The Barrow-Downs Discussion Forum


Visit The *EVEN NEWER* Barrow-Downs Photo Page

Go Back   The Barrow-Downs Discussion Forum > Middle-Earth Discussions > The Books
User Name
Password
Register FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read


Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 01-20-2005, 09:42 AM   #41
Fordim Hedgethistle
Gibbering Gibbet
 
Fordim Hedgethistle's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Beyond cloud nine
Posts: 1,842
Fordim Hedgethistle is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Random thought

Just occured to me: isn't it interesting that the first effect of the Ring is to make one invisible? It suggests that the evil of the Ring is one that manifests by obscuring or eradicating the 'outwardness' of a character, or one that works contratry to this idea of wearing one's soul on the outside. The Ring denies that possibility by removing the outward appearance and locking (even trapping) the wearer in an eternal hell of internal existence. Frodo's experience of being invisible is terribly isolating (he is "naked" and even more visible to those other inwardly self-directed beings Sauron and the Nazgul).

The lasting effect of the Ring upon Gollum is that his outwardness has all but gone: his appearance is wasted and withered, he prefers to keep in the dark, he speaks to himself and thinks only of his own desires.

The great evil of the Ring is that it makes one's outwardness invisible to oneself, forcing him or her into living out his or her life only inwardly???

herm hoom baroom. . .more coffee is needed. . .
__________________
Scribbling scrabbling.
Fordim Hedgethistle is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-20-2005, 02:22 PM   #42
mark12_30
Stormdancer of Doom
 
mark12_30's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Elvish singing is not a thing to miss, in June under the stars
Posts: 4,396
mark12_30 has been trapped in the Barrow!
Send a message via AIM to mark12_30 Send a message via Yahoo to mark12_30
still reading, but in response to Fordie's comment above: Some define the "soul" as intellect, emotions, and will, as opposed to spirit being the life that is given by God (some separate these, some don't) (breath, wind, pneuma-- see mystic unity thread).

"Soul" has all sorts of connotations, some positive, some negative; there are those who contrast "soulishness" (fleshly, burdensome) with "spirituality" (good)... the soul is to be stilled and quieted (Psalm... something) or tamed or decreased.

I suppose if we are talking about "Visible Souls", and the body becomes invisible, then one must wonder whether the soul-- intellect, emotions, will -- is disappearing.

Bilbo escaped this fate.

The ringwraiths, I think, didn't.

Does Frodo?

Am I subdividing this too much? Lewis might object to the interpretation. (Wasn't he Episcopalian... don't think they divide it like the evangelicals do... )

:crosseyed:

Fordie, where's the coffee?
__________________
...down to the water to see the elves dance and sing upon the midsummer's eve.

Last edited by mark12_30; 01-20-2005 at 02:27 PM.
mark12_30 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-20-2005, 02:58 PM   #43
drigel
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
drigel's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: commonplace city
Posts: 518
drigel has just left Hobbiton.
fuzzy logic

so many connotations and every one a tangent to run with.

Quote:
suppose if we are talking about "Visible Souls", and the body becomes invisible, then one must wonder whether the soul is disappearing.
What would that say about old Tom? enigma indeed

When I think about the ring, I remember what our hobbit mortal ringbearers saw when they put the ring on. I would interpret that the only thing the ringwraith's had, enslaved as it was, was a spririt. The ring, forged by a fallen angel, was a physical link to the unseen world, one's spirit being a part of that world. It gets fuzzy for me at this point. Is it the strength of one's mind or one's spirit that determines the (partial?) command of the ring?

Venti triple coffe mocha yumm
drigel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-20-2005, 03:15 PM   #44
Lalwendë
A Mere Boggart
 
Lalwendë's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: under the bed
Posts: 4,804
Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
The old brain cells are seriously depleted now, and I thought I had what Fordim says all 'sewn up' so to speak but now Drigel has thrown a spanner in the works of my brain:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Drigel
What would that say about old Tom? enigma indeed
Well, as soon as I read what Fordim says about the effects of the Ring, I thought that it must be working to erode the physical, the Hroa, and making it so that a person was all soul or Fea. Literally, a visible soul! But, only visible to Sauron and those who bear the Rings invested with his power, the Ringwraiths. I can't locate the post now, but davem said recently that the Ringwraiths could be Hroa-less Fea. Perhaps the One Ring works in this way too? If Sauron invested it with some kind of power of osanwe, and likewise with the Nine Rings, then this would amke perfect sense. The bearer would be physically invisible, but entirely visible to Sauron; he would have lost his protective Hroa entirely and his Fea would be entirely visible. This could also explain the Light of Frodo. as his Hroa becomes eroded, his Light or Fea becomes more visible.

But what about Tom Bombadil? Does this mean he simply is not controllable in this way? Is he strong enough to resist what others, including the great and the good, cannot? Does he even have a Hroa to be eroded? And if not, then what plane does he exist upon?

Never mind coffee, I need something much stronger.
__________________
Gordon's alive!
Lalwendë is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-20-2005, 03:21 PM   #45
Fordim Hedgethistle
Gibbering Gibbet
 
Fordim Hedgethistle's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Beyond cloud nine
Posts: 1,842
Fordim Hedgethistle is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
Never mind coffee, I need something much stronger.
Try these -- and don't say I didn't warn you, 'cause I am.
__________________
Scribbling scrabbling.
Fordim Hedgethistle is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-20-2005, 03:32 PM   #46
drigel
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
drigel's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: commonplace city
Posts: 518
drigel has just left Hobbiton.
tom... pure fea
hmmm
Elves walking in both the seen and unseen world.... What else is in the unseen world other than spiritual presense would and elf see?
drigel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-20-2005, 03:32 PM   #47
Lyta_Underhill
Haunted Halfling
 
Lyta_Underhill's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: an uncounted length of steps--floating between air molecules
Posts: 844
Lyta_Underhill has just left Hobbiton.
Moss-Gatherers and Stones Doomed to Rolling...

