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Old 06-12-2007, 03:03 PM   #161
davem
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Re: 'A Mythology for England'.

Again, we have to go back to Tolkien the young man. One of Tolkien's great inspirations was Lonrot's Kalevala. The Kalevala was presented as 'Finland's mythology' - a 'mythology for Finland'. & it had a momentous effect on Finland - ultimately it proved to be the spark that produced Finland's independence. The nation was transformed - it got a mythic history of its own & that created a sense of national identity. The 'myth' rejuventated the people & gave them a new vision. The fact that it was to a great extent 'creative accounting' on Lonrot's part, & that he wasn't averse to 'inventing' & 'constructing' what he couldn't find, is not really the issue.

Tolkien wanted the same - for a while. He wanted to create not a wholly new mythology for England, but to draw together what had survived of ancient myth & legend. Tolkien believed that two things had devastated England's native mythology - the 'War' (ie the Norman Invasion) & the Industrial Revolution - the first by bringing in French influence/legends (of which the Arthurian Legends are the classic example, because its not the Celtic Arthur but the French version who took over. In other words, its Chretien's Arthur, rather than the Arthur of the Mabinogion's Culhwch & Olwen) |& the second by breaking up the closed rural communities which had preserved legends, folklore, & songs for so long.

Of course it could be argued that England never had the kind of complex, coherent mythology that Tolkien dreamed of 'recreating'. However, that's another question. The point is, he, & the TCBS dreamed of an English Mythology having the same effect on their own land that the Kalevala had had on Finland. There would be a new mythology built from the bricks that survived of the old. England would take up the myth, be inspired like the Finns, a sense of Englishness would inspire people to return to decency, morality & faith.

The TCBS was obliterated on the Somme - two of the four died, but the vision lived on. Tolkien clearly felt that he had an obligation to continue the work. He was invalided back to England with Trench Fever, & began The Book of Lost Tales, & continued on, developing the Silmarillion.

Yet, by the time of the Waldman letter, his 'crest had fallen', & by the time of the Second Edition of LotR he could state (in the Foreword to his most successful & famous work) that the book had 'no inner meaning or message'. The TCBS went to war driven by a desire to transform their country via a new 'mythic history' of its people. Thirty-odd years later Tolkien has, perhaps regretfully, left behind that desire. Fifteen or so years after that, when writing the Foreword to the Second Edition in the mid sixties, he could declare it was 'Art' & only itself - certainly not a 'mythology for England'. So why the change?

Well, certainly if Mythology had been shown to have a power for good via the Kalevala, it had also been shown to have a power for evil via Wagner & the Third Reich.

The problem with myths is their power. They are difficult to control & their effect is too unpredictable.
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Old 06-12-2007, 03:35 PM   #162
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Originally Posted by Sauron the White
Since we both agree that we both speak English .... there can be different meanings to the same term. DEDICATED TO (the phrase used by JRRT in his Waldman letter) can be intrepreted different ways.

One way would be that Tolkien is honoring England by dedicating his mythology to it in the same way that one would dedicate a book to honor someone. It seems - and correct me if I am wrong - that is the way you are intrepreting this phrase.

DEDICATED TO - can also mean that a certain work has been set aside for a specific purpose.

I could use this phrase... "I am going to write a book dedicated to the early years of the work of Mozart." Clearly I am not saying I am honoring Mozart but am saying that I am writing about his early years of work.

I think that one can read the statement of Tolkien and come to the exact same conclusion that Carpenter did in the Authorized Biography TOLKIEN.
One can come to that conclusion being the operative word. As that is a very singular way of using English.

Just think for a moment how that might appear. "I am going to dedicate a work to the purpose of England." The purpose? And is England a purpose in itself? I suppose it might be if you are of that mind, but it doesn't really make any sense as it would be a hanging sentence. You may complete it of course by adding a purpose to the England referred to in the sentence, but then of course you would be putting words into the mouth of the man who wrote the sentence.

No, I am afraid that is rather a little more forced than a packet of Mentos stuffed into a coke bottle and might explode just as spectacularly if given more than a light shaking.

Of course, if dedicate in this context means set aside for the specific purpose of (and we are not going to include the word 'purpose' in our sentence but instead have it as a definition outside of the actual words spoken) then that would mean Tolkien's work was provided specifically for England only and lots of people the world over ought to hand in their books right now.

On the other hand it is much easier to simply read what was written and not try and force the meaning into something else. Even at the risk of making the delightful (for he was) Carpenter look like he made a slight error, which would be a fruitless trifle (mmm) to worry about anyway as he made others.
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Old 06-12-2007, 03:59 PM   #163
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
Even at the risk of making the delightful (for he was) Carpenter look like he made a slight error, which would be a fruitless trifle (mmm) to worry about anyway as he made others.
Certainly, as Garth points up, Carpenter overplayed Tolkien's 'dislike' of both Shakespeare & Wagner.
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Old 06-12-2007, 06:08 PM   #164
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
Legendarium is an archaic word chosen by Tolkien to distinguish between his created faux mythology and a genuine one.
You claim to protect Tolkien's authenticity and heritage, yet you disregard his own view on myths, and his work as myths. I keep getting amused in this thread.
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What we are forgetting is that Tolkien intentionally left holes in his work as real mythology has holes. He left enigmas that cannot and maybe ought not be explained:
Some are intended enigmas, as Bombadil, some are simply unfinished stories. The very quote you gave leaves room for new stories, provided that "new unattainable vistas are again revealed".
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Originally Posted by davem
Now, Tolkien did not create a 'myth' in this sense. What he did was, through his familiarity with myth, create the illusion of 'myth'. His work reads like myth, but it is art, illusion, fantasy.
So, like Lewis, you think that myths (or these myths) are simply lies, "breathed through silver"? Again, you would be at odds with Tolkien's own ideas. I am certain you are familiar with the discussion from the Biography which I quoted previously.
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Old 06-12-2007, 11:11 PM   #165
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Originally Posted by Raynor
You claim to protect Tolkien's authenticity and heritage, yet you disregard his own view on myths, and his work as myths. I keep getting amused in this thread.
Some are intended enigmas, as Bombadil, some are simply unfinished stories. The very quote you gave leaves room for new stories, provided that "new unattainable vistas are again revealed".
And he also made references to works like 'The Fall of Gil-Galad' ("which Bilbo must have translated" which he never actually wrote, or intended to write. The idea of 'lost' works was deliberate, & adds to the sense of M-e having a 'real' historical existence. The fact that some tales which Tolkien intended to complete remained incomplete actually adds to that sense. Completing unfinished tales & writing new ones would actually work against the effect.

Quote:
So, like Lewis, you think that myths (or these myths) are simply lies, "breathed through silver"? Again, you would be at odds with Tolkien's own ideas. I am certain you are familiar with the discussion from the Biography which I quoted previously.
So, like (fill in the blank) you like to put words in people's mouths in order to create straw men which you can knock down?

You are confusing Tolkien's views on myth with the nature of myth itself. One person cannot create a mythology. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mythology.

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Historically, the important approaches to the study of mythological thinking have been those of Vico, Schelling, Schiller, Jung, Freud, Lávy-Bruhl, Levi-Strauss, Frye, the Soviet school, and the Myth and Ritual School.[12]

Myths are narratives about divine or heroic beings, arranged in a coherent system, passed down traditionally, and linked to the spiritual or religious life of a community, endorsed by rulers or priests. Once this link to the spiritual leadership of society is broken, they lose their mythological qualities and become folktales or fairy tales.[13] In folkloristics, which is concerned with the study of both secular and sacred narratives, a myth also derives some of its power from being more than a simple "tale", by comprising an archetypical quality of "truth".

Myths are often intended to explain the universal and local beginnings ("creation myths" and "founding myths"), natural phenomena, inexplicable cultural conventions or rituals, and anything else for which no simple explanation presents itself. This broader truth runs deeper than the advent of critical history, and it may or may not exist as in an authoritative written form which becomes "the story" (preliterate oral traditions may vanish as the written word becomes "the story" and the literate class becomes "the authority"). However, as Lucien Lévy-Bruhl puts it, "The primitive mentality is a condition of the human mind, and not a stage in its historical development."[14]

Most often the term refers specifically to ancient tales of historical cultures, such as Greek mythology or Roman mythology. Some myths descended originally as part of an oral tradition and were only later written down, and many of them exist in multiple versions. According to F. W. J. Schelling in the eighth chapter of Introduction to Philosophy and Mythology, "Mythological representations have been neither invented nor freely accepted. The products of a process independent of thought and will, they were, for the consciousness which underwent them, of an irrefutable and incontestable reality. Peoples and individuals are only the instruments of this process, which goes beyond their horizon and which they serve without understanding."
Tolkien could not have created a genuine mythology - mythologies cannot be 'created' by individuals. Tolkien wrote a series of interlinked tales. I don't know if you genuinely do not understand the nature of 'mythology' or whether you're just attempting to score points here, but we have to get our terms right if we're to get anywhere in this discussion. If Tolkien created a 'mythology' then every writer of fantasy stories has also created a 'mythology'. Making up a story with gods & goddesses in it is not 'inventing a mythology' - though that phrase may be a convenient shorthand.

Myths, clearly, are not 'lies'. They were, in origin, religious tales, believed in as completely as the stories in the Bible or Koran. And that's the point - no-one (if they're classifiable as sane) believes Tolkien's stories are remnants of genuine beliefs. Of course, Tolkien played the game of being merely a 'translator' in both the Hobbit Forword & the Foreword to the First Edition of LotR - though that foreword was re-written for the Second Edition & any idea (however tongue in cheek) that LotR was anything other than a fictional work was removed.

