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Old 07-03-2014, 11:07 AM   #25
Curmudgeonly Wordwraith
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Join Date: Jun 2007
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Morthoron is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Morthoron is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Morthoron is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Morthoron is lost in the dark paths of Moria.
Originally Posted by Mithalwen View Post
It is a valid topic but it could have been phrased better without the assumptions... an observation not an attack nb. It is a very complex though since individual readers of Tolkien are going to be at different points on various spectrums that may have a factor in their understanding and appreciationof different aspects of Tolkien's work.

Then belief and understanding are not the same.Nor perhaps are understanding and knowledge -the distinction the French make between savoir and connaître. I haven't lost my knowledge and understanding of religion with my loss of faith.

Yes things will be more obvious or resonate if they chime with one's own experience Having roots in the same part of England may help my appreciation, or. y fascination with language but does that count for more than a Finn or Norse scholar's familiarity with the Kalevala and Eddas? Maybe the mathmagicians could work out a formula to decide if a sincere but otherwise ignorant believer has a deeper appreciation than a learned atheist, but it does rather head towards a method acting approach to literary appreciation. It is rather insulting to the human powers of imagination and empathy to think you have to be like the author or stories have to be "relatable". Stories let us try on another's life, another worldview, lead us to find out more and perhaps thereby increase in understanding and compassion.

Not forgetting of course that as our lives may affect our understanding of books, books may affect our understanding of our lives. I don't quite have a "What would Elrond do?" wristband but I discovered Mordor takes many forms.
What irked me originally was the fallacious assumption that an atheist cannot comprehend Tolkien's symbology. People aren't born atheist, any more than they are born Catholic (ignoring Monty Python's song implying you're Catholic the moment dad did his duty with mum). It is based on your experience and most often on your familial background.

I was raised a Catholic -- yes, laughably, the Dark Elf was even an altar boy and an acolyte up to age 11 -- and I went to Catholic school. I understand Catholic dogma, and as a medievalist I have researched the Church and its doctrines moreso than many adherents who wash up and go to mass on Sunday, whether they need to or not.

I understand Tolkien's applicability and his Catholicism, but I reject Catholic doctrines in a real-life worldview; after all, isn't it the running joke that most atheists were once Catholics? I reject the Catholic worldview in reality, just as I reject the idea of a benevolent deity floating about benignly in the ether spraying his blessings about while mankind commits genocide. That, however, does not mean I cannot appreciate the deftness by which Tolkien built his subcreation.

On the contrary, and as I stated before, his is a synthesis of varying mythos that is transformative and unique in all of literature. His creation outdoes the biblical version in beauty and awe. It is great as a myth goes, just as there are great myths in the Eddas and Sagas, the Grecian works of Homer and Plato, the Mabingion, the Finnish Kalavela and the bible. And to really understand Tolkien, you must have a grasp of all these to truly appreciate his Middle-earth. But you don't have to accept Elves or Trolls as being real to appreciate it, any more than you have to accept Eru as the monotheistic god of Christianity.
And your little sister's immaculate virginity wings away on the bony shoulders of a young horse named George who stole surreptitiously into her geography revision.
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