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Old 10-26-2002, 07:53 AM   #1
littlemanpoet
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Pipe What does it mean to Write in the Spirit of Tolkien?

What does it mean to write in the spirit of Tolkien? You know how it is. All those back covers of books by this or that fantasy or science fiction author with blurbs that include - somewhere - in the tradition of Tolkien or in the spirit of Tolkien.

Are they right? Is there a general sense in which they are right, and a more purist sense in which they're way off?

Just what does it mean to write in the spirit of Tolkien?

I would really appreciate it if any responders could be specific and substantive, and I would also really appreciate it if "gushing" about Tolkien or any other could be kept to a minimum. Heck, I've done it myself in the past, but I really need some answers and I believe you guys can give very, very solid answers to this question.

Yes, this topic has been addressed in a different manner by Kalessin in his famous "Are There Any Valid Criticisms" thread - quite a good one, worth the read. And this has also been addressed - piecemeal - in "Are You Writing Serious Fantasy". I hope you will indulge my interest in this aspect of Tolkien's legacy. Thank you.
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Old 10-26-2002, 10:09 AM   #2
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I think that it just means to right in the fantasy style, perhaps more mystical then just plain fantasy. Perhaps it means to write with the same depth as Tolkien.
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Old 10-26-2002, 10:33 AM   #3
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Tolkien

Well, as to the "tradition" of Tolkien, I would think that (for the description to be accurate) the writing has to have great depth and detail; the fantasy world should have at least some history that comes into play. Also languages. While not having to be as extensive, I would say it would have to have some consistency. Instead of just making up names that have no relation to each other, and merely sound or look good.

As to the "spirit of Tolkien", I think that means having the talent to write both the small and large and make them interesting. He created both Hobbits and Elves; the comic and the sublime. Instead of just writing "battle fantasy" his works had that personal touch. But he still wrote great battles. I think that's a delicate balance to acheive. It's easier said than done. (I've never managed to do it!).

Since one of his themes in LotR, at least, is largely "hope versus despair" that would, I think, help in relating a work to his.

I'm sorry if this isn't as specific or substansive as you'd like, but the "spirit" of anything is always rather intangible.

[ October 26, 2002: Message edited by: Diamond18 ]
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Old 10-26-2002, 10:33 AM   #4
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I think when it's seen on the cover of books, they mean just fantasy, and they hope it's as good as Tolkien's. To me, it means something different. I think Tolkien's books have a lot of depth to them, not just light fluff. I also love the way he wrote a history of ME, as if it were a real place, not a figment of his imagination. Granted, ME wasn't real, but they way he wrote it, it seems real. Sometimes I forget it isn't! Also all his description. I love the way he describes things! He describes them in great detail, without it being boring or too much. Anyways, I think many things come together to be 'the spirit of Tolkien.' It's hard for me to put into words.
Arwen

[ October 26, 2002: Message edited by: Arwen1858 ]
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Old 10-26-2002, 10:39 AM   #5
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*shouts* Hey, Saxony Tarn, where's you put that barrel O' Mead of Inspiration 1420? Ah, here it is! I like my Mead in a teacup.
\_/? Ahh! I believe something's coming to me! Have one yourself, LMP! |_|)

Arwen I., Diamond, and Arwen 1858, excellent responses! Have a round, beverage of your choice: |_|) |_|) |_|) Very thoughtful. Details, themes, seriousness, it's a hard question to answer. Arwn I., you mention a mystical spirit -- the writing puts you into a mood. Diamond and Arwen1858 put their focus on a rich background and details. Languages, or at least if words are invented, they'll have a consistent sound. A lot of times Tolkien introduces words with variations and a little prose poem that gives the reader a breath to take it in -- I think a lot of fantasy writers miss this and just slam each new word in there -- I find that alienating. I need at least a couple of sentences playing with the new word to accept and absorb it. I think the way Legolas introduces Lothlorien is a brilliant example.

'To write in the spirit of Tolkien' -- this can only be accomplished if you include 'To write BEYOND the spirit of Tolkien'. Tolkien wasn't trying to recreate the old literature he loved, he was trying to develop it for his age. If you want to write something in the least comparable, you've got to have a similar intent.

