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Old 12-03-2002, 08:32 AM   #31
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Earthsea, or London
Posts: 175
Kalessin has just left Hobbiton.

Estel, Sharon

It is something of the ambiguity and universality of Tolkien's work that it lends itself so readily to the supposition of, if not allegory, a 'weighted' symbolism - and equally to the refutation by reference to any of the vast array and diversity of arguably symbolic elements it contains, and indeed the eclectic inspirations cited by the author.

At the risk of repeating myself (this thread repeatedly intertwines with Trilogy and Bible [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]), this aspect of narrative or symbolic archetype, upon which it is possible to project both a personal and particular cultural interpretation, is surely also an essence of myth - timeless embodiments that resonate within collective memory and understanding, and which we can intuitively accept and empathise with.

In a sense, Tolkien could have been said to have succeeded in creating a 'true myth'.

On the other hand, we have not only Estel's arguments but the comments of Tolkien himself - it is impossible to refute that to some degree, in conception and revision, he consciously applied a sensibility and perhaps more that was a reflection of his own faith. The fact that so much of this could equally be a reflection of other faiths, or indeed secular humanism in some instances, does not diminish this.

However (and I have had fairly bruising arguments about this before here), my contention is that this conscious and unconscious reflection of faith is NOT central to each reader's experience of the work. The implications behind my contention are -

1. A devoutly Christian (or RC) reader does not stand to get more from the work, or to be somehow closer to it, or understand it more fully, or appreciate it more deeply, simply because Tolkien was a Christian and the work to some degree reflects his sensibilities. The Kabbalah, or the Gospels, and so on, are explicitly faith-centred narratives, yet even they are subject to the reader, regardless of that readers' culture or belief. Only "he who has ears" will hear, belonging to one club or other makes no difference.

2. Projecting the assumed persona of the author onto all aspects of one's experience of the work is a diminishing of art, and the uniqueness of the creative act. It means the experience is fettered by all those considerations that affect our dealings with people we think we know, and worse, that the reader imprisons his/her own imagination within 'received wisdom'. Tolkien himself clearly said that these were stories, and could (and should) be taken as just as little or as much as that.

In the end, none of us can have it all our own way. An atheist cannot say that LotR is not a spiritual book, but that need not affect his/her experience. A Christian cannot say that Tolkien belongs to or arises from Christianity alone, but can still experience the book as a Christian reader with all the resonance they can perceive. An aesthetic purist (or something [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img], just go with me here) cannot say that the work is not suffused with the author's own psyche, but their reading of it can still be a unique, personal and unfettered experience.

And I - well, I can't say Sharon is wrong, but I also agree with Estel. And rather than admit I'm just a serial ditherer, I would come back to the universality and ambiguity that in some ways are - whether consciously and unconsciously - one aspect of Tolkien's great achievement.

Peace [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]


[ December 03, 2002: Message edited by: Kalessin ]
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