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Old 06-04-2007, 07:42 PM   #1
Rune Son of Bjarne
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Question They Shall Not Pass!

I was listening to the song "Viva la Quinta Brigada" by Christy Moore, the song is about the Irish socialist volunteers who went to Spain to fight against Franco and the fascists during the Spanish Civil War.

There where some bits I did not understand so I looked up the song and found this passage in the refraint.

""No Pasarán" the pledge that made them fight."

"No Pasarán" means "They Shall Not Pass", apparantly the most famouse version is the french "Ils ne passeront pas"

it is a propaganda slogan used to express determination to defend a position against an enemy. It was most famously used during the Battle of Verdun in World War I by French General Robert Nivelle. It appears on propaganda posters, such as that by Maurice Neumont after the Second Battle of the Marne, as On ne passe pas!, which was later adopted on uniform badges by units manning the Maginot Line.

I know that Tolkien was not at the Battle of Verdun, but he did serve on the west-front.

My question is this: Does Tolkien ever speak about whether this was his inspiration for Gandalfs "You shall not pass" and if not what do you think?

Do any of you think that Tolkien is making any point by using this phrase or did he just think that it was brilliant?

Personaly I don't like making connections to actual events, but I would still like to know what you think on the subject.
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Old 06-05-2007, 12:25 AM   #2
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I have the impression that this is a somewhat of a standard slogan everywhere. For example, during WWII, a similar version of it circulated concerning the protection of a mountain pass into Transylvania ("there is no passing through here!"). I guess it is similar to a "stand your ground" order to soldiers; Tolkien, having served in the military, would not be a stranger to this.
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Old 06-05-2007, 06:26 AM   #3
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Bah, I actually was going to say the same thing as Raynor just did.
I guess such a phrase is a good way to raise the moral of the soldiers, give them some more self-confidence and prepare them for the battle.

Though Gandalf doesn't want to raise anyone's moral, but instead to intimidate his opponent and maybe make him retreat.
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Old 06-05-2007, 08:32 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raynor
I have the impression that this is a somewhat of a standard slogan everywhere. For example, during WWII, a similar version of it circulated concerning the protection of a mountain pass into Transylvania ("there is no passing through here!"). I guess it is similar to a "stand your ground" order to soldiers; Tolkien, having served in the military, would not be a stranger to this.
I of course knew of "stand your ground" but that is more of a command, where as the other is a pledge, a moral booster. For me it holds much more than a simple statement about not letting the enemy through, it is a thing that can unite and make people stand together.

Anyways I did not know it was also used in WWII, that somewhat decreases the importance of Tolkien serving at the west front during WWII.

I just found it very interesting that this saying was made famouse in a war that Tolkien participated in and on the same front. I got some idea that maybe these words had inspired him in some way or maybe even have ment something for him during the war. . .
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Old 06-05-2007, 08:46 AM   #5
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You're correct Rune, it is a very different kind of phrase. Not only is it more succinct but it is spoken as a Word Of Command - not to soldiers but to a 'supernatural being'. What Gandalf says is an attempt at a spell, and likewise, words composed to boost morale such as On ne passe pas are attempts at 'spellbinding', at capturing hearts and minds. It's a very subtle difference.
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Old 02-20-2012, 09:49 AM   #6
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Thumbs up

Rune reminded me of this yesterday!

I had been looking into some of the history of the Battle of Cable Street (which took place in 1936 in London's East End) and one of the things that struck me was how the massed ranks of anti-fascists used the refrain No Pasaran! Which as Rune states translates into They Shall Not Pass.

I didn't realise, though, just how famous this phrase is. It was indeed first coined in WWI, but mostly at the time used by the French. The real fame of the phrase came about because of use at both Cable Street and the Siege of Madrid, which began earlier the same year - No Pasaran! was so well known that when Franco finally led his fascist forces into Madrid, he declared 'Hemos pasado' (I have passed).

And it's still in widespread use today, including by those who stand against the EDL in England. It is indeed so much more than a simple command, it's a rallying cry and I have no doubt Tolkien would have been very much aware of it. I'm quite pleased about this, following on from accusations from less well-informed types that his work is 'fascistic'. Anything but.
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Old 02-20-2012, 10:50 AM   #7
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Just want to point out that although "you shall not pass" is the way we remember the phrase, and this way it sounds more majestic - and this is the one used in the movies - Tolkien wrote "You cannot pass".