Homer drew on a existing mythology (as did Dante) to produce their Art. Tolkien invented a 'mythological' background for his tales.

Its vital to distinguish between mythology & 'mythology' here.
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Old 06-13-2007, 02:05 AM   #166
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
Tolkien could not have created a genuine mythology - mythologies cannot be 'created' by individuals. Tolkien wrote a series of interlinked tales. I don't know if you genuinely do not understand the nature of 'mythology' or whether you're just attempting to score points here, but we have to get our terms right if we're to get anywhere in this discussion. If Tolkien created a 'mythology' then every writer of fantasy stories has also created a 'mythology'. Making up a story with gods & goddesses in it is not 'inventing a mythology' - though that phrase may be a convenient shorthand.

Myths, clearly, are not 'lies'. They were, in origin, religious tales, believed in as completely as the stories in the Bible or Koran. And that's the point - no-one (if they're classifiable as sane) believes Tolkien's stories are remnants of genuine beliefs. Of course, Tolkien played the game of being merely a 'translator' in both the Hobbit Forword & the Foreword to the First Edition of LotR - though that foreword was re-written for the Second Edition & any idea (however tongue in cheek) that LotR was anything other than a fictional work was removed.

Homer drew on a existing mythology (as did Dante) to produce their Art. Tolkien invented a 'mythological' background for his tales.

Its vital to distinguish between mythology & 'mythology' here.
Personally I think it might help if I could find a YouTube clip of a certain episode of a now defunct Irish sitcom where Father Ted has to explain to Father Dougal the difference between Dreams and Reality. You know the one where he has all little fluffy bunnies hopping round inside of his head?

Or else something about writing style. I mean, did Helen Fielding really find a certain dizzy thirtysomething's diary on the Circle Line or was it...um...a work of fiction perhaps?!

Mind, I'm quite taken with the idea that one day Discworld might be found to have been a remnant of genuine 20th century belief and that the Tony Robinson and Phil Harding of the 31st Century are sent on a wild goose chase trying to dig for the remains of Ankh-Morpork.
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Old 06-13-2007, 02:29 AM   #167
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Originally Posted by davem
The fact that some tales which Tolkien intended to complete remained incomplete actually adds to that sense. Completing unfinished tales & writing new ones would actually work against the effect.
Again, we are talking about a personal opinion, being satisfied with it is and what is not. Far from being an objective truth, because an absolute, objective truth in this field does not actually exist; it may be adopted in certain places, in certain times. But that's it.
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So, like (fill in the blank) you like to put words in people's mouths in order to create straw men which you can knock down?
Since you qualified his myths, among others, as illusions, I find that me asking you (not putting words in your mouth) if you consider myths as lies, is quite an appropriate question - and the parallel I drew with Lewis a valid one.
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One person cannot create a mythology.
That is quite a statement. What evidence do we have in that regard, seeing that we are talking about past, oral traditions? In fact, since it has been already pointed that myths come down from religions or some spiritual beliefs - it is often the case that a religion or a spiritual belief comes from one individual, through revelation, or other means. Therefore, at least some myths or mythologies, at least in origin, come from one individual. How much did others add to this? I don't know and I doubt anyone can proclaim that he does. And if anyone has concerns about me taking a parallel between Tolkien's myths and religious-originated myths, it was Tolkien's idea, mentioned in the letters or biography, that myths contain religious truths also. When talking about a mythology we have therefore a "semantic" aspect (what it transmits) and a historical/social aspect (who adopts it). I daresay that at least on some level (bening, of course) some of the many readers of Tolkien have adopted, have internalised, the message of his work - and therefore, even the historical/social condition may be satisfied. At least in the modern sense of the word (or in the modern, disperse, conditions), we have a live, "true" mythology, whose message and images are adopted. Maybe not by the majority of readers, maybe not in all cases in a sufficientl way. But even past mythologies were not adopted by all their formal followers, nor were they completely internalised in all cases.
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Old 06-13-2007, 03:19 AM   #168
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I have to say there's a deep irony in someone who bangs on about subjectivity all the time basing an argument on something as subjective as the concept that God personally wrote down every single word that is in the Bible/s. And before you burn me at the stake, go and ask a bible scholar about the history of that particular mythology.
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Old 06-13-2007, 03:34 AM   #169
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
I have to say there's a deep irony in someone who bangs on about subjectivity all the time basing an argument on something as subjective as the concept that God personally wrote down every single word that is in the Bible/s.
You misunderstood me. I am not saying that it was God who personally wrote, but that some myths/mythologies can be traced back to one individual. As far as the first part of your statement, this is a discussion that ultimately relates to personal tastes, and therefore, subjectivity should take the stage. We are not debating evidences, but artistic preferences.
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Old 06-13-2007, 04:07 AM   #170
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You misunderstood me. I am not saying that it was God who personally wrote, but that some myths/mythologies can be traced back to one individual. As far as the first part of your statement, this is a discussion that ultimately relates to personal tastes, and therefore, subjectivity should take the stage. We are not debating evidences, but artistic preferences.
Which mythologies, exactly, are based on the word of one person? I'm sure the experts would like to know!
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Old 06-13-2007, 05:41 AM   #171
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I think that by its nature no mythology can be the product of a single mind. A mythology is a cultural product. Its what a people do with experiences/events. Its impossible to trace any mythology back to an individual - as Tolkien points out in OFS. In origin all myths were 'religious'. They were what a people believed to be true, stories about the gods they worshipped.

No-one in our world ever believed that the stories of M-e were true. No-one in our world ever worshipped the Valar. We all know that M-e is a fictional creation. It may be that in the far distant future people will have turned M-e into a mythology - but, at the risk of stating the glaringly obvious, that would be a terrible thing, & could only be a result of some kind of disaster. We, thousands of years after Homer wrote, know that The Illiad is 'fiction', & four centuries after Shakespeare we haven't turned MacBeth into a God. Being an optimist (in the long term) as regards the human race, I'm pretty sure that our decendants a thousand years down the line will still have access to some kind of computerised database/library system, & will be reading The Sil & HoM-e on e-books & not sitting round fires in dank caves worshipping Manwe - or believing that we did.

I even have faith that most of them will realise that there are other authors out there, whose works are just as interesting as Tolkien's & actually choose to read some of them, rather than sitting around in despair over the fact that they can't spend their whole existence reading stories about Middle-earth by A.N. Other-Writer.
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Old 06-13-2007, 07:30 AM   #172
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I really want to thank Child for her post which has so strongly stimulated this most recent aspect of the topic at hand. And I want to thank davem for his insistence on defining the word mythology. Definitions are very helpful in forwarding discussion. They do not, however, necessarily influence human behaviour at the time of the act. (To use an analogy: I suppose there are some people who might stop and refer to their illustrated copy of the Kama Sutra and then return to the activity they were engaged in, but I doubt if many would find that kind of engagement really pleasurable, more an exercise in logistics. )

It is the modern scholars of mythology who davem references who have given us this sense of tribal superstitions and which claim that the religious aspects were paramount the ancient socieities. That is not to say these scholars have an objectively true explanation of what the mythologies meant: what they have is a definition/understanding which satisfies them in their time. They could be wrong--after all, social scientists display the same kind of scepticism which hard scientists claim.

From a narratological point of view, the idea that mythologies derive their power from the representation of religious belief is too limiting. Such an explanation does not really provide, for instance, an explanation of the power of narrative in our culture, which supposedly does not tremble in caves, but climbs in them for sport and leisure. What might be more important in terms of mythologies is not their truth factor (that is, their semantic content) but their psychological value. Mythologies may have derived their power from the importance of story telling to humans. It is the narrative act which gives mythologies their coherence and significance. Anyone who has ever been to a funeral will understand how those left behind use stories to deal with their grief and to celebrate the life that has passed. Story telling is a hugely important aspect of the human mind, both for individuals and for the group, be it familial, local, tribal, national, or world.

So what this could well mean to our exploration of mythology in Tolkien is that mythology may not necessarily have to have this component of belief system. It is the telling of the stories which is important, not whether the speakers actually think that Manwe or Yavanna (or their REB counterparts, as the case may be) will keep watch over them. Ritual is not limited to religion, and increasingly we understand that ritual (as opposed to fetish) has a place even in a modern or post modern world.

So, if it is true that a mythology is not written by one mind, but by many over the telling, (and for the record, I don't think that Tolkien's work was written by one mind, but represents the creative response of one mind to the myriad reading that one mind did.) then what might be going on here is indeed what Child speculated: a coming together over story, with various hands providing aspects of that story. It is entirely possible that mythologies in the cultures of the 21st century need not have religious compoments in order for them to have power in the communities which tell them. It is the very fact that so many hands are engaging in the storytelling of Middle earth that proves Tolkien did create the story components of mythology.

And I do hope I have provided a bit more humour for Raynor. And Fordim, who would have thought your canonicity thread would rise up again in new form?
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Old 06-13-2007, 07:55 AM   #173
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But they aren't though.

Ther aren't thousands, hundreds or even dozens of minds engaged in telling Tolkien's stories. There is one. Tolkien.

The only way you can start thinking along that track is if you accept the following:

1. That fan-fic is 'telling Tolkien's stories' - no matter how cruddy or how many Princess Tippy Toes characters childish minds chuck at you.

