there' when it clearly is is not. Hobbits are not Numenoreans - ie they are not some kind of mid Atlantic race & The Shire is not the 51st State. It is an idealised (though not perfect) representation of the rural England Tolkien knew as a child - with its class differences, its language & its values. You can't simply dismiss that. Now, once the Shire is left behind we enter a more universal, historical/mythical world. This is not about staking a claim to Tolkien's work - its about acknowledging the sources Tolkien drew on.

Last edited by davem; 06-26-2007 at 04:43 PM.
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