What do I do in practice? Read what Tolkien himself read, not just LotR itself or all the books that come from it. Walk in the forest, trying to see the hills and rocks, the brush and trees with other vision ... it often works. Tune in to the elemental side of life ... the life of the animals around me. Try to see others with the insight of Frodo and the deep loyalty and love of Sam. When I'm ready to write more on my stories, I read them aloud to get back the mood and voice. I usually rant my work aloud to myself or my cats --my Jalepeno plant is also a big fan (maybe it just likes the CO2 I exhale) besides being so resistant to drought that even *I* have not managed to kill it. I have two cacti also, but they don't like my stories. I can tell.

Now, I'd love to hear a variety of responses to this thread, so if hifalutin literary criticism bothers or irritates you, don't read the rest of this post, just hit reply and give your own take on this, ok? [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

As an example of Tolkien's DEVELOPMENT of the Epic Romance, he braided together two distinct narrative voices: the 'Tale of the High King' voice and the 'Tale of the Wandering Hobbits' voice. The first one uses language and attitudes drawn from epics and is remote, poetic, anti-psychological and shaped by secondary sources --a story drawn from old stories read and loved. It has something in common with stories about stories like Rhys' Wide Saragasso Sea (Jane Eyre from the point of view of the mad wife) or Lewis' Til We Have Faces (Cupid and Psyche (or Beauty and the Beast) from the point of view of the ugly stepsister) --but with one crucial difference, Tolkien's epic romance is not a commentary or a response but a continuation, absolutely straight and sincere. Tolkien's 'High King' narrative bears the marks of being conceived by reading sources rather than being conceived from direct experience, but the story is delivered primarily as a story and not as a commentary on a source.

The narrative voice of the 'Wandering Hobbits' is drawn from direct experience -- Tolkien's friendsips, his hill walking, his life experiences -- that's why the narrations so much more tactile and sensory and physical when the Hobbits are on stage. That's why the emotions are so much more accessible. This is a major addition to the Epic Romance, and it's pulled off beautifully, with a narrative structure that's quite complex -- there's the interlacing of the various groups of heroes, for example, in TTT, back and forth between Frodo/Sam, Merry/Pippin and Aragorn/Legolas/Gimli. Then there's the narrative effect of whether there's a hobbit around to be immediatly affected by events, or whether we're solely with figures of romance whose psychology is withheld.

All of this creates a composition of narrative voices, of styles, of the kind and character of story, that winds under and around
1)the braided themes of the story itself: sacrifice, transcendence, survival, assumption and restoration of true authority, adventure, friendship and love --all the issues the characters must confront;
2)the braided religious aspects -- deeply rooted assuptions about the world, truth, life and death, morality;
3)the archetypes themselves, drawing so powerfully on sources from many faiths and dreams and nightmares: Shelob, Sauron, Galadriel, Smeagol/Gollum, the ring, etc.

[ October 26, 2002: Message edited by: Nar ]
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Old 10-26-2002, 10:57 AM   #6
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Languages, ah yes! How did I forget to mention them? That's one of the many things I love about his works! I remember I forgot them while reading your post, Nar. Oh, and thanks for the drink [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] I love the way he created all the languages. I think it makes it seem more real, because they have their owns languages. The elves even have Quenya, which is sort of like latin to us. I love the elvish languages so much! I would love to learn Sindarin, then Quenya, but I don't really have time. Tolkien created languages that are so interesting, many other people want to learn them. Not many people could do that as well as he did.
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Old 10-27-2002, 03:16 PM   #7
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The Fae feel, littlemanpoet! Its all about the Fae feel!
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Old 10-27-2002, 03:26 PM   #8
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Silmaril

Writing in the spirit of Tolkien, to me, doesn't mean using Middle Earth and its characters and languages. To me it means creating a new world, and making it so rich and believable that people almost think that they're reading about history, instead of a fantasy.

Also, Tolkien was a revolutionary. Nobody had written anything approaching the scale of Lord of the Rings before he did it. Writing in the spirit of Tolkien means doing something different.

As a fanfic writer, among other things, I love to use Tolkien's world as a backdrop for my stories. However, I don't think that's truly "in the spirit". It is fun, though!
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Old 10-27-2002, 04:22 PM   #9
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Nobody had written anything approaching the scale of Lord of the Rings before he did it
I can't think of anyone who's done it since, either. Methinks Lord of The Rings to be one of a kind. Marvelously unique [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
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Old 10-27-2002, 08:16 PM   #10
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Ditto, Childlike Empress!
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Old 10-28-2002, 05:59 PM   #11
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\_/)---aaah! Thanks, Nar, quite good. I'd say the WWST may have some staying power, if not as long, perhaps, as the AYWSF. Time will tell.

