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Old 03-20-2010, 01:11 PM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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Silmaril "They Began to Hum Softly", Murray Smith

This chapter examines an unexpected, perhaps even unlikely seeming connection between Tolkien's songs and soldiers' songs of the two world wars. Knowing as we do of the influence that Tolkien's war experiences had on his writing, it is interesting to read Murray Smith's comparisons of the topics of lyrics in the books and in our world's (i.e. England's) military history. The result of his research shows more contrast than similarity.

The various categories of soldiers' songs are only partially reflected in LotR. The Hobbits' songs do echo the walking motif and the praise of food and drink, naturally. However, since they are generally peaceful, the more specifically military themes are missing from their repertoire.

The Gondorians, though strongly involved in battle against Mordor, are not portrayed as having a culture of military music. Smith considers several reasons for this seeming omission. He also reflects on the type of patriotism that is displayed by Tolkien's characters.

Though the influence of military songs on Tolkien's lyrics is more inferred than directly proven, Murray Smith brings an interesting facet to the examination of music in Middle-earth. I enjoyed reading this chapter!
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Old 03-26-2010, 10:08 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar View Post
The result of his research shows more contrast than similarity.
Yes, and this makes the author's efforts all the more commendable. Normally we consider an article good if it reveals hitherto unknow compelling similarities, direct inspirations and put everything into a clear context as has never been seen before. An author who looks at such a topic only to find that there are only few compelling parallels but lots of major differences deserves all the more praise for not giving up on the project.

If I may criticse nevertheless, I personally find the authors working definition of nationalism - and by extension nationalist music - to be very 19th and first half of 20th Century. The Anglo Saxons didn't have an equivalent of the Rule Britannia and nationalism as a whole was very different then and should be looked at more in terms of tribalism rather than identification with songs and flags. Hence the lack of such songs among most Middle-earth nations thus isn't really surprising. By having some sort of a national anthem, as Smith suggests, Gondor was thus very much ahead of its time, but having a national anthem is not in itself a qualifier for being a post enlightenment state built on nationalist principles. The national anthem of Gondor, if indeed it exists, is thus an anachronist element. Looking into this topic from that angle might have led to some interesting conclusions.
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Old 03-27-2010, 08:26 AM   #3
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Thanks for the compliments, Esty and shadowfax! I was particularly interested in what the latter said here:

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Originally Posted by shadowfax View Post
If I may criticse nevertheless, I personally find the authors working definition of nationalism - and by extension nationalist music - to be very 19th and first half of 20th Century. The Anglo Saxons didn't have an equivalent of the Rule Britannia and nationalism as a whole was very different then and should be looked at more in terms of tribalism rather than identification with songs and flags. Hence the lack of such songs among most Middle-earth nations thus isn't really surprising. By having some sort of a national anthem, as Smith suggests, Gondor was thus very much ahead of its time, but having a national anthem is not in itself a qualifier for being a post enlightenment state built on nationalist principles. The national anthem of Gondor, if indeed it exists, is thus an anachronist element. Looking into this topic from that angle might have led to some interesting conclusions.
You're right that my definition of such music was of that period; because it was the period in which Tolkien was born, grew up, and fought, as did two of his three sons.

I suggested that the song sung by Aragorn sounded like a national anthem; because the indications were that Gondorians were conscious of being part of a state, although not 'a post enlightenment state built on nationalist principles'. The main reason for this consciousness amongst Gondorians appeared to be the result of having fought wars against many enemies, in particular Sauron.

The 'problem', if one likes, is that Gondor is medieval in appearance; so the idea of a 'national anthem' is anachronistic. However, no medieval European state had to cope with the fact that not only was Satan real; he also lived in a fortress not very far away, and was planning to conquer that state and make its people worship him. Despite this, the Gondorians are lacking in xenophobia towards Sauron, his followers and allies. There is no Gondorian military music shown. By contrast, there is a large amount of military music shown from their allies in Rohan. Gondorians are shown as being, or trying to be, more 'civilized'.

Tolkien can be said to be guilty of a similar, though different anachronism, in his portrayal of the Hobbits of the Shire. He admitted as much in a letter of 25th September 1954 to Naomi Mitchison, that his deliberate attempt to make the Shire resemble an English village in 1897 led him into inconcistencies in portraying the hobbits, in particular ‘Some of the modernities found among them (I think especially of umbrellas)’. They are ‘probably, I think certainly, a mistake, of the same order as their silly names'; both are tolerable only as ‘a deliberate ‘anglicization’ to point the contrast between them and other peoples in the most familiar terms’. He did not think people ‘of that sort and stage of life and development’ could be both ‘very peaceable and very brave and tough ‘at a pinch’'. Experience in two wars ‘has confirmed me in that view’ (Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Letter 154, p. 196).
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Old 03-29-2010, 02:58 AM   #4
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Hi Faramir,

Thanks for responding... and also well met and thanks for the excellent article.

This topic is extremely fascinating and I don't really know where to start.

The anachronism aspect is interesting. Tolkien was writing about an imaginary world in a long gone era, but doing so through he eyes of a modern man living in an age defined by totally different values and attitudes. I was aware of the Shire anachronisms, ranging from Bilbo's manner of dressing to umbrellas and even touching on the post renaissance instruments of the dwarves (which are strangely not re-mentioned once outside the Shire and can so be considered part of the Shire anachronism as much as they are part of the dwarves' identity). But besides artefacts, I hadn't considered that there might also be anachronisms in terms of attitudes and values. This is definitely a topic deserving further study.

Much of Middle-earth was a feudal society. Men were not free in the manner that we consider freedom today but served their masters, to the point of following them into war and dying on the battlefield - without questioning the necessity of their sacrifice. The Shire may have been a little freer but basically anywhere else we so no evidence of any common man having had any choice in the matter. They were thus fighting for their lord and master before they were fighting for Gondor or for the West. In my opinion it was the beakdown of the feudal system that led to some vacuum and caused nationalism. People no longer had a compelling reason to obey their masters and nationalism with all its symbols and flags and music was a necessity to fill in this gap and continue to make war possible in a society that was otherwise elightened and free.

