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Old 12-08-2017, 08:41 AM   #1
Balfrog
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Thirty silver pennies in a fundamentally religious and Catholic work

The third part of Ms. Seth's series: 'Angel and Demon, Gospel and Fairy-story' is now released.


https://priyasethtolkienfan.wordpres...fairy-story-3/


It focuses on Christian symbolism she claims is present in the chapters including Bombadil as well as peripheral ones. What is emphasized is Tolkien's technique. One or two of the religious ideas she presents - I've seen over the years very briefly touched upon. In summarizing and high-lighting eight different examples – one might conclude there's something to it all. The Judas Iscariot and 30 silver pieces analogy certainly seems hard to summarily dismiss.
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Old 01-11-2018, 11:41 PM   #2
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Thirty silver pennies in a fundamentally religious and Catholic work

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Originally Posted by Balfrog View Post
The third part of Ms. Seth's series: 'Angel and Demon, Gospel and Fairy-story' is now released.
https://priyasethtolkienfan.wordpres...fairy-story-3/


It focuses on Christian symbolism she claims is present in the chapters including Bombadil as well as peripheral ones. What is emphasized is Tolkien's technique. One or two of the religious ideas she presents - I've seen over the years very briefly touched upon. In summarizing and high-lighting eight different examples – one might conclude there's something to it all. The Judas Iscariot and 30 silver pieces analogy certainly seems hard to summarily dismiss.
Seems to me either too far-fetched, or mistaking the things of common life for specifically Christian allusions. It seems to me that the thirty silver pennies are mentioned for their value to the plot, and for that alone. They could as easily have been prompted by St Matthew’s source, Zechariah 11.12, as by St Matthew. An allusion to the Gospel passage would make no sense, as the article all but admits, since the function of the money in TLOTR is very different from that of the money in St Matthew. Why recall the betrayal of Christ, when the supposedly analogous passage in TLOTR is not a betrayal scene, but simply an instance of driving a hard bargain ? If there is an analogy, it is a broken one.

I hope no-one is going to suggest that the darkness of Moria is a Tolkienisation of the “valley of the shadow of death” in Psalm 23 ! Moria, of course, looks like the Moriah of Gen. 22 - in the Challoner Bible with which Tolkien would presumably have been familiar, it is spelt as Moria. But the seeming allusion can be accounted for by the Elvish origins of the word Moria - no Biblical allusion is required.

Her mode of interpretation has the horrible effect of making Tolkien into a heavy-handed Bible-thumper, constantly obtruding the Christianness of Christian symbolism on his readers. I can’t believe Tolkien would be guilty of such an elementary lack of artistic tact.

When someone takes a bite of bread and a swig of wine, they are not celebrating the Eucharist; they are having some food and drink to restore their strength. The Eucharist takes up bread and wine, because these are the common things of life which people eat. She seems to be of the school that sees the Eucharist in lembas, rather than realising that lembas is bread because it is food, not because it is intended to be a reference to the Eucharist.

Tolkien does use the Bible, but far more subtly. The account of the final fall of Sauron contains clear echoes of the description of the Downfall of Numenor. The description of the “falling hills” that imprison the host of the Numenoreans is significant for at least two reasons:
1. it is a judgement scene
2. it contains, designedly or not, echoes of the judgement scene in Revelation 6.12-17. This is short enough to quote in full:

“12 I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; 13and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. 14The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. 15Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?””

Compare 6.13 “a great wind” with “a great wind took them” [the ships of the Faithful].

6.14b sounds like the Meneltarma, and the Island.

6.15-16a sounds like the likely reaction of Ar-Pharazon and his host,

The two references to wrath, given the description of the eagle-like clouds over Numenor, and bearing in mind the War of Wrath against an even greater tyrant than Ar- Pharazon, sound very appropriate to the Downfall.

The reference to the Throne in v. 16 recalls both Valandil’s words to Elendil about “our kinsman on the throne”, and, the reference in the Oath of Cirion to the thrones of the Valar. One of the set features of the Valar is that they are enthroned.

