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Old 05-21-2005, 09:01 AM   #81
Bęthberry
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I don't wish to turn this into an "I said/you said" argument which does not move the discussion forward, but I do want to clarify a point. I didn't say, Lalwendë that you personally used the Redbook as a handy recourse. The pronoun I used was we and I choose it deliberately (is there a BD 'we' as well as a royal we? ), for this point has been used in the past by many others (myself included I bet), at least as I recall some of the many discussions in my time here, so I wasn't so much stating something about your argument, as the general tendency "we" have here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
I only notice it now because it has been brought to my attention by other readers.
Does that mean that we can't learn new things from our discussion here but must always return to our own first readings? Is something invalidated if we didn't notice it in our first flush of love reading? And what if someone noticed it on first reading/reading in the context of abandonment to story? Does that make it irrelevant if one person sees it and others don't?

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
One could make a stab at an explanation along these lines...

Tolkien has set up in the foreword the conceit of LotR being a translatioon of the Red Book. It is a work with two main narrators - Frodo & Sam, but we are also told that the accounts have been 'supplimented by the learning of the wise'. We are also informed that the book from which Tolkien 'translated' the story was not the original book but a copy. He even includes an aside by Findegil the King's copyist.

What we seem to have then, is a version of the original work, which has been 'supplimented' through various copies & finally translated[ by an Oxford Don in the 1940's.
This kind of point is why I suggested a thread might be interesting, to see how far this conceit can be taken in the text itself.

As a general theory or a good stab, I think you have stated how it could possibly work, davem. However, I think for it truely to exist in the text to justify the stylistic differences, we would have to see far more evidence of its workings.

We would, I think, have to have the kind of text similar to the Bible, which is very much a heterogeneous text. We could see things like the incomplete collation of the two creation stories in Genesis. We would have the story 'interrupted' by ritual prescriptions and laws, as Leviticus interrupts the story of Exodus. (I am not stating this literally, but as an example of the kind of variation.) We could be swept away by various kinds of story elements, symbolic as well as prophetic, and by various types of narrators. We could have psalms and the Song of Solomon beside narrative. We could see how various chapters are dependent on previous ones for their story elements, as occurs in the New Testament. This is just an example for elucidating what I would think might appear in such a 'handed down' text. And I'm sure other old narratives would offer their unique elements of textual tradition. I'm not saying this is the only one. Nor am I discounting the possibility that Tolkien could use the conceit in his own unique way.

However, I think we would see far more variation in the style, in the story elements, in the narrators' voices than we have at the moment. Right now, I think the conceit of the Redbook and the translations of various authors is just a conceit, nothing more. I don't think Tolkien 'built it into' the story. It is a bookend piece, part of the delightful story elements, but I don't think it plays a part in the story proper. Thus, I don't think it can really account for the variations of style.

I think a thread about this might be interesting, so this thread can remain devoted to littlemanpoet's topic. And his example, which is sitll unremarked upon.
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Old 05-21-2005, 09:59 AM   #82
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'Lor' bless you...

Well, we have two alternatives - we can look within the secondary world for an explanation or outside it. Looking outside it, we have alternatives again. One, there is the possibility that it slipped past Tolkien - as Shippey points out it is the kind of exclamation a working class person of Tolkien's period make come out with, so Tolkien used it without thinking. Second, it is a kind of 'half hidden' Christian reference, which again could be conscious or unconscious on Tolkien's part. Third, we can consider the origin of the word 'Lord'. It is anglo-saxon & derives from the word 'hlaford' or 'loaf keeper', referring to the head of the household. So, not necessarily a Christian reference, but its possible.

Approached from within the secondary world it is both more difficult to account for but it is also more evocative - it leads us to ask 'who is this 'Lord' who Sam is invoking? Is this one of only two direct references in the whole of LotR to Hobbit religion (the other one being Merry's exclamation of 'Lawks!' in Three is Company).

What I'm saying here is that 'Lor'/Lawks' only become a problem if we read with primary world baggage in our minds. If we do, then these exclamations may break the spell for us, if we can leave that baggage at the door then far frombreaking the spell they actually add depth by providing a mystery to be solved. They actually make Middle earth a bit odder & more mysterious than it at first seemed. Did the Hobbits have any 'religious' beliefs at all?

Of course, whether Tolkien slipped up or not, what his actual reason was in using these phrases is another question. Its only their primary world connotations that risk doing any damage to our experience. In the other current thread, on 'What ain't there...' we're discussing exactly this kind of thing - the question is, didn't hobbits ought to have some form of belief? If so, what form would it take? Go with the 'conceit' for a moment. Tolkien has a text to translate, he comes across two references to some kind of 'Higher power' in this text, but without any context. What does he do - excise them, or substiute some modern colloquial equivalent? Probably the latter.

Hope this makes sense.....
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Old 05-21-2005, 02:45 PM   #83
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Hlaford, supplied with 'lawks' and given the agricultural society of the Shire, may give rise to certain suspicions - Corn King type of religion? Which, viewed from the 'Primary World' persepctive, may be seen as just another 'consciouly so' hint at Christianity?

Mind that neither remark is that obvious. It would certainly be hard to suspend disbelief if Sam exlaimed 'Jesus bless you'. How many people consciously connect 'lawks' with Christianity these days?

We sing duet, sir davem But you are good at your own sig, and reptiles of the mind don't stand a chance, it seems.

I refer to the manifold authorship issues:

Quote:
Originally Posted by HerenIstarion
Yes, much is altered in Tolkien's later writings. The difficulties arisen from such a situtation are usually solved by yours truly on the following ground - the whole of the legendarium is presented as collection of legends and stories by different authors. There is no need for different authors to agree on every point they recount
I suppose it works for LoTR too.

Imagine it is not reading, but listening in rounds by the fire-side, when each story-teller continues the threadline passed on by the previous one. They all speak the same story, but in different words and styles, and adding of their own slightly. Some extra beards not accounted for in previous telling, some extra feet to the height of the enemy, but that is minor, and the flow is what counts. Keep an eye on the fire for the enchantment, and don't let the knowledge of the fact it's being electrically heated distract you

General tendency, yes. We, Augustus Bonifacius Rex, Basileus etc tend to use it in such a way . Why not, if it is presented as such? Even if it is a trick, not 'real magic' on Tolkien's part, it works wonders.

Concluding thought: It was 'willing suspension of disbelief' was it not? The accent falls on 'willing' here.
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Old 05-21-2005, 09:14 PM   #84
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
Of course, it could be that Tolkien created that forst step in a way which is a lot more subtle than transitional fantasies, but I would argue that the very oddness of The Shire, and the fact that it represents no England that ever existed beyond the poetic constructs of memory, does make it immediately immersive.
I think you're right. This thread is especially for me a means of thinking about the writing/reading process in terms of my (to be post mortemly published I'm sure) work of transitional fantasy. The primary world that I feign in my story is, as you say in regard to Austen and others, not real. It only has to be real enough to enchant the reader; that is, as Fordim has reflected, for the reader to co-create the feigned reality. The degree to which Tolkien went to achieve this is frankly astounding, and maybe impossible to duplicate.

As for "out of sync", I see how that applies to the Shire. I will enjoy considering how that applies to my story.

As to specific examples (which I'm responding to out of context because I'm lazy and/or lack time):

Eomer's verse works for me because it's alliterative and within the oral tradition that Tolkien based the Rohirrim on.

Gimli's high-flown speech in the Last Debate seems like it needs the "multiple writers" explanation, because he just didn't talk like that earlier. Think of his words to Eomer at their first meeting. Or to Galadriel at the gift giving.

I like Eowyn's "dwimorlaik" very much. It just feels so Germanic/Anglo-Saxon.

As for the attempted explanations of "lawks" and "Lor'", that stuff didn't stand out to me in my "love reading". But then I was only age 12. Nor did it stand out to me in any reading before this current one. The only way that this works for me is to use the conceit that Tolkien is translating some generic semi-polite expletive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry
(1)Does that mean that we can't learn new things from our discussion here but must always return to our own first readings? (2)Is something invalidated if we didn't notice it in our first flush of love reading? (3)And what if someone noticed it on first reading/reading in the context of abandonment to story? (4)Does that make it irrelevant if one person sees it and others don't?
I hope you don't mind my numbering for the sake of referential short hand:

(1) This question is more difficult than it seems on the surface. Whereas the discussions here and knowledge gleaned elsewhere do enrich our understanding and appreciation of LotR and other of Tolkien's works, it comes at a price. At least, we (some of us) are required to "pay more" in terms of trying to experience secondary belief in re-readings.

(2) Certainly not! But knowledge comes with a price of that first naiveté lost (and I mean that in the best sense of the word).

(3) It will affect the reader's experience of the story such that it may hinder secondary belief.

(4) Certainly not! It will at least make for interesting discussions on this thread!