Would this affect the debate?

In a way, Gandalf is not intimidating or uplifting moral or summoning strength or etc. He's stating fact.
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Old 02-20-2012, 12:17 PM   #8
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In a way, Gandalf is not intimidating or uplifting moral or summoning strength or etc. He's stating fact.
Not quite a statement of fact. A prophecy, perhaps. Same thing, maybe.

Before many of the major confrontations in LOtR there is an exchange of prophecy. "You shall have neither the ring, nor me." "Fall back into the abyss that awaits you and your master." "This is my hour. Do you not know death when you see it? Die now, and curse in vain!" (A cock crows, indicating sunrise, beginning a new hour.) "No mortal man may hinder me." "But no mortal man am I!" "If you touch me ever again, you will be cast yourself into the crack of doom." (Dumbest prophecy of all of fantasy!)

If you don't pay careful attention to the exchange of words before confrontations, you miss a good part of the magic in the books.

Anyway, in the movie, with the Nine in the ford advancing on Arwen, her line is to the effect of, "If you want the ring, come and take it!" ARGHHHH! Absolutely the wrong thing to say in Middle Earth! The screenwriters absolutely and positively didn't get it.

Grumble...

Prophecy. When one's life is on the line one might say something that will be true, but be very careful what you say. If there is a response that will pull the rug (or bridge) out from under you, you could get into trouble.
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Old 02-20-2012, 01:45 PM   #9
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If you don't pay careful attention to the exchange of words before confrontations, you miss a good part of the magic in the books.
Very true.

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Anyway, in the movie, with the Nine in the ford advancing on Arwen, her line is to the effect of, "If you want the ring, come and take it!"
Isn't it something like "come and claim him"? Even worse! ("shoty! He's mine!" )

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Prophecy. When one's life is on the line one might say something that will be true, but be very careful what you say. If there is a response that will pull the rug (or bridge) out from under you, you could get into trouble.
"On their deathbed men will speak true", per Brandir. When you're life's at stake, you don't know if this is it for you - the last chance to speak. Not only truth, but also foresight/prophecy.
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Old 02-20-2012, 02:57 PM   #10
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Galadriel is right.

It is a statement of fact. Tolkien of all people knew how language worked. There is a big difference between can, may, shall, and will to those who care about such things. There is a huge difference in meaning between "I shall be drowned and no one will save me" and "I will be drowned and no one shall save me" - but I suppose not everyone notices now. Presumably they didn't have the sort of teachers who would respond "I am sure you CAN go, they question is "may you".

He is talking about the present moment not some future event. It is just Top Trumps and Gandalf wins. He is "hoist by his own petard" but it does not stop it being factual. There is none of the "promise, command or threat" that would be intended by the use of "you shall". Nor is it the simple future of "you will" not the question of permission linked to "you may"... just you are not able to pass, because I am here.
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Old 02-20-2012, 03:06 PM   #11
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Good points Mith & Galadriel.

But also, I think no pasaran! means more or less the same: "you are not getting through" (no passing). And the idea in the trenches must have been more or less the same as well.

Slogans like this seem to serve many purposes from the moral boosting of your own side to the intimidation of the enemy (or to the stating of a "fact"). But surely Tolien was familiar with it.

Nice spotting Rune!
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Old 02-20-2012, 03:10 PM   #12
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Makes no difference what the nuances of English make it. And I should know

It's still No Pasaran! or on ne passe pas!.

A very famous and powerful command to a force of evil that it is going no further.
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Old 02-20-2012, 03:11 PM   #13
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Heh, just realised, that "you cannot pass" or "no pasaran" do not only mean what they say, that "you cannot pass", but even more like "over my dead body"!

And that I think is the emotion or stance Gandalf and the WWI trencehrs share with the anti-Franco troops during the 30's... they were ready to die though, unlike many modern day protestors using the "no pasaran!" -slogan...
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Old 02-20-2012, 04:14 PM   #14
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This is an interesting thread, one I'd never found in all this time.

A lot of good points are here already.

I do think it's notable that Gandalf says nearly the same thing to the Lord of the Nazgűl, when the latter is threatening to ride into Minas Tirith.