Concerning the enemy being Satan in person, I don't know how any state of this world would react to that situation. But presumably it would lead to totally different attitudes. However, that is a question of theology. If you're fighting somebody, you're first of all fighting an enemy, and that this enemy is Satan is only a second argument after that. If somebody is out to kill you, you fight for your life, no matter whether that enemy is Satan himself or a mouse on steroids or a bearded guy in a cave in Afghanistan. Besides which, propganda machines always try to paint the enemy as Satan incarnate. Look at what the media made of Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein to cite just some recent examples. So where this argument is leading me is the question, does it make a difference if for once the propganda machine is right and the enemy really is Satan. Does the common man or the collective psyche see through the propaganda and still make the difference? An interesting question.
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Old 03-29-2010, 08:47 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shadowfax View Post
...the post renaissance instruments of the dwarves (which are strangely not re-mentioned once outside the Shire and can so be considered part of the Shire anachronism as much as they are part of the dwarves' identity).
The chapter on instruments in Middle-earth touches upon this subject, discussing the kinds of instruments used by the Dwarves and even suggesting just when they disappeared from the story - an interesting detail!
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Old 03-29-2010, 10:39 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar View Post
The chapter on instruments in Middle-earth touches upon this subject, discussing the kinds of instruments used by the Dwarves and even suggesting just when they disappeared from the story - an interesting detail!

yes, I know. I was actually thinking of your chapter and also your talk in Jena when I wrote that.
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Old 03-30-2010, 04:33 PM   #7
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The Eye Fighting Sauron

Shadowfax, I'm glad that you enjoyed my article, and agree completely that the topic is 'extremely fascinating'.

In terms of what you said about anachronisms here:

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Originally Posted by shadowfax View Post
The anachronism aspect is interesting. Tolkien was
writing about an imaginary world in a long gone era, but doing so through he
eyes of a modern man living in an age defined by totally different values and
attitudes. I was aware of the Shire anachronisms, ranging from Bilbo's manner
of dressing to umbrellas and even touching on the post renaissance instruments
of the dwarves (which are strangely not re-mentioned once outside the Shire and
can so be considered part of the Shire anachronism as much as they are part of
the dwarves' identity). But besides artefacts, I hadn't considered that there
might also be anachronisms in terms of attitudes and values. This is definitely
a topic deserving further study.
When I began to seriously study history, I realised (like so many others) that to attempt to understand what went on in a particular period, I needed to look beyond the fact that people looked and talked differently, and to look at, as you said, their 'attitudes and values'.

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Originally Posted by shadowfax View Post
Much of Middle-earth was a feudal society. Men were not free in the manner that we consider freedom today but served their masters, to the point of following them into war and dying on the battlefield - without questioning the necessity of their sacrifice. The Shire may have been a little freer but basically anywhere else we so no evidence of any common man having had any choice in the matter. They were thus fighting for their lord and master before they were fighting for Gondor or for the West. In my opinion it was the beakdown of the feudal system that led to some vacuum and caused nationalism. People no longer had a compelling reason to obey their masters and nationalism with all its symbols and flags and music was a necessity to fill in this gap and continue to
make war possible in a society that was otherwise elightened and free.
But is it a feudal system as we understand it when people, such as the Gondorians, have been fighting a foe like Sauron for thousands of years? It appears that there is an element of 'nationalism' in terms of a recognition by Gondorians that the kingdom is a seperate entity from any king; so Gondor has survived for centuries as a state even with a vacant throne. When Pippin swears allegiance, he first and significantly swears allegience to Gondor, and only second to Denethor II as Steward.

Quote:
Originally Posted by shadowfax View Post
Concerning the enemy being Satan in person, I don't know how any state of this world would react to that situation. But presumably it would lead to totally different attitudes. However, that is a question of theology. If you're fighting somebody, you're first of all fighting an enemy, and that this enemy is Satan is only a second argument after that. If somebody is out to kill you, you fight for your life, no matter whether that enemy is Satan himself or a mouse on steroids or a bearded guy in a cave in Afghanistan. Besides which, propganda machines always try to paint the enemy as Satan incarnate. Look at what the media made of Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein to cite just some recent examples. So where this argument is leading me is the question, does it make a
difference if for once the propganda machine is right and the enemy really is Satan. Does the common man or the collective psyche see through the propaganda and still make the difference? An interesting question.
An interesting question, indeed. I disagree that fighting Sauron would be merely a 'question of theology'. Sauron is an enemy, of course; but unlike the people you mentioned he is both immortal and of divine origin. Not only can he live forever; it appears that he cannot be 'killed' in any conventional sense. This makes him thousands of times more formidable than any other tyrant; because those you've mentioned were and are mortal Men, doomed to die. This did make a difference, such as when the Mongols looked as if they would overrun Western Europe, they were stopped by the death of the Great Khan Ögedei in 1241. In Sauron's case, not only do you have the same person around; that person can afford to wait a long time for things to turn in his favour. He waited for centuries in the Third Age until Gondor began to decline and the watch it kept on Mordor ended. The Gondorians, Rohirrim and other enemies can't wait, as they would for a mortal foe, for him to either die, or to grow old and want to spend time with the grandchildren.

There's also the problem of what to do with Sauron if, by a remote chance, he was defeated. Keeping him as a POW would be too risky, considering what he did in Númenor in the Second Age. All he needs to do is to wait a couple of generations for those who knew him as an enemy to die off, and let people grow up who might feel sorry for him. We can also look back and see the havoc his former master, Morgoth, wreaked in Valinor after he was released. The only way to keep him harmless when he was overcome again at the end of the First Age was to imprison him outside of Arda, casting him out beyond the Walls of Night.

Even if Sauron is not imprisoned, but a decision made to execute him instead, is such a thing possible? Can a Maia (or former Maia) be killed?

There are two disadvantages to being an immortal tyrant. First, you have accumulated a huge number of atrocities to your name over thousands of years. (I'm sure that Sauron would have made Mao and Stalin look pathetic by comparison.) You're therefore easy to hate. For example, I'm sure that the Gondorians haven't forgotten the betrayal of their last king.

Second, because you've been around so long, your enemies will have amassed a large amount of information about you. Know your enemy is an basic maxim of warfare. I believe that Aragorn II learnt a lot about Sauron, from written and oral sources, as well as from his own travels, and was thus able to use that knowledge to confront him using the Stone of Orthanc, and persuade him that he might have the Ring, encouraging him to make a premature attack on Gondor.

Last edited by Faramir Jones; 03-30-2010 at 04:40 PM. Reason: I needed to make some changes
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Old 03-31-2010, 07:51 PM   #8
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A most interesting discussion to develop out of the essay, which I, like Estelyn and shadowfax, have enjoyed reading. Thank you, Faramir, for it.