Thanks kindly for the replies so far. To review: to write in the spirit of Tolkien means:

1) something more mystical than just plain fantasy.
2) to the same depth as Tolkien.
3) great depth and detail, such as a fabricated (poor word) history.
4) consistency in the languages spoken by the people in the story.
5) writing both the small and the large, the comic and the sublime.
6) a deep theme, such as "hope and despair".
7) detailed yet interesting description (not boring).
8) a subtlety by which the unfamiliar is presented along with the familiar to give it an easier entrance into the reader's mind. (Excellent one, Nar!)
9) one must go beyond Tolkien's accomplishment (yikes!) &, I would add, avoid being 'thick as bricks doing it'.
10. find that balance between the epic romance, the continuation of grand themes, AND the experience of every-day made vivid.
11. braided themes - all the issues the characters must confront.
12. braided religious/world view aspects.
13. use the archetypes that run deep within all of us.
14. The Fae feel. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
15. Creating a world so rich and believable that the reader feels like it's history instead of fantasy.

As to the comment that no one has done it as well before or since, I'd say that so far that is true. But I think there have been some who have done admirably.

Granted, some of the 15 items above are more general, others more specific. So far so good.

I guess I need a little more explanation about "mystical" and "same depth as Tolkien". What do those mean? [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]
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Old 10-28-2002, 06:46 PM   #12
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I don't think that there is such a thing, and if there is it doesn't matter anyway. It isn't the sort of thing that you could do on purpose and still retain the certain something that makes Tolkien worth reading. If you try to write in the spirit of Tolkien you won't be writing in the spirit of You, and whatever you come up with will feel forced and contrived.

[ October 28, 2002: Message edited by: burrahobbit ]
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Old 10-29-2002, 06:12 AM   #13
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Despite the wise words of burrahobbit, I prefer a less reductionist approach, and consider "in the spirit of Tolkien" to be not constricting, but a wide open vista of possibility.

One more aspect:
16. a community worth saving.

[ October 31, 2002: Message edited by: littlemanpoet ]
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Old 10-29-2002, 06:25 AM   #14
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I'm rather at a loss, especially with just plain fantasy and thing that is more mystical than that. Do you intend to mean that, say, fantasy book where there is one werewolf is plain fantasy, and where there are, say, 5 werewolves, is more mystical? k, just kidding

As of my opinion, I count those cover statements for what they are, namely, advertisements devised to attract my attention by the famous name and make me buy the thing which, otherwise I may pass by without second glance at. Alas.
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Old 10-29-2002, 06:30 AM   #15
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BTW, if one excluded entries 1 and 14, it may have resulted in masterpiece in almost any genre of literature
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Old 10-29-2002, 11:32 AM   #16
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Tolkien

The list does make a nice guide to keep in mind when reading a book that is purported to be "in the style of Tolkien". Just to be cantankerous and hold them to the literal meaning of their statement. ('They' being the publishers, as seldom do authors write their own adverts, I would think.)

And by depth I (I know others used the word, but this was my intent) meant the same thing as history, I suppose. For instance, when Bilbo and Gandalf get their swords from the trolls, they are swords of Gondolin. Gondolin isn't just a fancy word made to make them sound important. It actually was a place with history and characters surrounding it. Therefore, when you look "deeper" into Tolkien's works, you don't find an empty bottom but more and more to read and discover about his world.
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Old 10-29-2002, 01:25 PM   #17
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I consider a work in the spirit of Tolkien to be a work that is cathartic, well-told and well-characterized, with a sense of place which may include a sense of history. It need not be fantasy. I don't only read fantasy hoping for that deep reaction I got from LotR. Most of the works on my list of comparable books aren't fantasy. That inspires me to try where others have failed.

My view on cover blurbs is if your publisher feels they have to SAY a thing like that, they're tactless jerks, and as the judgement of tactless jerks is not to be trusted, this blurb tells me nothing about the author's work except that the author was unfortunate in his/her publisher. I don't hold that against the book or author. It's difficult enough to get published and if one does a 'tastefulness check' the task becomes hopeless. Publishers are going to slap across the cover the art they think will move the book, however stupidly literal, and the blurbs they think will sell, however ineffective.