Quote:
Originally Posted by HerenIstarion
It was 'willing suspension of disbelief' was it not? The accent falls on 'willing' here.
No, actually it's slightly more complicated. Willing suspension of disbelief is necessary once the enchantment has already been broken. Secondary belief, by contrast, is the reader "co-creating the feigned reality" with the author. I do find davem's argument persuasive that in a well-feigned secondary reality it is the reader's responsibility to work with the author. However, I still think that the more one knows about writing and reading, the greater the difficulty in co-creating. This is also true given a greater difference between Tolkien's cultural context and the reader's; no fault of either writer or reader, but a consequence nonetheless.
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Old 05-23-2005, 08:34 AM   #85
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Quote:
Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
However, I still think that the more one knows about writing and reading, the greater the difficulty in co-creating. This is also true given a greater difference between Tolkien's cultural context and the reader's; no fault of either writer or reader, but a consequence nonetheless.
Just some musings about this. Do you mean that, with subsequent readings and more conscious awareness of literary affects, that the sense of the true meaning of ordinary life, which is revealed through the enchantment with the subcreated world, is lost? Or do you mean that the link between the two becomes harder to maintain? Would this mean that writers themselves no longer experience this joy, either in their own writing or when they read other fantasy?

I would have thought that, since Tolkien's view of the imagination is tied in so closely with language, the creation of meaning, that the more one understands how words mean, the more one is able to join in that subcreative activity. (By the way, I don't deny the importance of the reader working with the text. I would use text rather than author.)

It seems to me that any sense of fantasy which is so heavily based on the virginal or naive first reading has to be doomed to a kind of linguistic fall unless one can account for new meanings which come to the imagination upon subsequent readings. Or if there is some other kind of relationship between primary and secondary world. If the only value of fantasy is this defamiliarising quality which makes us see our world newly, then once that act has been achieved, ...

The other point which can be made is to ask whether these breaks you feel in the enchantment are sufficient to destroy the final overall affect of consolation, recovery, joy. I mean, how long must an epiphany be?

By the way, I've just read some stuff about George MacDonald, who of course greatly prefigured Tolkien and Lewis in attributing the value of the imagination to fantasy. I thought it might be useful here to consider.

Quote:
One difference between God's work and man's is, that, while God's work cannot mean more than he meant, man's must mean more than he meant. For in everything that God has made, there is layer upon layer of ascending significance; also he expresses the same thought in higher and higher kinds of that thought; it is God's things, his embodied thoughts, which alone a man has to use, modified and adapted to his own purposes, for the expression of his thoughts; therefore he cannot help his words and figures falling into such combinations in the mind of another as he himself had not foreseen, so many are the thoughts allied to every other thought, so many are the relations involved in every figure, so many the facts hinted in every symbol. A man may well himself discover truth in what he wrote; for he was dealing all the time with things that came from thoughts beyond his own.
This rather fits the Tolkien letter you referred to earlier, that he had not initially seen things in Galadriel that he later saw (or had pointed out to him). So, if Tolkien had a sense of coming closer towards discovering the story rather than inventing it, why cannot the reader also have this experience, as the two are joined in the act of subcreating?

I'm not sure any of this is very coherent or lucid.
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Old 05-23-2005, 10:40 AM   #86
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bb
It seems to me that any sense of fantasy which is so heavily based on the virginal or naive first reading has to be doomed to a kind of linguistic fall unless one can account for new meanings which come to the imagination upon subsequent readings.
I don't think its about basing our sense of fantasy on 'on the virginal or naive first reading'. Its about (for me) finding new depth & meaning within the secondary world rather than attempting to supply that depth & meaning from an external source - ie the Primary world.

Quote:
This rather fits the Tolkien letter you referred to earlier, that he had not initially seen things in Galadriel that he later saw (or had pointed out to him). So, if Tolkien had a sense of coming closer towards discovering the story rather than inventing it, why cannot the reader also have this experience, as the two are joined in the act of subcreating?
This should be our goal on re reading any text, but we should look to the text itself (& the supplimentary work by the author) & our own speculations & surmises about it rather than attempting to find 'relevant' connections outside it - if we want the enchantment to deepen. If we bring in too much of the primary world we may find that the secondary world isn't strong enough to hold it & it will start to unravel - this is our part in the co-creation of the secondary world. We have to assist in the building of it, rather than simply standing around, looking at things & saying 'You know, this is really such & such - I think I'm being had!.'

In his continuing 'meditations on Galadriel Tolkien 'realised' that she was a kind of Virgin Mary figure in the sense that they shared certain symbolic attributes, but she never became merely an allegory of Mary. She could always stand alone as a figure within Middle earth.

Now, I'm not saying its not interesting to make connections between Middle earth & the primary world - I've indulged in that kind of play myself, but while it can be entertaining what I've found is that it takes me away from the actual experience, the 'enchantment'. Its fine to say 'This reminds me of so & so' - in fact, we can't help but be reminded in some cases, but to go beyond that & say 'This must equal that, they're the same thing' is asking for the spell to be broken.
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Old 05-23-2005, 05:11 PM   #87
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You know, there's a reason it has taken me until Page 3 to post in this thread. Like Lalwende in the "Choices of Master Samwise" thread, I dislike tearing apart the text to find the "hidden meaning" in it. And this thread, while intent on searching out the holes that Tolkien left in it, not the holes of our own making, seems a little to close to that for my comfort.

However, a thought occurred to me that I thought bore mentioning, here if not elsewhere. Here it is:

The "enchantment" that the Lord of the Rings puts on us is much like the golden eggs of nursery rhyme fodder. Both are beneficial to us, and bring a great deal of joy into our lives. However, how is it possible for a goose to lay golden eggs? In the fable, which I no longer fully recall (*ashamed*), the owners of the goose kill her to get at the eggs, and thus obviously ending the enchantment.

And it seems to me that to over-examine the cracks and holes in the book's enchantment is tantamount to killing the goose. In doing so, are we perhaps ending any future benefit, any future enchantment?

I'm not convinced, but the parallels seems clear...

Avoiding such discussions in general,

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Old 05-23-2005, 07:34 PM   #88
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry
Do you mean that, with subsequent readings and more conscious awareness of literary effects, that the sense of the true meaning of ordinary life, which is revealed through the enchantment with the subcreated world, is lost? Or do you mean that the link between the two becomes harder to maintain? Would this mean that writers themselves no longer experience this joy, either in their own writing or when they read other fantasy?
No, not lost; yes, harder to experience. Writers can experience secondary belief, but it is harder. Secondary belief has become harder for me to experience the more I understand about the craft of writing. It has been the same kind of experience for me regarding music, all my life. I was taught early to be discriminating in my taste of music, and the reasons why. the result has been that music that moves most people fails to move me because its faults are too glaring. It might be too repetitive, or the melody might be too trite, or the chord progression might be too redundant, or the style might be so like everything else currently in vogue that I can't even hear it as other than trite. With writing and reading it's a little different, but not much. A story doesn't hook me as easily as it might have a few years ago. I'm too aware of the techniques the writer has employed, and especially the failures and second and third rate stuff.

EDIT: But mostly, if a story doesn't have any of that indescribable atmosphere, that air, that breath of wonder and grasp of life right on the cusp of faery that I discovered in Tolkien, I put it down after just a couple of pages. There are some writers who can still do this for me. O.S. Card, LeGuin, our own mark12_30 (Helen), and a few others.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bb
I would have thought that, since Tolkien's view of the imagination is tied in so closely with language, the creation of meaning, that the more one understands how words mean, the more one is able to join in that subcreative activity.
And so it is, but only when the writer is at a high enough standard of craft such that the "trees in the forest' don't call attention to themselves and away from the story itself. This has happened very rarely in my current re-reading of Tolkien, but it has happened now, twice in five chapters.

Quote:
If the only value of fantasy is this defamiliarising quality which makes us see our world newly, then once that act has been achieved, ...
....one starts writing one's own fairy stories. ... which is what Tolkien and Lewis agreed to do, precisely because nobody was writing the kind of stuff they wanted to read. I'm not sure theirs was the same dilemma I face with broken enchantment, but it resonates the same.

Quote:
The other point which can be made is to ask whether these breaks you feel in the enchantment are sufficient to destroy the final overall affect of consolation, recovery, joy. I mean, how long must an epiphany be?
I tend not to experience this "crj" trinity by reading LotR anymore. It's why I re-read Smith of Wootton Major so often. But I did have a few brief moments of recovery. For example, when the Barrow Downs are mentioned before (?) the Hobbits make it to Tom Bombadil's house, I felt that same old thrill as the first time I read the book; and oddly, it was associated with the Pauline Baynes map, which I must have had before me as I read!

Your mention, Bęthberry, of George MacDonald, is appropo to the idea of reader as co-creator with the author. But what this necessarily means is that Middle-earth as it exists in your imagination, and Middle-earth as it exists in mine, are at variance with each other, to what degree no one can say. Is yours better than mine, or mine better than yours? Of course not! As we converse about them, your M-e informs mine and mine informs yours, and understanding and appreciation grows. This happened for me most recently in regard to an insight Lalwendę had, regarding the apparent ability of Sauron and his Nazgul to unbody a spirit then torment that spirit, not allowing it to escape into death. When I first read her insight I thought "Nonsense!" But as I saw more and more references to it in my own readings of LotR, I realized that Lal was right, and that my own understanding of this point had been enhanced, against my initial inclination!