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[But is it a feudal system as we understand it when people, such as the Gondorians, have been fighting a foe like Sauron for thousands of years? It appears that there is an element of 'nationalism' in terms of a recognition by Gondorians that the kingdom is a seperate entity from any king; so Gondor has survived for centuries as a state even with a vacant throne. When Pippin swears allegiance, he first and significantly swears allegience to Gondor, and only second to Denethor II as Steward.
If I may, I'd like to interject an observation here about the separation of king and kingdom. Or, in the case of my example, Duke and Duchy.

In our life time I have heard the current heir to the English throne, Charles, Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall, refer to himself as "Cornwall." It was a television show some years back about the agricultural practices he had instituted and he was commenting on pictures and videos that showed him amidst some of the farms. Charles very clearly did not say, "Here you will see that I have . . ." It was always "Cornwall", as in "Here Cornwall discusses with . . . .". Charles was of course speaking of the old bond whereby the king is the kingdom. So if Charles at the end of the Twentieth Century could still name himself as Cornwall, I would think that, at the mid of the twentieth century Tolkien might very well still be applying that old concept. If this is the case, then Pippin's oath to Gondor was also to the King, even though absent.

The point may be a small one, but it perhaps is one reason why I have never particularly thought of Gondor as a modern nation state. To me, it's more like one of those Italian 'city states.' (Possibly I think this because of its geography, the latitude something like Venice's.)

Perhaps I can also say that Aragorn's song or poem, "Gondor, Gondor", has never struck me as a national anthem, but more rather a lament. It reminds me instead of the Old English poem "The Ruin" with its longing for a greatness that has fallen away. Aragorn gives to his song a hope that the greatness shall be rebuilt, but I think it is the past tense verbs with which the song begins--blew, fell--which recall to me the ancient theme of mutability. To that mutability Aragorn brings, of course, hope. Yet the poem remains a lament for lost glory, which is not something I normally associate with national anthems.
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Old 04-01-2010, 12:29 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Bęthberry View Post
Perhaps I can also say that Aragorn's song or poem, "Gondor, Gondor", has never struck me as a national anthem, but more rather a lament. It reminds me instead of the Old English poem "The Ruin" with its longing for a greatness that has fallen away. Aragorn gives to his song a hope that the greatness shall be rebuilt, but I think it is the past tense verbs with which the song begins--blew, fell--which recall to me the ancient theme of mutability. To that mutability Aragorn brings, of course, hope. Yet the poem remains a lament for lost glory, which is not something I normally associate with national anthems.
I always wondered what that song was. It is drenched with sorrow. It feels like a song of exile. He is, at that moment, tearing himself away from a friendly hope (He and Boromir had planned to go there: "I would have begged you to come," said Frodo. "Only I thought you were going with Boromir to Minas Tirith.") After Aragorn finishes singing, he turns ("Now let us go") and pushes himself into further effort and exile.
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Old 04-01-2010, 12:35 PM   #10
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White Tree Two things

I'm glad that you liked my article, Bęthberry.

Your last post was very interesting. First, regarding the reference to a monarch by his territorial title:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry View Post
If I may, I'd like to interject an observation here about the separation of king and kingdom. Or, in the case of my example, Duke and Duchy.

In our life time I have heard the current heir to the English throne, Charles, Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall, refer to himself as "Cornwall." It was a television show some years back about the agricultural practices he had instituted and he was commenting on pictures and videos that showed him amidst some of the farms. Charles very clearly did not say, "Here you will see that I have . . ." It was always "Cornwall", as in "Here Cornwall discusses with . . . .". Charles was of course speaking of the old bond whereby the king is the kingdom. So if Charles at the end of the Twentieth Century could still name himself as Cornwall, I would think that, at the mid of the twentieth century Tolkien might very well still be applying that old concept. If this is the case, then Pippin's oath to Gondor was also to the King, even though absent.

The point may be a small one, but it perhaps is one reason why I have never particularly thought of Gondor as a modern nation state. To me, it's more like one of those Italian 'city states.' (Possibly I think this because of its geography, the latitude something like Venice's.).
I recall that Shakespeare's plays have a lot of such references to monarchs by their territories. In 'Anthony and Cleopatra', the dying Mark Anthony, in Act 4, Scene 15, says to Cleopatra, 'I am dying, Egypt, dying;' In Act I, Scene 1, of 'King Lear', the two suitors of Cordelia are the King of France and the Duke of Burgundy, referred to by their territorial designations of 'France' and 'Burgundy'.

That said, the oath Pippin swears explicitly refers to Gondor as a state; because he then swears allegiance to Denethor, who is called 'Steward' to the 'High King'. This is because there is no king, the throne being vacant.

I was amused when you said that you thought Gondor was more like an Italian 'city state'. Tolkien, with his daughter Priscilla, visited Italy, including Venice, from late July to mid-August 1955, and would in a later letter compare Venice to Gondor. In it, he thanked his correspondent for his letter, saying it came 'while I was away, in Gondor (sc. Venice)'. (Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Letter 168, p. 223.)

Such Italian city states were quite sophisticated, and saw themselves as the inheritors of Roman republicanism and its virtues. From this sense of the past developed the idea of a national, Italian, patriotism. Writers such as Dante and Petrarch equated Italy with Rome, and Italian with Latin. This was particularly the case from the time of the Renaissance.

That said, this Italian national sentiment was something new, despite its use of the past. For one thing, it was very interested in something that the Romans professed to despise: trade. According to one historian:

The Italians indeed had a 'Middle Age' but not as reborn Romans. They were the businessmen of Christendom, pursuing trade not empire, freedom not dominion, the European leaders in economic innovation, commercial and financial growth, merchantile morality, emancipation and power - in short, the acknowledged progenitors, recognised in a tradition of centuries perfected by Adam Smith and Marx, of Western Capitalism, individualism and democracy. The country closest to Rome was also the most modern. (Philip James Jones, The Italian City-State: From Commune to Signoria, (Oxford: OUP, 2004), p. 54.)

Second, about Aragorn's song or poem:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry View Post
Perhaps I can also say that Aragorn's song or poem, "Gondor, Gondor", has never struck me as a national anthem, but more rather a lament. It reminds me instead of the Old English poem "The Ruin" with its longing for a greatness that has fallen away. Aragorn gives to his song a hope that the greatness shall be rebuilt, but I think it is the past tense verbs with which the song begins--blew, fell--which recall to me the ancient theme of mutability. To that mutability Aragorn brings, of course, hope. Yet the poem remains a lament for lost glory, which is not something I normally associate with national anthems.
While it is in the style of a lament, that doesn't mean that such a song could not be a national anthem. It's true that most national anthems tend to talk about how great the relevant country is, shown particularly in the title of the Danish national anthem, 'There is a lovely land'. In the film Borat, there is a version of the national anthem of Kazakhstan

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixavbzGylcU

which says that not only is this country the best in the world; all other countries are run by 'little girls'. It's a spoof of what is often sung.