The subtext of Burra's question is that it's dangerous to contemplate questions like this: 'how to be like [your favorite author here]' questions. It IS dangerous if you take a thread like this as a recipe to be followed slavishly, but I don't think anyone here does that.

A)Talking about JRRT's works gets us into the mood and mental place to work on our stories, and being aspiring writers, we like to talk about the literary aspects of his work.
B) Reading good works and analyzing how the authors pulled them off helps us learn to write more skillfully.
C) JRRT cited older works that inspired him, and devoted time to analyzing them for their literary aspects. If it worked once...

[ October 29, 2002: Message edited by: Nar ]
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Old 10-30-2002, 11:59 PM   #18
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Provocative topic, as always, lmp! And great answers all (so far)!

Okay, at the risk of sounding like one of those "thick as brick" people, I'm going to submit here that Tolkien was not writing stories, he was writing myths, myths being defined as 'stories told to explain why things happened, or to illustrate a point.' So it is not enough for a writing to just be a story, it must first be a myth, in order to first be capable of being considered in the spirit of Tolkien.

Secondly, as pointed out in #12, the myth must be religious in nature, but to be considered in the spirit of Tolkien, the myth must have its roots in Roman Catholicism. Tolkien saw the world through the eyes of a Roman Catholic (can you imagine how different LOTR would have been if he had been, say, Hindu?), but he had a far deeper understanding of Catholicism -- and of God in general -- than do most Catholics that have ever been around. His myths are so deeply spiritual and they contain such profound explanations for the truths that are tenets of the Catholic faith, that it has been suggested by some that Tolkien was a mystic. (Okay, I've started to ramble and gush, but have stopped myself. Sorry!)

[ October 31, 2002: Message edited by: Evenstar1 ]
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Old 10-31-2002, 12:16 AM   #19
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While I think you've hit on a truth here, Evanstar1, I would qualify it a bit. I would say JRRT was writing stories backed by myths, among other things. Some of the Silmarillion reads like myth but elsewhere it's story, and the Hobbit and LotR read like story to me.

As to the religious themes, of course they're there. I see at least three sources of religious themes, and there may be more that I'm blind to, being a faillable person. One: pagan or other pre-christian themes (I'm talking about attitudes, codes, and the way the story works out not overt ritual) -- anything with Theoden would be an example. The source of these is JRRT's love, knowledge and respect for his sources, including the epic romance he studied and local folklore. Two: Christian themes -- these are indeed powerful, and come from his Catholicism, his world view, debate with friends and family and his thoughfulness. Three: convergence with other living faiths. This does not come from any direct source, but from the 'great minds think alike' phenomenon. JRRT was dealing with deep stuff and powerful themes, and some of the working out of these ideas converge with similar working out in other faiths. I'm not qualified to expand on this, but some of the elements of Frodo and Sam's journey reminds me of tales in other traditions with sophisticated faiths-- Buddhism, for example. I see this as a convergence of like minds examining common themes. Not every idea has to be inherited from an outside source to be held in common with others.
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Old 10-31-2002, 11:12 AM   #20
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Quote:
It IS dangerous if you take a thread like this as a recipe to be followed slavishly, but I don't think anyone here does that.
My intent in all this is to find out what sets Tolkien's books apart. What makes them so much better that other stuff out there? I hope if I figure that out, and read and study Tolkien's works, I might have some hope of getting somewhere near writing like he does. I'm not going to use it like a set of rules to strictly adhere to, but like a tool. Well, I hope this makes sense, and if not, I'll try to explain what I mean better.
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Old 10-31-2002, 12:14 PM   #21
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Maybe the "Spirit of Tolkien" isn't something we can obtain in our writings. Maybe it was God's gift to Tolkien, and only for him. I do understand what you guys are driving at, though I think it is a one of a kind "feeling." We have what he wrote, and he passed away, so we must cherish the rich books filled with the "Spirit of Tolkien." They are the only ones we will ever come in contact with. An exception would be, of course, if he's writing away up in heaven! [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

Oh and Nar, I totally agree with you when you said that Tolkien took qualities from paganistic and prechristian beliefs (the polytheism), Christianity, and other faiths. Its a very unique combination, and I doubt that we'll ever see it again!