2. You believe post-modern/structuralist/insanity theory that nothing has any meaning apart from what people decide to give to it. And if you do, beware! For the Four Horsemen of Theory Change are saddling up and ready to go in the form of Remodernism (see Stuckism, Tracy Emin, Billy Childish and Franz Ferdinand etc for further info) which reasserts the place of Meaning.

3. There's some vague chance that somewhere along the line, Tolkien fans will ever agree on how many Balrogs it takes to change a lightbulb. News. This will never happen. Why? We are nerds. Nerds by nature do not agree. They love nothing more than pedantry and feed on it like Ungoliant sucks on Light.

4. You must entirely suspend your sanity to think that Tolkien's work was written by davem, by me, by whoever reads it.

Oh yes, and a mythology does not need to be religious either, it can be based on history but the important thing is that it is not written by one mind, and I have not got such need of Lithium yet that I have the delusion that I had any hand in writing Tolkien's stories. I read them, I interpret them, I imagine them. I do not, did not and cannot write them.

Cut to the chase - lots of folk here write fan-fic and stuff like that. Perhaps they are being driven by their own daydreams of one day seeing that stuff in print?
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Old 06-13-2007, 08:21 AM   #174
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Lalwende - your #3 item put a big smile on my face. That pretty much says it all.

ITs not just this particular site, but often when reading many internet chat sites I find these debates remind me of the great Emo Phillips story about God and religion. For those who may not have heard it before allow me -

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The Wisdom Of Emo Phillips
I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said "Stop! don't do it!" "Why shouldn't I?" he said. I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!" He said, "Like what?" I said, "Well...are you religious or atheist?" He said, "Religious." I said, "Me too! Are you christian or buddhist?" He said, "Christian." I said, "Me too! Are you catholic or protestant?" He said, "Protestant." I said, "Me too! Are you episcopalian or baptist?" He said, "Baptist!" I said,"Wow! Me too! Are you baptist church of god or baptist church of the lord?" He said, "Baptist church of god!" I said, "Me too! Are you original baptist church of god, or are you reformed baptist church of god?" He said,"Reformed Baptist church of god!" I said, "Me too! Are you reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1879, or reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1915?" He said, "Reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1915!" I said, "Die, heretic scum", and pushed him off. -- Emo Phillips
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Old 06-13-2007, 10:08 AM   #175
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Which mythologies, exactly, are based on the word of one person? I'm sure the experts would like to know!
Ummmm.....The Book of Mormon? Scientology? The Quran?

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Old 06-13-2007, 10:38 AM   #176
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Ummmm.....The Book of Mormon? Scientology? The Quran?
None of 'em.

Especially the Book of Mormon which was nicked from other texts - as for the Koran/Quran (however we're spelling it), like the Bible it had multiple hands involved in writing it. I don't know of any Scientology texts as I'm not a billionaire. But whatever Tom Cruise and co read at bedtime, like the Book of Mormon, it all stems from other stuff and it's not mythology anyway, just textbooks.
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Old 06-13-2007, 11:58 AM   #177
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I think the essential feature of any true myth is that at some point it was believed to be 'true' (whatever 'true' meant to our ancestors). They believed that the world worked that way. So the mythology was a reflection of their beliefs, philosophy & science. They didn't 'invent' it.

Tolkien clearly did make the whole Legendarium up. It may have started as an attempt to recreate England's lost mythology, but Tolkien didn't believe things had really happened that way. Of course, he pretended that it was a translation from an 'old book' (a la Geoffrey of Monmouth), & that he was merely the last in a long line of redactors. A comparison between the First Edition Foreword & the more familiar Second Edition Foreword is interesting:

First Ed:

Quote:
Lord of the Rings First Edition Foreword

This tale, which has grown almost to be a history of the great War of the Ring, is drawn for the most part from the memoirs of the renowned Hobbits, Bilbo and Frodo, as they are preserved in the Red Book of Westmarch. This chief monument to Hobbit-lore is so called because it was compiled, repeatedly copied, and enlarged and handed down in the family of the Fairbairns of Westmarch, descended from that Master Samwise of whom this tale has much to say.I have supplemented the account of the Red Book, in places, with information derived from the surviving records of Gondor, notably the Book of the Kings; but in general, though I have omitted much, I have in this tale adhered more closely to the actual words and narrative of my original than in the previous selection from the Red Book, The Hobbit. That was drawn from the early chapters, composed originally by Bilbo himself. If 'composed' is a just word. Bilbo was not assiduous, nor an orderly narrator, and his account is involved and discursive, and sometimes confused: faults that still appear in the Red Book, since the copiers were pious and careful, and altered very little.The tale has been put into its present form in response to the many requests that I have received for further information about the history of the Third Age, and about Hobbits in particular. But since my children and others of their age, who first heard of the finding of the Ring, have grown older with the years, this book speaks more plainly of those darker things which lurked only on the borders of the earlier tale, but which have troubled Middle-earth in all its history. It is, in fact, not a book written for children at all; though many children will, of course, be interested in it, or parts of it, as they still are in the histories and legends of other times (especially in those not specially written for them).I dedicate this book to all admirers of Bilbo, but especially to my sons and daughter, and to my friends the Inklings. To the Inklings, because they have already listened to it with a patience, and indeed with an interest, that almost leads me to suspect that they have hobbit-blood in their venerable ancestry. To my sons and my daughter for the same reason, and also because they have all helped me in the labours of composition. If 'composition' is a just word, and these pages do not deserve all that I have said about Bilbo's work.For if the labour has been long (more than fourteen years), it has been neither orderly nor continuous. But I have not had Bilbo's leisure. Indeed much of that time has contained for me no leisure at all, and more than once for a whole year the dust has gathered on my unfinished pages. I only say this to explain to those who have waited for the book why they have had to wait so long. I have no reason to complain. I am surprised and delighted to find from numerous letters that so many people, both in England and across the Water, share my interest in this almost forgotten history; but it is not yet universally recognised as an important branch of study. It has indeed no obvious practical use, and those who go in for it can hardly expect to be assisted.Much information, necessary and unnecessary, will be found in the Prologue. To complete it some maps are given, including one of the Shire that has been approved as reasonably correct by those Hobbits that still concern themselves with ancient history. At the end of the third volume will be found some abridged family-trees, which show how the Hobbits mentioned were related to one another, and what their ages were at the time when the story opens. There is an index of names and strange words with some explanations. And for those who like such lore in an appendix some brief account is given of the languages, alphabets and calendars that were used in the West-lands in the Third Age of Middle-earth. Those who do not need such information, or who do not wish for it, may neglect these pages; and the strange names that they meet they may, of course, pronounce as they like. Care has been given to their transcription from the original alphabets and some notes are offered on the intentions of the spelling adopted* But not all are interested in such matters, and many who are not may still find the account of those great and valiant deeds worth the reading. It was in that hope that I began the work of translating and selecting the stories of the Red Book, part of which are now presented to Men of a later Age, one almost as darkling and ominous as was the Third Age that ended with the great years 1418 and 1419 of the Shire long ago.
Tolkien is clearly claiming that LotR is not an 'invention' of his own, but an ancient history. Its an account of something that happened 'once upon a time'. Compare that to the Second Edition Foreword:

Quote:
FOREWORD

This tale grew in the telling, until it became a history of the Great War of the Ring and included many glimpses of the yet more ancient history that preceded it. It was begun soon after The Hobbit was written and before its publication in 1937; but I did not go on with this sequel, for I wished first to complete and set in order the mythology and legends of the Elder Days, which had then been taking shape for some years. I desired to do this for my own satisfaction, and I had little hope that other people would be interested in this work, especially since it was primarily linguistic in inspiration and was begun in order to provide the necessary background of 'history' for Elvish tongues. When those whose advice and opinion I sought corrected little hope to no hope, I went back to the sequel, encouraged by requests from readers for more information concerning hobbits and their adventures. But the story was drawn irresistibly towards the older world, and became an account, as it were, of its end and passing away before its beginning and middle had been told. The process had begun in the writing of The Hobbit, in which there were already some references to the older matter: Elrond, Gondolin, the High-elves, and the orcs, as well as glimpses that had arisen unbidden of things higher or deeper or darker than its surface: Durin, Moria, Gandalf, the Necromancer, the Ring. The discovery of the significance of these glimpses and of their relation to the ancient histories revealed the Third Age and its culmination in the War of the Ring. Those who had asked for more information about hobbits eventually got it, but they had to wait a long time; for the composition of The Lord of the Rings went on at intervals during the years 1936 to 1949, a period in which I had many duties that I did not neglect, and many other interests as a learner and teacher that often absorbed me. The delay was, of course, also increased by the outbreak of war in 1939, by the end of which year the tale had not yet reached the end of Book I. In spite of the darkness of the next five years, I found that the story could not now be wholly abandoned, and I plodded on, mostly by night, till I stood by Balin's tomb in Moria. There I halted for a long while. It was almost a year later when I went on and so came to Lothlorien and the Great River late in 1941. In the next year I wrote the first drafts of the matter that now stands as Book III, and the beginnings of Chapters 1 and 3 of Book V; and there, as the beacons flared in Anorien and Theoden came to Harrowdale, I stopped. Foresight had failed and there was no time for thought. ....

