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Old 06-08-2018, 03:46 PM   #20
R.R.J Tolkien
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R.R.J Tolkien has just left Hobbiton.
Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
Request: Is it possible to move this thread to The Books or Novices and Newcomers? It seems like it would fit better there.

Opening Disclaimer: The original question was what Tolkien believed about the creation of the Earth. A second question of how closely he matched his writings to that belief. Actual discussion of the truth or otherwise of these beliefs isn't relevant, and I for one won't be addressing it.

With that said:

R.R.J. Tolkien, I think you're confusing Morthoron with skip spence here. Skip was also mostly just stating what Tolkien did and felt, rather than their own beliefs; while this did slip over into an assertion ('strong scientific evidence'), the majority of what they said was just a summary of Tolkien's thoughts as seen in Myths Transformed (which is indeed in Morgoth's Ring).

Thanks for the correction and i did apologize to Morthoron, good catch sir thanks.

Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
Okay, moving on, I've been rooting through Letters to see what I can find.

Letter 96

Letter 96, as quoted at length by R.R.J., is very clear that Tolkien believed in a literal Fall of Man, and in a historic 'Edenic state' for humanity. Whether this was a garden at the source of four rivers where the first two humans lived in harmony with the animals, or an innocent 'childhood' in the East African Rift Valley (per Legate), isn't strictly clear from the letter; however, Tolkien definitely comes across as thinking the Genesis account is a myth based on a distant reality.

He was answering a question to his son about the reality of the garden and fall as many had rejected it, Tolkien stated he did believe this "myth" [so called] and that from the christian biblical perspective. I think that is clear from the letter. However this does not make him a young earth creationist as another poster pointed out.

Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
Letter 153

Letter 153 is a response to a Catholic reader arguing that many things Tolkien did were theologically unsound. It actually has very little bearing on the questions at hand, but does contain this:

The specific reference here is reincarnation, but I find it interesting that Tolkien appears at least open to the possibility that there is other intelligent life in the universe than humanity. Still not strictly relevant, but interesting.
I think this has nothing to do with life outside of the universe, but reincarnation of a hypothetical created being by god.

Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
Letter 169

It surprises me just how scathing Tolkien can be about scientific theories, while at the same time accepting them. This comment is typical: he simultaneously refers to them as 'imaginations', while saying he wishes he'd adhered more closely to them!

Agreed, just the reason I wish a in depth book was written on the subject. I think he might have been saying the "imaginations or theories of the geologists" [evolution long ages] is just that, but that he wanted his middle earth in the third age to match more closely the accepted geography of the past by the majority of geologist.

Letter 211

Pterodactyl. Yes and no. I did not intend the steed of the Witch-King to be what is now called a 'pterodactyl', and often is drawn (with rather less shadowy evidence than lies behind many monsters of the new and fascinating semi-scientific mythology of the 'Prehistoric'). But obviously it is pterodactylic and owes much to the new mythology, and its description even provides a sort of way in which it could be a last survivor of older geological eras.5[/]quote]

We encounter again Tolkien's use of the word 'myth' to describe events he believe happened, but were not recorded directly (same usage as for Genesis). This is proof that he was dubious of the specific science of paleontology - but also that he accepted the reality of 'older geological ages' from which a pterosaur-like creature could have sprung. This is similar to the 'elephant of prehistoric size' in Letters 64, though of course the mammoth is much more recent (there were extant mammoths 4000 years ago, which is well into actual, written historical time!).

Agreed this is why i am confused on the issue. He says "semi-scientific mythology of the 'Prehistoric'" and yet seems to accept old ages. This is why i think he was likely some form of old earth creationist. Of course the evolution interpretation could be the "mythology" while the prehsitoric, could be the ages, thus a old earth creationist. Wish I could ask him.

Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
Letter 324

I think this goes a long way towards explaining what's up with Tolkien's viewpoint: he was, first and foremost, a literary thinker. His own writings were 'sub-creations'; any account of pre-history was 'mythology', whether scientific or religious; and the most interesting thing about ancient super-continents was the 'poetry' of their names.

Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
Myths Transformed

The major changes Tolkien wanted to make during the 'Myths Transformed' period, late in his life, were: removing the flat earth period; making the sun (and moon) older than Middle-earth; moving the Awakening of Men back to around the time of the Awakening of the Elves (so that Melkor could corrupt them in person); making Melkor more of an immanent force for evil in the world, and less a single figure; dramatically lengthening the timeline.

On this last point: Tolkien lengthened a Valian Year from ~10 solar years to precisely 144, multiplying the age of Middle-earth by nearly 15. If we assume the timeline here was still valid, then the two Awakenings would have taken place some 650,000 years after Creation. It was then some 72,000 years to the Return of the Noldor, and (from other sources) a good 13,000 years from then to the present day.

Under Tolkien's late ideas, then, Middle-earth is 'now' around 750 thousand years old, and the 'Edenic state' of mankind lies nearly 100,000 years in the past.

I remember that the round-earth, old-sun changes were made to accord with the facts of the Real World (I think at the same time he made the Earth orbit the Sun, rather than the reverse); I don't remember whether the age change was stated to be for the same reason.

Interesting, I cannot comment until i have read it but thanks.

Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
The Silmarillion - Nordic or Christian?

Both, obviously. ^_^

Unlike Lewis in The Magician's Nephew, Tolkien never set out to write an allegory for Genesis, or for any other part of the Bible. There are Christian themes and images in Middle-earth - a great many of them, as R.R.J. cites. There are also a lot of Norse themes and images: Tolkien mentions that Smaug is based on Fafnir (Letters 122), that the Dagor Dagorath is more like Ragnarök than 'anything else' (Letters 131), the name and character of Frodo (Letters 168), that Tom Bombadil makes use of some Nibelung material (Letters 237 & 240), Mirkwood (Letters 289), the dwarves (Letters 297)... I'm sure there are many more.

Perhaps the most relevant quote I've found on this matter is Tolkien's comments on Hitler, in Letter 45:

The 'northern spirit', and the Nordic tales, were noble, and worthy of a lifetime of study. Per Letters 15, the very existence of the Silmarillion lent the later stories a 'northern atmosphere'. And Tolkien felt that they could only be improved by being 'sanctified and Christianised'.

Thus the Valar, Norse-style gods in all but name, are viewed through a lens of Christianity, and become angels; the invocations to Elbereth have resonances with Catholic prayers to the saints or indeed Mary to intercede on their behalf; and Gandalf is simultaneously an 'Odinic wanderer' and an angel in the style of Raphael, who met Tobiah on the road and travelled with him.

Tolkien's work doesn't set up a 'Christian good, Pagan bad' dichotomy; rather, it takes both bodies of mythology as sources, and blends them together with linguistics and his own imaginings. It's true that you're more likely to find 'bad' Nordic themes than Christian ones, but there are also many 'good' Nordic-inspired ideas in Middle-earth. Tolkien took it all and cooked up something truly unique, that - as Morthoron said - can be appreciated by anyone, Christian or otherwise.


PS: That said, I find this quote very baffling:

I think you are spot on sir, good post.

Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
Staffs associated with Moses have the following powers: turning into snakes, producing water by hitting rocks (which Moses was punished for!), parting oceans, sprouting into trees, and securing victory over enemy armies.

Gandalf's staff... does none of these, nor anything like them. Unless the point Birzer is making is 'neither staff has any actual power, because it all comes from God', I'm not at all sure what he's trying to say.

Good question. I think as you stated, the power originates from eru and not from magic spells. I have not read that in awhile.
“I am a Christian, that fact can be deduced from my stories.”
-J.R.R Tolkien
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