Quote:
But what about Tom Bombadil? Does this mean he simply is not controllable in this way? Is he strong enough to resist what others, including the great and the good, cannot? Does he even have a Hroa to be eroded? And if not, then what plane does he exist upon?
Lalwendë, alas, I think I fell upon this same point in the "Magic in Middle Earth" thread when trying to describe the Ring's effects. I thought perhaps it was because Tom was, in a sense, Arda itself (not to say he is Eru, because I wouldn't say that--this isn't a true theory of what Bombadil is, but rather, how he functions in Middle Earth). But perhaps he is like Arda itself in that he is not affected by the temporal magic of the Ring. He, like the Earth itself, has great resistance to magic worked by individuals, even a great Maia like Sauron. Even Morgoth's attempts to wreck Middle Earth only brought out beauties undreamt of before---evil marring its own will again. Perhaps Tom is part of the larger world in this way. After all, we cannot put the Ring on all of Arda and make it disappear!

Oh, and Fordim, many thanks for the link to the coffee recipes! I would dearly enjoy Gondorian coffee but fear it would induce me to sing a silly song about the "Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon," or something equally embarrassing!

Cheers!
Lyta

P.S. (edit): some added thoughts in response to Aiwendil's post:
Quote:
This makes some sense. But is the "outwardness" of the characters' psyches then limited to this kind of "magic"? If we took away the perceptible light, would that make Frodo into the other kind of character?
I think what I was trying to say is that the landscape is a character, one that is validated by knowledge without a doubt of the other characters in Middle Earth that it does play a part and affect the movable characters that wander about in it. This, of course, would equate to a mythical reality, but it also would externalize many character aspects of those within its bounds in a similar measure with the observed externalization of the character of Middle Earth itself. Things that would seem metaphorical in this universe are valid concerns and show themselves in concrete ways that would not occur in the primary world. Thus, the light is an aspect of Frodo's soul, externalized in the secondary world, whereas it would not be visible in the primary world and we would rather think him crazy, as we can't see his motivation. His soul is left inside him, invisible. I hope this clarifies what I had tried rather feebly to say earlier! Thanks again and another round of Cheers!
__________________
“…she laid herself to rest upon Cerin Amroth; and there is her green grave, until the world is changed, and all the days of her life are utterly forgotten by men that come after, and elanor and niphredil bloom no more east of the Sea.”

Last edited by Lyta_Underhill; 01-20-2005 at 05:41 PM. Reason: more stuff to say
Lyta_Underhill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-20-2005, 05:41 PM   #48
littlemanpoet
Itinerant Songster
 
littlemanpoet's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: The Edge of Faerie
Posts: 7,049
littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Tolkien Toward an accounting...

Quote:
Can anyone present a satisfactory account of what in practice, in literary terms, it means for a character's sould to be visible? - Aiwendil
Thanks, Lyta, for your example of Frodo's light, which presented a category I had not accounted for in my little mock-up of a definition - or at least approach to one. Anyway.....

Indicators of a Visible Soul

1. A minimum of internal psychological processing by the character(s), whether in terms of thoughts, feelings, or dreams.

2. Character(s) appear as real, three-dimensional beings, almost always expressed through speech and behavior alone.

3. Internal attributes are evoked mythically according to the laws that govern the mythic setting: e.g.:
  • dreams foretell real events
  • White light indicates holiness, purity
  • Green and yellow light indicates decay & corruption
  • Red light indicates evil

In the above, I'm trying to account for various aspects of LotR, but also for applicability to other works.

Just a note on two- versus three- dimensionality: Those who assert that "visible soul" characterization is two-dimensional, are confusing internality with evocation of reality. When we see other people in the primary world but can't read their minds, we don't accuse them of being two-dimensional. We reserve such a pejorative for shallowness of character. Further, "visible soul" characterization, done well, is not the same as shallow characterization. It's not hard to perceive the difference between a real visible character from a cardboard cut-out.

Last edited by littlemanpoet; 01-20-2005 at 05:45 PM.
littlemanpoet is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-21-2005, 07:57 AM   #49
drigel
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
drigel's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: commonplace city
Posts: 518
drigel has just left Hobbiton.
fairie

lmp good synopsis
This characteristic is throughout LOTR, but it's description is very subtle. Mabye thats truly the only way for us mortals to discern it: in the corner of your eye, a quick, minute moment in time where one reaches a certain cognizance of the environment one is part of, and the souls that he shares it with.
drigel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-21-2005, 08:15 AM   #50
Lalwendë
A Mere Boggart
 
Lalwendë's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: under the bed
Posts: 4,804
Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lyta_Underhill
But perhaps he is like Arda itself in that he is not affected by the temporal magic of the Ring. He, like the Earth itself, has great resistance to magic worked by individuals, even a great Maia like Sauron.
Does this mean that Tom is quite literally a part of the very fabric of Arda? If so it might tie in with my old ideas of him as relating to a figure such as The Green Man or the Horned God. But now my ideas have been turned all upside down since I read Osanwe-kenta, and I feel there must be something in the fact that The One Ring does not have any effect upon him.

If he is a Hroa-less Fea (phrase used with compliments to davem ) then how did the Hobbits see him? Was this the nature of the magic of the Old Forest? If it did indeed enable the Hobbits to 'see' that which is not normally seen then I like that chapter even more than ever!

But it's still all hurting my head and I can't quite decide...

Quote:
Originally Posted by drigel
Mabye thats truly the only way for us mortals to discern it: in the corner of your eye, a quick, minute moment in time where one reaches a certain cognizance of the environment one is part of, and the souls that he shares it with.
This brings to mind the Laws and Customs section of Morgoth's Ring - Vol. 10 (I think) of HoME. In this it talks of what happens when an Elf's Hroa eventually burns away leaving them as a houseless Fea, wandering the earth. These would be visible to other Elves, and possibly to mortals, and there is a particularly beautiful passage in there relating to this.
__________________
Gordon's alive!
Lalwendë is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-21-2005, 01:08 PM   #51
mark12_30
Stormdancer of Doom
 
mark12_30's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Elvish singing is not a thing to miss, in June under the stars
Posts: 4,396
mark12_30 has been trapped in the Barrow!
Send a message via AIM to mark12_30 Send a message via Yahoo to mark12_30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lyta_Underhill
[b]Oh, and Fordim, many thanks for the link to the coffee recipes! I would dearly enjoy Gondorian coffee but fear it would induce me to sing a silly song about the "Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon," or something equally embarrassing!
It's only embarassing if you disappear-- and then have to explain what happened to your soul.
__________________
...down to the water to see the elves dance and sing upon the midsummer's eve.
mark12_30 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-21-2005, 09:26 PM   #52
littlemanpoet
Itinerant Songster
 
littlemanpoet's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: The Edge of Faerie
Posts: 7,049
littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Tolkien

Quote:
If he is a Hroa-less Fea (phrase used with compliments to davem ) then how did the Hobbits see him? Was this the nature of the magic of the Old Forest? If it did indeed enable the Hobbits to 'see' that which is not normally seen then I like that chapter even more than ever! - Lalwendë
This particular question reminds me of the medieval scholars in earnest discussion regarding how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.

