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Old 07-15-2016, 12:23 PM   #1
Aaron
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The New Shadow - Your thoughts?

What do you guys think about the aborted story, The New Shadow, which Tolkien puttered about with? Do you think it would have made for good reading? How do you think the story would have panned out?

For myself, when I first learned of the story, I was very impressed, but also unnerved by the implications of it. After everything the Fellowship fought for, all the tragedies of their lives and the hard won peace they attained, there's something chilling about evil creeping back in - from men themselves, forgetting all which had been at stake, and basically rendering all those sacrifices utterly pointless.

Honestly, I view Tolkien as a very positive writer, but the story sounds very tragic.
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Old 07-15-2016, 12:53 PM   #2
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To me, the finished product could have been entirely too 'real'.

To even the less cynical among us, the periodic struggles of humankind, defeats followed by triumphs, war followed by eventual peace, are daily life, as are the inevitable slides back to the darker times. People are seemingly bored by peace, and I think NS just brings that fact to the forefront even among the noblest, most 'blessed' kingdom of Men in Middle-earth.

This brings to mind another recent thread that explored the reasons for reading Tolkien. The New Shadow would have possessed an entirely different spirit than the other Middle-earth centered works. It would ground one right back to this world after 'living' in another, and wouldn't that somewhat taint the entire Tolkien experience?
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Old 07-15-2016, 01:24 PM   #3
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What do you guys think about the aborted story, The New Shadow, which Tolkien puttered about with? Do you think it would have made for good reading? How do you think the story would have panned out?
I think it would have made interesting reading. I have no idea how it would have turned out except Tolkien implies that the conspiracy would have been unmasked and defeated somehow in the end.

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For myself, when I first learned of the story, I was very impressed, but also unnerved by the implications of it. After everything the Fellowship fought for, all the tragedies of their lives and the hard won peace they attained, there's something chilling about evil creeping back in - from men themselves, forgetting all which had been at stake, and basically rendering all those sacrifices utterly pointless.
But this is inevitable and unsurprising. Even Gandalf alluded to this during the Council of Elrond (I think) and during his “I am also a steward” speech. Each generation had to (and still has to) fight the fight in its own time and then hand off the results to the next generation.

And it was clearly not pointless. Sauron was defeated and diminished to the point where he could not take form again. After that point, no physical incarnation of primeval evil would be able to manifest and attempt to dominate and tyrannize over the world. That is a pretty significant positive thing I think.

The New Shadow forms the background of this mod to Rome: Total War...which I never grow tired of stumping for.
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To me, the finished product could have been entirely too 'real'.

To even the less cynical among us, the periodic struggles of humankind, defeats followed by triumphs, war followed by eventual peace, are daily life, as are the inevitable slides back to the darker times. People are seemingly bored by peace, and I think NS just brings that fact to the forefront even among the noblest, most 'blessed' kingdom of Men in Middle-earth.

This brings to mind another recent thread that explored the reasons for reading Tolkien. The New Shadow would have possessed an entirely different spirit than the other Middle-earth centered works. It would ground one right back to this world after 'living' in another, and wouldn't that somewhat taint the entire Tolkien experience?
So you disagree with George R. R. Martin’s impulse of wanting to explore a more “realistic” Middle-earth? Martin has cited several times one of his inspirations being wanting to explore what life under Elessar’s rule would have been like, tax policy and so forth. Do you not think that a worthwhile endeavor?

On a side note, the New Shadow forms the basis for this mod of Rome: Total War...which I never grow tired of stumping for.
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Old 07-15-2016, 01:38 PM   #4
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So you disagree with George R. R. Martin’s impulse of wanting to explore a more “realistic” Middle-earth? Martin has cited several times one of his inspirations being wanting to explore what life under Elessar’s rule would have been like, tax policy and so forth. Do you not think that a worthwhile endeavor?
Well, I've never read Martin, so I can't speak to how that worked out.
Don't misunderstand; it's not that I have my head in the sand, stupidly certain that everything was happily ever after for our LOTR heroes and their descendants.
As you note, Gandalf himself had no illusions that with Sauron's fall evil would be forever vanquished. However, knowing that academically and seeing it played out, especially so soon after the LOTR events would to me have been disheartening.