This kind of unobtrusive allusiveness to the Bible and its themes is, I suspect, closer to how Tolkien drew upon it. Such touches are understated, artistically tactful, easy to miss, and they are not limited to the Bible. Tolkien could hardly have been unaware of the legends of kings and heroes - Arthur, Finn mac Cool and the Fianna, Frederick Barbarossa - who (1) were sleeping until the time of their country’s greatest need, when they would awake, and rescue it; (2) were in the meantime removed from the normal sequence of historical events. Barbarossa (who in actuality was drowned) is said to sleep in the Kyffhaeuser mountains; Arthur, like Sceaf Scylding (of whom Tolkien certainly knew, from Beowulf and from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle), departs over the water; and a Scottish story tells of how a fisherman, adrift in the mist, found an island where there was a cave, in which the Fianna slept. The motif of rulers who come or depart by some sort of vessel upon the water is very widespread, and has been told of Perseus, Horus, Sargon of Akkad, Moses, Semiramis, Arthur, and others. This motif is often used as a means of saying that there is something unearthly about their origin or passing.

IMHO, when Tolkien called TLOTR “a fundamentally Catholic work”, he was referring not to elements of the plot, but to the animating spirit of the tale. Its morality is recognisably Catholic, and its doctrine of good and being is Catholic. It is made clear that one must not do evil for a good end: this is the teaching of St Paul, and a Catholic moral principle. Aragorn is, for all practical purposes, a model Catholic monarch: a formidable warrior, just, wise, merciful, humble, ready to give credit to others, prudent, decisive, ready to undertake whatever labours are needed, a healer, very patient. And he is no prig. But he is interesting not just as a Catholic king in all but name, but also because he is essentially “the last of the Numenoreans”; he is like his ancestors before the coming of the Shadow. He embodies traits that are Christian, and they are also the stuff of myth and legend.

So to look only to the Bible as a source of things in TLOTR, is to risk overlooking other sources.
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Old 01-13-2018, 09:19 AM   #3
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The fact that 'thirty pieces of silver' is such an obvious source for the 30 silver pennies led me to start looking for other possible explanations (what can I say? I'm contrary). The main possibility I found is that in Britain's pre-decimal currency - the one Tolkien would have been using - thirty pennies, or two and a half shillings, makes a half-crown. Not only is the half-crown a silver coin in its own right; it's also a wonderfully evocative name. The two things the Hobbits acquire in Bree are a half-crown, and Aragorn, the future king. 'The crownless again shall be king' and all that.

More precisely, at that time Aragorn is the de jure king of Arnor - but not yet of Gondor. So, in fact, he only has half of his own metaphorical crown...

Oh, they also pick up a pony called Bill. If we're going all-out on this, we can note that 'Pony' is Cockney rhyming slang for £25, keeping the money theme; and who can forget that the first numbered King of England was named William...?

(I don't think it's worth throwing myself entirely down the rabbithole and trying to connect Aragorn to that £25 value; that would just be ludicrous.)

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Old 01-14-2018, 01:41 PM   #4
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I will take your version H!

The gospel reference just doesn't fit

His careful and usually tasteful invocation of various strands of modern theology is for me a subject of most delicate approaches possible.
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Old 01-14-2018, 03:03 PM   #5
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Huinesoron


"The fact that 'thirty pieces of silver' is such an obvious source for the 30 silver pennies led me to start looking for other possible explanations (what can I say? I'm contrary)."

Yes – now the author points it out – it sounds obvious. But I haven't see any published books by the so called 'experts' that have mentioned it before. Nor do I see anything much on the forums out there. Indeed, hardly anything at all. So maybe not so obvious???

By the way - love the way you think. Except Aragorn was referred to as “crownless” not 'half-a-crownless'. Which would lead me to deduce that Tolkien thought the matter was binary – i.e either fully a King or fully not.


lindil

" I will take your version H!

The gospel reference just doesn't fit."



Really - that seems so definitive!
Love to see an explanation.


Saurondil


"Seems to me either too far-fetched, or mistaking the things of common life for specifically Christian allusions."



I must say that first sentence puts me off reading the rest of your post – even though by its length – I know you put some decent effort in.

So really???
Thirty silver pennies and its connection biblically – is something Tolkien would have been unaware of???