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
This should be our goal on re reading any text, but we should look to the text itself (& the supplimentary work by the author) & our own speculations & surmises about it rather than attempting to find 'relevant' connections outside it - if we want the enchantment to deepen. If we bring in too much of the primary world we may find that the secondary world isn't strong enough to hold it & it will start to unravel - this is our part in the co-creation of the secondary world. We have to assist in the building of it, rather than simply standing around, looking at things & saying 'You know, this is really such & such - I think I'm being had!.'
Whereas I think this is the best way to read LotR, and any work of fiction - the first time, I think that you overstate the case in regard to drawing from the primary world in order to find meaning or increase understanding and appreciation/enjoyment. If we are indeed co-creators of the writer's world within our own imagination, drawing from the primary world is both inevitable and desirable. In fact, davem, you do it as much as anybody. Fractals, anyone? I think you've stated it well in the final paragraph of your most recent post.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Formendacil
And it seems to me that to over-examine the cracks and holes in the book's enchantment is tantamount to killing the goose. In doing so, are we perhaps ending any future benefit, any future enchantment?
Quite. This was the reason I introduced the thread with my "warning". If you recall,
Quote:
Warning: this thread may be hazardous to the enchantment Tolkien's stories weave on you. Proceed at your own risk.
I was not joking.

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Old 05-24-2005, 01:15 AM   #89
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Enchantement in a box may be alive or dead...

Quote:
Dear Cecil:

Cecil, you're my final hope
Of finding out the true Straight Dope
For I have been reading of Schroedinger's cat
But none of my cats are at all like that.
This unusual animal (so it is said)
Is simultaneously live and dead!
What I don't understand is just why he
Can't be one or other, unquestionably.
My future now hangs in between eigenstates.
In one I'm enlightened, the other I ain't.
If you understand, Cecil, then show me the way
And rescue my psyche from quantum decay.
But if this queer thing has perplexed even you,
Then I will and won't see you in Schroedinger's zoo.

--Randy F., Chicago

Quote:
Dear Randy:

Schroedinger, Erwin! Professor of physics!
Wrote daring equations! Confounded his critics!
(Not bad, eh? Don't worry. This part of the verse
Starts off pretty good, but it gets a lot worse.)
Win saw that the theory that Newton'd invented
By Einstein's discov'ries had been badly dented.
What now? wailed his colleagues. Said Erwin, "Don't panic,
No grease monkey I, but a quantum mechanic.
Consider electrons. Now, these teeny articles
Are sometimes like waves, and then sometimes like particles.
If that's not confusing, the nuclear dance
Of electrons and suchlike is governed by chance!
No sweat, though--my theory permits us to judge
Where some of 'em is and the rest of 'em was."
Not everyone bought this. It threatened to wreck
The comforting linkage of cause and effect.
E'en Einstein had doubts, and so Schroedinger tried
To tell him what quantum mechanics implied.
Said Win to Al, "Brother, suppose we've a cat,
And inside a tube we have put that cat at--
Along with a solitaire deck and some Fritos,
A bottle of Night Train, a couple mosquitoes
(Or something else rhyming) and, oh, if you got 'em,
One vial prussic acid, one decaying ottom
Or atom--whatever--but when it emits,
A trigger device blasts the vial into bits
Which snuffs our poor kitty. The odds of this crime
Are 50 to 50 per hour each time.
The cylinder's sealed. The hour's passed away. Is
Our ***** still purring--or pushing up daisies?
Now, you'd say the cat either lives or it don't
But quantum mechanics is stubborn and won't.
Statistically speaking, the cat (goes the joke),
Is half a cat breathing and half a cat croaked.
To some this may seem a ridiculous split,
But quantum mechanics must answer, "Tough @#&!
We may not know much, but one thing's fo' sho':
There's things in the cosmos that we cannot know.
Shine light on electrons--you'll cause them to swerve.
The act of observing disturbs the observed--
Which ruins your test. But then if there's no testing
To see if a particle's moving or resting
Why try to conjecture? Pure useless endeavor!
We know probability--certainty, never.'
The effect of this notion? I very much fear
'Twill make doubtful all things that were formerly clear.
Till soon the cat doctors will say in reports,
"We've just flipped a coin and we've learned he's a corpse."'
So saith Herr Erwin. Quoth Albert, "You're nuts.
God doesn't play dice with the universe, putz.
I'll prove it!" he said, and the Lord knows he tried--
In vain--until fin'ly he more or less died.
Win spoke at the funeral: "Listen, dear friends,
Sweet Al was my buddy. I must make amends.
Though he doubted my theory, I'll say of this saint:
Ten-to-one he's in heaven--but five bucks says he ain't."

CECIL ADAMS
Following Terry Pratchatt, I may add that Enchantement in a box may be in a third state too, that is, bloody furious because of being put into the box in the first place. Wear protective gloves before you proceed (at your own risk ) to open it....
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Old 05-24-2005, 07:43 AM   #90
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Originally Posted by LMP
Whereas I think this is the best way to read LotR, and any work of fiction - the first time, I think that you overstate the case in regard to drawing from the primary world in order to find meaning or increase understanding and appreciation/enjoyment. If we are indeed co-creators of the writer's world within our own imagination, drawing from the primary world is both inevitable and desirable. In fact, davem, you do it as much as anybody. Fractals, anyone? I think you've stated it well in the final paragraph of your most recent post.
I do, but I think I also stated (somewhere) that it is likely to break the enchantment. I also said that this should be the 'third stage' in our approach to reading- stage 1 is to try & experience the story as story - which is not necessarily to read it without any thought. The whole 'translator conceit' may be part of that, because it is part of what we have from the author, part of the creation itself, along with the background history of the secondary world, the variant texts, etc. Stage 2 is attempting to understand the author's motivations & influences, from his backgorund knowledge, influences, personal history, etc (John Garth's suggestion of Tolkien seeing the world 'through enchanted eyes' in the way his WW1 experiences may have played a part in the writings (as in the way that his time on the Somme may have affected the story of the Fall of Gondolin in BoLT, etc). Stage 3 would be exploring what we bring to our reading out of our personal experience. My point is that only in stage 1 are we likely to experience 'enchantment' & the more we focus on stages 2&3 the more likely we are to experience the loss of that enchantment, because we are bringing things into the secondary world that have no place there.

There is a difference between bringing our 'experience' of 'trees, hills & rivers, of bread & stone, wind & sunshine to the secondary world, because these things help to personalise the secondary world & make it as much ours as the author's, & bringing our knowledge of mythology, history, psychology, etc, to the secondary world. This is, I think, what Tolkien was referring to by the demolishing of the tower to see where the stones from which it was built originally came from, or asking the origins of the bones from which the 'soup' was boiled.

It depends what you want - enchantment, or a knowledge of the writer, or even a greater knowledge of yourself. Of course, its possible that stages 2 & 3, may feed back into your experience of stage 1 'unconsciously' (but we can't know about that or the way it affects us , but we should try & avoid the stages blurring into one. whenever we read the book we should always try & read it fresh, as if we're travellers in that world, not see it as a 'quarry' for other things.

As to the 'fractals' thing, that was really just an analogy to make a point, rather than an attempt to imply that fractals have anything to do with it. It would be very easy to get distracted from the direct experience of the story if we have that kind of baggage in mind as we read.

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Old 05-24-2005, 12:07 PM   #91
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This happened for me most recently in regard to an insight Lalwendę had, regarding the apparent ability of Sauron and his Nazgul to unbody a spirit then torment that spirit, not allowing it to escape into death. When I first read her insight I thought "Nonsense!" But as I saw more and more references to it in my own readings of LotR, I realized that Lal was right, and that my own understanding of this point had been enhanced, against my initial inclination!
This itself came from another re-reading, and it wasn't something I'd ever picked up on before. The last reading was carried out in the wake of reading many of Tolkien's later writings such as Osanwe-kenta and Morgoth's Ring. It shows that each reading is different to the last, that different points interest me or seem to jump out from the page. I do think that we bring our recently acquired knowledge to each re-reading in this way, or was it that I was consciously reading with 'care' as I was taking part in the chapter by chapter discussions? Would I have noticed this had I not been taking part in those discussions?

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Originally Posted by davem
There is a difference between bringing our 'experience' of 'trees, hills & rivers, of bread & stone, wind & sunshine to the secondary world, because these things help to personalise the secondary world & make it as much ours as the author's, & bringing our knowledge of mythology, history, psychology, etc, to the secondary world.
Following on from what davem says here, are there right and wrong types of knowledge to bring to a reading if we are to read in the way he talks about? I often will read something which reminds me of something else in mythology or history, often strikingly so. But what I tend to do is consider whether Tolkien would have known about that correlation, wonder if he was making a play on something else and so forth. I did this last year when I watched a documentary on Newton and made a link to Saruman's breaking the Light. It was a consideration I wished to play with as I felt sure Tolkien would have been fully aware of Newton's experiments. Is this a valid comparison to make if we consider it within the bounds of whether Tolkien would have possessed that knowledge?