[ October 31, 2002: Message edited by: TolkienGurl ]
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Old 10-31-2002, 09:34 PM   #22
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Your point is well taken, Tolkiengurl. Nevertheless, I encourage Arwen1858 to persevere. I think that Nar's point about going beyond Tolkien obtains here. I am very much attempting to write in the spirit of Tolkien, but I think Nar would be the first to tell you that my story is greatly at variance to what Tolkien was up to, while nevertheless being true (at least in part) to its spirit, because I'm me, and who I am is clearly going to invest my story, making it different form LotR. While that is so, I still endeavor to write to as high a standard as I can of integrity of story telling, depth of theme, consistency of plot and character, sense of place, feel of Faerie, and drum rollllllll (new idea for me): building a highly valued backdrop, (like Tolkien's Shire but in my own way), the loss and recovery of which invests deep meaning. As has been said by others before, I hope that makes sense.
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Old 11-01-2002, 07:09 PM   #23
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At the risk of lowering the tone somewhat -

Tolkien seems to be devoid of the need of modern fantasy writers to explain everything. OK, I know you're thinking that he went to extreme lengths to fit everything into the mythology and language structure, but think in terms of geography.

We have no clue what is beyond Rhun, the appearence of the Variags (or even whether Balrogs have wings!) Of course, this infrormation wouldn't be known by the authors of the Red Book. He justifies the 'mystery' by the necessities of internal consistency. How would hobbits know anything about Far Harad after all? It's like the mediaeval maps which confidently stated 'here be dragons!' The snippets of information tantalise us !

In a related question, the style of Tolkiens wring (much pastiched) is surely 'copyable' (if that's a word) but woe betide those who reveal the mysteries, there wouldn't be anything left for us to discuss!
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Old 11-01-2002, 09:55 PM   #24
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Well done, Rumil! I sympathize with your point very much. Though how to say it is difficult. Here's my best shot at a summary:

17. Leave tantalizing mysteries unexplained.

Good one!
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Old 11-04-2002, 01:00 AM   #25
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but I think Nar would be the first to tell you that my story is greatly at variance to what Tolkien was up to, while nevertheless being true (at least in part) to its spirit
LMP, Yer flaming right I would! Have a flaming rum punch!
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Rumil, Well said:
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Tolkien seems to be devoid of the need of modern fantasy writers to explain everything
Another thing I notice is that whatever Tolkien introduced, he took his time with variations on the words ... Lorien, Lothlorien, Laurelindorean, prose poems describing the place or the story or the entity, songs, always a breath in the text, time and space to allow the reader to absorb the new element. I particularly missed this in the movie... everytime the movie has Gandalf shout: 'We must take the @#$#@%@#%!' I winced-- it was sounding so like a standard fantasy story -- a new word every paragraph but no responsiveness to the word or the reader.
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Old 07-02-2006, 01:49 PM   #26
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*bump*

Events on the planning thread for a certain RP caused me to rattle in the back of the barrow. And look what I found!

If limited to writing within the context of Middle-earth, does writing in the spirit of Tolkien also mean adopting his view of the 'real-world' (so to speak) while composing a work? How much does a view of how the world 'is' impact fantasy writing, and how much is the world portrayed refined to conform to "the high, purged of the gross" rather than the mundane world with all its flaws?
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Old 07-02-2006, 02:45 PM   #27
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Wow! I forgot about this. Good find!

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Originally Posted by Celuien
...does writing in the spirit of Tolkien also mean adopting his view of the 'real-world' (so to speak) while composing a work?
I suppose it depends on what particularities of his view with which you are contending or working.

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Originally Posted by Celuien
How much does a view of how the world 'is' impact fantasy writing[?]
I think this is a critical element in how and why LotR has proven to have such relevance; because so much of what is written into the warp and weft of the story is precisely about the way the world is. Many people do stand by and let evil happen. Many people wrestle with the fact of leaders doing evil in the name of good. These are just two things I can think of that are contained in LotR and are very much with us, and always will be.