How's about a mixture of subtle and not so subtle symbolic embedments?
Is that beyond belief - or do we all know Tolkien so well that we can definitively say one way or the other?


When it comes to:

“… the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.”
– The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter #142

Then the 30 silver pennies it's either a logical fit or not.
I'm not a rocket-scientist – but I don't think I need to be one to arrive at a rational conclusion.



lindil, Huinesoron, Saurondil


I think its worthwhile reading Ms. Seth's post again - and carefully. The insertion of specific amounts of coinage along with type - is extremely rare in TLotR. Just on that basis one can reasonably deduce there was something behind it.
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Old 01-28-2018, 04:13 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Balfrog View Post
Huinesoron


"The fact that 'thirty pieces of silver' is such an obvious source for the 30 silver pennies led me to start looking for other possible explanations (what can I say? I'm contrary)."

Yes – now the author points it out – it sounds obvious. But I haven't see any published books by the so called 'experts' that have mentioned it before. Nor do I see anything much on the forums out there. Indeed, hardly anything at all. So maybe not so obvious???

By the way - love the way you think. Except Aragorn was referred to as “crownless” not 'half-a-crownless'. Which would lead me to deduce that Tolkien thought the matter was binary – i.e either fully a King or fully not.


lindil

" I will take your version H!

The gospel reference just doesn't fit."



Really - that seems so definitive!
Love to see an explanation.


Saurondil


"Seems to me either too far-fetched, or mistaking the things of common life for specifically Christian allusions."


I must say that first sentence puts me off reading the rest of your post – even though by its length – I know you put some decent effort in.
Sorry, not understood.
Quote:

So really???
Thirty silver pennies and its connection biblically – is something Tolkien would have been unaware of???
I can’t see anything in my post that means that.
Quote:

How's about a mixture of subtle and not so subtle symbolic embedments?
Is that beyond belief - or do we all know Tolkien so well that we can definitively say one way or the other?

When it comes to:

“… the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.”
– The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter #142

Then the 30 silver pennies it's either a logical fit or not.
I'm not a rocket-scientist – but I don't think I need to be one to arrive at a rational conclusion.
STM the thirty silver pennies owe their description to the needs of the story, and to nothing beyond that. They fit logically where they are found, but that is no reason to see any deeper significance in them. If, OTOH, Tolkien himself said they had some further significance, that would change matters entirely. But I have never heard of any such utterance by him.

That they are thirty, and silver, and pennies, is explicable by the needs of the story, without need of any far-fetched allegorising. Tolkien’s distaste for allegory is a matter of record, and the allegory suggested would not work properly - given Tolkien’s “artistic tact”, I can’t believe he would perpetrate such a clumsy and inexpert allegory. IMHO, looking for Christ-figures, Passion-analogies, analogies to the Eucharist, and that sort of thing, is misguided and back to front, and turns what was an endlessly impressive story into a clumsy, heavy-handed, and dishonest attempt at proselytising. Mount Doom is not Calvary - it is a live volcano, and as such, of practical use to Sauron. As for “way-bread” being viaticum, it resembles in name, but hardly in use.

Such faults are best left to products - stories, is too complimentary - like the Left Behind series. One need be no expert or mind-reader to know that Tolkien wrote far better than that.

lindil is right: the Gospel reference doesn’t fit. As for Balfrog’s suggestions - well spotted, and very amusing
Quote:


lindil, Huinesoron, Saurondil


I think its worthwhile reading Ms. Seth's post again - and carefully. The insertion of specific amounts of coinage along with type - is extremely rare in TLotR. Just on that basis one can reasonably deduce there was something behind it.
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Old 01-29-2018, 12:10 PM   #7
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For what it's worth, in The Return of the Shadow (HOME), an early draft of the scene where Merry is compensated for his ponies' loss has him receiving twenty silver pennies, 'less the cost of their food and lodging'. The price of the ragged beast bought in Bree was six.

That as opposed to LOTR, where Ferny's price was twelve, and Butterbur added another eighteen.

If thirty was really intended by Tolkien to mean something from the start, why the change?
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Old 01-29-2018, 10:49 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post
For what it's worth, in The Return of the Shadow (HOME), an early draft of the scene where Merry is compensated for his ponies' loss has him receiving twenty silver pennies, 'less the cost of their food and lodging'. The price of the ragged beast bought in Bree was six.