EDIT: And just to add context to the question, when I saw the documentary on Newton it immediately threw into sharp relief what had previously, to me, been a quite difficult to comprehend part of the story. I suddenly 'understood' exactly what Saruman had been doing or attempting to do. Or did I? Did I just apply that knowledge to what I was reading of this secondary world?
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Old 05-24-2005, 08:09 PM   #92
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
...are there right and wrong types of knowledge to bring to a reading if we are to read in the way he talks about? I often will read something which reminds me of something else in mythology or history, often strikingly so. But what I tend to do is consider whether Tolkien would have known about that correlation, wonder if he was making a play on something else and so forth. I did this last year when I watched a documentary on Newton and made a link to Saruman's breaking the Light. It was a consideration I wished to play with as I felt sure Tolkien would have been fully aware of Newton's experiments. Is this a valid comparison to make if we consider it within the bounds of whether Tolkien would have possessed that knowledge?
Valid? Why wouldn't it be? Granted, Newton's light is primary world light, while Tolkien's is subcreated Light; there seem to be spiritual, or at least mythical overtones in Tolkien not to be (readily) found in Newton, but an understanding of Newton's light can surely serve as a basis for enhanced understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment, no?

Hmmmm..... but if that can be, is there any real difference between that and a comparison between Shelob and Lilith? There may be more that is different than similar, but that merely says what is true of most comparisons. The similarities are what cause comparisons at all, and might not knowledge of Lilith reveal things about Shelob? It might break the enchantment to think of Newton or Lilith on a first reading, but once the first reading is done, the enchantment cannot (I think) truly ever be completely recovered for anyone (despite protestations to the contrary), because LotR was designed to be an enchantment that must come to an end. .... "Well, I'm back."
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Old 05-25-2005, 02:44 AM   #93
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I've said I don't have any problem with 'applying' whatever the reader finds applicable. But we enter into a difficult area - what about the 'application' of racist theories, or the 'application' of the atomic bomb to the Ring, or the 'application' of WW2 generally to LotR?

I suspect most of us would have some dispute with any of these 'applications' - particularly the first.

The danger with 'application' is that it can merge subtly into allegory, so that the Ring becomes seen as 'nothing but' the bomb - Shelob 'nothing but' Lilith, or Saruman 'nothing but' Newton, etc. If we are careful to keep the 'applications' seperate from the meaning there won't be a problem - we may even gain some insight into ourselves & what the text means to us. But as I say, there is a danger that we give too much weight to our applications to the point that they become 'necessary' to our understanding & the story we're reading is placed 'in the service' of another story.

If the Secondary World is well enough constructed then it will not require such input from the Primary World - if it does, then it has not been well enough put together & the author has failed to enchant us. Also, the more aware we are in our reading of theses applications, the more we will be distracted, pulled out of the Secondary World into the Primary world, because the necessary dividing line will be lost.

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The similarities are what cause comparisons at all, and might not knowledge of Lilith reveal things about Shelob?
Well, will it 'reveal' things - ie, give us insight into Shelob as Shelob, a character in Middle earth, or will it simply be a conflation of the two, so that in the end we end up with no clear sense of either. Apart from general similarities, how much alike are they? Of course, these 'applications' are useful as a kind of 'shorthand' in discussing the text with others (like the fractals image) but we have to use them carefully when it comes to applying them to our own reading as we read.
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Old 05-25-2005, 03:31 AM   #94
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
I've said I don't have any problem with 'applying' whatever the reader finds applicable. But we enter into a difficult area - what about the 'application' of racist theories, or the 'application' of the atomic bomb to the Ring, or the 'application' of WW2 generally to LotR?

I suspect most of us would have some dispute with any of these 'applications' - particularly the first.

The danger with 'application' is that it can merge subtly into allegory, so that the Ring becomes seen as 'nothing but' the bomb - Shelob 'nothing but' Lilith, or Saruman 'nothing but' Newton, etc. If we are careful to keep the 'applications' seperate from the meaning there won't be a problem - we may even gain some insight into ourselves & what the text means to us. But as I say, there is a danger that we give too much weight to our applications to the point that they become 'necessary' to our understanding & the story we're reading is placed 'in the service' of another story.

If the Secondary World is well enough constructed then it will not require such input from the Primary World - if it does, then it has not been well enough put together & the author has failed to enchant us. Also, the more aware we are in our reading of theses applications, the more we will be distracted, pulled out of the Secondary World into the Primary world, because the necessary dividing line will be lost.



Well, will it 'reveal' things - ie, give us insight into Shelob as Shelob, a character in Middle earth, or will it simply be a conflation of the two, so that in the end we end up with no clear sense of either. Apart from general similarities, how much alike are they? Of course, these 'applications' are useful as a kind of 'shorthand' in discussing the text with others (like the fractals image) but we have to use them carefully when it comes to applying them to our own reading as we read.
A very good post davem. Got me thinking again, as you had in the other thread.

I heed your urgent call not to infer and deduce wild allegories that are not in the works at all. I personally think that people who make such wild accusations have chips on their shoulders and their own demons to exorcise.

However may I build on your point that different people of different background and cultures hold different points of view and thus "apply" differently. Those real-world applications that you mentioned have never crossed the minds of my mates and myself for that matter of fact when we read LoTR. On the whole we enjoyed the book as a good fantasy read and the notions of racism, industrialism and allegories wide-scale war and weapons of mass destruction never crossed our minds.

A good non-Tolkien related example of what I am trying to relate here is my experience is English Literature for the GCE "Ordinary" Levels. Our literature text was Macbeth and our teacher was an English woman. She tried her best to make us read into the play in her point of view and understand the commonly interpreted themes in it, but us Asian students were unable to do so no matter how hard we tried. To us, all her analysis and explanations were unconvincing at at times irrelevant to what we thought. It was an exasperating period for both sides and we were finally reduced to the state of her simply reciting her notes and points of each scene and us scribbling them down and memorizing for the exams.

Those of us who memorized and regurgitated the contents of our brains score pretty well for the paper. The braver lot who tried their very best to appreciate the play and then write down their own thoughts on the discussion questions fared poorly - even though we all latter agreed that those poor souls' answers made more sense than the Cambridge model answers.
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Old 05-25-2005, 06:50 AM   #95
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Originally Posted by davem
If the Secondary World is well enough constructed then it will not require such input from the Primary World - if it does, then it has not been well enough put together & the author has failed to enchant us. Also, the more aware we are in our reading of theses applications, the more we will be distracted, pulled out of the Secondary World into the Primary world, because the necessary dividing line will be lost.
When I first applied my knowledge of Newton to Saruman, an initial thought was that Tolkien could have been saying something negative about science and scientists by using Newtonian experiments as a metaphor for what Saruman was doing. I also thought that Saruman was actually replicating what Newton had done, and got very excited speculating about the possibilities! But even though I still see the connections as incredibly strong, I must accept that the Newtonian imagery was simply metaphor. davem is right that the primary world can intrude if we are not careful, as this experience showed me that in my rush of excitement at discovering a clever link, I had forgotten that this was indeed Light and not mere light.

Still, it was great fun to speculate, and I now have a more clear idea of what Saruman might be like, whereas before, my idea of him had been quite slippery and elusive. So maybe there are some grey areas where primary world ideas or images can actually help us to gain a deeper understanding, as long as we ensure to keep a clear head and ask if such ideas or images are relevant to Middle Earth?

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once the first reading is done, the enchantment cannot (I think) truly ever be completely recovered for anyone (despite protestations to the contrary), because LotR was designed to be an enchantment that must come to an end
I detect the sound of a can of worms being opened. Can that enchantment be recovered? I would argue that no reading is ever quite like the first time, as with wondering eyes we first take in the sights of Middle Earth. But that first read depends a lot upon the plot, on the fact that we don't know what is going to happen. Readings at a later date are different, as we have more opportunity to stop for a moment and take in a view or appreciate the scent of the elanor. These readings are (or should be) as full of enchantment as the nature of ME makes us feel that way, but it is a different type of enchantment.
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Old 05-25-2005, 08:54 AM   #96
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Busy days make keeping up with this thread difficult, but here is a stab.

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Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
Your mention, Bęthberry, of George MacDonald, is appropo to the idea of reader as co-creator with the author. But what this necessarily means is that Middle-earth as it exists in your imagination, and Middle-earth as it exists in mine, are at variance with each other, to what degree no one can say. Is yours better than mine, or mine better than yours? Of course not! As we converse about them, your M-e informs mine and mine informs yours, and understanding and appreciation grows. This happened for me most recently in regard to an insight Lalwendę had, regarding the apparent ability of Sauron and his Nazgul to unbody a spirit then torment that spirit, not allowing it to escape into death. When I first read her insight I thought "Nonsense!" But as I saw more and more references to it in my own readings of LotR, I realized that Lal was right, and that my own understanding of this point had been enhanced, against my initial inclination!
Let's go back to your comment on one of these threads about the connotations the word 'buccolic' has for you. This is a personal shading of the word which derives from your personal experience of reading the word in various contexts. It is not 'wrong' because it might deviate from other people's connotations of the word, as it has been created out of your reading experience. Not everyone has this same personal experience. Yet, in reading the context of your use of the words, people can come to understand your shading. And, as you read the context of another person's use of buccolic, you will, as the good reader you are, come to understand his or her use of the word. This variation in connotation is part and parcel of how we learn and use language. In fact, it is even given a special name in linguistics: "idiolect", to distinguish it from 'dialect.'

