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Old 01-31-2016, 08:48 PM   #1
Bêthberry
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Pipe Using Tolkien to Score Some Points

Now, I am being mindful of the rules. I respect the "no politics here" part of our Barrow culture and I"m not trying to set up a discussion about the alleged author of this article.

So, I'm not posting this link to make an uproar about the upcoming American caucuses, primaries, town halls, debates, voting regularities or irregularities, or election. So, please don't tell me I can't post anything insulting Mr. Multiple Towers, because my interest isn't in him. My interest is in how this piece of writing works--how Tolkien is being used to structure parody--how he has become an intertextual device.

What I am curious about is how Tolkien is being appropriated here, how his characters are being portrayed or described and whether that portrayal or description sheds any light on Tolkien. Or darkness for that matter. Does the parody work only to ridicule the alleged author (the political candidate) or does it say something also about Tolkien? Is Smaug used the same way that Gandalf is? Do any of the jokes about elves and men reflect back on Tolkien?

Does the parody "work" only if we know the original Tolkien? And how do we know that the parody is meant to ridicule the alleged author (the candidate) and not Tolkien (leaving aside the "Humor" headline and the source of the article).

I think it is fascinating that the real author of the piece--the satirist or parodist himself--has made certain assumptions about his readers' knowledge of Tolkien. There aren't many twentieth century authors who could be used this way.

Donald Trump: Let me tell you about Smaug.
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Old 02-01-2016, 04:54 PM   #2
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-edited for assinine comment-

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Old 02-01-2016, 05:10 PM   #3
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Belegorn, I asked that this thread not be used for political comments, which are contrary to the rules of this barrow, but for discussion of how Tolkien is appropriated in popular culture, and whether this parody actually "gets" Tolkien's characters right. Please reconsider your post.

I will delete the tread if it it is used to discuss the American election rather than the literary question.

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Old 02-01-2016, 05:25 PM   #4
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The article comes across to me as being a pretty superficial appreciation of LOTR. I get a definite 'movie vibe' from the way the parody is presented. My initial feeling is that the author is a fan of the movies, speaking to other fans of the movies, trying to come off as satirical.

I don't know who the target demographic of the website might be, but my feeling is that the writer missed the mark with his intentions. I personally don't know any people (away from this fine forum, of course ) who'd be likely to pay it much mind.
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Old 02-01-2016, 07:22 PM   #5
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I'm not sure I can comment on the article because I didn't find much to grasp in it to be honest. It just seemed like a pretty shallow use of the material to make a joke. The comments were more enlightening, suggesting a number of rather insubstantial and mistaken understandings of Professor Tolkien's narrative.

In my thesis research I found that virtually any political viewpoint could manipulate, and in published works has manipulated, Professor Tolkien's words to make them sound like they supported any position across the political spectrum. My counterargument was that Professor Tolkien's Catholicism superseded his politics and that to read too much straightforward political content into his works (apart from an obvious opposition to tyranny) risked misinterpreting them.
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Old 02-02-2016, 03:13 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bêthberry View Post
What I am curious about is how Tolkien is being appropriated here, how his characters are being portrayed or described and whether that portrayal or description sheds any light on Tolkien. Or darkness for that matter. Does the parody work only to ridicule the alleged author (the political candidate) or does it say something also about Tolkien? Is Smaug used the same way that Gandalf is? Do any of the jokes about elves and men reflect back on Tolkien?

Does the parody "work" only if we know the original Tolkien? And how do we know that the parody is meant to ridicule the alleged author (the candidate) and not Tolkien (leaving aside the "Humor" headline and the source of the article).

I think it is fascinating that the real author of the piece--the satirist or parodist himself--has made certain assumptions about his readers' knowledge of Tolkien. There aren't many twentieth century authors who could be used this way.

Donald Trump: Let me tell you about Smaug.
It seems to me as though the Middle-earth references are purely there to throw the "author's" peculiarities into relief. (That doesn't stop it being an effective parody, just not a parody *of Tolkien*.) They could have been swapped out for anything equally recognisable. However, I suppose the interesting point for *us* is that yes, I think it does rely on the reader knowing most of the references- I wonder how many other works of fiction could have been substituted?
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Old 02-02-2016, 04:38 PM   #7
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Bwahahaha

Love it.
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Old 02-02-2016, 06:35 PM   #8
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I feel that when it comes to humour that touches upon something dear to you, you can accept all kinds of nonsense and silliness from people who you know really love that topic. It's okay to crack a partially accurate Tolkien joke on the Downs, because everyone understands that this is a themed joke, and that it does not reflect the poster's love and knowledge of Tolkien. However, people tend to get touchy when unfamiliar people joke about topics dear to them, because it often comes across like the jester isn't serious about the topic, or doesn't really know what they are talking about. It's not just about Tolkien, it's everything from culture and history to small habits. I guess sometimes those more learned in Tolkien lore might be predisposed to be suspicious of any article making superficial use of his work; it might now be fair to the writer, who could just as easily be as well-versed in Tolkien as anyone, but was just making a shallow analysis in a more jest-like fashion. However, he's not all blameless either for the misunderstanding, because you have to know what your audience is. If you want your joke to be received well but also not make you sound like an idiot, you should choose the context of the joke with care - since that article is supposed to "score some points".