Maybe I'm revealing my ignorance of this now famous osanwe document, but it seems to me that the best reading of any narrative written by Tolkien (or any storyteller for that matter) is to take it the way he wrote it rather than to speculate things that are not there. Hence, since the hobbits could see Tom Bombadil, he could not have been a hroa-less fea.

Quote:
Does this mean that Tom is quite literally a part of the very fabric of Arda? If so it might tie in with my old ideas of him as relating to a figure such as The Green Man or the Horned God. - Lalwendë
Now, this seems much more likely to me. It's of a piece with how Tolkien wrote Tom and Goldberry, don't you think? I like your "old ideas" just fine.
littlemanpoet is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-22-2005, 03:36 AM   #53
davem
Illustrious Ulair
 
davem's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: In the home of lost causes, and forsaken beliefs, and unpopular names,and impossible loyalties
Posts: 4,256
davem is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.davem is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Quote:
Originally Posted by LmP
This particular question reminds me of the medieval scholars in earnest discussion regarding how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.
I wonder how relevant this aside may be. That discussion, as I understand it, related to whether Angels had any physical presence, & if so, how much. Clearly, if they were purely spiritual beings, with no physical nature (in Tolkienesque terms if they were purely 'fea' without a 'hroa'), then an infinite number of them could dance on the head of any physical object - even a pin head. If they had a physical presence then there would be a limit on the number who could occupy such a space.

This may be relevant to the discussion of what happens to Elves if/when their fea does burn away their hroa. Would they have any presence in the physical world? If they were visible at all in that state then we would be dealing with literally visible souls. How many hroa-less Elves could dance on the head of a pin?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwende
Does this mean that Tom is quite literally a part of the very fabric of Arda? If so it might tie in with my old ideas of him as relating to a figure such as The Green Man or the Horned God. - Lalwendë
I wonder, in the light of what we know about both the Moon & the Sun having 'indwelling' spirits - Tillion & Arien - whether Tom is the 'indwelling' spirit of Arda. Of course, we are told that Tilion' & Arien's role is to steer those 'vessels', but is there more to it. I remember reading that when Blake looked at the sun he 'saw' a choir of Angels singing 'Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty!'. Did Tolkien have something similar in mind with Tilion & Arien? And if so, would that explain Tom? Is he the spirit that 'steers' the world. Of course, if Tom had always been then for most of his existence he wouldn't have had anything to steer as Arda was flat & fixed in place. But if there is more to the roles od Tilion & Arien, if they have another role, being the 'spirits' of moon & sun, then its possible that Tom played the same part in relation to Arda. He would be equivalent to the 'planetary Angel' of Qabalistic tradition.

Which would make him the 'visible soul' of Arda I suppose, his words would be the words of Arda itself. He has seen the first stars, he has existed as long as Arda has existed because he is Arda. This would at least explain the problem of both him & Treebeard being referred to as 'eldest'. Treebeard is the oldest living being in Middle earth, Tom is Middle earth. The Ring has no effect on him as it is, materially, made up of the matter of Arda, of the body of Tom himself.....
davem is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-22-2005, 08:21 AM   #54
Lalwendë
A Mere Boggart
 
Lalwendë's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: under the bed
Posts: 4,804
Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
He has seen the first stars, he has existed as long as Arda has existed because he is Arda. This would at least explain the problem of both him & Treebeard being referred to as 'eldest'. Treebeard is the oldest living being in Middle earth, Tom is Middle earth. The Ring has no effect on him as it is, materially, made up of the matter of Arda, of the body of Tom himself.....
So Tom could be a 'guardian spirit' of Arda itself, sent to live in the land and guide it? This brings to mind the traditions of 'elements'. In modern astrology we think in terms of fire, earth, air and water. Though I have heard of slightly differing groupings of elements comprising of earth, air, water and wood (though I can't think right now what this system relates to). If Tolkien was working with traditional elements, then there could be some interesting correspondences here. Tom could be earth, Treebeard could represent wood, and Goldberry could represent water. All three of these could indeed be considered as guardian spirits in some way, unaffected by matters of Hroa and Fea.

I like this idea as it isn't so far from my older ideas, and it is reconcilable with the ideas in the Osanwe-kenta too.
__________________
Gordon's alive!
Lalwendë is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-22-2005, 09:08 AM   #55
littlemanpoet
Itinerant Songster
 
littlemanpoet's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: The Edge of Faerie
Posts: 7,049
littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Pipe

If Tom is Middle Earth, why does he have such narrow borders?
littlemanpoet is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-22-2005, 11:59 AM   #56
Aiwendil
Late Istar
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,141
Aiwendil has been trapped in the Barrow!
Lyta_Underhill wrote:
Quote:
Things that would seem metaphorical in this universe are valid concerns and show themselves in concrete ways that would not occur in the primary world. Thus, the light is an aspect of Frodo's soul, externalized in the secondary world, whereas it would not be visible in the primary world and we would rather think him crazy, as we can't see his motivation.
Yes, this makes a lot of sense, and I think it is largely correct. But allow me to play the contrarian. My questions is this: supposing that LotR were exactly the same except that the instances of the visible appearance of light around Frodo were excised. Would this Frodo no longer be a "visible soul" type character? If all it means to say that a character is a visible soul is that in a few instances some external sign of that character's soul becomes apparent - that is, if by removing a few lines from the book, we change a visible soul into an ordinary character - then it seems to me that the concept is a rather superficial one. Is there not some deeper way in which the characterization in LotR fits a visible soul model, of which the light around Frodo is only a symptom?

littlemanpoet: Your definition is good, but it brings to mind another question. Is there a difference between the notion of characters as visible souls and the idea of external characterization as opposed to internal (which has been discussed in a few other threads)? Or to put it another way - is there a difference between the nature of the characters and the techniques of portrayal of the characters?