So, I would extrapolate, that everyone's reading of Middle-earth will contain differences, some slight, some larger, some very large, depending upon the distance between the communities of language to which each reader and the original author belongs. Learning a 'foreign' language is not a matter of making equivalences between words of the two languages, but of coming to understand the culture that produces the second language, knowing its similarities and differences from the native language. But in fact all language use, even of our own native tongue, involves this translating. And it is a translating that is not solely personal, but partaking of the interpretive community which uses that language.

It is somewhat similar, I think, to the Catholic Church's use of symbols and ritual to express meaning. Those symbols and rituals have different referents in different languages, but the participants will find congruency. (This is somewhat different from the Protestant approach, which to my mind is far more literal-minded, but that is another debate.)

Behind George MacDonald's theory was his belief that God orders the universe, and that ultimately all things will point to the divine meaning. This was I suspect also the unifying source for Tolkien's sense that ultimately we will be drawn to understand the fuller spiritual meaning in his tale. But Tolkien was happy for readers to take what they can from his tales, for he had faith that ultimately full or replete understanding would become available. This is why, I think, it is ill-advised to say there is only one way of reading a text. It think texts create their readers as much as readers create the text, and in that interchange, as you have suggested in your understanding of Lal's point about Sauron, lies how meaning is created. Perhaps we focus too intently on 'enchantment' as a complete surrender to the subcreated world, for always there is this inherent fuller meaning pointing to how the subcreated world will change us in the primary world. I don't think enchantment always has to mean some kind of pentecostal (I mean that in the orignal sense of Pentecost, what the English call Whitsuntide, rather than the pentecostal used by certain sects to reflect the emotive nature of their religious experience) burning of tongues with hot coals.

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Originally Posted by Saurreg
I heed your urgent call not to infer and deduce wild allegories that are not in the works at all. I personally think that people who make such wild accusations have chips on their shoulders and their own demons to exorcise.
While you are, of course, entitled to your opinion, I wonder what the benefit is of ascribing to people who don't share your opinion some kind of psychological problem or difficulty. What is the value, on a discussion forum, of characterising those who don't agree with you, negatively? What good will it do to reach understanding? Those who agree with your opinion will simply agree while those who disagree will not be persuaded to come over to your opinion since you, perhaps without realising it, insult them.

Your point also begs the question of "what is in the works". Tolkien himself was always discovering more of 'what was in his works'.

However, your example of the unfortunate English class studying MacBeth is a perfect example of what I am trying to explain.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saurreg
Our literature text was Macbeth and our teacher was an English woman. She tried her best to make us read into the play in her point of view and understand the commonly interpreted themes in it, but us Asian students were unable to do so no matter how hard we tried. To us, all her analysis and explanations were unconvincing at at times irrelevant to what we thought. It was an exasperating period for both sides and we were finally reduced to the state of her simply reciting her notes and points of each scene and us scribbling them down and memorizing for the exams.

Those of us who memorized and regurgitated the contents of our brains score pretty well for the paper. The braver lot who tried their very best to appreciate the play and then write down their own thoughts on the discussion questions fared poorly - even though we all latter agreed that those poor souls' answers made more sense than the Cambridge model answers.
Here was your English teacher telling you what the text meant based on her interpretive community and based on her sense that there is one definitive way to understand the text. Unfortunately, this approach fails to consider how time, place and cultural differences affect our readings because they affect our use of language.

And, by the by, I never, ever said Shelob was Lilith or was only Lilith. What I suggested was that elements of that legend partly inform her as well as informing Galadriel, Arwen, and Eowyn. But I have further thoughts to say about that chapter, which I will reserve for the Chapter by Chapter thread.

So, all in all, it seems to me with come up with some differing ideas about enchantment:

1) It occurs only once, the first reading, when we fall wholly and not-consciously thinking into the seeming reality of the subcreated world. In other words, the only way to experience this jcr is to first be enraptured.

2) It can be broken when elements remind us too forcefully of the primary world OR of the nature of writing as a created construct.

3) We can posit a concurrent, ongoing relationship between the subcreated world and the primary world, such that we don't have to hold the jcr in waiting until the reading is concluded.

4) We can posit a different form of reading theory that isn't so dependent upon this kind of Pentecost of experience.

What I think is of crucial value in Tolkien's defense of fantasy was less his arguement, based as it was on his Faith, but that he defended it as important to human nature at a time when it was relegated to the insignificant realms of children's literature. He made us aware of the importance of dragons in our imaginative lives, and, by extension, in our normal, waking lives.

Wow, this is a long way away from the thread's beginning. Sorry if I've rambled on.
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Old 05-25-2005, 01:40 PM   #97
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I suppose this opens up the question of the degree of 'feedback' we experience between the primary & secondary worlds. If our encounter with the secondary world feeds back into our experience of the primary, & that new experience of the primary affects out later experience of the secondary, does that increaingly enhance & deepen our experience of both? Or does it at the same time make the primary world more 'enchanting' (woods in the primary world seeming 'overshadowed' by Lorien, so that almost we expect to see Elves wandering under those once familiar trees but also make the Golden Wood less 'enchanting' by being too similar now to our experience of primary world woodland, so that we can't shake the memory of that pile of trash someone dumped under the trees?

Yet, if this world was once Middle earth, perhaps our reading will make us wish to do what we can to heal the natural world?

But I think this is different to bringing in ideas from myth, psychology, science & the like, because they are not things of the natural, primary world, but 'theories' & beliefs, & perhaps the problem is not taking natural objects of the primary into the secondary world, but these beliefs & interpretations in there.

The Shelob/Lilith thing is interesting because it brings up the question of what aspects of Lilith one applies & what aspects one leaves. Clearly the part of Lilith's myth referring to her marriage to Adam doesn't apply, for one thing. So, you're not bringing in Lilith qua Lilith, but only those aspects that you find 'applicable' - anything that doesn't apply is put on one side as not relevant to the discussion. Some would argue though, that the aspect I've mentioned is one of the most important & significant aspects of Lilith, because of what it reveals about the relationship of God to his creatures, & the way the culture which produced the myth understood the nature of the Feminine. Then again, the presentation of Lilith is not primal, anymore than the presentation of Hel in the Eddas is. They are, rather, biassed accounts of primal UnderWorld Goddesses of the culltures which were replaced by the makers of the current myths. The gods of one culture become the demons of the subsequent one.

Tolkien tended not to 'lift' mythological figures in any kind of complete way, & simply place them within a Middle-earth setting, but rather he would make use of what struck him in the stories he read. If Galadriel carries echoes of Mary, then it could be argued that Shelob carries similar 'echoes' of Lilith, but these 'echoes' would be of the aspects of those figures which he found relevant to his story. Rather than thinking 'I'll draw on Mary or Lilith here' I think it would have been more a case of him taking in 'bits & bobs' from the 'leaf mould' of his mind, which had become divorced from their original context & he made use of them to serve the story, rather than the story serving them. They are rather like the stones from which the tower was built. The man who built the tower didn't actually care about the origin of the stones - his only concern was being able to look out upon the Sea.

So, its not (in my opinion) about finding out 'how' Shelob or Galadriel came to be created, & what raw materials were used in their construction. They both stand or fall by what they are & the role they play in the story, & our experience of them.
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Old 05-26-2005, 07:03 AM   #98
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A quick quotation from Tolkien apropos of the applicability of the primary world, as I have little time today for replies. This comes from Letter #294 in response to a draft of an interview with Tolkien by Charlotte and Denis Plimmer.

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Middle-earth ... corresponds spiritually to Nordic Europe.

Not Nordic, please! A word I personally dislike; it is associated, though of French origin, with racialist theories. Geographically Northern is better. But examination will show that even this is inapplicable (geographically or spiritually) to Middle-earth. ... Auden has asserted that for me 'the North is a sacred direction.' That is not true. The North-west of Europe, were I (and most of my ancestors) have lived, has my affection, as a man's home should. I love its atmosphere, andknow more of its histories and languages than I do of other parts; but it is not 'sacred', nor does it exhaust my affections. I have, for instance, a particular love for the Latin language, and among its descendants for Spanish. That it is untrue for my story, a mere reading of the synopses should show. The North was the seat of the fortresses of the Devil. The progress of the tale ends in what is far more like the re-establishment of an effective Holy Roman Empire with its seat in Rome than anything that would be devised by a 'Nordic'.
This was written late in his life, in 1976. I would see this as Tolkien's use of a historical example to elucidate his text, not as a statement of a one to one correspondence between Aragorn/Gondor and the Holy Roman Empire.
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Old 05-28-2005, 10:47 AM   #99
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Originally Posted by davem
If our encounter with the secondary world feeds back into our experience of the primary, & that new experience of the primary affects out later experience of the secondary, does that increasingly enhance & deepen our experience of both? Or does it at the same time make the primary world more 'enchanting' (woods in the primary world seeming 'overshadowed' by Lorien, so that almost we expect to see Elves wandering under those once familiar trees but also make the Golden Wood less 'enchanting' by being too similar now to our experience of primary world woodland, so that we can't shake the memory of that pile of trash someone dumped under the trees?
I'm sure this says far more about me than it does about broken enchantment (which is afterall a very subjective thing). I do have a reverence for trees, clouds, woods, ancient ruins, and open seas, that I might not have if I had never read Tolkien. On the other hand, what I tend to feel about the primary world is an emptiness, a lack of vitality, of enchantment. As wondrous and beautiful the "real world" is, I can't help feeling like something's missing, something that can only be grasped by the imagination. And it's not just the human stain of trash, suburbia, crime, what have you. It runs deeper than that. Arda is flawed by the designs of Morgoth. That is, the Secondary world Tolkien subcreated partakes of so much Real Life to do the degree that it is as flawed as the primary world. The world of the Fourth Age has lost much of the lustre. Light has been splintered. The Elves are leaving and enchantment is waning. I feel that both in Middle-earth and in our world, where the Elves are long gone and bereavement is the order of the day.