That said, there are other national anthems that don't fit into this mould. One which I specifically mentioned in my essay was that of Poland, 'Poland Has Not Perished Yet'. It was composed in 1797, two years after Poland disappeared as an independent state. This is one translation of its first verse:

Poland has not perished yet
So long as we still live
That which alien force has seized
We at sabrepoint shall retrieve.


It expressed the idea that the nation of Poland had not disappeared, as long as the Polish people lived and fought in its name. In 1926, some years after Poland re-emerged as an independent state, it became that country's national anthem.

While I didn't call the song 'Gondor, Gondor' a national anthem, I said that it had the elements of one, using this Polish example.
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Old 04-08-2010, 09:25 PM   #11
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Sorry for the protracted reply, Faramir, but the Easter holiday intervened with many activities.

Thank you for providing the quote from the Letters, as you know my copy has disappeared. I think it was that letter I quoted in ages past on the Downs, or possibly another which stated that Gondor was at about the same latitude as Venice—my memory could be playing tricks on me, though, and that detail about latitude might come from Fonstad’s Atlas or Carpenter.

Whether we rely on the Letters or on the characteristics about Gondor in LotR, Gondor clearly has a culture different from that of The Shire and again from that of Rohan and this I think is one of the interesting things you bring out in your essay. Yet I don’t think Gondor quite resembles the city state that your very distinguished historian, Philip James Jones, means in his monumental study. Jones’s book is unquestionably authoritative and important and it has set the standard for study of Italian history (in English) for probably the generation to come. Yet The Italian City-State: From Commune to Signoria was first published in 1997, so it’s argument and perspective was not something Tolkien would have been familiar with. And while Jones was a Reader, Tutor, Fellow and Librarian at Oxford (Brasenose College) in the ‘60’s, ‘70’s, and ‘80’s, I think it unlikely Tolkien, had he even known of Jones’ earlier work, would have been much influenced by Jones’ ideas. That is, I doubt Jones' concept of city state can be found in Tolkien's Gondor.

Why? Because Jones’ work reset the definitions of what powered those city states and what motivated their cultures. He had a very different idea of how the classical world transformed into the modern world than did previous historians and poets and writers. His work is controversial precisely because he in effect denied the traditional humanist understanding of the Renaissance, as well as its dating in the 14th or 15th century. In focusing upon economics, trade, finances, and “mercantile morality” (as in the quote you provided above) and seeing the city-state’s relationship in terms of Adam Smith and Marx (again, as in your quotation), he took a view that was unlike the earlier thought about the inspiring painting, philosophy, art, and culture in the city-states. That is, he questioned traditional assumptions about the Renaissance and the bourgeois city-state. As he put it:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jones, p. 5, The Italian City-State
The humanist scheme of history is dead, itself a part of history.
His is a very different “Venice” or “Florence” than that understood by, for instance, the many Victorians who flocked to Italy (to say nothing of the Romantic poets) and by the Pre-Raphaelites, who even took their name from the Italian painter. It could well be worth a thread to discuss Tolkien’s relationship to these immediate predecessors, who, like Tolkien himself, were not influenced by Machiavelli and Marx, as was Jones.

What also differentiates Tolkien from Jones’ view of the city states is Tolkien’s attitude towards chivalry. This attitude permeates LotR and it is a significant factor in his depiction of history and culture, especially since, as LotR progresses, in many ways it leaves off the air of realism about The Shire and moves closer towards a heroic mode. (I use the word ‘realism’ guardedly and in relation to previous discussions here on the Downs about the narrative style of LotR.) In fact, I would argue that in many ways The Shire is closer as a recent past than Gondor to Tolkien’s first readers. Even Tolkien’s prose changes as the book develops, as do the vocabulary and style of the characters’ dialogue. (Initially, Gimli’s and Legolas’ style of speech is quite different but ultimately both come to speak in a similar style.) In fact, it’s probably a little wicked of me to quote Jones’ description of the pre-city-state cultures to characterize Tolkien’s, but I will anyway.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jones, The Italian City-States, p. 7
The professed ideal was a civic, humanist ethic which exalted moral and military excellence (virtus, and censured, even outlawed, as associated evils, acquisitiveness (quaestus), luxury, and idleness. By this code, wealth, if not deemed a trust, was to be used, as won, honourably (bono modo), and, with all other faculties, exploited not for self but for family, friends, and most of all the state.
I could also point to Tolkien’s discussion of chivalry in his "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son”, particularly his Extended Comment on the Old English word ‘ofermod’, where he says that the chivalric desire for honour, motivated by pride, compromises the true nature of chivalry. Tolkien discusses “Sir Gawain” as well as the poem “Maldon”.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tolkien, HoBBS
We have two poets that study at length the heroic and chivalrous, with both art and thought, in the older ages: one near the beginning in Beowulf; one near the end in Sir Gawain. And probably a third, more near the middle, in Maldon, if we had all his work. It is not surprising that any consideration of the work of one of these leads to the others. Sir Gawain, the latest, is the most fully conscious, and is in plain intention a criticism or valuation of a whole code of sentiment and conduct, in which heroic courage is only a part, with different loyalties to serve. Yet it is a poem with many inner likenesses to Beowulf, deeper than the use of the old "alliterative" metre, which is none the less significant. Sir Gawain, as the exemplar of chivalry, is of course shown to be deeply concerned for his own honour, and though the things considered honour¬able may have shifted or been enlarged, loyalty to word and to allegiance, and unflinching courage re¬main. These are tested in adventures no nearer to ordinary life than Grendel or the dragon; but Gawain's conduct is made more worthy, and more worth con¬sidering, again because he is a subordinate. He is involved in peril and the certain prospect of death simply by loyalty, and. the desire to secure the safety and dignity of his lord, King Arthur. And upon him depends in his quest the honour of his lord and of his heorđwerod, the Round Table.
This understanding of chivalry is particularly important in a comparison of Boromir’s, Faramir’s, and Denethor’s stories.

Now, what does all this have to do with your paper? It is prompted by the emphasis, both in your paper and in your reply here, on the “nationality” of Gondor, for what I meant by “city-state” is not what you meant by the same word as evidenced by the quotation from Jones. Ultimately, I think, you place greater emphasis on certain modern aspects of Gondor than I would. For instance, I would not call the pride of Gondor “a strong sense of nationality” (p. 199), as you do, for to me the claims and comments that Boromir and Faramir make for the bastion of free peoples rather represents a fealty.