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Originally Posted by Celuiein
How much is the world portrayed[,] refined to conform to "the high, purged of the gross" rather than the mundane world with all its flaws?
Orcs are perhaps the best example of how Tolkien handled this. In fact, I think there's a Letter in which he describes his approach. Basically, the Orcs may be considered to speak much more foully than what Tolkien wrote, but Tolkien refused to go there; he deemed it unnecessary, and achieved the sense of their foulness in other, and in my opinion more effective, ways than to put modern cuss words in their mouths.
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Old 07-02-2006, 05:11 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
I suppose it depends on what particularities of his view with which you are contending or working.
*coughMeadHallcough*

I was thinking most specifically of the letter we were debating over on the planning thread, and wondering if there's a case to be made that Tolkien, since he didn't seem to like the state of things to which he made reference in that letter, might have altered it in the same way as he altered the Orcs.

For those not familiar with the debate I'm talking about, here's a quote from the letter we were discussing:
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In this fallen world, the friendship that should be possible between all human beings, is virtually impossible between man and woman...This 'friendship' has often been tried: one side or the other nearly always fails.

And from Bethberry: [Courtly love diverts] the young man's eyes off women as they are, as companions in shipwreck not guiding stars. . . . It inculcates exaggerated notions of 'true love', as a fire from without, a permanent exaltation, unrelated to age, childbearing, and plain life, and unrelated to will and purpose.. . . Women really have not much part in all this, though they may use the language of romantic love, since it is so entwined in all our idioms. The sexual impulse makes women (naturally when unspoiled more unselfish) very sympathetic and understanding, or specially desirous of being so (or seeming so),...the servient, helpmeet instinct, generously warmed by desire and young blood. . . . Before the young woman knows where she is (and while the romantic young man, when he exists, is still sighing), she may actually 'fall in love'. Which for her, an unspoiled natural young woman, means that she wants to become the mother of the young man's children, even if that desire is by no means clear to her or explicit. . . . You may meet in life (as in literature) women who are flighty, or even plain wanton--I don't refer to mere flirtatiousness, the sparring practice for the real combat, but to women who are too silly to take even love seriously, or are actually so depraved as to enjoy 'conquests' or even enjoy the giving of pain--but these are abnormalities. . . . Unless perverted by bad contemporary fashions they do not as rule talk 'bawdy'; not because they are purer than men (they are not) but because they don't find it funny. I have known those who pretended to, but it is a pretence. It may be intriguing, interesting, absorbing (even a great deal to absorbing) to them: but it is just p lumb natural, a serious, obvious interest; where is the joke? ... But they are instinctively, when uncorrupt, monogamous... Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world) or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one), both partners might have found more suitable mates...
I would particularly posit that the last sentence from the quote Bethberry gave does not necessarily follow in the LotR. Aragorn and Arwen. Beren and Luthien. Those matches were required by 'fate,' if you will, for the story of Middle-earth to unfold as it did. In addition to the appearance that the couples in question were just made for each other. What could be more suitable than that?

So, to write in the spirit of Tolkien in this particular case, how much would one draw from the rather pragmatic advice he gave his son, and how much from the admittedly less detailed view of relationships he gave in the published works? And how similar are they really?
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I think this is a critical element in how and why LotR has proven to have such relevance; because so much of what is written into the warp and weft of the story is precisely about the way the world is. Many people do stand by and let evil happen. Many people wrestle with the fact of leaders doing evil in the name of good. These are just two things I can think of that are contained in LotR and are very much with us, and always will be.
And of course, there is applicability. Great point, and maybe something to be added to the dream or escape explanation of fantasy as a genre. Is it an expression of a vision of what might be for this world, in a less direct and non-allegorical sphere?
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Old 07-02-2006, 07:27 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Celuien
I would particularly posit that the last sentence from the quote Bethberry gave does not necessarily follow in the LotR. Aragorn and Arwen. Beren and Luthien. Those matches were required by 'fate,' if you will, for the story of Middle-earth to unfold as it did. In addition to the appearance that the couples in question were just made for each other. What could be more suitable than that?

So, to write in the spirit of Tolkien in this particular case, how much would one draw from the rather pragmatic advice he gave his son, and how much from the admittedly less detailed view of relationships he gave in the published works? And how similar are they really?
Interesting. LotR is a Romance, according to Tolkien. Thus the courtly love mode is more likely to be there; and so we find it. Eowyn hero-worships Aragorn before she is drawn into the protective and nurturing care of Faramir (rather maternal terms!).

The only intergender relationship that does not seem to follow this is Samwise and Rosy. Does it appear that Sam has found his star, and Rosy wants to bear his children? As like it does as not, I'd say.