Quote:
Yet, if this world was once Middle earth, perhaps our reading will make us wish to do what we can to heal the natural world?
Alas, we are fighting the long defeat, every bit as much as Galadriel and the Elves in the late Third Age. Arda must be remade. The Myth must be literally, primarily transformed. That's my belief, anyway.

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So, its not (in my opinion) about finding out 'how' Shelob or Galadriel came to be created, & what raw materials were used in their construction. They both stand or fall by what they are & the role they play in the story, & our experience of them.
I agree. Thus, I think the disenchantment runs deeper. Light continues to splinter. The end of the Third Age was a time when those who lived then grieved the loss of so much that had thrived in the First Age. And now we are that far removed again from the Third Age, and have lost still more. It is as if the remants of Eden fade further with each passing year. And maybe it's just me wrestling with getting older.
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Old 05-28-2005, 02:02 PM   #100
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It is as if the remants of Eden fade further with each passing year.
But the memory & the yearning remain. So what does that tell us? Aren't those things as much 'Eden' as the physical trees & rivers that were 'once upon a time'? In fact, isn't that phrase. 'Once upon a time' (& 'over the hills & far away' - or as I prefer 'over the hills to faraway') part of the little bit of Eden that we all carry in our hearts?

The Elves haven't gone - not really - they still live, like the Hobbits, in that place. And its not all that far away, either - like the man said, 'Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate, & though I oft have passed them by, a day will come at last when I, shall take the hidden paths that run, west of the moon, east of the sun.'

Have you never looked at a distant horizon & felt that 'pull', that 'sense' that its just over there, & that if you set off, right then, you'd get there?

Of course, you can't just set off, because you have responsibilities here, things you have to do. But one day you will, because, just like Bilbo, you want to see 'Mountains again, mountains!'

Anyway, if you feel the way you say you do, I don't think you're all that 'old' - not really....
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Old 05-29-2005, 03:49 PM   #101
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Heh. Not all that old, but sensing time slipping away, as if through the fingers like sand.

Oh, I'm glad Eden is in my heart, and thanks for reminding of the poem with the secret gate. That's very much a piece of my own writing - how could it not be, if Tolkien baptized my imagination, to borrow a phrase from CSL?

I used to feel like 'that place' is just over the horizon, but I always knew I was just kidding myself because flat now is too sapped of faery.

davem, I have to smile sometimes how you communicate with the rest of us on this and other threads, as if you have found the Gospel According to Tolkien and are trying with all your might to communicate the evangelium, trying to get us all to believe. On this thread you have presented a powerful principle, that belief is necessary before its object can be accepted. That has nothing to do with whether it was experienced - I think of CSL's dwarfs in The Last Battle, for example. I for one wish I could go back to the way things used to be for me, and just believe, but it's not in me to do so anymore. I'm going to have to struggle through to the next "whatever". I sense that maybe Fordim and Bęthberry may be facing the same dilemma as I? A pure guess, that.

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Old 05-29-2005, 04:22 PM   #102
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Originally Posted by LMP
davem, I have to smile sometimes how you communicate with the rest of us on this and other threads, as if you have found the Gospel According to Tolkien and are trying with all your might to communicate the evangelium, trying to get us all to believe.
I hadn't thought of it that way. Maybe you're right. I'm not consciously trying to convert anybody, though. I just say what comes to me.

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I for one wish I could go back to the way things used to be for me, and just believe, but it's not in me to do so anymore. I'm going to have to struggle through to the next "whatever". I sense that maybe Fordim and Bęthberry may be facing the same dilemma as I? A pure guess, that.
I think that happens when you try too hard. I think enchanment happens when you stop trying to be enchanted - when you stop analysing yourself, & the story, & the author - all the whys & wherefores, the metaphors & tying yourself up in knots with textual analysis & deconstruction & sundry other forms of literary mumbo jumbo. I can't help thinking of Tom & Goldberry, laughing, singing & dancing, living in a constant state of wonder & enchantment. No 'evangelium' there, no desire to convert. Try to analyse Tom, to 'explain' him, & he'll vanish with a wink & a laugh, but accept him, follow him, &

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'You shall come home with me! The table is all laden with yellow cream, honeycomb, and white bread and butter.
Then another clear voice, as young and as ancient as Spring, like the song of a glad water flowing down into the night from a bright morning in the hills, came falling like silver to meet them:
Now let the song begin! let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather,
Light on the budding leaf, dew on the feather,
Wind on the open hill, bells on the heather,
Reeds by the shady pool, lilies on the water:
Old Tom Bombadil and the River-daughter!
And with that song the hobbits stood upon the threshold, and a golden light was all about them.


(See that? I'm doing it again....
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Old 05-29-2005, 06:51 PM   #103
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Originally Posted by davem
I think enchantment happens when you stop trying to be enchanted - when you stop analysing yourself, & the story, & the author - all the whys & wherefores, the metaphors & tying yourself up in knots with textual analysis & deconstruction & sundry other forms of literary mumbo jumbo.
I'll plead guilty to analyzing myself, but not the rest. I'm just not objective enough for all that other stuff. What I do analyze (perhaps to my own enchantable demise) is myth and story in general. Perhaps (hah! who am I kidding?) .... It has to do with having a story to tell and fearing that I am unable to adequately ... to which the obvious answer is .... Write the d**n thing! Better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all. But if I write, I won't be here as much. Lousy excuse, since I enjoy the company here. But its part of why I started this thread in the first place. Here I am running off at the mouth, using y'all for my own purposes. Thanks, you've been kind enough to be an (maybe) unknowing, brain-picked sounding board.
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Old 05-30-2005, 07:04 AM   #104
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Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
davem, I have to smile sometimes how you communicate with the rest of us on this and other threads, as if you have found the Gospel According to Tolkien and are trying with all your might to communicate the evangelium, trying to get us all to believe. On this thread you have presented a powerful principle, that belief is necessary before its object can be accepted. That has nothing to do with whether it was experienced
Interesting that you cast the discussion this way. And interesting that you smile at davem's zealous proselytising. I can't smile at it because it too much insists that there is only one way to read, one way to enjoy, one way to find that Other Land just over the next page whose scent you just might carry back with you to the waking world. Such fundamentalism I find limiting and even somewhat scary, however eloquently or kindly or sincerely meant. Or however truely or meaningfully experienced by one reader.

But even more interesting, littlemanpoet, is your contrast here between "accepted" and "experienced." That's a nice way of handling the differences on this thread, I think.

So, how or what will you take back to your writing? That you can provide the experience for the reader, but not necessarily the belief?
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Old 05-30-2005, 02:41 PM   #105
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Such fundamentalism I find limiting and even somewhat scary, however eloquently or kindly or sincerely meant. Or however truely or meaningfully experienced by one reader.
This is only a literary discussion. Being scared by anything I've said seems a bit of an over reaction. I'm stating as honestly as I can my own feelings & understanding. If I was advocating firebombing the 'scapegoats', I could understand your reaction, as it is, I can only say I think everyone needs to lighten up. I'm beginning to suspect the halls of accademe are haunted by professors & students in bullet proof gowns & carrying cans of mace, keeping a safe distance from one another in case an idea goes off & everyone gets hit by the shrapnel.
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Old 05-30-2005, 03:21 PM   #106
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the halls of accademe are haunted by professors & students in bullet proof gowns...
hmm... that's probably because of quantum...
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Old 05-31-2005, 05:35 PM   #107
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Originally Posted by Bęthberry
So, how or what will you take back to your writing? That you can provide the experience for the reader, but not necessarily the belief?
Something more humble. Simply that I must write the story I have to write, and will do the best I can. Whether I evoke the experience enough to cast the enchantment, only the reader can say. Belief is beyond my control.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry
Interesting that you cast the discussion this way. And interesting that you smile at davem's zealous proselytising. I can't smile at it because it too much insists that there is only one way to read, one way to enjoy, one way to find that Other Land just over the next page whose scent you just might carry back with you to the waking world. Such fundamentalism I find limiting and even somewhat scary, however eloquently or kindly or sincerely meant. Or however truely or meaningfully experienced by one reader.
Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
This is only a literary discussion. Being scared by anything I've said seems a bit of an over reaction. I'm stating as honestly as I can my own feelings & understanding. If I was advocating firebombing the 'scapegoats', I could understand your reaction, as it is, I can only say I think everyone needs to lighten up. I'm beginning to suspect the halls of accademe are haunted by professors & students in bullet proof gowns & carrying cans of mace, keeping a safe distance from one another in case an idea goes off & everyone gets hit by the shrapnel.
I'm going to respond to what I've bolded above. "Zealous proselytising" is a phrase loaded with pejorative connotations. I too think it overstates the case.