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On a side note, the New Shadow forms the basis for this mod of Rome: Total War...which I never grow tired of stumping for.
Go for it!
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Old 07-15-2016, 04:02 PM   #5
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1) GRR Martin's desire to explore a "More Realistic" Middle-earth did not really work. Discovering a "More Realistic" Middle-earth is possible, but it needs to be approached on Tolkien's terms, where the various mechanisms that drive it differ slightly from our world.

GRR Martin rejected a great many things in Middle-earth that rather significantly affect the operation of the societies and peoples within Middle-earth. He did not look for what Tolkien described as the 'underlying postulates,' or a 'coherent theological and metaphysical system' that formed a foundation of Middle-earth (Morgoth's Ring p. x). Rather, he assumed an identity with our world's Foundational Sciences and Knowledge, and then forced them on Middle-earth, rejecting those parts of Middle-earth that did not fit our Sciences. When he should have been looking for a function of our Sciences as they apply to Middle-earth: What do we know about the relationships of Matter-Energy in our world, and in Middle-earth, and what would be True within Middle-earth for it to be how it is given what we know.

So his works don't show a "More Realistic" Middle-earth at all. What they show is his own cynicism regarding other's beliefs about the world.

I do not believe what Tolkien believed about the world, Catholicism, Good/Evil, God, etc.

But I can LEARN what Tolkien believed well enough to be able to give as good an account of it as any Catholic, and thus understand the many WHYS of Middle-earth (although my primary interest is in the HOWS and WHATS of Middle-earth). GRR Martin missed that distinction. He totally dismissed the possibility that Middle-earth operated the way it did because of those "Hows" and "Whats," and thus he rejected that Middle-earth could be the way that it was, and instead showed something with really no relation to Middle-earth save for some Dragons (which are closer to Pern's or Moorcock's Melnibonéan Dragons than they are to the Morgoth-made Dragons of Middle-earth), and some Zombies for which we have no real parallel in Middle-earth (unless it has to do with an unexplored feature of Sauron as "Necromancer").

He has made a very compelling Fantasy World. But it is more "Our world with some Fantasy Elements welded onto it" than it is a "More realistic Middle-earth."

2) The New Shadow was a worthy effort. But as Tolkien observed, it would ultimately have been nothing but a Thriller, unmasking a Satanic Cult that had sprung up within Middle-earth (Morgothism arising again).

And ultimately, it would probably have been someone like Shagrat behind the whole thing (A surviving, long-lived Orc, who tried to set up their own little petty-kingdom in imitation of the Greater Dark-Lords of Old). Or perhaps it was one of the Blue Wizards, who had wandered off into the East, and been captured by Sauron, long ago, and perverted to his ends.

We simply don't know (and the lines of speculation toward that end are endless).

I was greatly intrigued by it, but more solely from the respects of revealing more of the typical life within Gondor.

And it is sad that Tolkien abandoned it as not being worthwhile. It was a worthwhile exploration of the lives of the ordinary people within Middle-earth.

But Tolkien seems to have been a little fearful of approaching the ordinary people of Middle-earth too closely.

MB
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Old 07-16-2016, 11:09 PM   #6
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I've had occasion to say this before, but I'm rather ambivalent about "The New Shadow". Like the Ring itself, it is dangerously seductive in a kind of meta-way. It's very intriguing and atmospheric, especially the end, so that part of me wishes Tolkien had continued- yet I believe he was artistically right not to do so. Not only would it be anticlimactic, I think that it would have potentially pushed Tolkien's work in the direction of one of those typical endless fantasy "sagas" where sequel after anaemic sequel gets churned out long after every trace of creativity has dried up.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Tolkien would ever have become that kind of hack, but as I say I think it could have been a step in that direction. And yes, he would have done it well and we would have lapped it up and come up with all kinds of high-sounding justifications about Realism and The Cyclic Nature of History- but deep in our fanboy souls we would have known. We would have known that magic, like the Elves, had departed from Middle-earth. We would have felt the Morgul Blade of Doubt driving its icy way towards our hearts, threatening to draw us into the Wraith World where all is faint and pale and wavery.