The characteristics of Gondor are not unalloyed, if I may make use of Tolkien’s metaphor in his discussion of chivalry, but blended. While Aragorn’s mitigating of Beregond’s doom shows Aragorn rejecting a knee-jerk application of the old punishment of death, Aragorn nonethess reaffirms the chivalric question of obedience and duty in a subordinate; he sends Beregond into exile as it were, but an exile of service to Faramir, for whose life Beregond broke the oath to Denethor. It’s as wise and neat an answer as any Solomon could have come up with and one the poet of Beowulf, who himself questioned the owner of such an allegiance, might well acclaim. There are many other aspects of Gondor that make it a realm of chivalry rather than incipient capitalist hoard. Faramir’s debate with Gollem and Frodo is based upon faithful word and ultimately Faramir respects the troth that Frodo has pledged with Gollem, despite his misgivings. Neither trade nor commerce binds Rohan and Gondor, but Eomer’s love for Aragorn and an ancient word. The symbolism of the medieval bower informs the story of Faramir and Eowyn. And Aragorn himself refers to the Gondorians’ attitude towards their city in a decidedly traditional way, “And who then shall govern Gondor and those who look to this City as to their queen . . .”(The Steward and the King).

This leaves me with a rejoinder about “Gondor, Gondor”, which you twice refer to as a national anthem, using quotation marks, p. 185, the first page, and p. 211, the last page.

Quote:
Gondorian songs and poems are, however, only quoted twice, a “national anthem” and a rhyme about a herb. . . .

The lack of Gondorian songs, save the “national anthem” may be due to Tolkien not wanting to make Gondor seem too “modern” or too similar to the United Kingdom at war in 1914-1918 and 1939-1945.
It is only Aragorn who recites “Gondor, Gondor”, so how can it be said to be a Gondorian anthem?

Quote:
The song sung by Aragorn, “Gondor! Gondor”, resembles a national anthem, which Gondor was sophisticated enough to have.
Leaving aside the question of how much the song resembles the Polish anthem, there doesn’t appear evidence that the song was known in Gondor or sung in Gondor. Amid all the music and singing and celebration after the destruction of the Ring and the fall of Sauron, not once is “Gondor, Gondor” mentioned. If it is the national anthem and not, as Helen eloquently suggests, Aragorn’s plaintive song of exile, then why is it absent from the celebrations? The narrative plays out the song with Aragorn’s discovery of the new tree but no one else sings the song. It would appear to be his and not Gondor’s.

I like the distinction you bring out about the prevalence of song in different parts of LotR. I would not have pondered the nature of military music in it without your paper. I might not agree with your characterization of Gondorian music or of Gondor, but I certainly appreciate how your thoughts have been a springboard for mine and for that I sincerely thank you.
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Old 04-21-2010, 12:15 PM   #12
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Narya A few things

I enjoyed reading your last post very much, Bęthberry.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry View Post
Whether we rely on the Letters or on the characteristics about Gondor in LotR, Gondor clearly has a culture different from that of The Shire and again from that of Rohan and this I think is one of the interesting things you bring out in your essay.
Thanks for that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry View Post
Yet I don’t think Gondor quite resembles the city state that your very distinguished historian, Philip James Jones, means in his monumental study. Jones’s book is unquestionably authoritative and important and it has set the standard for study of Italian history (in English) for probably the generation to come. Yet The Italian City-State: From Commune to Signoria was first published in 1997, so it’s argument and perspective was not something Tolkien would have been familiar with. And while Jones was a Reader, Tutor, Fellow and Librarian at Oxford (Brasenose College) in the ‘60’s, ‘70’s, and ‘80’s, I think it unlikely Tolkien, had he even known of Jones’ earlier work, would have been much influenced by Jones’ ideas. That is, I doubt Jones' concept of city state can be found in Tolkien's Gondor.

Why? Because Jones’ work reset the definitions of what powered those city states and what motivated their cultures. He had a very different idea of how the classical world transformed into the modern world than did previous historians and poets and writers. His work is controversial precisely because he in effect denied the traditional humanist understanding of the Renaissance, as well as its dating in the 14th or 15th century. In focusing upon economics, trade, finances, and “mercantile morality” (as in the quote you provided above) and seeing the city-state’s relationship in terms of Adam Smith and Marx (again, as in your quotation), he took a view that was unlike the earlier thought about the inspiring painting, philosophy, art, and culture in the city-states. That is, he questioned traditional assumptions about the Renaissance and the bourgeois city-state. As he put it:

His is a very different “Venice” or “Florence” than that understood by, for instance, the many Victorians who flocked to Italy (to say nothing of the Romantic poets) and by the Pre-Raphaelites, who even took their name from the Italian painter. It could well be worth a thread to discuss Tolkien’s relationship to these immediate predecessors, who, like Tolkien himself, were not influenced by Machiavelli and Marx, as was Jones.
I agree that Tolkien would probably not have been influenced by Jones's ideas; but he may have been by Jacob Burckhardt's famous and still influential The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860). Burckhardt regarded the Italian Renaissance as the beginning of the modern world, with the emergence in the Italy of that period of the modern concept of the state, both in the despotisms and in the republics. Also, the nature of those states led to the development of the idea of the individual, with consequences for the sciences, the arts and politics.

In Part I, 'The State as a Work of Art', Burckhardt said that in the republics and despotisms of Italy

a new fact appears in history - the state as the outcome of reflection and calculation, the state as a work of art. ('Introduction')

In looking at the larger despotisms, he had this to say:

The Italian princes were not, like their contemporaries in the North, dependent on the society of an aristocracy which held itself to be the only class worth consideration, and which infected the monarch with the same conceit. In Italy the prince was permitted and compelled to know and to use men of every grade of society; and the nobility, though by birth a caste, were forced in social intercourse to stand upon their personal qualifications alone. ('The Greater Dynasties')

He looked closely at the chief republics in Italy at that time, Florence and Venice. Regarding the latter, as Tolkien explicitly compared Gondor to it, what Burckhardt had to say about it is interesting. First, he quoted one writer who

conducts the reader from one quarter of the city to another till he comes at last to the two hospitals which were among those institutions of public utility nowhere so numerous as at Venice. Care for the people, in peace as well as in war, was characteristic of this government, and its attention to the wounded, even to those of the enemy, excited the admiration of other states. ('The Republics: Venice and Florence')

Burckhardt offered this explanation for Venice's political stability:

The cause of the stability of Venice lies rather in a combination of circumstances which were found in union nowhere else. Unassailable from its position, it had been able from the beginning to treat of foreign affairs with the fullest and calmest reflection and ignore nearly altogether the parties which divided the rest of Italy, to escape the entanglement of permanent alliances, and to set the highest price on those which it thought fit to make. The keynote of the Venetian character was, consequently, a spirit of proud and contemptuous isolation, which, joined to the hatred felt for the city by the other states of Italy, gave rise to a strong sense of solidarity within. (Ibid.)