The Lord of the Rings has been read by many people since it finally appeared in print; and I should like to say something here with reference to the many opinions or guesses that I have received or have read concerning the motives and meaning of the tale. The prime motive was the desire of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them. As a guide I had only my own feelings for what is appealing or moving, and for many the guide was inevitably often at fault. Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible; and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer. But even from the points of view of many who have enjoyed my story there is much that fails to please. It is perhaps not possible in a long tale to please everybody at all points, or to displease everybody at the same points; for I find from the letters that I have received that the passages or chapters that are to some a blemish are all by others specially approved. The most critical reader of all, myself, now finds many defects, minor and major, but being fortunately under no obligation either to review the book or to write it again, he will pass over these in silence, except one that has been noted by others: the book is too short. As for any inner meaning or 'message', it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical. As the story grew it put down roots (into the past) and threw out unexpected branches; but its main theme was settled from the outset by the inevitable choice of the Ring as the link between it and The Hobbit. The crucial chapter, 'The Shadow of the Past', is one of the oldest parts of the tale. It was written long before the foreshadow of 1939 had yet become a threat of inevitable disaster, and from that point the story would have developed along essentially the same lines, if that disaster had been averted. Its sources are things long before in mind, or in some cases already written, and little or nothing in it was modified by the war that began in 1939 or its sequels.
If we compare the two we can see that this is bigger than Tolkien simply re-writing the Foreword for the revised edition. Of course, the revision was 'forced' on him to some extent by the Ace Books problem, but the two Forewords are not just different in length, but in approach, & in what they say about the relationship of Tolkien to his material. In the SE Foreword Tolkien is stating as clearly as he can that he made the whole thing up - its not 'real', its a story. Now, there's no way that anyone reading the Foreword could make the mistake of believing its in any way 'true'.

If, however, the Ace Books problem hadn't created the need for a Second Edition, would we have ever got one? Would we have been treated to that new Foreword? Its possible we would still have the First Edition text, with Tolkien's clear statement that he was only a translator of an ancient history book. If that edition fell into the hands of one of our distant decendents would they take it at face value & believe it was indeed an account of a long past period in our history?

(on a side issue, one could also ask whether if the SE hadn't appeared we would ever have had an index in LotR - even up to the 1965 11th impression of the FE there is only an apology for its absence, & the 'Golden House' is that of Finrod, not Finarfin - another exapmple of a change Tolkien was free to make, but another writer of M-e stories would not be).

In short, Tolkien never believed the the Legendarium was in any way 'true' - in a literal sense at least. In fact, as 'Myths Transformed' shows, he eventually reached a point where he felt driven to change central elements of the story simply to make it fit with what science - not religion stated about the origin of the Earth.

Last edited by davem; 06-13-2007 at 12:02 PM.
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Old 06-13-2007, 05:12 PM   #178
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
Which mythologies, exactly, are based on the word of one person?
My argument was based on a conjecture, that if some myths are based on various religious beliefs which are in turn related to a one important individual, then these myths can be traced to one person. At least at this moment, I don't have the knowledge to be more specific.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry
And I do hope I have provided a bit more humour for Raynor.
I am much in debt to all the participants on this thread that provide, willingly or not, delightfully amusing arguments .
Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
Its impossible to trace any mythology back to an individual - as Tolkien points out in OFS.
Where in OFS did he say that?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry
From a narratological point of view, the idea that mythologies derive their power from the representation of religious belief is too limiting. Such an explanation does not really provide, for instance, an explanation of the power of narrative in our culture, which supposedly does not tremble in caves, but climbs in them for sport and leisure. What might be more important in terms of mythologies is not their truth factor (that is, their semantic content) but their psychological value. Mythologies may have derived their power from the importance of story telling to humans. It is the narrative act which gives mythologies their coherence and significance. Anyone who has ever been to a funeral will understand how those left behind use stories to deal with their grief and to celebrate the life that has passed. Story telling is a hugely important aspect of the human mind, both for individuals and for the group, be it familial, local, tribal, national, or world.
I believe yours and Child's approach to the subject is much better than the one I pursued (the parallels with religious myths). To emphasise the "inventive" aspect of the myths, I would say the following passage from the same chapter of the Biography is relevant:
Quote:
You call a tree a tree, he said, and you think nothing more of the word. But it was not a ‘tree’ until someone gave it that name. You call a star a star, and say it is just a ball of matter moving on a mathematical course. But that is merely how you see it. By so naming things and describing them you are only inventing your own terms about them. And just as speech is invention about objects and ideas, so myth is invention about truth.
In this light, are we, as humans, to apply "literary" rights over formulations of truth? We might have "professional" reasons (or rather excuses) to do that, but that would be missing the point of the works of the "blessed legend-makers" that "kindle the heart with legendary fire". To make another paraphrase of Mythopoeia, in Paradise the eye error will not see, for error lies not in sound but in the tuneless voice.
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Old 06-13-2007, 06:19 PM   #179
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I can't find that source now where Tolkien says he felt like he was merely recording and not creating. I'm sure you folks with the pulse of the Letters and HoMe at your fingertip can find that passage, particularly if you think you can work it round to your side of things as the context and recipient and date must be pondered like the entrails of sacrificial animals.

For now, here's a very eloquent statement from a letter to Unwin. It's the letter where Tollkien talks about grace appearing "in mythological form"and where "Allegory and Story meet[. . .] somewhere in Truth." (bolding mine)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Letter 109, 31 July 1947
Well, I have talked quite long enough about my own follies. The thing is to finish the thing as devised and then let it be judged. But forgive me! It is written in my life-blood, such as that is, thick or thin; and I can no other. I fear it must stand or fall as it substantially is. It would be idle to pretend that I do not greatly desire publication, since a solitary art is no art; nor that I have not a pleasure in praise, with as little vanity as fallen man can manage (he has not much more share in his writings than in his children of the body, but it is something to have a function; yet the chief thing is to complete one's work, as far as completion has any real sense.
As for putting "ahead" literary things over "formulations of truth", I'd go with what Tolkien said about the nature of mankind as subcreators in OFS.
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Old 06-13-2007, 11:27 PM   #180
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The passage in question appears after the much quoted paragraph about the mythology to be dedicated to England:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Letter #131
The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama. Absurd.

Of course, such an overweening purpose did not develop all at once. The mere stories were the thing. They arose in my mind as 'given' things, and as they came, separately, so too the links grew. An absorbing, though continually interrupted labour (especially since, even apart from the necessities of life, the mind would wing to the other pole and spend itself on the linguistics): yet always I had the sense of recording what was already 'there', somewhere: not of 'inventing'.
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Old 06-14-2007, 12:17 AM   #181
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Where in OFS did he say that?
Quote:
Let us take what looks like a clear case of Olympian nature-myth: the Norse god Thorr. His name is Thunder, of which Thorr is the Norse form; and it is not difficult to interpret his hammer, Miollnir, as lightning. Yet Thorr has (as far as our late records go) a very marked character, or personality, which cannot be found in thunder or in lightning, even though some details can, as it were, be related to these natural phenomena: for instance, his red beard, his loud voice and violent temper, his blundering and smashing strength. None the less it is asking a question without much meaning, if we inquire: Which came first, nature allegories about personalized thunder in the mountains, splitting rocks and trees; or stories about an irascible, not very clever, redbeard farmer, of a strength beyond common measure, a person (in all but mere stature) very like the Northern farmers, the bśndr by whom Thorr was chiefly beloved? To a picture of such a man Thorr may be held to have “dwindled,” or On Fairy Stories from it the god may be held to have been enlarged. But I doubt whether either view is right—not by itself, not if you insist that one of these things must precede the other. It is more reasonable to suppose that the farmer popped up in the very moment when Thunder got a voice and face; that there was a distant growl of thunder in the hills every time a storyteller heard a farmer in a rage.
As to the 'Not inventing but receiving' thing. I don't think Tolkien ever made that statement publicly - or if he did that it was anything more than a way of referring to his 'muse'. I've lost count of the number of writers who have claimed that once they started writing their story 'wrote itself' & that the characters 'took on a life of their own'.

I don't think there's a one that wouldn't sue for plagiarism anyone who wrote a sequel to one of their books. And why? Because however you dress it up, & whatever clever arguments you use & words you twist, stealing is stealing.
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Old 06-14-2007, 12:30 AM   #182
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Davem, the passage you quoted has zero relevance to your claim "its impossible to trace any mythology back to an individual - as Tolkien points out in OFS". As far as I can tell, it discusses the subject of a story, not its authorship.
Quote:
I don't think there's a one that wouldn't sue for plagiarism anyone who wrote a sequel to one of their books. And why? Because however you dress it up, & whatever clever arguments you use & words you twist, stealing is stealing.
I disagree. If I would write a book, I would definitely be thrilled if someone else picked up on it and write a sequel; I would hold the same to be true for a good deal of my friends. Not all writers are in it for the fame, the money or whatever other perks come with 'intelectual property rights'. Some would be actually pleased to see that their message got across and that it begins to have a life of his own.
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Old 06-14-2007, 02:57 AM   #183
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Originally Posted by Raynor
I disagree. If I would write a book, I would definitely be thrilled if someone else picked up on it and write a sequel; I would hold the same to be true for a good deal of my friends. Not all writers are in it for the fame, the money or whatever other perks come with 'intelectual property rights'. Some would be actually pleased to see that their message got across and that it begins to have a life of his own.
You do it then, if you are silly enough. Sorry but after the journey I have had to endure this morning with some of Britain's finest examples of scum I am not going to put up with silliness gently.