But don't mind me folks, I'm just your friendly neighbourhood intellectual snob who looks down on 90% of fantasy anyway, including most of the things you all love.

One thing's for sure, even what we've got could still become the basis for a great Hollywood Sequel to the LotR films. Might happen yet!
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Old 07-16-2016, 11:19 PM   #7
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I've had occasion to say this before, but I'm rather ambivalent about "The New Shadow". Like the Ring itself, it is dangerously seductive in a kind of meta-way. It's very intriguing and atmospheric, especially the end, so that part of me wishes Tolkien had continued- yet I believe he was artistically right not to do so. Not only would it be anticlimactic, I think that it would have potentially pushed Tolkien's work in the direction of one of those typical endless fantasy "sagas" where sequel after anaemic sequel gets churned out long after every trace of creativity has dried up.
I agree here.

While I am intensely curious about the pure History of Middle-earth (beyond the Myths and Epics surrounding the Heroes), I think that this story could have wound up pulling Tolkien down a rabbit hole where he would not have produced anything of real substance.

It is just an area where his talents would have been wasted compared to detailing more fundamental aspects of Middle-earth, which he seemed to have a preference toward in his later days as it were.

MB
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Old 07-17-2016, 08:17 AM   #8
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Well, I've never read Martin, so I can't speak to how that worked out.
You aren't missing as much as current pop culture would have you believe.

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So his works don't show a "More Realistic" Middle-earth at all. What they show is his own cynicism regarding other's beliefs about the world.
I couldn't agree with you more on that one.

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He has made a very compelling Fantasy World. But it is more "Our world with some Fantasy Elements welded onto it" than it is a "More realistic Middle-earth."
I agree with this as well, although on the whole I don't find Martin's world that compelling. Westeros is well constructed (for the most part) but the further east he goes the more bizarre and implausible it becomes. His world is one hundred miles wide but an inch deep.

He does craft a better world than most other fantasy authors, but that is more a condemnation of them rather than an endorsement of him.
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Old 07-17-2016, 05:28 PM   #9
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1) GRR Martin's desire to explore a "More Realistic" Middle-earth did not really work. Discovering a "More Realistic" Middle-earth is possible, but it needs to be approached on Tolkien's terms, where the various mechanisms that drive it differ slightly from our world.

GRR Martin rejected a great many things in Middle-earth that rather significantly affect the operation of the societies and peoples within Middle-earth. He did not look for what Tolkien described as the 'underlying postulates,' or a 'coherent theological and metaphysical system' that formed a foundation of Middle-earth (Morgoth's Ring p. x). Rather, he assumed an identity with our world's Foundational Sciences and Knowledge, and then forced them on Middle-earth, rejecting those parts of Middle-earth that did not fit our Sciences. When he should have been looking for a function of our Sciences as they apply to Middle-earth: What do we know about the relationships of Matter-Energy in our world, and in Middle-earth, and what would be True within Middle-earth for it to be how it is given what we know.

So his works don't show a "More Realistic" Middle-earth at all. What they show is his own cynicism regarding other's beliefs about the world.

I do not believe what Tolkien believed about the world, Catholicism, Good/Evil, God, etc.

But I can LEARN what Tolkien believed well enough to be able to give as good an account of it as any Catholic, and thus understand the many WHYS of Middle-earth (although my primary interest is in the HOWS and WHATS of Middle-earth). GRR Martin missed that distinction. He totally dismissed the possibility that Middle-earth operated the way it did because of those "Hows" and "Whats," and thus he rejected that Middle-earth could be the way that it was, and instead showed something with really no relation to Middle-earth save for some Dragons (which are closer to Pern's or Moorcock's Melnibonéan Dragons than they are to the Morgoth-made Dragons of Middle-earth), and some Zombies for which we have no real parallel in Middle-earth (unless it has to do with an unexplored feature of Sauron as "Necromancer").