I wasn't particularly impressed with this specific article. I just didn't get the joke. It sounded like stupid gibberish with a bunch of Tolkien references thrown in. It just didn't make any sense. However, I feel like the problem here is more in my happy ignorance of politics than in the author's sense of humour. I'm lucky to have a neighbour who keeps track of the big current events - without him I might have continued thinking that we still have the same Prime Minister in Canada. Asking me to follow American politics is just asking too much.
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Old 02-02-2016, 09:15 PM   #9
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It's shallow as cod-Tolkien and it's shallow as satire. Satire, to work, has to get hold of the meat of the thing satirized, not just play glibly with surface trivia. As the cops say, "aim center-of-mass." Compare Swift's masterful War of the Eggs.
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Old 02-04-2016, 09:37 PM   #10
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*big, cheerful waves to Fordim*

I found it rather funny...in the twisted lore way. Similar to what The Toast wrote on Aragorn:

The Illegitimacy of Aragorn's Claim to the Throne.

I also recently saw The Martian (a fairly enjoyable movie). Without a doubt the best part (at least for me) was...Sean Bean works for NASA and a group are trying to come up with a plan to build a rescue ship to Mars to get the stranded Matt Damon. One NASA employee says they're going to codename it Rivendell, and the rest of the team is clueless about the joke, and it's just really humorous once Sean Bean's character starts explaining it's from Lord of the Rings and if they're going with codename Rivendell then he wants everyone to call him Glorfindel.

But as G55 says it's disappointing if you're the only one who understands the joke. I was watching with others and I was the only one cracking up at that scene and the irony of Sean Bean in it.
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Old 02-05-2016, 06:40 PM   #11
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Hmmm...I suppose we could, in the interest of fair and unbiased parody, satirize all the candidates, whether Republican or Democrat, and match them with appropriate characters:

"Late is the hour in which this President chooses to appear. Obama, I name him. Ill news is an ill guest." - Ted Cruz

"And now at last it comes. You will give me the Presidency freely! In place of the Republicans you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!" - Hillary Clinton

"Why ever did I wake up!" he cried. "I was having such beautiful dreams. I dreamt I was walking in the White House..." - Chris Christie

"I don't hold with wearing ironmongery, whether it wears well or no." - Bernie Sanders

"You did not seriously think that an idiot senator could contend with the will of The Donald, there are none that can." - Donald Trump

"Never fitted me either. George W. was always the politician. They were so alike, he and my father. Proud... stubborn, even. But strong." - Jeb Bush
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Old 02-09-2016, 12:11 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boromir88 View Post
*big, cheerful waves to Fordim*
*Big cheerful wave back*
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Old 02-16-2016, 03:10 PM   #13
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I think it's fairly obvious that the text doesn't intend to satirize Tolkien but rather to satirize Mr Trump using Tolkien's legendarium as its foil. I also think that the (real) author knows their Tolkien well enough and had to in order to make the satire work.


As to how the text achieves its purpose, I'd like to tackle a few of the questions Bêthberry posed in her original post. How are Smaug and Gandalf used in the text? The speaker (who is not the author, and whom I shall call thus in order to avoid the question whether he represents the real Mr Donald J. Trump accurately) - the speaker, I was saying, discusses Smaug's merits as a businessman and investor comparable to himself and finds him wanting because the dragon, lacking any spark of entrepreneurship, is content to lie on his hoard all day and snack on pony flambé occasionally instead of using it to make more gold and invest in 'classy' architecture. This slightly misses the point of what it means to be a dragon, but not by much, as Smaug and the speaker at least share a common interest in material wealth.


It gets downright absurd when the speaker judges Gandalf by the same standard and pronounces him a total failure. What the speaker fails to grasp is that Gandalf's character and conduct, unlike Smaug's, are determined by motives and principles completely incompatible with those of the speaker himself, so much so that the speaker is incapable of even understanding them. (Much like Saruman, actually - a lot of what the speaker has to say about Gandalf reads as if written with Saruman in mind.)


This is where our own knowledge of Tolkien comes into the story. The text wants us to realise that the speaker completely misconstrues Gandalf's character and motivation, and to draw according conclusions about the speaker's own character, motivation and capability of moral judgment; and we can only do that because we know better - because we understand Gandalf as the Professor meant and wrote him. We know that Gandalf has no interest whatsoever in polls and towers but is guided by love, kindness and obedience towards an Authority higher than his own, and conclude that the speaker is untouched by such things.


Whether this conclusion which the author intends us to draw is valid is not for me to say, as I'm even further removed from American politics here in Europe than Bêthberry and Gal55. But I'd much prefer the next steward of Gondor to be somebody who understands Gandalf.
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