Fundamentalism is not in and of itself evil, or even bad. It becomes so when it is misguided. That's not what's going on here.

This is only a literary discussion Not entirely accurate, I think. If it were, we wouldn't invest ourselves in these conversations the way we do. A simple literary discussion would be an exchange of equally respected opinions. Tolkien's works touch us at our core beliefs, and we write on these boards passionately. That's why we ruffle each other's feathers sometimes.

I'm stating as honestly as I can my own feelings & understanding. Yes, but you're also trying to be as persuasive as you know how to be. I don't consider that to be identical to zealous proselytizing, but you are trying to change others' minds. Why else would you have the sig you do?

Everyone needs to lighten up. This, and the sarcasm that follows was spoken in ire. Understandable, since you no doubt felt on the defensive. Rather than lighten up (except for H-I, of course! ), we need to exercise courtesy and restraint. At least on this thread, if you please.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry
But even more interesting, littlemanpoet, is your contrast here between "accepted" and "experienced." That's a nice way of handling the differences on this thread, I think.
Yes, I think we often experience things we (at least initially) can't accept for what they are, not recognizing them for what they are. Fairy tale/fantasy/mythic story is thus an important form of literature, conveying to us unities that we normally wouldn't perceive. Perceived in narrative, they can be experienced "secondarily". It's still up to the reader whether these unities are accepted and/or believed, either secondarily or primarily. I hope that made sense.

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Old 06-01-2005, 05:07 AM   #108
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Originally Posted by LMP
This is only a literary discussion Not entirely accurate, I think. If it were, we wouldn't invest ourselves in these conversations the way we do. A simple literary discussion would be an exchange of equally respected opinions. Tolkien's works touch us at our core beliefs, and we write on these boards passionately. That's why we ruffle each other's feathers sometimes.
Well, for me, it is a 'literary discussion' which I often take very seriously, but I know where to draw the line, & I often simply post what occurs to me as I write. For example, my post yesterday on Shelob/Lilith was pretty much a stream of consciousness & I had no idea what I was going to post when I sat down to write.

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Yes, but you're also trying to be as persuasive as you know how to be. I don't consider that to be identical to zealous proselytizing, but you are trying to change others' minds. Why else would you have the sig you do?
Actually, I'm not - because I have no desire to be a 'guru', & I don't feel I've got anything to 'teach'. I'm not out to change anyone's mind to my point of view, because I rarely know exactly what my point of view is. That's why I tend often to contradict myself. My sig is there for two reasons: one as my 'get out of jail free' card - its my permission to contradict myself; second, it sounds clever.

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Everyone needs to lighten up. This, and the sarcasm that follows was spoken in ire. Understandable, since you no doubt felt on the defensive. Rather than lighten up (except for H-I, of course! ), we need to exercise courtesy and restraint. At least on this thread, if you please.
Not 'ire'. Irony, if you like - or sarcasm - which I acknowledge is the lowest form of wit. I wasn't 'on the defensive', though, as (this may come as a disappointment to some) I don't take these discussions nearly that seriously. For me these boards are a means to explore ideas & concepts which I find interesting. If I come across as 'fundamentalist' or 'scary' that's something I can't help - just don't confuse me with mydowns persona.

If I say anything that anyone finds interesting or 'enlightening' that's fine, but its not my motivation for posting. If anyone is upset or offended, I can only repeat 'lighten up', get some perspective.

I don't know enough about anything to be a fundamentalist. Actually, I'm amazed anyone takes anything I post that seriously .
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Old 06-01-2005, 06:45 AM   #109
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but you are trying to change others' minds
Welly well, what have I to say about the quote above? 'Observation changes object observed' would be the motto. Learning others' opinion makes us pick something new at times, and it does not follow the person we picked things up from tried to plant them into our own mind in the first place. It does not follow s/he was not trying to, of course, but both courses of action seem natural. If I hold something to be true (or even True), I'll try to communicate it along. There is no need to get angry with me for that

Quote:
Rather than lighten up (except for H-I, of course!)
Yup, I'm the Mr. Happy here. That's also probably because of quantum.

Back to the titular, though: I still clinch to my original: Willing Suspension of Disbelief.

First reading in its light does not have to be the only time enchantement is present. Knowing what happens next subtracts (probably) from suspense, but that's plot related issue, not the 'World believability/state of being enchanted by it' as a whole.

But I stress on 'willing', for everything around, in the Primary World (the very book I hold in my hand and am supposedly absorbed in) may pull me out by the fact of its mere existence.

Recipe for authors as to how make one's work 'enchanting'? I'm not sure I can come up with one (you would have read my books if I could, I reckon), but let us give it a try:

So, whatever the setting, race of characters or plot, work of fantasy needs:

1. Moral chord 'good' chaps act along of. Closely similar to what is considered 'good' in primary word, to be recognisable without much effort
2. Logical ('natural') interaction of events (plotline, characters' behaviour and scenery/nature likewise). C should be consequence of B and A and so on. More threads to the carpet, more belief. Quantity than has the chance of becoming quality. The thing as complex as ME has signs of 'real world' (moons wane in 28 days, and do it subtly, without 10 foot billboards to advertise the fact, etc) to it, and is therefore believable

That's for believability. For enchantement, some more components are there.

3. General depression, sadness, sense of tragic loss etc etc... (this one belongs to first category likewise)
4. Beauty (whatever that may be, and it too, belongs to first category likewise)
5. Eucatastrophe following 'almost disaster' situation.

I won't expatiate on it, since there were numerous threads concerning the issue before. But the joy is, no doubt, convincing (strangely enough, as not all stories have happy ending in 'real life') and enchanting at the same time. Like if our heart finds it logical for things to end well, and our mind, though knowing it is not always the case, is sufficiently drugged by the event.

All was almost gone to the dogs, but handsome keen-eyed minstrel warrior, young Ultra Super Booper Lord having only seventeen seconds to save the world, saved it on seventeenth, because million to one chances always work.

Was that believable? Maybe not, but is it not enchanting? Neither? Still, if we disassemble LoTR, its backbone is quite similar. But example I've given was extreme. Hence the salt to the soup made of five types of meat - all things moderate, no extremities. If it is a Lord, let him be Ultra Lord, or Super Lord, or Booper Lord, but not all three at once. If you still want him to be all three, make him old and blind of one eye and a bit deaf for the minstrel.

Contrary or thanks to USBL's prowess in world-saving activities, it seems that believability may be there without enchantement, but the latter won't appear unless the world created is believable. I believe Slaughter Number Five and 1984, but I'm not enchanted, I'm rather horrified/repelled.

Believability or enchantement, than? Both.

Acceptance belongs to analysis, concepts present etc, it does not have to play part in belief (or state being enchanted). Suppose someone writes a story where all us turned upside down, Sauron is the hero, Gandalf the villain and so forth. Concepts as presented may not be accepted by the reader, but the book still has the chance of being believable (hopefully not enchanting though). But even without extremeties, does the concept of Eru the Creator bar the enchanted door to readers who do not accept the concept of Creator in the Primary World?

Or, to ask Finrod to my help, when 'heart leaps up in joy', there is belief (and enchantement may follow). Even if the mind does not accept the concept. Or even if it does - it is irrelevant.

Experience - um, is not it present in all works, good and bad? Meaning, unless reader stops reading, he experiences events in the story, creating mental images all along. Experience will be there even if the book does not pull any strings and is put aside after couple of pages. That of the few pages read will remain with the reader after the book is forgotten at all.

Random thoughts, all of them, what with me writing things off without much consideration now. Still, acknowledging the probability of the recipe being spoiled, or working only in my personal case.

cheers
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Old 06-01-2005, 07:48 AM   #110
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Is this thread still going?? Wow...seems to me that there's an awful lot of energy being spent on what is, in the end, an entirely subjective matter of readerly preference or response to the text.

I think the one thing we can deduce from this is that some people feel as though their responses to the text are "right" and therefore any resposne which is different from theirs is "wrong" and thus a threat.

Others think that their responses to the text are theirs alone and don't need to be related to anyone else's.

Still others think that there is no such thing as a response to the text, but the imposition upon it of the reader's own views.

And finally, still others seem to think that there is no reader, only the text.

I would suggest that the act of reading is itself the dynamic composite of all these positions at one and the same time. That's why it's so much fun, because there is so much happening in the tense and endless relation of author/text and reader/community.

My three Canadian cents (to make two American cents).
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Old 06-01-2005, 10:25 AM   #111
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Brilliant summary, Fordim, I daresay

Especially the last one:

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there is no reader, only the text
That's definitely because of quantum!

But if this is possible, than it's mirror reflection must be also possible, so there must be instances where there is a reader, but no text.