He has made a very compelling Fantasy World. But it is more "Our world with some Fantasy Elements welded onto it" than it is a "More realistic Middle-earth."

2) The New Shadow was a worthy effort. But as Tolkien observed, it would ultimately have been nothing but a Thriller, unmasking a Satanic Cult that had sprung up within Middle-earth (Morgothism arising again).

And ultimately, it would probably have been someone like Shagrat behind the whole thing (A surviving, long-lived Orc, who tried to set up their own little petty-kingdom in imitation of the Greater Dark-Lords of Old). Or perhaps it was one of the Blue Wizards, who had wandered off into the East, and been captured by Sauron, long ago, and perverted to his ends.

We simply don't know (and the lines of speculation toward that end are endless).

I was greatly intrigued by it, but more solely from the respects of revealing more of the typical life within Gondor.

And it is sad that Tolkien abandoned it as not being worthwhile. It was a worthwhile exploration of the lives of the ordinary people within Middle-earth.

But Tolkien seems to have been a little fearful of approaching the ordinary people of Middle-earth too closely.

MB
I agree with your analysis and the differences between Tolkien's myths and the writings of GRRM.

This is a clip from a documentary and reenacts one of the great philosophical debates between Tolkien and Lewis and fairly well encapsulates Tolkien view on the origin and truth of myths and their relation to the metaphysical world.

I imagine this is quite different from how GRRM creates his stories and places them within the world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzBT39gx-TE
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Old 07-17-2016, 10:35 PM   #10
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I saw that "Debate."

And I am more than a little suspicious of it's motives, and how closely it mirrors Truth, given the respective participants, and the words it puts in the mouths of the participants.

To me it seems a little too much like Evangelical Opportunism and propaganda.

It does touch upon differences between GRRM and Tolkien (however ephemerally).

But I am talking about something much less abstract than is inferred in the video.

MB
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Old 07-18-2016, 07:00 AM   #11
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I saw that "Debate."

And I am more than a little suspicious of it's motives, and how closely it mirrors Truth, given the respective participants, and the words it puts in the mouths of the participants.

To me it seems a little too much like Evangelical Opportunism and propaganda.

It does touch upon differences between GRRM and Tolkien (however ephemerally).

But I am talking about something much less abstract than is inferred in the video.

MB
I understand your point in that it was produced by the Catholic church but it doesn't negate the fact the Lewis and Tolkien friendship is well known for these deep discussions on the nature of life and creation.

My understanding is this was observed by one of their other friends and Tolkien and Lewis had many such discussions over the course of their friendship.

I imagine it was in part Tolkien's friendship and these kind of discussions that moved Lewis from Atheism to deep spirituality and books like A Grief Observed and Mere Christianity and other like writings later in his life.
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Old 07-21-2016, 08:05 AM   #12
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The Eye I like this thread

I like this thread, and feel I first need to put down what Tolkien is recorded (by himself) as saying about the abortive work.

In Letter 256 of the published Letters, dated 13th May 1964, sent to Colin Bailey, Tolkien said that the work 'proved both sinister and depressing'. As it was dealing with Men, it was inevitable that they should be concerned with 'the most regrettable feature of their nature: their quick satiety with good'. He went on to say this:

So that the people of Gondor in times of peace, justice and prosperity, would become discontented and restless - while the dynasts descended from Aragorn would become just kings and governors - like Denethor or worse. I found that even so early there was an outcrop of revolutionary plots, about a centre of secret Satanic religion; while Gondorian boys were playing at being Orcs and going around doing damage. I could have written a 'thriller' about the plot and its discovery and overthrow - but it would be just that. Not worth doing.

In a later letter, of 6th June 1972 to Father Douglas Carter, Letter 338 of those published, Tolkien had this to say about the work:

the beginning of a tale supposed to refer to the end of the reign of Eldaron about 100 years after the death of Aragorn. Then I of course discovered that the King's Peace would contain no tales worth recounting; and his wars would have little interest after the overthrow of Sauron; but that almost certainly a restlessness would appear about them, owing to the (it seems) inevitable boredom of Men with the good: there would be secret societies practising dark cults, and 'orc-cults' among adolescents.