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'You cannot enter here,' said Gandalf.
In both instances Gandalf seeks to bar a foe from getting by him, and uses similar verbiage.

I don't think there was any connection between Gandalf's words and generic partisan-speak, at least not in Tolkien's mind.
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Old 02-20-2012, 04:33 PM   #15
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Yelling out aloud that the foe is not to pass serves multiple purposes, I think.

You can think of it as trying to intimidate the enemy.

You can think of it as stating your determination that you will rather die than let them pass.

You can think of it as a call to rally your troops around you.

And in all cases you can also see it as an incantation - in the supernatural sense, or just as giving a boost of morale to your troops, sharing the shared mission, or trying to weaken the opposition with a threat.
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Old 02-20-2012, 05:06 PM   #16
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And in all cases you can also see it as an incantation - in the supernatural sense, or just as giving a boost of morale to your troops, sharing the shared mission, or trying to weaken the opposition with a threat.
Yes, ultimately it is Word of Command. It's not just Gandalf saying "Oi! Get lost!" It's Gandalf saying something very powerful. He's isn't just laying down the law to the Balrog, he is also making it so just by saying it and that's exactly how No Pasaran! and On ne passe pas! were used. There's no doubt that someone caught in a real world siege/fighting a terrible enemy and Gandalf would have the same determination.

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I don't think there was any connection between Gandalf's words and generic partisan-speak, at least not in Tolkien's mind.
He would have known the phrase. It appears it was incredibly well known in the 1930s to the extent that he wouldn't have been able not to know it unless he lived in a cave - we know he was a voracious newspaper reader and events such as the Battle of Madrid were widely reported on in the British press. And I think it fits very well that someone who wrote about the ills of totalitarianism in Middle-earth chose to use that phrase. Tolkien even chooses to have Gandalf say it four times, and such phrases would be (and are) repeated in this way:

Quote:
'You cannot pass,' he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. 'I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass.'

The Balrog made no answer. The fire in it seemed to die, but the darkness grew. It stepped forward slowly on to the bridge, and suddenly it drew itself up to a great height, and its wings were spread from wall to wall; but still Gandalf could be seen, glimmering in the gloom; he seemed small, and altogether alone: grey and bent, like a wizened tree before the onset of a storm.
From out of the shadow a red sword leaped flaming.
Glamdring glittered white in answer.
There was a ringing clash and a stab of white fire. The Balrog fell back and its sword flew up in molten fragments. The wizard swayed on the bridge, stepped back a pace, and then again stood still.
'You cannot pass!' he said.
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Old 02-20-2012, 06:08 PM   #17
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I must admit I had never thought of it as other than the most appropriate bit of English for the situation but then History isn't my strongest suit. I am failing to think of an alternative that Gandalf would use.

Pass in itself is a word rich with meanings that resonate even in the strict context of the book.. just flicking through looking for a reference it is jumping out at me.

Black Riders passing through Bree, Galadriel passing the test and passing into the West, Legolas talking of Elvish perception of the passing of time, Frodo and Sam having to pass as Orcs, the passing of the Grey Company and the passage of the Marshes and no doubt many more that I can't think of at the moment (does anyone have LOTR on Kindle? ).
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Old 02-20-2012, 09:17 PM   #18
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My question is this: Does Tolkien ever speak about whether this was his inspiration for Gandalfs "You shall not pass" and if not what do you think?

Do any of you think that Tolkien is making any point by using this phrase or did he just think that it was brilliant?

Given Tolkien's conservative beliefs, I doubt he was very admiring of Spanish socialists and communists.

Perhaps other inspirations, certainly.
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Old 02-21-2012, 01:57 PM   #19
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Given Tolkien's conservative beliefs, I doubt he was very admiring of Spanish socialists and communists.

Perhaps other inspirations, certainly.
I'd never simply assume Tolkien would be afraid of 'reds under the bed', his views and his writing are much more subtle than that. He even expresses his own beliefs as vaguely anarchist in one letter. As a middle class Englishman, Tolkien would not have taken extreme views. However, the value of 'freedom' was one Tolkien would have admired, not least because as a Catholic he also stood well outside the British establishment view but also because of what was happening in Europe in the mid 20th century. This was the 1930s and no matter whether you were conservative or not, there was another axis people stood upon, whether you were pro or anti fascism - and people and politicians of all sorts of persuasions took stances that are surprising to our modern views (e.g. Churchill was all for appeasement at first, and that was not his only unwise viewpoint). And remember Tolkien had already lived through one war.