On the surface, it seems that there is. One can imagine an author inventing a character and then portraying him or her via the internal method, wherein the characters thoughts are directly told. Or one can imagine an author taking the very same character and instead using the external method of characterization, where the character's thoughts are not directly told, but his or her actions imply certain things about the psyche. And in view of this, it seems that it's not really so accurate to speak of characters being "visible souls" - rather the notion of the visible soul refers only to the techniques used to portray that character to the audience.

But I think there's a complication; it's not clear that there really is a significant difference between the nature and the portrayal of a character. For of course, the character is not "real". I don't mean this metaphysically, but rather in the obvious sense - there are facts about Beethoven that are not contained anywhere in his biography, but there are no facts about Frodo that are not contained in the texts written by Tolkien. Frodo, or any character, is defined by the things written about him. So in a sense, his nature is synonymous with his portrayal - or, if not synonymous, at least closely related. Looking at it this way, one could perhaps say that the idea method of external characterization, in itself a technique of portrayal, has the effect that the nature of a character so portrayed is that of a "visible soul".

I have a feeling I'm babbling, and as I really don't know what to make of these questions myself, I'll desist. But I think they are interesting questions and worthy of some consideration.

Lalwende wrote:
Quote:
Does this mean that Tom is quite literally a part of the very fabric of Arda?
This is the view I've always taken. It has always seemed to me that Tom is the most supremely natural character in the legendarium, in opposition to the artifice or craft represented by Feanor, Aule, Saruman, etc. It's an idea I kept harping on in the Book I Chapter 7 discussion.

Davem wrote:
Quote:
I wonder, in the light of what we know about both the Moon & the Sun having 'indwelling' spirits - Tillion & Arien - whether Tom is the 'indwelling' spirit of Arda.
An interesting idea, but I think there are more differences than similarities between the roles of Arien and Tilion and of Tom. The moon and the sun were physically made by the Valar, and Arien and Tilion were needed for the specific tasks of steering those vessels. Arda itself (though designed by the Valar in their song) was brought into being before the Valar entered it. It's not at all clear what 'steering' function Arda might need, and in any case, Tom doesn't seem particularly interested in performing such a cosmic task. And littlemanpoet makes an excellent point:

Quote:
If Tom is Middle Earth, why does he have such narrow borders?
Aiwendil is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-22-2005, 12:40 PM   #57
Lyta_Underhill
Haunted Halfling
 
Lyta_Underhill's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: an uncounted length of steps--floating between air molecules
Posts: 844
Lyta_Underhill has just left Hobbiton.
Quote:
If Tom is Middle Earth, why does he have such narrow borders?
Perhaps it is because, at least in my mind, Tom is not equated in scope but merely in nature to Arda. Just as a patch of earth can be known as earth, it both is and is not Earth, if you take my meaning. Perhaps he is so close to the stuff of Arda itself that he can be said to be indistinguishable in some characteristics. He is a "moss-gatherer," and thus is covered in the essence of Arda or is sinking into it, becoming "tree-ish" as the Ents might say, and thus he does not wander but has put down roots.

Quote:
Would this Frodo no longer be a "visible soul" type character? If all it means to say that a character is a visible soul is that in a few instances some external sign of that character's soul becomes apparent - that is, if by removing a few lines from the book, we change a visible soul into an ordinary character - then it seems to me that the concept is a rather superficial one. Is there not some deeper way in which the characterization in LotR fits a visible soul model, of which the light around Frodo is only a symptom?
Indeed, Aiwendil, this is only an illustration, and I do not mean it to contain all of the variances of characterization. The light of Frodo is merely one aspect of this. lmp is on a good road to cataloging other aspects whereby this externalization is shown, but that also raises another question. Is this externalization merely symbolism made concrete? Is this not in the nature of myth itself? Perhaps this whole "visible soul" business is simply an aspect and "symptom" of a myth-based story, and that would explain the fact that Middle Earth is indeed a living character and shows these outward characteristics as much as any other moving character in the story. I think there was a thread long ago about weather in Middle Earth and how it reacted to the goings-on in Middle Earth in this external way, as if its very nature was symbolic of the political upheavals of the more humanoid residents of Middle Earth.

Quote:
How many hroa-less Elves could dance on the head of a pin?
Trust davem to actually make what seems like an absurd point of theology sound so relevant!

Cheers!
Lyta
__________________
“…she laid herself to rest upon Cerin Amroth; and there is her green grave, until the world is changed, and all the days of her life are utterly forgotten by men that come after, and elanor and niphredil bloom no more east of the Sea.”

Last edited by Lyta_Underhill; 01-22-2005 at 12:42 PM. Reason: clarification
Lyta_Underhill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-23-2005, 03:04 AM   #58
davem
Illustrious Ulair
 
davem's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: In the home of lost causes, and forsaken beliefs, and unpopular names,and impossible loyalties
Posts: 4,256
davem is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.davem is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Quote:
Originally Posted by LmP
If Tom is Middle Earth, why does he have such narrow borders?
Fractals again?

Perhaps 'Tom Bombadil' is simply that aspect of the spirit of Arda made manifest in that particular time & place? Dion Fortune famously wrote 'All the gods are One God'......
davem is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-23-2005, 06:05 PM   #59
littlemanpoet
Itinerant Songster
 
littlemanpoet's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: The Edge of Faerie
Posts: 7,049
littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Tolkien

Quote:
Is there a difference between [1] the notion of characters as visible souls and [2] the idea of external characterization as opposed to internal (which has been discussed in a few other threads)? Or to put it another way - is there a difference between the nature of the characters and the techniques of portrayal of the characters? - Aiwendil
I had to reread your question a number of times! Not least to discern how they were two ways of asking the same thing! Allow me to analyze the question(s).