If you really do believe that All Property Is Theft then what about I wholescale copy your posts and post them as my own work elsewhere? maybe even put them in a pamphlet of some kind and self-publish it for profit? Would you like it if another University student say copied your work and handed it on?

Of course in this day and age it is not surprising that we follow the ideas of folk like Barthes who believed the Author Is Dead and we should have a free-for-all on intellectual property. After all, we live in a society where the young do not respect the old, the rich are not kind to the poor, the chav steals from the working person etc....Such intellectual ideas are OK with the sandal wearing Islington set as hey, man, they have the trust fund to fall back on, and like, man, they don't need the dough anyway, yeahhhhh.... while all around them other people who do not feel the same see millennia-old moral codes such as Do Not Steal crumble into dust.

Course, following Barthes idea is rarely followed to the letter. Firstly as if I was to copy out one of his works and pass it off as my own, the All Property Is Theft high-mindedness would soon disappear as the lawyers came rolling in to take some royalties (not that Barthes would see any, he was knocked down by a laundry van ). Funny how in the Real World people actually DO want to make some money from their work. Although in Cloud Cuckoo Land...

And secondly - if you are on here propounding the theories of Barthes, then kindly go right now and burn all your copies of Letters, of the Biography, in fact of anything which might make you think for one second of the Author. or you are a hypocrite.

But then that is the essential downfall of Barthes and his ilk, and their theories and why they are coming to a close at last. People cannot reconcile looking at what the author says with having to accept he is dead - though they are quite happy, thank you very much, to be allowed to Say What I Like And Like What I Ruddy Well Say. Sorry guys, but even Stevie Wonder could see right through the double standards of that one

And finally if we have folk saying this:
Quote:
Not all writers are in it for the fame, the money or whatever other perks come with 'intelectual property rights'.
Then what on earth is this thread still doing open?! Surely You Already Have The Opportunity To Write Fan-Fic?! is all that needs to be said. Now stop Bellyaching and go back to your desk and flipping write some, you moaning minnies!
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Old 06-14-2007, 03:36 AM   #184
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I wasn't going to weigh in on this again, but.....

Just to reiterate, I am not really interested in what is going to happen tomorrow or in the next 100 years. My interest in and reading of fanfiction is minimal. My concern lies on a broader scale. I feel this issue boils down to one central question: to what extent can/will the Legendarium be regarded as mythology and/or legend 500 years from now. Myth/legend can legitimately be told, retold, and expanded. No one, for example, would call Thomas Malory or T. H. White "fanficton" writers or look down their noses at them because they stole ideas from someone else. No poster on this thread (myself included) can answer that question with certainty, but I think it is a legitimate exercise (as Davem has done) to ask in what ways the Legendarium comes close to qualifying as "mythology" and in what ways it does not.

Davem,

You point to legitimate distinctions between the Legendarium and other forms of myth. However, I feel you stress these differences to the exclusion of some very important similarities. Specifically, I think that your proposed "tests" for determining what is myth and what is not fail to take into account the very complex and tangled nature of any mythology in terms of its creation and transmission. Your tests rest on certain assumptions about "natural myth" that I don't feel hold true.

Let's start with the question of "who" creates a myth. You see a stark line between "natural" mythology, which is created by "many" authors, versus the Legendarium, which you describe as the product of a single mind and, therefore, totally different. In reality, that distinction is not so clear cut. In 98% of the mythologies in our world, there are two phases of creation. First comes the oral tradition--verbal folklore and its transmission--that normally involves a multiplicity of tellers in a variety of settings. However, the process of telling, retelling, and creating does not stop there. The second phase is when the myth is reshaped , formalized, and most frequently put into writing. Almost always, this involves one or more specific individuals who take the older material and its many divergent and conflicting stories; make significant changes and choices; and eventually come out with a unified narrative, one that is loosely based on the old but which may be strikingly different in terms of emphasis, characters, and plotline. These differences may be so great that the author virtually creates a new myth.

Just look at the Illiad and Odyssey. With few exceptions, classical scholars have come to belive that Homer was a real person who made significant changes to the oral tradition of Greece/Asia Minor and thereby created the 24 books of the Illiad and the 24 books of the Odyssey. (Some have suggested that one writer was responsible for the Illiad and another for the Odyssey but 95% of recent scholarship is agreed that each was the work of a single author, and that this individual put them through multiple revisions before the final draft was produced.) Moreover, most classicists conclude that this involved much more than the simple retelling of an old story: the changes made by Homer were so significant that he virtually created a new story.

We can find the same process of creation and transmission if we look at Norse mythology. What started as loose oral tradition crafted by many minds was formulated and put to paper in the ninth through the twelfth centuries in what came to be known as the Elder (Poetic) Edda and the Younger or Prose Edda. In some cases, we know the names of the specific author.

The second phase of creation when the myth is sorted out by one or more specific persons and set down on paper is absolutely essential. Oral and folkloric transmission is not enough; it is the genius of a Homer or a Snorri (or a Tolkien) that allows the myth to be transformed and passed on to future generations. Without that step, without that specific person, we would be left in the dark.

While there are obvious differences between the role of Homer and Snorri on one hand, and Tolkien on the other, there are also points of similarity that should not be ignored. You have suggested that these works are different because the "natural" myths were based on an historical truth, while Tolkien's world was purely fantasy. It is true that there is a tiny grain of historical truth at the core of the Illiad and the Odyssey but 95% of the characters and episodes in those 48 books are not historical; they are fantasy--the product of Homer's imagination based on the earlier oral tradition. Thus, while Tolkien's Legendarium is "less historical" than Homer's poems, that difference is not as sharp as your posts suggest. Secondly, as Shippey and others have shown, Tolkien draws very heavily on the older mythic creations for his own subcreations. Names, races, themes, symbols--you name it--he derived them from existing myths that reach back into the oral tradition. Is this so different from what Homer and Snorri did?

Secondly, I am not comfortable with your assessment of how JRRT viewed his own work: first seeing it as myth but then consciously rejecting that formula as a result of what happened during the war. As a philologist, Tolkien was always careful about language. In the published Letters, right up to the end of his life, he referred to his writings as "mythology". Why would he use this word if he had rejected the idea of his writings as mythology? In the interests of brevity, I'll give just one example. There is a letter written in 1964 to Christopher Bretherton. It is filled with phrases like this:

Quote:
....In O(xford) I wrote a cosmogonical myth.
....The magic ring was the one obvious thing in the Hobbit that could be connected with my mythology.
.....so I brought all the stuff I had written on the originally unrelated legends of Numenor into relation with the main mythology.
Altogether, he used the words "mythology" and "legend" five times in this letter when talking about his own writings. I don't think he would have loosely thrown around these terms unless they had some meaning behind them.

Another point that bears a closer look is that of belief, especially"religious belief", and its relation to Tolkien's writings. The gist of what you are saying seems to be that Tolkien cnosciously wrote fantasy. Since he did not believe these writings were "true", they could not be true myth.

I agree with your premise. At the core of a myth must lie a modicum of truth and belief. If those elements are missing, the Legendarium is not any form of myth whatever words Tolkien used to describe it. I sat and scratched my head over this for a while, but it was Bethberry's post that set off bells in my head. (Thank you. )

Quote:
I can't find that source now where Tolkien says he felt like he was merely recording and not creating. I'm sure you folks with the pulse of the Letters and HoMe at your fingertip can find that passage, particularly if you think you can work it round to your side of things as the context and recipient and date must be pondered like the entrails of sacrificial animals.
Just take a look at a letter written to Carole Batten-Phelps in 1971. I am going to quote it at some length, because it is directly pertinent to this discussion of whether or not Tolkien believed what he was saying was true, and exactly where the Legendarium was coming from (the italics are Tolkien's):

Quote:
I am very grateful for your remarks on the critics and for your account of your personal delight in the Lord of the Rings. You write in terms of such high praise that [to] accept it with just a 'thank you' might seem complacently conceited, though actually it only makes me wonder how this has been achieved--by me. Of course the book was written to please myself (at different levels), and as an experiment in the arts of long narrative and of inducing "Secondary Belief". It was written slowly and with great care for detail, & finally emerged as a Frameless Picture: a searchlight as it were on a brief episode in history, and on a small part of our Middle-earth, surrounded by the glimmer of limitless extensions in time and space. Very well: that may explain to some extent why it 'feels' like history; why it was accepted for publication' and why it has proved readable for a large number of very different kinds of people. But it does not fully explain what has actually happened. Looking back on the wholly unexpected things that have followed its publication--beginning at once with the appearance of Vol. I--I feel as if an ever darkening sky over our present world had been suddenly pierced, the clouds rolled back, and an almost forgotten sunlight had poured down again. As if indeed the horns of Hope had been heard again, as Pippin heard them suddenly at the absolute nadir of the fortunes of the West. But How? and Why?

I think I can now guess what Gandalf would reply. A few years ago I was visited in Oxford by a man whose name I have forgotten (though I believe he was well-known.) He had been much struck by the curious way in which many old pictures seemed to him to have been designed to illustrate The Lord of the Rings long before its time. He brought one or two reproductions. I think he wanted at first simply to discover whether my imagination had fed on pictures, as it clealy had been by cetainkinds of literature and languages. When it became obvious that , unless I was a liar, I had never seen the pictures before and was not well acquainted with pictorial Art, he fell silent. I became aware that he was looking fixedly at me. suddenly he said: "Of course you don't suppose, do you, that you wrote all that book yourself?"