Given the context, and Tolkien's own complexity and resistance to being labelled, it's not at all to be dismissed that Tolkien might have been inspired by a catchphrase that was used in both a fight against a fearsome, regimented and totalitarian enemy, and in the trenches of WWI by the French. In fact it fits very well with his general dislike of oppressive regimes. It also can't be dismissed as coincidence, given that it is not just some throwaway phrase Gandalf utters, but used as a Word of Command several times.

Not to dampen Rune's 'find', but it seems a lot of other readers have picked up on it too as there's plenty online about this. I think whether you can see it or not depends on whether you can understand and accept the rich political complexities (far less affected by media stereotyping) that infused the society and times Tolkien lived through.
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Old 02-22-2012, 03:07 AM   #20
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I must admit I had never thought of it as other than the most appropriate bit of English for the situation but then History isn't my strongest suit. I am failing to think of an alternative that Gandalf would use.

I am sorry Mith but I instantly got the view of Gandalf as Night Club Doorman saying 'You can't come in, you've got no pass......besides, you're wearing false wings'.
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Old 02-22-2012, 04:25 AM   #21
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Well that's the thing isn't it. I can't help thinking that it is too common a word to read too much significance into it...start subbing in alternatives and it does get bouncery or otherwise un-Gandalfy. What else is he going to say? "Over my dead body!"? ! "You won't get by me!"....

I can't help thinking that with Tolkien's feelings on allegory that he might have excised it had he consciously noticed the connection unless it was unavoidable that any alternative seemed "wrong" . As with the perceived religious reference I don't think it has anything to do with the capacity for comprehension of the reader but everything to do with the prior knowledge of the reader. You cannot recognise something you have never encountered before. People with no knowledge of theology or mythology won't pick up those connections, historical ignoramuses won't make this one.

Just as a side note the French version reminded me that words with the same origins don't always have exactly the same meanings in different languages and "passer" in French can be a "faux ami" - at least as far as exams are concerned!
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Old 02-22-2012, 10:33 AM   #22
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I don't believe Gandalf would utter anything other than "You shall not pass!" It is formal, and it is almost biblical in intonation (THOU SHALT NOT!).

From a different angle, he is speaking to a fellow Maia, which is rather amusing: why would he be speaking in Westron?
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Old 02-22-2012, 11:04 AM   #23
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For the same reason Elfhelm swore in Westron when he tripped over Merry at the start of "The Ride of the Rohirrim" (unless Merry had quickly picked up enough colloquial Rohirric to understand '"dashed" tree roots...'and 'who left this blessed bag here are they trying to kill me?")...?
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Old 02-22-2012, 02:42 PM   #24
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For the same reason Elfhelm swore in Westron when he tripped over Merry at the start of "The Ride of the Rohirrim" (unless Merry had quickly picked up enough colloquial Rohirric to understand '"dashed" tree roots...'and 'who left this blessed bag here are they trying to kill me?")...?
No, I think it's a bit more egregious than that, Mith. Consider, Gandalf has of course been out and about among mortals for centuries, and can speak several languages fluently (including Warg ); however, to whom has the Balrog ever spoken to in the last several centuries, let alone speaking in a mannish language that was more than likely not in vogue when he went incommunicado at the end of the 1st Age? I suppose the Moria Orcs may have spoken Westron, but did the Balrog have a something akin to an Orkish Berlitz course, and did he even speak to the Orcs at all?
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Old 02-22-2012, 04:31 PM   #25
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It's not the language that matters, it's the meaning conveyed. And when Gandalf speaks, it is conveyed regardless of what language the listener speaks.

Think of it this way - hobbits understand Elvish songs even though they don't know Elvish. Elvish is a special language, but Gandalf is a special person.
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Old 02-22-2012, 05:10 PM   #26
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I don't believe Gandalf would utter anything other than "You shall not pass!" It is formal, and it is almost biblical in intonation (THOU SHALT NOT!).
Would the inconvenient fact that what he actually said was "You cannot pass" get in the way of this belief?