Regarding the second, I would distinguish between the techniques and portrayal. Techniques are just tools, and not the only, in portrayal. Art includes technique, but is not limited to it, especially in terms of meaning; and meaning is at the heart of your question and the topic of this thread, I think.

So whereas techniques are used to portray characters, that is not the sum of the portrayal. Significantly, the portrayal may not be the sum of the character as sub-created in the mind of the author. Thus far we have not even considered the reader's interaction with the story! (Nor will I for now; I think that discussion belongs to the Canonicity thread.) So, does the nature of the character reside in the mind of the author, or in the written narrative? When that author dies, what then? The only answer I can arrive at would derive from Leaf by Niggle; that which was in the mind of the subcreator was taken up into the creation of the Creator, and both subcreator and his subcreation are in the mind of the Creator and find joy therein.

It seems I've gone beyond your question into my own. It also seems to me that I needed to do so in order to answer yours.

I would say that there is a difference; but technique, though only a part of the whole, is essential to bringing the whole to realization in narrative.

Quote:
Perhaps it is because, at least in my mind, Tom is not equated in scope but merely in nature to Arda. Just as a patch of earth can be known as earth, it both is and is not Earth, if you take my meaning. Perhaps he is so close to the stuff of Arda itself that he can be said to be indistinguishable in some characteristics. He is a "moss-gatherer," and thus is covered in the essence of Arda or is sinking into it, becoming "tree-ish" as the Ents might say, and thus he does not wander but has put down roots. - Lyta Underhill
What precisely 's the difference between scope and nature, the way you're using the terms? It's a good try, but it seems to me that you're confounding some things that deserve to be distinguished, such as Tom Bombadil as a living, breathing being walking and dancing on the face of Arda rather than as a kind of projection of Arda. With the "moss-gatherer" quote, I think you're stretching a metaphor to its breaking point. On the other hand, I like how you're pointing to a broken unity in the term, 'earth'.

Quote:
Is this externalization merely symbolism made concrete? Is this not in the nature of myth itself? Perhaps this whole "visible soul" business is simply an aspect and "symptom" of a myth-based story, and that would explain the fact that Middle Earth is indeed a living character and shows these outward characteristics as much as any other moving character in the story.
Yes, it is in the nature of myth. You are, again, referring to mythic unities, as I call them. The word "symptom" makes me cringe a little - I would use a word like "attribute" myself, seeing how symptom connotes disease...

Quote:
Fractals again?- davem
How you mean this is beyond me!

Quote:
Perhaps 'Tom Bombadil' is simply that aspect of the spirit of Arda made manifest in that particular time & place? Dion Fortune famously wrote 'All the gods are One God'......
No. I don't think this is the right direction. It seems you're taking the myth in directions that don't fit well.

Last edited by littlemanpoet; 01-23-2005 at 08:31 PM.
littlemanpoet is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-23-2005, 07:33 PM   #60
The Saucepan Man
Corpus Cacophonous
 
The Saucepan Man's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: A green and pleasant land
Posts: 8,467
The Saucepan Man has been trapped in the Barrow!
White-Hand

I've been enjoying this discussion on the sidelines, but ...


Quote:
Originally Posted by lmp
No. I don't think this is the right direction. It seems you're taking the myth in directions that don't fit well.
Why so? There are precedents within myth of the "Spirit of the Earth" being delineated (at least to observers) in time and space. I am thinking here of the examples that Lalwendë touched upon, such as Herne the Hunter and the Green Man.

In fact, to an observer who, him or herself, is fixed in time and space, how could such a spirit not also appear to them to be so delineated?
__________________
Do you mind? I'm busy doing the fishstick. It's a very delicate state of mind!
The Saucepan Man is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-23-2005, 08:19 PM   #61
littlemanpoet
Itinerant Songster
 
littlemanpoet's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: The Edge of Faerie
Posts: 7,049
littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Tolkien Precedents within versus without

Quote:
No. I don't think this is the right direction. It seems you're taking the myth in directions that don't fit well.
Quote:
Why so? There are precedents within myth of the "Spirit of the Earth" being delineated (at least to observers) in time and space. I am thinking here of the examples that Lalwendë touched upon, such as Herne the Hunter and the Green Man. In fact, to an observer who, him or herself, is fixed in time and space, how could such a spirit not also appear to them to be so delineated? - The Saucepan Man
The precedents lie outside Tolkien's legendarium. By this I mean that whereas there were benighted Men in Middle Earth who no doubt believed such things (and those in this Earth who do or did), those who had been exposed the Light of the West would know the truth as delivered to them, whether by the Elf-friends who received it from the Eldar, who received it from the Valar, who received it from Eru. If, by chance, Tom Bombadil is a Maiar (not saying I believe this), then he has the ability to take human form.

If people want to export Tom Bombadil to their own mythmaking, they need take no regard for the laws of Ëa. In the meantime, Tolkien's subcreation is clear on this point.

As to my liking it, or being touched by it, that is different from acknowledging that such was Tolkien's meaning. Tolkien did say that Tom Bombadil is the embodiment of the spirit of the Westmidlands and Oxfordshire, but that doesn't necesarilly tell us much about his place in Middle Earth. He is a mystery within a myth. I can see Goldberry's place a little more clearly, as she is a river daughter, and Tolkien wrote more in depth of the ways of the Sea and the Rivers of Arda.
littlemanpoet is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-23-2005, 08:30 PM   #62
Aiwendil
Late Istar
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,141
Aiwendil has been trapped in the Barrow!
littlemanpoet wrote:
Quote:
. Significantly, the portrayal may not be the sum of the character as sub-created in the mind of the author. Thus far we have not even considered the reader's interaction with the story! (Nor will I for now; I think that discussion belongs to the Canonicity thread.) So, does the nature of the character reside in the mind of the author, or in the written narrative? When that author dies, what then?
Ah, but already we are in Canonicity territory. Not all would agree that the mind of the author is of prime importance here. I think that if we pressed the issue here, we would find exactly the same party lines drawn: those for whom the "canon" has to do with the author, those for whom it is the text, and those the reader.