Poor Gandalf! I was too well acquainted with G. to expose myself rashly, or to ask what he meant. I think I said: "No, I don't suppose so any longer." I have never since been able to suppose so. An alarming conclusion for for an old philologist to draw concerning his private amusement. But not one that should puff any one up who considers the imperfections of 'chosen instruments', and indeed what sometimes seems their lamentable unfitness for the purpose.
The contents of this letter has always been mind-boggling to me. Obviously, Tolkien did not worship Manwe or believe that he actually existed, but on some level, there was belief: the belief that the Legendarium was not simply coming out of his own human brain but out of somewhere else. Tolkien's religious beliefs are such that he expresses this in terms of being a "chosen" instrument presumably of providence. Perhaps a number of us would feel more comfortable using terminology and images that draw on Jung. But, either way, aren't we talking about belief...the same kinds of belief that lies behind "natural myth"? What do we do with this letter? How else can we understand the sentiments that are expressed here?

And that isn't even getting into the question of the dreams of Atlantis that came to form the core of the Numenor myth!
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Old 06-14-2007, 03:49 AM   #185
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
You do it then, if you are silly enough.
I truly wonder, for how long does this notion of literary rights exist? Were all the writers, from the dawn of time of literature, born with it? And if not, were they silly for writting without expecting others to treat their work as untouchable?
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If you really do believe that All Property Is Theft then what about I wholescale copy your posts and post them as my own work elsewhere? maybe even put them in a pamphlet of some kind and self-publish it for profit? Would you like it if another University student say copied your work and handed it on?
Anyone can go ahead and do that for my posts; they have my blessing, and it won't affect my sleep at night. I would actually be quite pleased if my thoughts are worthy of repetition in other forums, or of publishing, or of being quoted in an University environment. Conditional joy is a source of suffering .
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And secondly - if you are on here propounding the theories of Barthes, then kindly go right now and burn all your copies of Letters, of the Biography, in fact of anything which might make you think for one second of the Author. or you are a hypocrite.
I hope that your flow of unjustified personal remarks will stop with your last post. I am not acquainted with the ideas of Barthes; but you pose a false dilemma, between participating with new stories to a particular universe, and valuing the contribution of the initial author; the two can perfectly coexist, without implying any fault of character on behalf of the new writer.
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Old 06-14-2007, 04:19 AM   #186
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Originally Posted by Raynor
I truly wonder, for how long does this notion of literary rights exist? Were all the writers, from the dawn of time of literature, born with it? And if not, were they silly for writting without expecting others to treat their work as untouchable?
Anyone can go ahead and do that for my posts; they have my blessing, and it won't affect my sleep at night. I would actually be quite pleased if my thoughts are worthy of repetition in other forums, or of publishing, or of being quoted in an University environment. Conditional joy is a source of suffering .
I hope that your flow of unjustified personal remarks will stop with your last post. I am not acquainted with the ideas of Barthes; but you pose a false dilemma, between participating with new stories to a particular universe, and valuing the contribution of the initial author; the two can perfectly coexist, without implying any fault of character on behalf of the new writer.
It's no fault of character nor is it personal but a fault of the theories of Barthes and his ilk, which are thankfully now being challenged and will soon enough be abandoned by the global education system (as theories inevitably are - they cannot resist change as nothing can - which is why it's a good idea not to be too wedded to them). If you choose to believe the Author is an outmoded concept and he/she has no rights over their own work then you must also desist from making reference to said Author. I am not saying you are a hypocrite personally, but alas, not many who opt to follow those reader response/author is dead theories can find the courage to completely ignore the existence of an author - it is the inevitable result of following such an incorrect theory which causes hypocrisy. You might compare it to these people who bang on about being Green but somehow manage to justify regular global flights or owning an SUV. Annoying, isn't it?

From reading your past posts, you do seem to come down on the side of the Author - you like the Letters, you like to try to find out what Tolkein meant and get quite annoyed when people make 'subjective statements' - however this does not and cannot co-exist with the idea that Tolkien's work is also free to use as you want.

As for writers in ages long, long past, they were not making a living from their work as they are now - and like any worker a writer deserves to have their income protected - and that includes after death as that is their legacy to their family. You would not like it if the state took your house from you and installed a lot of civil servants in it when you hoped to pass it to your children? Tolkien's family deserve to benefit from his legacy - and not just his family, but all those charities - I reiterate again just what thoroughly nice people they all are.

Remember, Tolkien specified a person to have control over his literary assets - not me, not you, but Christopher and whoever CT might then deem fit. For all the muddling around over if it was mythology and if that means you may plagiarise in the next few decades at some point, The Law Says No. And Tolkien specifies that.

It's time to draw sides - are you on the side of the Marxist Barthes (far be it from me to deride a fellow leftist, but this is one who was an idiot) and want a free for all and no rights for the Author or are you on the side of the Estate, who are actually very generous to fans, already welcoming fan-fic and parody, which they are even happy to allow publication of?
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Old 06-14-2007, 04:44 AM   #187
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It's time to draw sides - are you on the side of the Marxist Barthes (far be it from me to deride a fellow leftist, but this is one who was an idiot) and want a free for all and no rights for the Author or are you on the side of the Estate, who are actually very generous to fans, already welcoming fan-fic and parody, which they are even happy to allow publication of?
Lal,

I don't agree with the way you've posed this question. I'm uncomfortable with the "either/or".

I don't feel that anyone here is carrying a banner against the Estate or suggesting that they must immediately change an existing policy. And why must there be just two possible positions on this issue with the need to "choose sides"? On a question this complex, there can be a variety of views and approaches expressed. I almost sense that you see this as some sort of basic test of "loyalty". That also makes me uneasy.

The only thing we can be sure of is that there will be changes in the future. No one can say for sure what those changes will bring. There will be changes in technology, changes in the law, and changes in the way information is disseminated. We can only guess what all this will mean in relation to Tolkien and the Legendarium.

There are legitimate things to be said in favor of a freer sharing of information. For better or worse, technology is pulling us in that direction. There are also very legitimate things to be said in favor of protecting the author and/or the composer so that he or she can enjoy merited recognition and financial reward. But I don't think all the good or bad is on one side or the other.

If I've misread you in this, I apologize.
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Old 06-14-2007, 05:04 AM   #188
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
If you choose to believe the Author is an outmoded
I don't. I believe in cherishing the work and its author, esspecially in this case.
Quote:
From reading your past posts, you do seem to come down on the side of the Author - you like the Letters, you like to try to find out what Tolkein meant and get quite annoyed when people make 'subjective statements' - however this does not and cannot co-exist with the idea that Tolkien's work is also free to use as you want.
I believe that many readers, if not most, are capable of discussing about Tolkien's work, give it its due, and at the same appreciate a new work on this universe, if it is worth it.
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It's time to draw sides
To paraphrase captain Barbossa, I feel disinclined to aquiesce your request . Honestly, I don't know enough about this theory, and I am content with my own thoughts, as unstructured as they are. But perhaps the rest of my presented ideas can help you decide.
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theories inevitably are [abandoned]- they cannot resist change as nothing can - which is why it's a good idea not to be too wedded to them
Then why insist on a perennial, objective theory about what should or should not be allowed?
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Old 06-14-2007, 05:59 AM   #189
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What makes me uneasy is this pushing at boundaries that are there, ultimately, for our benefit too.

As I keep saying - nobody is denied the opportunity to play in Middle-earth, to create anew and to rewrite as they see fit - and what's more, with the net you can share it. Why, you can even write up some absolute filth if that is how you get your kicks, and the Estate does not stop you, even though it can. If your mind strays to parody, why, then they will even allow you to publish it and profit from it. They even allow the TS, close afiliates of the estate, to publish fan-fic in their magazine and there have been numerous comic books and other interesting things based on Tolkien and his work, including a truly barking whacko mad Doctor Who novelisation (check it out, it's a hoot).

You are already adding to the stories. What more do you want?

Nobody has honestly answered that.

Raynor admits not to having a commercial or ego interest, in which case, where's the beef? Get writing!

You know who decides if this stuff is permissible within canon or not? The readers, and they say it's fun but it aint canon - so I guess that's where the gripe lies. If folk are hoping to convince readers that their creation Tharg, War-Dwarf of the Second Age, Wielder of ElfScraper is the long lost son of Gil-galad then you are going to face a long, hard struggle. Many's the time someone on here has confused a D&D or PJ creation with a Tolkien creation and been shot down in flames (ironically, by some arguing against me here I must note) with the anguished cry "Tolkien did not say that! You Infidel!"

Be honest now...

And don't flatter yourself that if you are a genuine expert and a genuinely good writer that you will get away with formally publishing even a mild re-write, a filling up the corners type of thing, because someone very well known in the TS did just that after 'persuading' a certain someone and has met with widespread approbation (and eventually ridicule) from the community. And then think of other fan communities, most of which are far less formal and pedantic than the Tolkien one (we are the biggest pedants going) and how much they hate the intrusion of non-canon material. The 'mythology or not' argument is a big stinky red herring - Star Wars fans have that one too and in the end they come down firmly against sanctioned fan-fic and some quite clever novelisations as inevitably they are not by Lucas. Despite outmoded literary theory (and pointing to why such theories are bunkum) to the reader, to the fan, the Author is still the Master of the Piece.