That as opposed to LOTR, where Ferny's price was twelve, and Butterbur added another eighteen.

If thirty was really intended by Tolkien to mean something from the start, why the change?
Exodus 21:32 If the ox gores a slave, male or female, its owner will pay the price -- thirty shekels -- to their master, and the ox will be stoned.

the pony Bill was a slave, wretched and ill-used. It is only natural that Samwise "stoned" the ox Bill Ferny with a well-thrown apple.

One can make any asinine allegory or allusion one wishes. If we're going to lift biblical passages and throw them against a wall to make them stick -- and it's entirely reasonable to think that Tolkien knew this passage -- it would seem that this line from Exodus is far better suited to make such an allusion, and more than likely just as wrong.
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Old 01-30-2018, 11:44 AM   #9
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One can make any asinine allegory or allusion one wishes. If we're going to lift biblical passages and throw them against a wall to make them stick -- and it's entirely reasonable to think that Tolkien knew this passage -- it would seem that this line from Exodus is far better suited to make such an allusion, and more than likely just as wrong.
Indeed. Not every little detail Tolkien added has to have some special significance. After all, J.K. Rowling came along much later.
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Old 02-16-2018, 07:55 PM   #10
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Can you tell me why the number '30' and 'silver coins' meets the “need of the story”? Why was it so essential to have these specific details in the transaction?

As for allegory and symbolism, the overlap can be somewhat blurry. There is no dispute that Tolkien stated:

“The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work” - Letter #142

And that he embedded aspects of Christianity into the story:

the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism” - Letter #142

When it comes to viaticum, it sounds like you're either unaware of Letter #200 or prefer to ignore Tolkien's stated two-fold function:

In the book lembas has two functions. It is a 'machine' or device for making credible the long marches with little provision, in a world in which as I have said 'miles are miles'. But that is relatively unimportant. It also has a much larger significance, of what one might hesitatingly call a 'religious' kind.- Letter #200

Note which one of the two functions is by far the more important to Tolkien. If a physical item such as waybread has been inserted with the intention of having symbolic Christian significance – one should not be so quick and eager to dismiss other items within the tale being religiously symbolic too. Given how fundamental 30 silver coins are to the Christian story, a religious meaning behind their inclusion becomes a very strong possibility.

It would be a brave person to believe and actively air that Tolkien knew nothing about the monetary aspect of the Judas betrayal. And so as he almost certainly did – the only question needed to be asked – is was he aware of it at the point of writing such details into TLotR?

Good or low probability?

Given the precedence Tolkien himself set in revealing the dual functions of Elven waybread - to call the '30 pieces of silver' analogy made by Ms. Seth as 'far-fetched' is simply ludicrous.



Inziladun

As I've said before – Tolkien was groping for a plot. Maybe this particular idea of Christian symbolism came to him after the said draft.
After all there was a 'deliberate' change to 30 pieces of silver. Maybe that's the way one should look at it!



Morthoron

Yes one can certainly make up asinine connections with the episode at Bree:

Per your presented excerpt in relation to similarities in TLotR. In the Bree passages there is/are:

No stones thrown,
No stoning,
No goring,
No ox,
Thus no stoning of an ox or goring by an ox.
Yes, there is a quantity of 'thirty' and coinage. Only two items show similarity to your quoted biblical extract!

Per Ms. Seth's presented biblical matching in relation to similarities in TLotR. In the Bree passages there is/are:

A theme of betrayal,
A quantity of thirty,
Coins,
Silver ones at that.

Thus four items show similarity to the Judas affair.
On that basis Ms. Seth's argument is stronger.

The acclaimed Mark Hooker in a Tolkienian Mathomium suggests “three points of tangence is the threshold at which coincidence begins to give way to a demonstrable relationship”.