You do have a point about the oddity of speaking Westron to the Balrog. But for some reason I have the feeling that a creature like the Balrog would have understood Gandalf's words, no matter what language he used.
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Old 02-22-2012, 08:02 PM   #27
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You do have a point about the oddity of speaking Westron to the Balrog. But for some reason I have the feeling that a creature like the Balrog would have understood Gandalf's words, no matter what language he used.
I think I recall that the Valar really had no need for speech among themselves. If that's correct, maybe the same would hold true with Maiar.
Following, perhaps Gandalf was speaking more for the benefit of the Fellowship, as some said, to encourage and embolden them, than to make his intentions known to the Balrog.
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Old 02-22-2012, 08:11 PM   #28
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I'd never simply assume Tolkien would be afraid of 'reds under the bed', his views and his writing are much more subtle than that.
Well, I never implied he was afraid of the Spanish communists; I said he wouldn't have admired them- especially after they started gleefully shooting priests during the Red Terror.

Humphrey Carpenter's biography of Tolkien gives a rather pertinent description of a man who was both conservative and approving of the gentry.
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Old 02-22-2012, 08:12 PM   #29
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Would the inconvenient fact that what he actually said was "You cannot pass" get in the way of this belief?.
Well, isn't it obvious? Tolkien made a mistake.
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Old 02-22-2012, 08:32 PM   #30
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I think I recall that the Valar really had no need for speech among themselves. If that's correct, maybe the same would hold true with Maiar.
Following, perhaps Gandalf was speaking more for the benefit of the Fellowship, as some said, to encourage and embolden them, than to make his intentions known to the Balrog.
Or maybe a spoken word holds more power than an unspoken one, and Gandalf would need all the power he can possibly muster, especially when he is exhausted from his previous Balrog duel.
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Old 02-22-2012, 08:42 PM   #31
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Perhaps "The two of them glared at each other" wouldn't stand up as well in the text?
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Old 02-22-2012, 09:02 PM   #32
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Perhaps "The two of them glared at each other" wouldn't stand up as well in the text?
Gandalf ought to have gone "Butturbur" on it: "Spook or no spook, you won't cross this bridge so easy."
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Old 02-26-2012, 04:35 PM   #33
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Briefly

I think this is just an expression of defiance in the face of the presumably stronger or evenly matched enemy, set on passing certain [narrow] point

I don't think it is to be especially connected to any contemporary (to Tolkien) events, but rather to battle-cries throughout history in general, as uttered by defenders to defy the offenders - as in this case Gandalf is acting defender, denying the passage to Balrog ("This is Spartaaa!" of the 300 movie might have altered perceptions somewhat, but much like Leonides in Thermopylae, kind of)

One of the reasons some ill-disposed critics tended to label LoTR as full of cliches, haven't they now? Replace "cliche" with "archetype", that will take us back to some primordial man at the mouth of the cave, brandishing his club and growling something of the kind to the face of the cave bear intent on spending the night in the same cave...

And ah, I do find the exchange brilliant, and so I think Tolkien might have liked it, even if he wrote it himself
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Old 02-26-2012, 04:37 PM   #34
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And ah, I do find the exchange brilliant, and so I think Tolkien might have liked it, even if he wrote it himself
He must have liked it, because otherwise he wouldn't have written it.
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Old 03-01-2012, 03:05 PM   #35
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Well, I never implied he was afraid of the Spanish communists; I said he wouldn't have admired them- especially after they started gleefully shooting priests during the Red Terror.
I never did study the Spanish Civil War, so I don't know how it was viewed by contemporaries.

I believe that you are quite right that Tolkien would have had no sympathy for the red terror, that took place in the wake of the military rising. He probably wasn't too happy about the white terror either, but I wouldn't know.

The interesting question for me is how the conflict was portrait. I know that in socialist and communist circles it was portrait as the forefront in the struggle against fascism, famously motivating many to join the international brigades.

Did contemporaries see the republican cause as being equivalent of the communist/socialist cause?

If for example it was viewed as the struggle of a young democracy vs. a reactionary military, then the battle of Madrid would surely invoke more sympathy and remorse, even among conservatives?