What I say is be happy with things as they are - people will find the good stuff. They will find davem's poetic tale, they will find the witty Entish Bow, they will find the interesting Silmarillion project, and they may even find a certain narfforc's marvellous works on a shelf one day. Things are good. What do you want to start a war for? And more importantly to me, why?

Far more fruitful is to think instead how you might draw attention to the good stuff - as there aint half a lot of chaff too, everyone knows that.
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Old 06-14-2007, 06:08 AM   #190
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Originally Posted by Raynor
Davem, the passage you quoted has zero relevance to your claim "its impossible to trace any mythology back to an individual - as Tolkien points out in OFS". As far as I can tell, it discusses the subject of a story, not its authorship.
.
No, its absolutely relevant. The hardest thing about having a discussion is when your opponent takes statements used in support of your argument literally - for instance if an advert for a new Jaguar sports car stated 'The New electric Blue Jaguar - 0 to 250 mph in less than 5 seconds! *(also available in red)' & I offered this as evidence that I'd seen a Red Jaguar doing 250mph. You, seemingly would come back & state 'The advert only states the Blue Jaguar can do 250 mph!'

Now, on to the Homer/Malory point. What both H&M did was to produce a work of literature, not myth. They used an existing mythic background but they were pretty free with it. As was Tolkien in his use of Nortern myth.

There are two points to make here. First no individual can invent a myth in the true sense - all an individual can do is tell a story. That story may be taken up into an existing set of other stories/traditions/lore & be absorbed, adding something new to the mix. Second, there is a difference between Myth & revelation. One person may recieve a revelation & go on to found a religion, but that it not the same thing at all as a mythology.

From this perspective it is neither here nor there that Tolkien 'believed' that in some sense his creation was 'true'. It would not be a 'myth' in the real sense unless a whole people shared that belief. If one person believes 'x' its an idiosyncracy, if a hundred people believe it its a cult. If a few thousand people believe it, its a religion. What is isn't, in any of those cases, is a myth in the true sense.

Now, as for Tolkien being happy for other's to write & publish new M-e stories with any kind of 'official' status, I can only reiterate my earlier point that

HE DIDN'T PLACE HIS WORKS IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN IN HIS WILL.

He could have done. In fact what he did was bequeath his unpublished works to his son, to whom he gave absolute control, even to the point of authorising him to destory them in whole or in part if he so chose. Does this seem to anyone evidence that Tolkien wanted sequels to his work?

I also accept that Tolkien used the term 'mythology' to refer to his work in various places - most of them in private correspondence, & I can only read it as a 'shorthand' way of referring to his creation. There aren't many other words one could use to communicate the idea. Most of his correspondents would have no-more knowledge of what a 'Legendarium was than Brian's mother had of what a 'balm' was:
Quote:
Mandy: What is myrrh, anyway?
Wise Man 3: It is a valuable balm.
Mandy: A balm, what are you giving him a balm for? It might bite him.
Wise Man 3: What?
Mandy: It's a dangerous animal. Quick, throw it in the trough.
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Old 06-14-2007, 07:06 AM   #191
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What more do you want?
What we already have, I guess. Freedom to decide each for ourselves what we consider allowable, appropriate, good in matters of art and culture. Regardless of the present scholar and judicial positions, be they worldwide adopted or not.
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No, its absolutely relevant. The hardest thing about having a discussion is when your opponent takes statements used in support of your argument literally - for instance if an advert for a new Jaguar sports car stated 'The New electric Blue Jaguar - 0 to 250 mph in less than 5 seconds! *(also available in red)' & I offered this as evidence that I'd seen a Red Jaguar doing 250mph. You, seemingly would come back & state 'The advert only states the Blue Jaguar can do 250 mph!'

Now, on to the Homer/Malory point.
I fail to see the grounds for your generalisation, and presenting opinion as fact is not helpful. In that section, Tolkien talks about the fact that the "personality [of mythological heroes] can only be derrived from a person", that all the aspects, even those of gods, are created by humans.
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The gods may derive their colour and beauty from the high splendours of nature, but it was Man who obtained these for them, abstracted them from sun and moon and cloud; their personality they get direct from him; the shadow or flicker of divinity that is upon them they receive through him from the invisible world, the Supernatural.
This is clearly a case of [conscious] invention of myths. Furthermore, at the begining of this chapter on the Origins (of fairy stories), he mentions that all the three possible origins (original invention, inheritance or diffusion) 'ultimately lead back to an inventor'. Taken figuratively or directly, neither of this passages constitute evidences of your position.
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Old 06-14-2007, 07:20 AM   #192
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In the interest of preserving the sanity of our readers, here is a handy guide to the issues raised in this thread:

Q: What was the original question?
A: Did JRRT encourage new ME stories.

Q: And the answer?
A: Well, the evidence presented seems to be that, while he did not explicitly encourage such stories, neither he nor the Estate are actively discouraging people from writing such stories (commonly known as fan fic) for their own amusement and publishing them on a non-commercial basis for the amusement of others.

Q: So what’s the rest of the thread about?
A: There would appear to be an underlying feeling that, were a sufficiently talented writer to come along and wish to add to the body of Tolkien’s published works on Middle-earth by publishing their own work based on it, this should be permitted.

Q: And the answer?
A: Well, it’s a matter of personal opinion as to whether it should be permitted. But, in practical terms, it’s up to the Estate - at least for the next 40 years or so, while the original works remain subject to copyright.

Q: Are the Estate likely to sanction such a work.
A: Unlikely, but not beyond the bounds of possibility.

Q: What about when copyright runs out.
A: Who knows? It’s far too distant in the future to be able to make any reasonable assessment.

Q: If such a work were produced, either with the approval of the Estate, or after copyright runs out, would it be canonical?
A: Don’t ask. Therein lies madness.

Q: So, if people can produce fan-fic at the moment and the prospect of any commercially published and officially sanctioned work is currently a matter for the Estate, what’s all the argument about?
A: Search me.

Q: What’s all this discussion about whether Tolkien’s Middle-earth works constitute a mythology?
A: I’m not certain, but I think that those who consider that Tolkien intended his work to constitute a mythology are asserting that this indicates an encouragement to those who might wish to add to it.

Q: And the answer?
A: There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer, but it’s irrelevant to the current situation anyway, given the practical and legal position, as noted above. There is an interesting residual question over how Tolkien’s works might come to be regarded in the future, which may be of interest to some, but this is certainly something on which no definitive conclusion may be reached.

Q: Anything else worth noting?
A: No, not really apart from a lot of unnecessary assertions and counter-assertions, much bluster, a modicum of personal prejudice and not a little showing off.

Q: Aren't you showing off by posting this?
A: Probably, yes.
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Old 06-14-2007, 07:30 AM   #193
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Originally Posted by SpM
Q: So, if people can produce fan-fic at the moment and the prospect of any commercially published and officially sanctioned work is currently a matter for the Estate, what’s all the argument about?
A: Search me.
Indeed.

The only honest answer I've got to that so far is that I wanna be free, man.

Oh honestly, quit bellyaching and go and write some fan-fic if you must, you lot - but no Princess Tippy Toes or you're dead!
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Old 06-14-2007, 09:29 AM   #194
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Saucepan ... very well done indeed.

I asked this back on page 3 but it got lost in all the higher level discussion. It seems very to the point of the JRRT original quote.

So then, to honor the intentions of JRRT, I can take what he has created and use the medium of drama, or art or music to add to it?

Is this a correct assumption based on the words of JRRT?

Quote:
"But once upon a time (my crest has long since fallen) I had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and cosmogonic, to the level of romantic fairy-story....I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama. "
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Old 06-14-2007, 10:24 AM   #195
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sauron the White
So then, to honor the intentions of JRRT, I can take what he has created and use the medium of drama, or art or music to add to it?

Is this a correct assumption based on the words of JRRT?
You can do what you like. Whether it would breach any legal right is a different question.

As has been noted, fan-fic, fan art and the like is produced (and published on the internet) all the time with little or no objection from the Estate or anyone else. Even where this is strictly in breach of a legal right, it is generally not worth the right holder objecting, unless it is done for profit.

If you were to publish such material on a commercial basis, however, you would be at risk of legal action, unless this were done with the permission of, and under licence from, the holder of the relevant legal rights (which will be the Estate in most cases, although the film, stage and merchandising rights to Tolkien's works are owned, I believe, by Saul Zaentz).
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Old 06-14-2007, 10:41 AM   #196
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Just a few short remarks . . . well, maybe longish ones. *insert winking smilie here*

SpM, I appreciate your loyerly attempt to impose some sort of clerical order on the discussion here. However, the fact that a topic might never have a definitive conclusion, as you put it, has never stopped any Downs discussion in the past and there is little reason to believe it shall in the future; nor does it provide any kind of evidence as to the value or pleasure of said discussion.

The question of encouragement is a fascinating one, for it has many facets. Encouragement can exist in specifically expressed statements, whether they be public or private. (The distinction between those two does not negate the value of either one.) Encouragement can exist in a will, as with Tolkien's trust in the judgement of CT, a person who, one can say, was expressly educated to be the reader Tolkien wanted. In this case, CT has chosen to publish postumously his father's writing.

Encouragement can exist also as a quality of the writing. This seems to be a quality which Tolkien himself valued. Not only did he write to create the kind of story he wanted to read; he also wrote in order to explore the desireability of story. He wanted to make a story we couldn't put down. There's a lovely expression of this in one of his non fiction texts and I shall return with the reference when time permits. Or not.