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Originally Posted by Celuien
Is it an expression of a vision of what might be for this world, in a less direct and non-allegorical sphere?
By "it", I believe you refer to fantasy as a genre. So what you're suggesting is that fantasy performs the same functions, within its own genre, that science fiction does in its genre? If so, what are they? And what does that tell us about fantasy?
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Old 07-03-2006, 05:31 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Elempi
By "it", I believe you refer to fantasy as a genre.
Yes.
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So what you're suggesting is that fantasy performs the same functions, within its own genre, that science fiction does in its genre? If so, what are they? And what does that tell us about fantasy?
Indeed. It goes back to the idea of purging the gross, again. Where the mythic (Aragorn) and not so mythic (Sam, though by definition, he is fantasy as a member of a non-existent subspecies of humans ) characters adhere to the right path, where there's more beauty and appreciation of beauty than we sometimes remember to give in reality, and where, at least with regard to the LotR, the 'right' outcome always takes place. Keeping in mind, of course, that the right outcome isn't always the happy outcome.

Fantasy as an instruction book on life?
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Old 07-03-2006, 09:09 AM   #31
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Tolkien

Interesting thoughts here! I see that Celuien just couldn't resist moving the discussion to Books! Great choice of thread, eh, lmp

A couple of points come to my mind as I read over your posts here. First, if LotR is a matter of Tolkien appropriating Romance for his story, does that use of Romance so thoroughly alter the depiction of men as well as of women? Second, is Tolkien, in both cases--his letter to his son and his creative writing--engaged in discussing or portraying cultural constructs of women? And, thirdly, what would it mean to portray women this way--"free of the dross" as we seem to say here on the Barrow Downs. Is this a matter of Tolkien's faith assuming that human sexual identity is all part and parcel of "evil" in this world?

Tolkien's letter finds fault with the courtly love mode, after all.


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Originally Posted by Celuien
I was thinking most specifically of the letter we were debating over on the planning thread, and wondering if there's a case to be made that Tolkien, since he didn't seem to like the state of things to which he made reference in that letter, might have altered it in the same way as he altered the Orcs.
You mean, his curious ways of sidestepping the issue of moral choice and redemption of orcs?

And, what ever was behind Fea's outburst that Tolkien can go suck lemons? Perhaps she should join this discussion here, eh?
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Old 07-03-2006, 09:41 AM   #32
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Interesting thoughts here! I see that Celuien just couldn't resist moving the discussion to Books!
Of course not. The dicussion was far too interesting to stop where we were.
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Originally Posted by Bęthberry
You mean, his curious ways of sidestepping the issue of moral choice and redemption of orcs?
Well, I was referring to lmp's point about cursing and cleaning up orcish language.
But it extends to moral choice as well, I think. I suppose getting into that knotty point about the orcs might have loosened the rather clear cut roles they play throughout the Legendarium as out and out 'baddies.' Not sure where I'm going with this line of thought, though. I'm working on running out the door to go to a meeting and can't attend to it properly just now. More later...
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Old 07-04-2006, 09:48 AM   #33
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Crap. I just lost all of what I answered to this. Here goes again....

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Originally Posted by Bęthberry
First, if LotR is a matter of Tolkien appropriating Romance for his story, does that use of Romance so thoroughly alter the depiction of men as well as of women?
It would be a mistake to reduce it to that. Actually, the contemporary understanding of gender role and nature is the historical aberration. Granted, we may see it as the most evolved or developed state (or not), but general intellecutal, values-oriented, socio-economic, and political equality (or at least the belief that so it ought to be) has not been the norm.

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Originally Posted by Bb
Second, is Tolkien, in both cases--his letter to his son and his creative writing--engaged in discussing or portraying cultural constructs of women?
Most assuredly.

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Originally Posted by Bb
And, thirdly, what would it mean to portray women this way--"free of the dross" as we seem to say here on the Barrow Downs?
That would be "free of the gross", to be accurate. One writer's "gross" may be another's "passable". What, in gender role, be considered "gross" on the Rohan RP forum? Most RPrs do make a conscious effort to employ in their writing as much as they can discern of Eorling culture. That as a given, we would have to go with what Tolkien has told us about that culture, which is (with translator's conceit accounted for) basically and only Anglo-Saxon in nature, and loosely based on medieval conceptions (though not entirely, whatever that is supposed to mean). So is "gross", perhaps, "practical woman employing the language of Romance in order to find a man to marry"? I think not. Romance, as such, was high-medieval, and Eorling culture was based on more or less (c)1000 A.D. Anglo-Saxon culture (I think).