This is all very speculative on my part...but I do find these links interesting and I really wish that it was a conscious choice on Tolkien's part.
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Old 03-07-2012, 05:02 PM   #36
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I did study it and was lucky enough to meet a veteran when I was 18. The feeling in free Europe at the time was that Franco/fascism was wrong. Dictator de Rivera had been brought down in 1930 and they had a nascent democracy, so Franco, backed by the other fascist regimes of Germany and Italy, was seen as a bully boy, potentially a threat. The British establishment did not get involved in the conflict, officially, but allowed people to freely go and serve, allowed weapons to be shipped to the Republicans, and took in large numbers of Spanish children.

Remember who was on the side of Franco and what British people in general, especially WWI veterans, might have thought about that fact. We won't ever know whether Tolkien had the phrase forefront in his mind for Gandalf, but given that he could have chosen from dozens, even hundreds of other phrases (I bet he had a thesaurus ), and chose something that famous...it's not to be dismissed. He'll have known what it meant and he didn't dismiss it. Put it this way, it was as well known as modern catch phrases like "We're All In This Together" or "Yes We Can!" and I'd certainly notice if I slipped one of those into a big moment in a story I was writing (and then go and grab a monster pot of Tippex if it was the former ). I didn't realise how well known it was until recently, which is what prompted me to resurrect Rune's thread.

Out of interest, one of Tolkien's former students, and one who held him in great esteem, joined the International Brigades - WH Auden.
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Old 03-13-2012, 01:15 AM   #37
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In one of his letters (#83 from October 6, 1944), Tolkien expresses support for Franco. He describes him and C.S. Lewis's meeting with one Roy Campbell,
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...who became a Catholic after sheltering the Carmelite fathers in Barcelona - in vain, they were caught and butchered...As you know he then fought through the war on Franco's side...However it is not possible to convey an impression of such a rare character, both a soldier and a poet, and a Christian convert. How unlike the Left - the 'corduroy panzers' who fled to America (Auden among them who with his friends got R.C.'s works 'banned' by the Birmingham T. Council!)...C.S.L.'s reactions were odd. Nothing is a greater tribute to Red propaganda than the fact that he (who knows they are in all other subjects liars and traducers) believes all that is said against Franco, and nothing that is said for him.
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Old 03-13-2012, 02:27 PM   #38
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In one of his letters (#83 from October 6, 1944), Tolkien expresses support for Franco. He describes him and C.S. Lewis's meeting with one Roy Campbell,
The 'twerp' letter is a long way from 'expressing support' for Franco. I remember some blogger bringing this one up ages ago as evidence Tolkien was a 'nazi' but I'll point out now as I did then, it doesn't express his support for fascism, it's part a rant about his friend (at the time) Lewis and part gushing response to meeting the enigmatic Campbell. It's fairly characteristic of British feeling in 1944 - Franco didn't in the end get too deep with the Axis, and there was a growing fear of what Stalin might bring along with his alliance with those against the Axis.

Campbell is really interesting, and I don't blame Tolkien for being taken aback. He was rather like Marmite in that people at the time either loved him or despised him (from the distance of time, a lot of the accusations of fascism levelled against him were unfair, he was driven by faith and a wee bit bonkers). To a fellow Catholic stories of saving priests would have been inspiring, and he was a great story teller. Nobody denies that Tolkien didn't approve of Marxism and Campbell's satire was funny. I don't think it ever came to much though, the initial enthusiasm must have soured as Campbell never got in with the Inklings, despite being in dire need of a literary 'circle' to join. Maybe Tolkien found out the truth: that Campbell never did fight for anyone, he was just a journalist, and only lasted the course for a few days; he was in Toledo and not Barcelona; the priests were all killed; and he was in Spain as he was on the run from the law in France.

That's the way it reads in the context of the whole letter and absence of any more - though I am very keen not to give those who want to deride Tolkien as some kind of 'nazi' any ammunition!
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Old 05-16-2012, 07:24 AM   #39
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In ROTK extended edition, Aragorn tells the Corsairs of Umbar "You may go no further. You will not enter Gondor."

That's along the same lines of "You cannot pass."

My dad was in the United States Air Force, and though he was a wartime veteran, he was never in combat. But he still says it was a pretty basic statement for the Army.
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