Still, I don't think that it's necessary to enter into that again. You say:

Quote:
Regarding the second, I would distinguish between the techniques and portrayal.
And, despite my purely text-based approach to canon, I think I agree with you. Frodo could be portrayed this way or that, and yet remain the same character - just as a director may shoot a scene from one angle or another without altering the supposed facts of the situation.

But that brings us to a problem with your definition of a "visible soul" character. Your criteria are:

Quote:
1. A minimum of internal psychological processing by the character(s), whether in terms of thoughts, feelings, or dreams.

2. Character(s) appear as real, three-dimensional beings, almost always expressed through speech and behavior alone.

3. Internal attributes are evoked mythically according to the laws that govern the mythic setting
These sound more like techniques of portrayal than characteristics of the characters themselves. And in fact, they sound very much like the "external characterization" discussed in the psychological depth thread among others.
Aiwendil is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-23-2005, 08:46 PM   #63
littlemanpoet
Itinerant Songster
 
littlemanpoet's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: The Edge of Faerie
Posts: 7,049
littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Tolkien

Quote:
But that brings us to a problem with your definition of a "visible soul" character. ... These sound more like techniques of portrayal than characteristics of the characters themselves. - Aiwendil
Well, you did ask for what in practice, in literary terms, it means for a character's soul to be visible. "In practice" has to do with technique. Did you intend literary meaning instead? That's a different kettle of fish. Of my three points, the first is least technique oriented: a minimum of internal psychological processing by the character(s), whether in terms of thoughts, feelings, or dreams. For the second, let's say that character(s) are real, three-dimensional beings, and hold the technique with which that is evoked as distinguished from the subcreation of them. As for the third, we could say that internal attributes are not hidden from those who have eyes to see, according to the laws that govern the mythic setting.

This is speculative, but I thought I'd give it a go.
littlemanpoet is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-23-2005, 09:09 PM   #64
Aiwendil
Late Istar
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,141
Aiwendil has been trapped in the Barrow!
littlemanpoet wrote:

Quote:
Well, you did ask for what in practice, in literary terms, it means for a character's soul to be visible. "In practice" has to do with technique. Did you intend literary meaning instead?
I'm afraid I need to be taken far more concretely. Let me put it this way: can a visible-soul character be portrayed either in the external manner or the internal? If the answer is "no, such a character can only be portrayed in the external manner" then it seems to me that the whole notion of the visible soul is only a fancy way of talking about the external technique of characterization.
Aiwendil is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-23-2005, 10:11 PM   #65
Mister Underhill
Dread Horseman
 
Mister Underhill's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Behind you!
Posts: 2,738
Mister Underhill has been trapped in the Barrow!
The idea that internal attributes are hidden from everyone but "those who have eyes to see" seems on the surface of it to contradict the idea of the visible soul. I mean, visible means visible, right?

I wonder if the phrase "visible souls" can (with a nod to Aiwendil) be imagined in more literal terms. Viz: Hobbits, who are widely considered insignificant and beneath the notice of the Wise, are short: literally beneath notice. The ugly, malignant souls of Orcs are externalized in their hideous appearance. The Nazgűl, who embody negation and emptiness, appear as empty clothes. Treebeard, the epitome of slowness and implacable patience, is a tree with legs. Sauron, who is consumed with seeking for his ring and with dominating all other life, is symbolized as a great, restless eye. And so on.

In the modern world (and in some modern literature) the average face of the guy next door may hide the soul of a brutal killer. In the mythic realm, it's more difficult to hide who you really are because your soul is literally visible.
Mister Underhill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-24-2005, 08:13 AM   #66
The Saucepan Man
Corpus Cacophonous
 
The Saucepan Man's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: A green and pleasant land
Posts: 8,467
The Saucepan Man has been trapped in the Barrow!
Boots

Quote:
Originally Posted by lmp
The precedents lie outside Tolkien's legendarium. By this I mean that whereas there were benighted Men in Middle Earth who no doubt believed such things (and those in this Earth who do or did), those who had been exposed the Light of the West would know the truth as delivered to them, whether by the Elf-friends who received it from the Eldar, who received it from the Valar, who received it from Eru.
I am not sure that anyone in Middle-earth actually knew who or what Tom was. Indeed, I am not sure that Tolkien himself had any set idea as to how exactly Tom fitted in to the Legendarium. As you suggest, his origination as the embodiment of rural Oxfordshire doesn't really tell us much in this regard.


Quote:
Originally Posted by lmp
If people want to export Tom Bombadil to their own mythmaking, they need take no regard for the laws of Ëa. In the meantime, Tolkien's subcreation is clear on this point.
Well, to the extent that Tolkien did have views on Tom's place within the Legendarium, this gets us back onto the old authorial intention v reader interpretation debate (Canonicity anyone ).


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister Underhill
In the modern world (and in some modern literature) the average face of the guy next door may hide the soul of a brutal killer. In the mythic realm, it's more difficult to hide who you really are because your soul is literally visible.
It seems to me that Mr U has hit upon a good point here. Very few of Tolkien's villains can be described as fair. Certainly not the "foot-soldiers" of evil: Orcs, Trolls, Nazgul and the like. Both Melkor and Sauron were, I would imagine, fair in their beginnings but became unable to take on fair form as they became more consumed by their evil deeds (although Sauron was able to appear in fair form, as Annatar for example, for a lengthy period after his corruption). Clearly, the likes of Ungoliant and her spawn cannot be described as fair. Indeed, the only truly evil character (that I can think of) who does not carry the physical hallmarks of his evil nature is Saruman. Although not, perhaps, an Adonis in looks, his voice was fair (and deceptive). And he was able to hide his true nature for a long while, although once it became fully manifest he was unable to resist attempting to persuade Gandalf over to his cause, thus "blowing his cover".
__________________
Do you mind? I'm busy doing the fishstick. It's a very delicate state of mind!
The Saucepan Man is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-24-2005, 08:38 AM   #67
Lalwendë
A Mere Boggart
 