(Um, the last thesis is empirically proven too, by yours truly, when he craved after text, but had no means to afford one. Textless reader, as good as one can get in lab conditions)
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Old 06-01-2005, 12:33 PM   #112
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Fordim wrote:
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Is this thread still going?? Wow...seems to me that there's an awful lot of energy being spent on what is, in the end, an entirely subjective matter of readerly preference or response to the text.

I think the one thing we can deduce from this is that some people feel as though their responses to the text are "right" and therefore any resposne which is different from theirs is "wrong" and thus a threat.
Indeed! I quite agree, which is why I haven't weighed in on this matter yet. It's one thing to say "this breaks the enchantment for me; what about you?" It's quite another to look for underlying truths about the text based on one's subjective experience. For my part, I don't find that the enchantment is broken at all - except, perhaps, by hyper-serious debates about what breaks it.

I do, however, think that there's an interesting phenomenon here - it's interesting that for some people the enchantment is a fragile thing and for others it is not. I'm not entirely sure what to make of that fact.
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Old 06-01-2005, 12:41 PM   #113
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Originally Posted by Fordim
And finally, still others seem to think that there is no reader, only the text.
But the text must exist apart from the reader, as a thing in itself. If the text changes us in any way at all it must be because it introduces us to new ideas & feelings, to something previously unknown. If we learn anything from it it must have supplied us with new information which we didn't previously have. My point is simply that it is that 'new information' which is of primary importance, & which must be given weight over what we already knew. The text changes us, & we become a different person (to a greater or lesser degree) to what we had been. The more open we are to the text the more we will be affected (changed) by it. As Bob Stewart says of 'Innerworld beings' 'they are 'real' within their own dimension. If we treat them as figments of our own imagination they will behave as such & our experience of the inner world will become a meaningless dream.

Now, admittedly, he is speaking of other, psychic, 'realities', but I think this idea gels with Tolkien's theory of Faerie, or 'secondary worlds'. The more we approach the secondary world as 'nothing but' a self creation on the reader's part, a construction by the reader based mainly on the reader's own 'baggage', the more it will become simply a 'mirror' which reveals only the reader's own psyche. The more we approach it as 'unknown', as 'new',as something we don't know, the more powerfully will it affect us, because we will be open to being changed by it. Gandalf, Frodo, Shelob, et al, are 'real' within their own world, they are not our invention, nor are they our mirrors of our unconscious contents. If they were they couldn't change us & we couldn't learn from them.

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Old 06-02-2005, 08:44 PM   #114
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Excuse me for looking up at all the raised noses around here. You can see a lot of ugly nose hair from way down here.

Here is another case of broken enchantment. I was reading The Council of Elrond, specifically Gandalf's description of Orthanc. By the time I got done with the paragraph, it occurred to me that Tolkien usually reserved such detailed descriptions to the narrator's voice. Having Gandalf go into such extreme detail, spoken, even in Council, seemed mistaken to me. Gandalf didn't talk like that anywhere else, and shouldn't have here. I tease myself with the notion that the 70 something year old Tolkien might have read that paragraph and winced, or at least shaken his head, saying something like "what a wordy blighter".

Something else associated with this: I actually prefer that the enchantment be broken for me in such cases, because it attests to a felt change of consciousness which I value. I can still enjoy the story for the most part, but I enjoy the felt change of consciousness even more. If you don't know what felt change of consciousness is, check out Owen Barfield.

Whatever.
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Old 06-03-2005, 03:37 PM   #115
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Originally Posted by LMP
I was reading The Council of Elrond, specifically Gandalf's description of Orthanc. By the time I got done with the paragraph, it occurred to me that Tolkien usually reserved such detailed descriptions to the narrator's voice. Having Gandalf go into such extreme detail, spoken, even in Council, seemed mistaken to me. Gandalf didn't talk like that anywhere else, and shouldn't have here.
But Gandalf, as an Ainur, would, it seems to me, in this situation,adopt the role of 'impartial' narrator, passing on information to other council members. He can also seem as if he is 'bragging' in the Council, reporting his 'clever' responses to Saruman. I think he is being quite impartial. We have to keep in mind his true nature, & I think if we do his speech is in character. He may be in Middle earth, but he is not of it. As Tolkien put it he is effectively an 'incarnate angel'.

This is all a matter of opinion, of course, & one responds subjectively to events in the book, but what breaks the enchantment for one reader doesn't break it for another, so I can only say again, that I don't think we can ever state that Tolkien 'failed' at any point, & where the enchantment is broken for each individual reader it is that reader's individual 'baggage' that is responsible. So, we learn more about ourselves from this exercise than we do about the story or its writer..
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Old 06-03-2005, 03:58 PM   #116
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Originally Posted by davem

But Gandalf, as an Ainur, would, it seems to me, in this situation,adopt the role of 'impartial' narrator, passing on information to other council members. He can also seem as if he is 'bragging' in the Council, reporting his 'clever' responses to Saruman. I think he is being quite impartial. We have to keep in mind his true nature, & I think if we do his speech is in character. He may be in Middle earth, but he is not of it. As Tolkien put it he is effectively an 'incarnate angel'.
Really? Do readers of LotR know that Gandalf is an Ainur, and indeed what an Ainur is at this point of the story?

Was Gandalf called an 'incarnate angel' in the story or in the Letters?

In short, how do we know what his 'true nature' is at this point in the story?
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Old 06-03-2005, 04:19 PM   #117
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Originally Posted by Bb
Really? Do readers of LotR know that Gandalf is an Ainur, and indeed what an Ainur is at this point of the story?

Was Gandalf called an 'incarnate angel' in the story or in the Letters?

In short, how do we know what his 'true nature' is at this point in the story?
We know he is more than he appears. We are on a learning curve at this point in the story. I've never argued that the first reading of LotR is 'superior' or better than subsequent readings. I've never argued that any number of readings of LotR alone can bring out all the depth & meaning of the story. Indeed, Tolkien himself believed that LotR could not be understood fully without a knowledge of the Legendarium as a whole. My point is simply that the Legendarium should be experienced, as far as possible on its own terms, Middle earth seen as a world in its own right, its inhabitants as beings in their own right, not as 'echoes' of other things, not as being 'in service' to other things, not as ways of understanding ourselves or our world. Middle earth is best seen as a thing in itself. We may learn about ourselves & our world as a by-product of our experience of it, but that is not its purpose, & the more we think of it in that kind of 'mercenary' way, the less we will gain from our experience of it. Isn't that the difference between 'applicability' & 'allegory'? If it shouldn't be seen as an 'allegory' of our world, neither should it be seen as an 'allegory' of ourselves - our own personal history & experiences. This would be to use it for our own ends, place ourselves above it, looking down on it, seeing it as a 'quarry' for useful items.

The alternative to submitting ourselves to the Art is to submit the art to ourselves. Some things are greater than we little, temporary beings are & only pride prevents us from acknowledging this ('Though I say it as shouldn't, you might think.' )
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Old 06-04-2005, 12:22 AM   #118
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Originally Posted by davem
This is all a matter of opinion, of course, & one responds subjectively to events in the book, but what breaks the enchantment for one reader doesn't break it for another, so I can only say again, that I don't think we can ever state that Tolkien 'failed' at any point, & where the enchantment is broken for each individual reader it is that reader's individual 'baggage' that is responsible. So, we learn more about ourselves from this exercise than we do about the story or its writer..
What you say, Davem, and what you say in your next post, got me to thinking...

I agree with your general idea that reading is subjective, and that what breaks one person's spell will not necessarily break someone else's, and that it is thus impossible to determine on that basis that Tolkien failed.

However...

When you say that "I don't think we can ever state that Tolkien failed...", I'm not so sure that I agree. I would say that there is one definitive test that could be taken (in a purely theoretical world) that would determine whether or not he had failed:

His OWN reaction.

Several years later, sometime in the mid-60s, I believe, Tolkien states in one his letters (no idea which) that after re-reading the Lord of the Rings, he thought it a rather good book on whole, and that he had done a rather good job on it.

I wish I had a copy of Letters, or could remember this one better, because I seem to recall Tolkien's sentiment in it being that he had done a good job, and not one that he felt inclined to seriously change, but...

But he didn't think it perfect.

Now, we all ought to know that Tolkien's first and primary audience was himself. Had he been writing for the public, we would have gotten The Hobbit. Had he been writing for his job, it would have been Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight. So, if there were any places that Tolkien found, in his reflections at a more objective date, to have "broken the enchantment", these would seem to be me to be the most conclusive test.

Of course, such a test is purely hypothetical....
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Old 06-04-2005, 02:44 AM   #119
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Old 06-04-2005, 12:28 PM   #120
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ormendacilWhen you say that "I don't think we can ever state that Tolkien failed...", I'm not so sure that I agree. I would say that there is one definitive test that could be taken (in a purely theoretical world) that would determine whether or not he had failed:

His OWN reaction.
But that's his own subjective opinion as a reader. He also stated in the Letters that he was, after a number of years, able to read the book as if it had been written by someone else. So, parts of it may have failed to enchant him, but those parts mey not fail to enchant other readers, so we still can't say there are parts which fail to enchant everyone who reads them. Even Tolkien had some baggage I suppose.
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