It seems you lack an ability to differentiate and objectively assess the strength of presented evidence. Moreover the considerable weight of the combined evidence (not just the 30 pieces of silver) in Ms. Seth's essay is ignored on your part. She points at least eight closely spaced TLotR points of tangence to a Christian theme and limits herself, at that, to the New Testament. Maybe you should read the essay again! And carefully digest it!
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Old 02-17-2018, 01:15 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Balfrog View Post

Yes one can certainly make up asinine connections with the episode at Bree:
Unfortunately, you are utterly incapable of seeing the asininity, which makes this all the more hilariously ironic!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Balfrog View Post
Per Ms. Seth's presented biblical matching in relation to similarities in TLotR. In the Bree passages there is/are:

A theme of betrayal,
A quantity of thirty,
Coins,
Silver ones at that.

Thus four items show similarity to the Judas affair.
On that basis Ms. Seth's argument is stronger.

The acclaimed Mark Hooker in a Tolkienian Mathomium suggests “three points of tangence is the threshold at which coincidence begins to give way to a demonstrable relationship”.
Your mathematics is as flawed as Seth's theory. How does one make four points out of two points, and only one of these may be construed, in a twisted pretzel logic, as relevant?

Thirty silver coins cannot be dissected into three points, my dear, that is as fallacious as it is inane. Thirty silver pieces is the point: not thirty, and coins and silver. If it were thirty of any other item, or if it were brass and not silver, your silly Seth wouldn't be typing out her click bait (and you then would not be acting as her senseless cipher).

Seth has decided to create a false narrative based on the idea of thirty silver pennies. But let's tweak the other aspect of her dumb dialogue: the idea of betrayal. In the Gospels, Judas, an apostle and ally of Jesus, was given 30 pieces of silver by the priests to betray Jesus. It was blood money.

The transaction for Bill the Pony was exactly 12 silver pennies (3 times the animal's worth). That is the amount given by the Hobbits to Bill Ferny, who was certainly not an ally or friend of the Hobbits and was looked upon with distrust (he probably had something to do with the theft of the Hobbits' steeds, but there was no direct proof). That he was an actual enemy later proved the Hobbit's distrust.

Butterbur, feeling sorry for the loss of the Hobbits' ponies out of his stables, gave the Hobbits an additional 18 pence for their loss. This was an act of repentance, of pity, from a friendly innkeeper.

So, let's take stock of what we have here: 1) there was no betrayal, as Ferny was an active agent of the enemy who greedily sold a rundown pony to the Hobbits for a profit, and 2) there were two transactions, the first a 12 penny profit from an enemy, and second an 18 penny repayment by a sympathetic innkeeper.

Therefore, Seth's thirty pieces of silver is aborted in utero. The idea is simply wrong on all counts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Balfrog View Post
Per your presented excerpt in relation to similarities in TLotR. In the Bree passages there is/are:

No stones thrown,
No stoning,
No goring,
No ox,
Thus no stoning of an ox or goring by an ox.
Yes, there is a quantity of 'thirty' and coinage. Only two items show similarity to your quoted biblical extract!
If, like you, I were to subvert the "acclaimed" Mark Hooker's (although I am wondering at what point the term 'acclaimed' can be affixed to Mr. Hooker) maxim that “three points of tangence is the threshold at which coincidence begins to give way to a demonstrable relationship”, I would have more points than you:

30 (the magic number)
Shekels (a coin)
Silver (what Shekels were comprised of)
An ox (Bill Ferny -- "ox" in the pejorative meaning an "oaf", a "layabout")
Stoning (Samwise does indeed 'stone' Ferny with an apple upside the head)
Slave (poor Bill the pony)
Gore (to shed blood by violence, in this case Ferny's ill-use and beating of the pony)

That's seven peerless points to your fallacious four, is it not? So by your addled addition, I win. Even when I brought this passage up in jest:

Quote:
Exodus 21:32 If the ox gores a slave, male or female, its owner will pay the price -- thirty shekels -- to their master, and the ox will be stoned.
IF Tolkien were allegorizing (which is Captain Ahab Seth's Moby Dick floating throughout Tolkien's text), I would take into account Tolkien's wonderful sense of humor. The act of "stoning" Ferny with a well-thrown apple, for instance, or that Ferny is a lazy "ox" living in a dirty stable.

But it's all a matter of slinging crap against a wall and seeing what sticks. Make up enough false equivalencies and one has one big, stinking pile of fallacies.
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