It is clear from what Tolkien wrote that his heart wasn't in his attempt to write The New Shadow. I had wondered since first reading the Letters what the fragment was like, and got my opportunity after Volume 12 of The History of Middle-earth appeared. Like you, Nerwen, I found the fragment attractive, and wanted to read more; but I fully understood why Tolkien abandoned it, although what he might have finished would, I believe, be far, far better than most of what appears under the guise of 'fantasy'.

In Letter 187 of the Letters, one of 16th April 1956 to H. Cotton Minchin, Tolkien said:

Historians require more details about the social and political structure of Gondor, and the contemporary monetary system; and the generally inquisitive wish to be told more about Drúadan, the Wainriders, the Dead Men, Harad, Khand, Dwarvish origins, the Beornings, and especially the missing two wizards (out of five).

I would have liked some of the above in preference to a completed The New Shadow. However, I would have especially liked to know more about Meriadoc Brandybuck's works, particularly Herblore of the Shire.
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Old 10-15-2016, 06:31 AM   #13
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GRR Martin's ambition to explore 'a more realistic Middle-earth' clearly needs to be taken with not a grain, but a generous pinch of salt. From a writer in a genre where comparisons to Tolkien tend to pop up in jacket blurbs and reviews of every new work of notice, this is nothing but a marketing statement saying that he wants to do something more realistic with the genre, something closer to our own world; to criticise him for neglecting the metaphysical foundations of Middle-earth is to miss the point.

As for The New Shadow, I love it for its glimpses of life in early Fourth Age Gondor, as well as for its dialogue and character interaction between Borlas and Saelon. That's some fine writing, especially in their debate about the rights of trees - which raises questions that Tolkien, both a Christian and an early environmentalist, must himself have pondered on occasion. I wouldn't have minded finding out Saelon's true stance about the conspiracy, or who or what was behind 'Herumor' (not a mere surviving Orc, I think; at the very least a Black Númenórean, but a corrupted Blue Wizard or some other disciple of a dark cult from the East would have fit the job nicely).

It could have worked well as a thriller with occult or horror trappings. As a sequel to LotR I don't think it would have been viable, simply because the reduced stakes would make it rather anticlimactic after the cataclysm of Sauron's fall, but as a side piece to the legendarium at large in the manner of, say, The Mariner's Wife I would have found it enjoyable.
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Old 10-15-2016, 08:27 AM   #14
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GRR Martin's ambition to explore 'a more realistic Middle-earth' clearly needs to be taken with not a grain, but a generous pinch of salt. From a writer in a genre where comparisons to Tolkien tend to pop up in jacket blurbs and reviews of every new work of notice, this is nothing but a marketing statement saying that he wants to do something more realistic with the genre, something closer to our own world; to criticise him for neglecting the metaphysical foundations of Middle-earth is to miss the point.
I don't entirely agree with you here. From everything I've ever read on his statements on the matter, Martin does seem to be a genuine admirer of Tolkien's work and is knowledgeable about it. As a motivation, I think that was a real part of Martin's inspiration. What I fault him on is his execution.

In Martin's defense he did not start referring to himself as "the American Tolkien." Others did that. However, it certainly has started appearing on a lot of marketing materials since then.

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It could have worked well as a thriller with occult or horror trappings. As a sequel to LotR I don't think it would have been viable, simply because the reduced stakes would make it rather anticlimactic after the cataclysm of Sauron's fall
It almost in a way would have been a bit tedious...or sordid...or some word in between those two.
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Old 10-17-2016, 02:22 PM   #15
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Oh, I won't debate that GRRM is a genuine Tolkien fan and therefore may have thought that 'a more realistic Middle-earth' was the best way to describe his intentions, or that he attempted to emulate Tolkien in the scope of his world; I mean, he rather obviously paid hommage to the Professor at some points (Valar morghulis). My comment was more a reply to Marhwini's claim that any such attempt 'needs to be approached on Tolkien's terms' - GRRM is not actually writing about Middle-earth, Robert Baratheon isn't Aragorn, so there's no reason for him to bother with Tolkien's 'coherent theological and metaphysical system'. It's entirely possible to be a reverent fan and still do things totally different from Tolkien - and now I feel I've rather overstated my point and will shut up about this.