It is this kind of encouragement which is the least "provable" but is certainly demonstrable in the efforts of many readers to "rattrapé" that quality of desireability. (Oh, my, there goes my French again. It must be the Canadian in me fighting against the Conquest.) It is also this quality which I think intrigues the historical questions raised by Child and possibly Raynor, if I understand him correctly. Oh, and I also want to commend Child yet again for pointing out that issues and topics are infinitely more complex than that "if you ain't for us, yore agin us" mentality.

The question of canonicity was not, to my mind, ever part of the initial question, nor the imprimatur of the Estate. Nor the quality of any inspiration. Red herrings, the lot of 'em.

Raynor takes the position of many performing artists, for whom it is a prime honour to be imitated and to inspire others in art beyond that of mere imitation, because such action speaks to the success of the art. Did Tolkien ask permission to write Turin? No, because the text gave him that "authority" when it inspired his own muse/work. Yet there are others who feel it is a matter of courtesy to inform an artist when his (or her) work has been 'appropriated'. Death limits this possibility, but both ideas exist within artistic communities.

It is well, also, to recognize that this concept of "Author" does not in fact equal the person. The person exists before the text is written, but only the writing of the text makes this entity "Author" possible. What we call "Author" (as opposed to the legal paraphernalia, which relate to the person) is an identity produced by the writing. It's not that a person didn't write a text but that the concept of Author and Authorial Intention can severely hamper the pleasure of a story.

Case in point. Sometimes that identity severely strains our understanding of a text. Consider Milton's Satan. Milton didn't mean, didn't intend, for Satan to be so attractive. But Satan is. Are we to deny that experience of the reading? No, it becomes a topic for discussion. Or for art, as William Blake showed. And I don't think Blake asked Milton for permission, either. But then did Milton ask for permission?

People have been leery of reducing books to authorial intent long before M. Barthes wrote his little work. For those who might be interested in the ideas--which are merely adumbrated by that title "Death of the Author" and more complex than the title--here are some links. Pop ones also available, but time limits--really I must wean myself of this Tolkien habit and go read someone else now.

Wiki on Barthes
(Remember, Wiki isn't "authoritative" *insert winking smilie here* )

Barthe's essay (Check out other online texts, too, in case of errors. Tolkien was forever sending his publisher lists of errata.)
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Old 06-14-2007, 10:57 AM   #197
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I've been waiting for you to cite Barthes...

And allow me to say it again briefly -- whether or not Tolkien "wanted" it, or would have "accepted" it, or "condemned" it and whether or not the estate would legally accept it is really all moot. Middle-Earth stories are being written and disseminated and read. Movies are being made, pictures painted, songs written, musicals, puppet-shows, plays...everything Tolkien anticipated (with dread or without it). My point is simply this: each individual reader gets to decide:

a) which of these new stories or revisionings of the "originals" he or she will consume, and

b) whether or not to 'accept' it as part of the 'total experience' of Middle-Earth as constructed by that individual reader.

As there is nothing anyone can do to change this fact, it seems to me rather pointless getting into a froth over it.

But this is rather beside the points now being made. Back to Barthesian hermeneutics... (I am so tempted her to bring up the word simulacra but shall forgo...for the time being).
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Old 06-14-2007, 11:44 AM   #198
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Ho, more good examples of just how wrong Barthes was - arguments all over the place are the result!

The plain fact is that the theory that the Author Is Dead is against Reason. It is an intellectual return to primitives beating each other over the head with haunches of reindeer meat (or clubs - but reindeer meat is more visceral an image). The logical conclusion of the notion is that Nothing Is Right, Nothing Is True, All Is Chaos. Yet no writer sets out with this aim beyond those who devote themselves to pure free-form poetry or stream of consciousness gumpf. All writers have Purpose. It might be vague, it might be complex, it might be indecipherable, but it is there. All that the Barthes theory does is allow us to abdicate all sense of intellectual rigour and 'hey man', just go with the flow.

It also, of course, ensures that academics are never out of work or short on new papers to write as there's always something else to say, even if it is a load of carp.

Hmm, how often do fans discuss whether Tolkien intended his work as Christian? Lots. We're discussing his Intent there of course. Basing discussion around his Intent does not mean we must accept his intent, indeed, we cannot agree that he did intend that. It is interesting and fruitful to talk about nevertheless. You simply do not get that if you want to follow Barthes. You just spend weeks on end going 'hmmmm' and 'after you' and nothing gets anywhere - and only the possessor of the longest words survives. Hermeneutics? Simulacra? Pretentious? Exactly.

And there's a deep irony in examining and subjecting Tolkien to a theory he would have deplored with all his heart. It was Barthes, Derrida, Foucault (their names make me feel quite ill) and his ilk who ethnically cleansed study of his great love, Etymology, from Universities worldwide. They stood for everything he hated.
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Old 06-14-2007, 12:07 PM   #199
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Originally Posted by Bęthberry

It is well, also, to recognize that this concept of "Author" does not in fact equal the person. The person exists before the text is written, but only the writing of the text makes this entity "Author" possible. What we call "Author" (as opposed to the legal paraphernalia, which relate to the person) is an identity produced by the writing. It's not that a person didn't write a text but that the concept of Author and Authorial Intention can severely hamper the pleasure of a story.

Case in point. Sometimes that identity severely strains our understanding of a text. Consider Milton's Satan. Milton didn't mean, didn't intend, for Satan to be so attractive. But Satan is. Are we to deny that experience of the reading? No, it becomes a topic for discussion. Or for art, as William Blake showed. And I don't think Blake asked Milton for permission, either. But then did Milton ask for permission?
Well, yes, but even if one accepted that authorial intention is neither here nor there (hence one is perfectly ok to read LotR as an actual history book - or to put it another way 'What's reality got to do with anything?'), there is a major difference between choosing to see Sauron as a tragic hero & ignoring an author's right to object to people ripping him or her off.

And that in the end is the issue. Anyone can write fanfic & make it freely available on the net, or in fanzines (yes, a few still exist - the Tolkien Society's bi-monthly journal, Amon Hen, regularly publishes M-e fanfic). The only restriction is on publishing such fiction for profit, & by extension on attempting to make a reputation as 'Tolkien's Literary Heir'.

And yet, and yet..... All that's happened is that we've sidestepped the main question - who? Who is this 'genius' who will take up the baton? Until we get a name (or names) this discussion will never be more than academic. Let's say the Estate changed its position tomorrow - who is this author who's going to start sweating over a hot computer, producing the next M-e novel?

Is it an already published writer - do people want Steven Erikson, Neil Gaiman, Robert Jordan, Ursula Le Guin? Or do they want someone who's written a piece of fanfic they've read & enjoyed to be authorised - if so, gives us a link to it.

Or are we still on the 'If you authorise it, he will come.' kick? All the Estate has to do is give permission & this visionary artist will magically appear, manuscript in hand?

Still not getting it.....
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Old 06-14-2007, 12:32 PM   #200
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Originally Posted by davem
Well, yes, but even if one accepted that authorial intention is neither here nor there (hence one is perfectly ok to read LotR as an actual history book - or to put it another way 'What's reality got to do with anything?'), there is a major difference between choosing to see Sauron as a tragic hero & ignoring an author's right to object to people ripping him or her off.
Yep. Alas that kind of theory allows people to plagiarise and be able to have some way of defending it intellectually. However the biggest drawback is that in seeking to 'liberate' the readers it actually alienates them. They are supposedly 'freed' and allowed to respond in their own way despite the fact that they were free to do that anyway - people were seeing Milton's Satan as seductive when Barthes was just a twinkle in Le Milkman's eye. However, now readers are under no obligation to justify their claims with any kind of evidence. So you are, quite literally, free to make any kind of claim that you wish - I can claim Tolkien was writing a Neo-Fascist meisterwerke and there's nothing you can do to disagree with that as that's my right as a reader to respond how I feel. You cannot chuck me a quote out of letters about how much Tolkien despised fascism because it's irrelevant now.

Yet this is exactly why Barthes was full of rubbish - people have feeling and reason and inevitably as humans want to refute such claims. But you can't! You must accept it!

And as humans we seek meaning. We do soul-less jobs and travel on cattle-class public transport and are subject to directives and rules, rules, rules by those supposedly 'superior' to us. We crave Meaning.

The theories of Barthes were meant to stand alongside militant Atheism in a Brave New World. But the world aint like that, humans have proved they want Soul. So they watch an odd, quirky film like Donnie Darko or Lost In Translation and the first thing they say is "But what does it all mean?"

Being told "whatever you want it to" is so alienating.

Quote:
Is it an already published writer - do people want Steven Erikson, Neil Gaiman, Robert Jordan, Ursula Le Guin? Or do they want someone who's written a piece of fanfic they've read & enjoyed to be authorised - if so, gives us a link to it.

Or are we still on the 'If you authorise it, he will come.' kick? All the Estate has to do is give permission & this visionary artist will magically appear, manuscript in hand?
Not a chance. It's ruddy hard work getting a name and a reputation as a writer, let alone as a decent writer. No-one reputable is going to put that on the line to risk writing a book that will be torn to shreds by the fan community. Even those few who might look forwards to something about Middle-earth not written by Tolkien being commercially available in Wal-mart or wherever would rip it apart - inevitable as the reader would want to see if they could have done a better job themselves.

They'd be very lucky to get a hack writer. More likely it would be an inexperienced one.
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