One could argue that there is an overlap with Gondor here, with a sense of solidarity among Gondorians being the product of them, and certainly their ruler Denethor II, possessing a spirit of isolation, having only the Rohirrim to rely on, joined to the thousands of years of hatred felt for their city by Sauron.

I enjoyed what you had to say about chivalry here:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry;626.896
This understanding of chivalry is particularly important in a comparison of Boromir’s, Faramir’s, and Denethor’s stories.

Now, what does all this have to do with your paper? It is prompted by the emphasis, both in your paper and in your reply here, on the “nationality” of Gondor, for what I meant by “city-state” is not what you meant by the same word as evidenced by the quotation from Jones. Ultimately, I think, you place greater emphasis on certain modern aspects of Gondor than I would. For instance, I would not call the pride of Gondor “a strong sense of nationality” (p. 199), as you do, for to me the claims and comments that Boromir and Faramir make for the bastion of free peoples rather represents a fealty.

The characteristics of Gondor are not unalloyed, if I may make use of Tolkien’s metaphor in his discussion of chivalry, but blended. While Aragorn’s mitigating of Beregond’s doom shows Aragorn rejecting a knee-jerk application of the old punishment of death, Aragorn nonethess reaffirms the chivalric question of obedience and duty in a subordinate; he sends Beregond into exile as it were, but an exile of service to Faramir, for whose life Beregond broke the oath to Denethor. It’s as wise and neat an answer as any Solomon could have come up with and one the poet of Beowulf, who himself questioned the owner of such an allegiance, might well acclaim. There are many other aspects of Gondor that make it a realm of chivalry rather than incipient capitalist hoard. Faramir’s debate with Gollem and Frodo is based upon faithful word and ultimately Faramir respects the troth that Frodo has pledged with Gollem, despite his misgivings. Neither trade nor commerce binds Rohan and Gondor, but Eomer’s love for Aragorn and an ancient word. The symbolism of the medieval bower informs the story of Faramir and Eowyn. And Aragorn himself refers to the Gondorians’ attitude towards their city in a decidedly traditional way, “And who then shall govern Gondor and those who look to this City as to their queen . . .”(The Steward and the King).
I would say that the ultimate example of chivalrous behaviour in Gondor has to be that of the Ruling Stewards, from Mardil the Faithful to Faramir, who ruled Gondor in the name of the vanished kings, according to their oaths, but who did not attempt to claim the vacant throne. Faramir being made a prince is a reward by Elessar to him and all his ancestors for this fidelity.

I'm intrigued by the image of Minas Tirith as a queen. As well as the quote from Aragorn above, Faramir also earlier hoped to see that city 'as a queen among other queens''. Constantinople, the capital of the East Roman or Byzantine Empire, was called 'Queen of Cities'; and Tolkien explicitly compared Gondor to that state, saying that the former 'fades slowly to decayed Middle Age, a kind of proud, venerable, but increasingly impotent Byzantium'. (Letters, Letter 131, p. 157.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry View Post
This leaves me with a rejoinder about “Gondor, Gondor”, which you twice refer to as a national anthem, using quotation marks, p. 185, the first page, and p. 211, the last page.
The reasons for the quotation marks were, first, to provoke debate about the song, which I felt there was not enough of, despite the fact that it could be the only unambiguously Gondorian song we have; and second, I couldn't actually call it a national anthem, due to lack of evidence.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry View Post
Leaving aside the question of how much the song resembles the Polish anthem, there doesn’t appear evidence that the song was known in Gondor or sung in Gondor. Amid all the music and singing and celebration after the destruction of the Ring and the fall of Sauron, not once is “Gondor, Gondor” mentioned. If it is the national anthem and not, as Helen eloquently suggests, Aragorn’s plaintive song of exile, then why is it absent from the celebrations? The narrative plays out the song with Aragorn’s discovery of the new tree but no one else sings the song. It would appear to be his and not Gondor’s.
I don't dispute that the song could certainly be his own composition, a song of exile. It could also be an older lament that he liked and made his own.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry View Post
I like the distinction you bring out about the prevalence of song in different parts of LotR. I would not have pondered the nature of military music in it without your paper. I might not agree with your characterization of Gondorian music or of Gondor, but I certainly appreciate how your thoughts have been a springboard for mine and for that I sincerely thank you.
It's comments like yours that have made writing the essay worthwhile. I looked at the Rohirrim, and found that their songs and poems were almost all militaristic, by contrast to Gondor, which, despite indications of having a vibrant musical culture, had almost none of its songs or poems mentioned; and I wondered why this was the case. Also, I was very interested to read that the marching song of the Ents was compared by Tolkien to being like military music. Sadly, I ran out of space to discuss the Rohirrim and the Ents. Maybe in another essay...
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Old 05-02-2010, 08:02 PM   #13
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once more into the breach dear friends :D

Quote:
Originally Posted by Faramir Jones
He looked closely at the chief republics in Italy at that time, Florence and Venice. Regarding the latter, as Tolkien explicitly compared Gondor to it, what Burckhardt had to say about it is interesting.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Faramir Jones
I'm intrigued by the image of Minas Tirith as a queen. As well as the quote from Aragorn above, Faramir also earlier hoped to see that city 'as a queen among other queens''. Constantinople, the capital of the East Roman or Byzantine Empire, was called 'Queen of Cities'; and Tolkien explicitly compared Gondor to that state, saying that the former 'fades slowly to decayed Middle Age, a kind of proud, venerable, but increasingly impotent Byzantium'. (Letters, Letter 131, p. 157.)
These are fascinating comparisons Tolkien makes. Clearly he was not implying an allegorical equivalence (his meaning of allegory) whereby Gondor literally is both Venice and Constantinople. Gondor cannot be both: it cannot wholly resemble an up-and-coming modern nation state if it is crumbling into impotence the way Tolkien thought Constantinople did—and there is a reason why cold stone is the distinguishing characteristic of Gondorian architecture. These comparisons seem to function much like Tolkien’s explanation of how the Anglo Saxon nature of Rohan “does not imply that the Rohirrim closely resembled the ancient English otherwise, in culture or art, in weapons, or modes of warfare, except in a general way due to their circumstances.” (Sorry, I’ve lost the reference to which letter and my Letters is misplaced as well so I’m quoting from Heidi Steimel’s paper, which quotes it from Hargrove’s book. Terribly incorrect to mount a discussion this way, eh wot?) Gondor, then, is a literary amalgam of several suggestive allusions rather than a specific depiction of any one city.