Lalwendë's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: under the bed
Posts: 4,804
Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Lalwendë is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Quote:
Originally Posted by lmp
The precedents lie outside Tolkien's legendarium.
But do these precedents lie outside the legendarium? Or are they part of it? The legendarium is a creation, amd that creation came from the mind of one person who held many other creations within his own mind. The idea of an 'earth spirit' may not be explicitly mentioned in Tolkien's work, but it is there nevertheless. Whether by intention or accident, this concept crept in. Yes, we might not recognise Tom as such a figure if we did not know of such figures already, or we might not even recognise him in hindsight, after we have read of such figures and thought "that reminds me of Tom Bombadil". But the fact that many people do recognise this concept tells us that it is entirely possible Tolkien may have reflected this concept in his writing, either consciously or subconsciously; which he did, does not matter if it is there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lmp
If people want to export Tom Bombadil to their own mythmaking, they need take no regard for the laws of Ëa. In the meantime, Tolkien's subcreation is clear on this point.
Undoubtedly there are rules, but there are holes in these rules, and the rules came from somewhere, i.e. Tolkien's head, a marvellous attic lumber room of knowledge and dreams. Who can tell why and how he created his world as he did. I suspect that even were he around today we wouldn't get to know even a tiny proportion of the answers to all our questions, so we can only speculate and discuss the possibilities. This is why the laws are not fixed; there is no judge to make the final decision, only a jury.
__________________
Gordon's alive!
Lalwendë is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-24-2005, 05:40 PM   #68
Sophia the Thunder Mistress
Scent of Simbelmynë
 
Sophia the Thunder Mistress's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Aboard Highwind, bound for Traverse Town
Posts: 1,834
Sophia the Thunder Mistress has just left Hobbiton.
Send a message via AIM to Sophia the Thunder Mistress
import, export

Quote:
I am not sure that anyone in Middle-earth actually knew who or what Tom was. Indeed, I am not sure that Tolkien himself had any set idea as to how exactly Tom fitted in to the Legendarium. As you suggest, his origination as the embodiment of rural Oxfordshire doesn't really tell us much in this regard. -Saucy

Quote:
If people want to export Tom Bombadil to their own mythmaking, they need take no regard for the laws of Ëa. In the meantime, Tolkien's subcreation is clear on this point. -littlemanpoet
Bombadil himself was kind of an import from earlier tales, was he not? He's something of a vestigial character (if I can borrow a term from biology) leftover from very early conceptions of the Shire. While Tolkien's "imports", like the term Atalante used for downfallen Numenor, usually have detailed and contextually appropriate meanings and developments, little (if any) is done to reconcile Tom with the rest of the Legendarium. In that case at least, Tolkien left himself miles of leeway. I'm inclined to think that there's a little leeway for us to speculate about him, even within the laws of Ea.
__________________
The seasons fall like silver swords, the years rush ever onward; and soon I sail, to leave this world, these lands where I have wander'd. O Elbereth! O Queen who dwells beyond the Western Seas, spare me yet a little time 'ere white ships come for me!
Sophia the Thunder Mistress is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-25-2005, 08:20 PM   #69
littlemanpoet
Itinerant Songster
 
littlemanpoet's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: The Edge of Faerie
Posts: 7,049
littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Silmaril

Quote:
Let me put it this way: can a visible-soul character be portrayed either in the external manner or the internal? If the answer is "no, such a character can only be portrayed in the external manner" then it seems to me that the whole notion of the visible soul is only a fancy way of talking about the external technique of characterization. - Aiwendil
I needed time away to think. A visible soul is the same inside as out. I think it's simple as that. As Mr. Underhill said. My focus has been on the characters, but they aren't the only visible souls. So maybe characters' internal psychological processing can be expressed, and as long as the interior is the same as the exterior, that's a visible soul. I'll have to think about that some more. That said, I still think it's useful to take notice that Tolkien rarely "went into the head" of anybody, and only at pivotal plot points. What does that tell us?

Quote:
The idea that internal attributes are hidden from everyone but "those who have eyes to see" seems on the surface of it to contradict the idea of the visible soul. I mean, visible means visible, right? - Mr. Underill
Yes. That extra phrase was a reckless afterthought. I meant it in terms of those, like Edmund Wilson, author of "Ooh, those awful Orcs", a 1950s review of LotR - who complained about the one-dimensionality of everything in the book and the fact that it had no sex (he criticized the work as adolescent - to which Tolkien responded that Wilson should grow up); and those in our own day who require deep characterization in their fantasy, replete with such a load of psychological processing that the story is plotted by means of characterization rather than by event. It's like having to have your scrambled eggs with ketchup or it's not scrambled eggs! Pardon me for airing my pet peeves having to do with being a frustrated writer. So yes. Visible is visible (of course, that depends on what the meaning of the word "is", is, right?)

Quote:
But do these precedents lie outside the legendarium? Or are they part of it? The legendarium is a creation, amd that creation came from the mind of one person who held many other creations within his own mind. The idea of an 'earth spirit' may not be explicitly mentioned in Tolkien's work, but it is there nevertheless. Whether by intention or accident, this concept crept in. - Lalwendë
Beware of tipping over the tower to peer at the stones. But did the concept creep into the story, or into your mind while reading the story? Definitely on Canonicity grounds here! Guess where I stand on that.
Quote:
But the fact that many people do recognise this concept tells us that it is entirely possible Tolkien may have reflected this concept in his writing, either consciously or subconsciously; which he did, does not matter if it is there.
"Entirely possible" is a good deal short of "likely", which is itself a good deal short of "evident". Could you provide evidence to back your assertion? The fact that many people recognize this concept (or any) tells us that it is part of our storehouse, rather than that which Tolkien put in his Legendarium. Conjectures about what Tolkien subconsciously reflected probably tells us more about ourselves than anything about Tolkien.

A visible soul is the same on the inside as on the outside. Let's just assume that this is true of Tom Bombadil as well as everything and everyone else in Middle Earth. What is to be found in the text is therefore that which is about Tom Bombadil. He's master but not owner, for all natural things belong to themselves. In the words of Goldberry, "He is." And "He is as you have seen him. He is the Master of wood, water, and hill." He has borders. He has no fear. He is an old man. He is a teller of remarkable tales. He can tell the Hobbits of everything that has ever been, even before the Sun rose the first time.