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Originally Posted by Bb
Is this a matter of Tolkien's faith assuming that human sexual identity is all part and parcel of "evil" in this world?
I think Tolkien took "practical female" and "idealistic male" as creationally normative. Evil, he would say (I think), would be any aberrations thereto (such as contemporary understandings).

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Originally Posted by Bb
Tolkien's letter finds fault with the courtly love mode, after all.
It is an aberration.

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Originally Posted by Bb
You mean, his curious ways of sidestepping the issue of moral choice and redemption of orcs?
How does he do this?

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Originally Posted by Bb
And, what ever was behind Fea's outburst that Tolkien can go suck lemons?
Oh, that's easy. She was horrified and depressed that someone who could write something as great as LotR could have such ridiculous views..... (if I know Fea...)
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Old 07-04-2006, 09:58 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
How does he do this?
Possibly through the various modifications of Orcish origins. I'm not clear on the story, but I think I read somewhere that the origin was changed from corrupted Elves, who could have sought redemption in Mandos, to animals without fëar animated through the will of Sauron/Morgoth, and therefore not really acting through free will -- and also not capable of being redeemed, I would suppose.

I could have that wrong though, and I invite Bethberry's correction.
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Old 07-04-2006, 10:04 AM   #35
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As I have said elsewhere (and SPM agreed!), I think the Orcs-from-animals notion was a mistake, as it doesn't really fit with the rest of the Legendarium; it only achieved their irredemptability. Just goes to show what can happen if you start using theology to determine what must be instead of using reality (even feigned).
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Old 07-04-2006, 10:14 AM   #36
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As I have said elsewhere (and SPM agreed!), I think the Orcs-from-animals notion was a mistake, as it doesn't really fit with the rest of the Legendarium; it only achieved their irredemptability.
Agreed. I prefer the explanation as given in the Sil, because it does make a lot more sense to me than the other explanation considering the complex (and I would argue indepenent) behavior of Orcs that is seen in both the LotR and The Hobbit (and, yes, I will disagree with those who argue it isn't part of the Legendarium proper ).
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Just goes to show what can happen if you start using theology to determine what must be instead of using reality (even feigned).
Agreed again.

And so...writing means that striving to maintain the subcreated world's realistic integrity should trump allowing personal views to slip in? Again, I'm thinking of the avoidance of allegory.

I think that's where I wanted to go yesterday.
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Old 07-04-2006, 10:31 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by Celuien
And so...writing means that striving to maintain the subcreated world's realistic integrity should trump allowing personal views to slip in?
Certainly.

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Again, I'm thinking of the avoidance of allegory.
I don't grasp the connection. Sorry for my density.
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Old 07-04-2006, 10:40 AM   #38
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I don't grasp the connection. Sorry for my density.
Sorry for my unclarity. I think in a somewhat non-linear fashion on occasion, which can make me hard to follow.

The Orcs' origins were modified for real world theological reasons, possibly making events in the Legendarium more allegorical by transferring more comparisons to the primary world to the story. Yeah, out on a limb, I know.

What I'm saying is that allegory doesn't work because it requires too many deliberate parallels which may or may not work in the story's internal logic, and that potentially compromises the believability of the story. Which is why I agree with Tolkien's stated dislike of allegory.

Better?
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Old 07-04-2006, 10:50 AM   #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Celuien
The Orcs' origins were modified for real world theological reasons, possibly making events in the Legendarium more allegorical by transferring more comparisons to the primary world to the story. Yeah, out on a limb, I know.

What I'm saying is that allegory doesn't work because it requires too many deliberate parallels which may or may not work in the story's internal logic, and that potentially compromises the believability of the story. Which is why I agree with Tolkien's stated dislike of allegory.

Better?
Quite. I agree.

And now back to gender roles and aberrations and whatnot.... anybody want to tackle some of what I said a couple posts back?
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Old 07-04-2006, 10:58 AM   #40
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And now back to gender roles and aberrations and whatnot.... anybody want to tackle some of what I said a couple posts back?
Possibly. But I need to think it through first to avoid non-linearity and confusion. Hopefully ruminated upon sufficiently before potential loss of Downs access tomorrow...
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