I think our differences here relates to the various meanings the word ‘modern’ can have. (See modern at dictionary.com.) Certainly Burckhardt (and Jones) use the word in contrast to the classical world and the medieval world but other meanings relate the modern age as something pertaining to a more recent time. Tolkien’s complaint about modern English clearly uses the word to imply early twentieth century usage even though in philology modern English means—for ease of explanation—Shakespeare to now (because the major characteristics of the language we speak today were set by the sixteenth century, in the dialect that became the base for our English.) Sometimes modern can mean authors such as Joyce, Eliot, Pound, Woolf, Lawrence, in contrast to Tennyson, Swinburne, Arnold. (Hardy and Kipling are as difficult to place in this context of modern as is Tolkien.) In each discipline-- literary, linguistic, and historical studies--the word modern has several meanings. So I don't think modern, as related to Gondor, can be both "not classical" and "contemporary."

My first comment comparing Gondor to Venice was derived from Tolkien’s comparison, the geography of the city within Middle-earth, and its limited range of power. Gondor does not have an empire, nor even much of a kingdom any more. Despite its kingship and steward, the overall tone of Gondor is that of a small clique of men who owe allegiance to each other and whose place in the hierarchy of power is dependent upon personal relationships rather than a rule of law or meritocracy. Blood lines still matter as does the ancient belief that the hands of the king are hands of healing. If it is a nation, it is a nation in the old, original, racial meaning of the word—descendents of Numenoreans-- rather than in the new political meaning of a large group of people who seek their own particular government. (See nation at dictionary.com. So, from my perspective, Gondor has dwindled to a military entity largely (although not exclusively) confined to the site of Minas Tirith and is not a full nation state in the political sense.

I would not, then, ascribe to your use of the word modern, even with your quotation marks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by p. 210
Gondor more “modern”

In contrast to the Shire, which was set in the past, Gondor resembled the United Kingdom in both World Wars.
Unfortunately, I cannot see Gondor in any way resembling the UK in the first half of the twentieth century. True, it has the characteristics of a city under siege, but that does not make it resemble Old Blighty even with Britannia’s crumbling empire. For one thing, Tolkien’s words in the Foreword to the Second Edition stand as a stark warning about the difference between the shadow of WWII and the shadow of Sauron. For me, the long march to Gondor represents a journey to an even more distant past than that of The Shire, not a journey out of a recent past towards to an era contemporary with the writing of LotR.

To me, Tolkien was attempting to resurrect an heroic or cultural ideal that was being lost with the incursions of industrialization and technology. He started writing a sequel to The Hobbit, but the Legendarium flowed into his imagination and LotR became something different. His response to his WWI experiences was very different from those of the War poets--Sassoon, Owen, Brooke to name a few--who wrote bitterly with sarcasm and irony and satire; they wrote without any place for that perilous realm called Fairie but it was that realm which gave Tolkien his inspiration, rather than historical realism.

Thus, it would be preferable to me to consider Tolkien’s aesthetic object and world view when considering the absence of similarity to actual war songs and ditties than to say that he was avoiding making Gondor resemble the UK too closely.

Perhaps your quotation marks around modern were meant to provoke this kind of discussion.
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Last edited by Bęthberry; 05-03-2010 at 08:16 PM. Reason: opps! crucial 'not' missing
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Old 08-24-2010, 12:25 PM   #14
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White-Hand Sorry for taking so long

Sorry for taking so long to reply to your last post, Bęthberry.

In terms of Gondor being an amalgam of several allusions:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry View Post
These are fascinating comparisons Tolkien makes. Clearly he was not implying an allegorical equivalence (his meaning of allegory) whereby Gondor literally is both Venice and Constantinople....Gondor cannot be both: it cannot wholly resemble an up-and-coming modern nation state if it is crumbling into impotence the way Tolkien thought Constantinople did—and there is a reason why cold stone is the distinguishing characteristic of Gondorian architecture. Gondor, then, is a literary amalgam of several suggestive allusions rather than a specific depiction of any one city.
I agree with you here, but have to add something more, in that Tolkien said, in a
14th October 1958 letter to Rhona Beare, that the Gondorians resembled Egyptians in many ways:

The Númenóreans of Gondor were proud, peculiar and archaic, and I think are best portrayed in (say) Egyptian terms. In many ways they resembled 'Egyptians'
- the love for, and power to construct, the gigantic and massive. And in their great
interest in ancestry and in tombs. (But not of course in 'theology': in which they were Hebraic and even more puritain - but this would take long to set out:

(Letters, Letter 211, p. 281)

He later said in the same letter:

I think the crown of Gondor (the S. Kingdom) was very tall, like that of Egypt, but with wings attached, not set straight back but at an angle.

After giving two sketches of what he was talking about, he continued:

The N. Kingdom had only a diadem (III 323). Cf. the difference between the N. and S. Kingdoms of Egypt. (Ibid.)

In terms of Tolkien's explanation about using 'Anglo-Saxon' in the names and occasional glimpses of the language of the Rohirrim:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry View Post
Tolkien’s explanation of how the Anglo Saxon nature of Rohan “does not imply that the Rohirrim closely resembled the ancient English otherwise, in culture or art, in weapons, or modes of warfare, except in a general way due to their circumstances.” (Sorry, I’ve lost the reference to which letter and my Letters is misplaced as well so I’m quoting from Heidi Steimel’s paper, which quotes it from Hargrove’s book. Terribly incorrect to mount a discussion this way, eh wot?)
A little, but I know the piece you're talking about. In one of his letters, he explained this reason further, saying that he used Anglo-Saxon 'as a device of "translation"'. (Letters, Letter 297, p. 381)

What is interesting, but not mentioned by him, but by his son Christopher in Unfinished Tales, is that

the names of the early kings and princes of the Northman and the Éothéod are Gothic in form, not Old English (Anglo-Saxon) as in the case of Léod, Eorl, and the later Rohirrim.
|
Since, as is explained in Appendix F(II), the language of Rohan was 'made to resemble ancient English', the names of the the ancestors of the Rohirrm are cast into the forms of the earliest recorded Germanic language. (Unfinished Tales, p. 311, footnote 6)