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It almost in a way would have been a bit tedious...or sordid...or some word in between those two.
Sordious?
Sordid I get, I think, as in dragging the reader down into the dregs of the human condition after the elating eucatastrophe of Sauron's fall and the Return of the King (but didn't The Scouring of the Shire already do that?). Tedious, I dunno - for him to write, or for us to read?
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Old 11-10-2016, 09:33 AM   #16
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An idea from "The New Shadow" which has resounded with me in recent months is that of "Gondorian boys [...] playing at being Orcs and going round doing damage".

"Shall I gather my band and go and cut down his trees? Then he will think that the Orcs have really returned."

I find it very insightful to see Professor Tolkien imagining a world in which terrible evil is treated as a joke, not taken seriously, or even admired by people too young and comfortable to recognise how bad things really once were.

Despite probably being unintentional, I think the narrative works surprisingly well cutting off when it does. It doesn't really matter what's in Borlas' house, in my view at least. What matters is the almost wearied recognition that, in some shape or other, evil will indeed persist.

"He halted in the narrow passage that ran through the house, and it seemed that he was wrapped in a blackness: not a glimmer of twilight of the world outside remained there."

This puts me in mind of a horror film, oddly enough.

It really is a remarkable piece of prose, in my opinion.
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Old 11-10-2016, 11:02 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Zigûr View Post
I find it very insightful to see Professor Tolkien imagining a world in which terrible evil is treated as a joke, not taken seriously, or even admired by people too young and comfortable to recognise how bad things really once were.
I like the acknowledgement of the fact that even after a tremendous, hard-fought triumph on the part of good, peace and safety as entrusted to the Children never lasts.

Tolkien had seen that despite horrible sacrifices of blood during World War I, an even greater conflict had very quickly arisen.

The difference with Tolkien seems to be that he foresaw that his attempt to actually narrate an early resurrection of evil was doomed to be something along the lines of the sort of fiction he didn't himself care for.
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Old 11-10-2016, 10:38 PM   #18
Zigûr
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The difference with Tolkien seems to be that he foresaw that his attempt to actually narrate an early resurrection of evil was doomed to be something along the lines of the sort of fiction he didn't himself care for.
Yes, which in itself is a very interesting idea, I find. His belief that "The New Shadow" was the kind of narrative that was "not worth doing" rather reflects the "grey and leafless world" that would be plagued by banal evils, rather than incarnate ones. What I mean to say is that the actual act of abandoning "The New Shadow" supports the themes of The Lord of the Rings.
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Old 11-21-2016, 08:58 PM   #19
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An idea from "The New Shadow" which has resounded with me in recent months is that of "Gondorian boys [...] playing at being Orcs and going round doing damage".

"Shall I gather my band and go and cut down his trees? Then he will think that the Orcs have really returned."

I find it very insightful to see Professor Tolkien imagining a world in which terrible evil is treated as a joke, not taken seriously, or even admired by people too young and comfortable to recognise how bad things really once were.

Despite probably being unintentional, I think the narrative works surprisingly well cutting off when it does. It doesn't really matter what's in Borlas' house, in my view at least. What matters is the almost wearied recognition that, in some shape or other, evil will indeed persist.

"He halted in the narrow passage that ran through the house, and it seemed that he was wrapped in a blackness: not a glimmer of twilight of the world outside remained there."

This puts me in mind of a horror film, oddly enough.

It really is a remarkable piece of prose, in my opinion.
The writing is brilliant. I think what put Tolkien off continuing the story was that it would have implied that the mere IDEA of Sauron was potent, even though the actual Sauron no longer had a physical form or presence.

That IS depressing, and all too reminiscent of the real world. After all, Hitler was killed in 1945 and yet we are still plagued by Neo-Nazis. Although The New Shadow might have been able to explore a powerful theme, and not just be a horror story or murder mystery, it still would have too many parallels to the real world for JRRT’s liking.
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