What does that tell the reader?

Quote:
Perhaps 'Tom Bombadil' is simply that aspect of the spirit of Arda made manifest in that particular time & place? - davem
I think what makes me uncomfortable with this are (1) "manifest" and (2) "aspect of the spirit of Arda". Such verbage is borrowed into the language, and therefore the meaning feels alien to me. What if the sentence could be reconstituted in native English words (with apologies to davem)? "Tom Bombadil is simply that wight of the breath of Earth seen in that one time and place?" Hmmm.... Maybe. So why do I like this better? Probably because it rings more mythically than the original.
littlemanpoet is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-29-2005, 07:43 PM   #70
littlemanpoet
Itinerant Songster
 
littlemanpoet's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: The Edge of Faerie
Posts: 7,049
littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.littlemanpoet is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Child
With Tolkien things are very different. We don't get inside the characters' heads in the same way as with most modern fiction. We may see a bit of what's going on inside Samwise, even less in Frodo. There are some characters where we don't get an inside glimpse at all. Some critics or even contemporary authors such as Philip Pullman have taken issue with the book because of this lack of internal characterization.
I've been paying attention to this in my latest rereading of FotR. I guess I'm changing my tune on this thread with this post. Whereas not in the same way as modern fiction, he still does get inside the hobbits' heads. Consider Sam in "The Choice of Master Samwise". Very much of this is inside Sam's head. There's a good bit in Book One (of six) that is inside Frodo's head; which is quite appropriate since this book is largely the story of Frodo coming of age. Is not Frodo's interior thought apparent in Council of Elrond too?

So I see this as not so much a matter of if Tolkien gets inside the heads of his characters, as much or not at all, but rather how.

I'm not the first one on this Board to say this, but anyone who criticizes LotR for lack of characterization is not reading the same book I am. Either that, or they're coming at it demanding the kind of characterization they want rather than what Tolkien gives them.

In LotR interior characterization is not the bedrock of the story; this is one thing that separates it from most modern fiction. What strikes me about the interior of Frodo is that it usually involves his will. This gets back to what C.S. Lewis was saying, that it is a moral kind of character growth. Frodo is facing pure evil in the Black Riders, and must fight or give in. Fighting against incredible odds results in a strengthened will, and Frodo has "grown up" by the time he has reached the Fords of Bruinen. Thus, when he volunteers to bear the Ring to Mordor, it is an informed decision. He knows how bad it can get already, and makes a clear moral choice.
littlemanpoet is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-07-2005, 01:27 AM   #71
Dininziliel
Wight
 
Dininziliel's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: 3rd star from the right over Kansas
Posts: 108
Dininziliel has just left Hobbiton.
Silmaril

I have to toss a couple of things into this thread even though they're mooshy and patchily expressed. This is my first time back after a long absence, and I couldn't leave without saying something!

Going way back to Child's original post . . . Pullman was mentioned. I've never understood just what he means when he dings Tolkien for lack of characterization and psychological depth/cohesiveness. My first reading of His Dark Materials felt so profound. I've recently re-read it and I wonder what the heck I was thinking. While filled with interesting characters, themes, etc., I can't get a handle on Mrs. Coulter. She's all over the place in terms of character, and any web site/message board discussion of this doth rationalize too much. Much of HDM fell apart because it hinged on Mrs. Coulter's character. She was more a plot device than anything else. I cannot think of a single character in LotR who is not consistent with his/her character. While many characters (all of them?) travel their own paths and are changed by their responses to what they encounter--both within in and without--they are always recognizable as themselves. I don't think you could remove one character and still have the same story. I've often felt that what Tolkien is criticized for (trite bedtime stories, lack of psychological depth) is due to a certain school of thought that says existential navel-picking equates with profundity. If a literary work does not have its characters staring out the window pondering the "ennuiness" of themselves, of things, or a combination thereof, it is proclaimed "sophomoric," "simplistic," etc. To my mind, staring out the window and heaving heavy sighs while reflecting on the meaning of life is what one does around prom time and again around mid-life crisis time. At any rate, someone earlier mentioned the self-obsessed being mistaken for having psychological depth. I think it's been settled since then that Tolkien's characters demonstrate just what "psychological depth" will get you--oblivion and ruination.

I think one of Tolkien's goals for LotR and Silmarillion was to illustrate reality--the eternal, the true. What is true is eternal. What we perceive with our senses passes away and is, therefore, unreal. (This relates to earlier posts about the imagined world.) It is the invisible that recurs and harmoniously joins with nature and other beings that is true and, therefore, eternal. This is a greater thing than mere psychology. It seems that if something is not preoccupied with the psychological it is deemed unserious. I don't know what could be more serious than something that manages to strike a true pitch like a tuning fork and resonate with such a vast, motley lot of folk as has Tolkien's works for as long as it has and which shows no sign of stopping.

Since Tolkien himself said he had hoped to create a myth that England could claim for its own, I wonder about the psychological depth of other mythological beings. What about Persephone, Hercules, and, hey! what about that Oedipus? Haven't other "fanciful" characters molded "real" minds and actions throughout centuries? What about Arthur, Galahad, and Mordred? Do they possess more psychological depth than Aragorn, Sam, or Saruman? What is the standard used to designate one set of imaginary characters more meaningful than another set of imaginary characters?

Sometimes it seems to me that all that stands between LotR and universal acceptance of it as a work of profound psychological, philosophical, spiritual significance is the height of hobbits. Perhaps if Bilbo (as he represents hobbits) had a more serious sounding name and a couple more feet of height, it might have been a different story--in many more ways than a few! Perhaps such a sophomoric criteria is the simple cause of the pooh-poohing that has dogged LotR since its publication.

Okay. That's it. I want to end by saying how good it felt to come back and experience the happy appreciation of everyone's erudite, original, and heartfelt ponderings and positings! Thank you for a wonderful evening!
__________________
"It is a journey without distance to a goal that has never changed."

Last edited by Dininziliel; 06-07-2005 at 01:30 AM. Reason: Error in attributing origin of thread
Dininziliel is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 03:34 PM.



Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.