Personally, however, I'm inclined to agree with Tom Shippey's view that Tolkien 'was stretching the truth a long way in asserting that [his remarks in Appendix F], to say the least!' He said that there was

one obvious difference between the people of Rohan and the 'ancient English', and that is horses....The Rohirrim are nothing if not cavalry. By contrast the Anglo-Saxons' reluctance to have anything militarily to do with horses is notorious. (The Road to Middle-earth, Second edition, p. 140)

He suggested that the Rohirrim should possibly be equated with, not the Anglo-Saxons of history, but those of legend:

The chapter 'The King of the Golden Hall' is straightforwardly calqued on Beowulf....More importantly the poem and the chapter agree, down to minute detail, on the procedure for approaching kings. (Ibid., p. 141)

He believed that

Tolkien was trying to go beyond translation to 'reconstruction'. And this is what explains the horses. Tne feeling of Anglo-Saxon poetry for these was markedly different from that of Anglo-Saxon history. (Ibid., p. 143)

I have to agree that Tolkein was more than just translating; he made the Rohirrm resemble the Anglo-Saxon English in certain deliberate ways, at least their fictional view of themselves.

In terms of use of the word 'modern', I was using it in the context of a couple of Oxford English Dictionary definitions:

2. a. Of or relating to the present and recent times, as opposed to the remote past; of, relating to, or originating in the current age or period.

3. a. Characteristic of the present time, or the time of writing; not old-fashioned, antiquated, or obsolete; employing the most up-to-date ideas, techniques, or equipment. (In early use chiefly with reference to warfare.)


I agree that perhaps 'our differences here relates to the various meanings the word ‘modern’ can have'. This, I also agree, comes out in your view of Gondor:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry View Post
My first comment comparing Gondor to Venice was derived from Tolkien’s comparison, the geography of the city within Middle-earth, and its limited range of power. Gondor does not have an empire, nor even much of a kingdom any more. Despite its kingship and steward, the overall tone of Gondor is that of a small clique of men who owe allegiance to each other and whose place in the hierarchy of power is dependent upon personal relationships rather than a rule of law or meritocracy. Blood lines still matter as does the ancient belief that the hands of the king are hands of healing. If it is a nation, it is a nation in the old, original, racial meaning of the word—descendents of Numenoreans-- rather than in the new political meaning of a large group of people who seek their own particular government. (See nation at dictionary.com. So, from my perspective, Gondor has dwindled to a military entity largely (although not exclusively) confined to the site of Minas Tirith and is not a full nation state in the political sense.

I wouldn't say that the men in power 'owe allegience to each other'. It appears that they, as well as humbler Gondorians, owe allegiance to a nation called Gondor as well as to its king, or the steward if there is no king.

While blood lines still matter, they're not everything. Just because Aragorn II is the heir of Isildur may make him a viable candidate for the throne of Gondor; but to be a serious candidate he needs to do really impressive things, such as killing a lot of Gondor's enemies on the field of battle.

Also, I wouldn't say that Gondor, though a 'Númenórean state', is based on race; because there can't have been that many Númenóreans who survived the Downfall, either those Faithful already in Middle-earth or who fled with Elendil. Even allowing for the passage of thousands of years, and Gondorians who will presumably be proud of any Númenórean ancestors, they'll also have other ancestors on their family trees.

The term 'Númenórean state', as used by Tolkien, appears to be based (among other things) on a common Númenórean-derived culture. One example is the speaking of Sindarian as a second language among many Gondorians, a legacy of the Faithful of Númenor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry View Post
Unfortunately, I cannot see Gondor in any way resembling the UK in the first half of the twentieth century. True, it has the characteristics of a city under siege, but that does not make it resemble Old Blighty even with Britannia’s crumbling empire. For one thing, Tolkien’s words in the Foreword to the Second Edition stand as a stark warning about the difference between the shadow of WWII and the shadow of Sauron. For me, the long march to Gondor represents a journey to an even more distant past than that of The Shire, not a journey out of a recent past towards to an era contemporary with the writing of LotR.
I think that many people took Tolkien's warning against reading the War of the Ring as an allegory of WWII to mean that his portrayal of the former was not influenced by the latter, as well as by WWI.

I don't believe that this is correct. My opinion is that the journey of Bilbo in The Hobbit and that of Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin in LotR can be seen as a journey from a 'modern' period to a more distant, let's say 'medieval' past, but also vice versa.

Tolkien based the Shire on an English village c. 1897, at the end of Victoria's reign. The hobbits seem nineteenth century, such as in their frequent use of umbrellas and aneroid barometers; so in one sense they are the most 'modern' people in Middle-earth.

But Tolkien deliberately based the Shire on a village in his childhood, in his own past and that of his contemporaries, before the two World Wars. When the hobbits go to other states at war, organised for that purpose, with medieval weapons and equipment, it might appear to be in the remote past; but it can also be seen as more 'modern'.

This is because the UK in both World Wars had to accustom itself to fighting, the peaceful days of the Pax Britannica having come to an end. In doing so, things became more 'medieval', for example in terms of government explicitly asking, particularly in WWI, for people to give their aid in terms of chivalry and sacrifice. Also, that war led to the reintroduction of some traditional 'medieval' armour. While new armour came in the form of tanks, soldiers soon wore metal helmets to protect their heads, something that had not been done since the 17th century. German infantry on sentry duty also wore thick body armour.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry View Post
To me, Tolkien was attempting to resurrect an heroic or cultural ideal that was being lost with the incursions of industrialization and technology. He started writing a sequel to The Hobbit, but the Legendarium flowed into his imagination and LotR became something different. His response to his WWI experiences was very different from those of the War poets--Sassoon, Owen, Brooke to name a few--who wrote bitterly with sarcasm and irony and satire; they wrote without any place for that perilous realm called Fairie but it was that realm which gave Tolkien his inspiration, rather than historical realism.
I agree about his response to his experiences being different to that of the War poets. And, of course, we're all glad that it was!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry View Post
Thus, it would be preferable to me to consider Tolkien’s aesthetic object and world view when considering the absence of similarity to actual war songs and ditties than to say that he was avoiding making Gondor resemble the UK too closely.

Perhaps your quotation marks around modern were meant to provoke this kind of discussion.
I used the word in quotation marks because I knew we fans have very different views of what is 'modern' and 'medieval', and that discussion would take place about this.

Last edited by Faramir Jones; 08-24-2010 at 12:34 PM. Reason: I wanted to get rid of something
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