The Barrow-Downs Discussion Forum


Visit The *EVEN NEWER* Barrow-Downs Photo Page

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


Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 11-13-2003, 06:14 PM   #121
Mister Underhill
Dread Horseman
 
Mister Underhill's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Behind you!
Posts: 2,738
Mister Underhill has been trapped in the Barrow!
Sting

So far I think I’m the only one who has copped to being a deranged Sumo-wrestler – though Sumo isn’t quite right. In Sumo wrestling, the object is merely to shove your opponent out of the combat circle, whereas I prefer to crush opponents flat with a flying leap off the top rope. Someday I hope to actually accomplish the discussion-forum equivalent of this feat. Perhaps describing me as a deranged Luchador would be closer to the mark.
Mister Underhill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-14-2003, 05:08 AM   #122
Eurytus
Wight
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: England
Posts: 179
Eurytus has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Quote:
quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sorry but I missed all the Lo’s and Behold’s in the speechs in Rivendell.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yet an entirely different race dwells within the forest of Lothlorien and the refuge of Imlardris. Must it be the identical use of archaic language for said use to be acceptable?
It does not even need to the same language no. The question is, does the language appear as archaic as that used in Rohan/Gondor?

The answer is clearly not in my opinion.
__________________
"This is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The Neverending Story!"

Lionel Hutz
Eurytus is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-14-2003, 11:46 PM   #123
jallanite
Shade of Carn Dűm
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Toronto
Posts: 479
jallanite is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Sting

There was a writer who went by the name Mark Twain.

He had good ear for language which he used in a book called Huckleberry Finn that became extraorindarily popular and is generally considered a classic. It is also considered by many to be flawed, but not usually in its language, not any more. Yet even Mark Twain's normal language was often not what was considered good grammar in his own day.

The book purports to be written by an almost illerate boy who writes in very colloquial and low dialect. However we have speeches by others in different dialects. It seems unlikely that Huck could so well present other dialects so different from his own, especially presumably written many months after he heard these speeches. But I don't recall any critic picky enough to criticise that book on that account. The unlikelihood is accepted because the results are so excellent.

The Lord of the Rings in part purports to be Tolkien's very close retelling of an account written mostly by Frodo Baggins about what happened to him and his friends during the period before, during, and after the War of the Ring.

But Tolkien does not claim that he reproduces Frodo's style exactly in all cases. It is ingenuous to find a flaw in the way Frodo tells the tale when it is quite clear that the book claims to be a retelling of Frodo's account by Tolkien.

But let us pretend that Tolkien pretends to attempt to imitate Frodo's style in Tolkien's narration. Tolkien perhaps does pretend to do so, when Tolkien remembers that Tolkien is supposedly adapting a source.

In general the passages in which the style is most archaic are just those in which no Hobbit takes part, the very passages for which Frodo, the supposed orginator, would have had to rely on accounts by others who were not Hobbits.

Lyta_Underhill has already cited Tolkien's account of variations in style of speech and his indication that Frodo had at his command formal 'book-language' when he wished to use it.

The true facts may be that Tolkien tended to drift into more archaic prose when he had no Hobbits to act as a counterweight. But if you need to justify the differences in narrative style then it is simple enough to do so.

I will note also that Mark Twain who wrote Huckleberry Finn also wrote The Prince and the Pauper. A sample from chapter 21:
Quote:
The rest was lost in inarticulate mutterings. The old man sank upon his knees, his knife in his hand, and bent himself over the moaning boy.

Hark! There was a sound of voices near the cabin--the knife dropped from the hermit's hand; he cast a sheepskin over the boy and started up, trembling. The sounds increased, and presently the voices became rough and angry; then came blows, and cries for help; then a clatter of swift footsteps, retreating. Immediately came a succession of thundering knocks upon the cabin door, followed by--

"Hullo-o-o! Open! And despatch, in the name of all the devils!"

Oh, this was the blessedest sound that had ever made music in the King's ears; for it was Miles Hendon's voice!

The hermit, grinding his teeth in impotent rage, moved swiftly out of the bedchamber, closing the door behind him; and straightway
the King heard a talk, to this effect, proceeding from the 'chapel':--

"Homage and greeting, reverend sir! Where is the boy--MY boy?"

"What boy, friend?"

"What boy! Lie me no lies, sir priest, play me no deceptions!--I am not in the humour for it. Near to this place I caught the scoundrels who I judged did steal him from me, and I made them confess; they said he was at large again, and they had tracked him to your door. They showed me his very footprints. Now palter no more; for look you, holy sir, an' thou produce him not--Where is the boy?"

"O good sir, peradventure you mean the ragged regal vagrant that tarried here the night. If such as you take an interest in such as he, know, then, that I have sent him of an errand. He will be back anon."

"How soon? How soon? Come, waste not the time--cannot I overtake him? How soon will he be back?"

"Thou need'st not stir; he will return quickly."
Perhaps Mark Twain did not know what he was doing?

From Rudyard Kipling's Kim, chapter 9:
Quote:
'Long and long ago, when Devadatta was King of Benares -let all listen to the Tataka! - an elephant was captured for a time by the king's hunters and ere he broke free, beringed with a grievous legiron. This he strove to remove with hate and frenzy in his heart, and hurrying up and down the forests, besought his brother-elephants to wrench it asunder. One by one, with their strong trunks, they tried and failed. At the last they gave it as their opinion that the ring was not to be broken by any bestial power. And in a thicket, new-born, wet with moisture of birth, lay a day-old calf of the herd whose mother had died. The fettered elephant, forgetting his own agony, said: "If I do not help this suckling it will perish under our feet." So he stood above the young thing, making his legs buttresses against the uneasily moving herd; and he begged milk of a virtuous cow, and the calf throve, and the ringed elephant was the calf's guide and defence. Now the days of an elephant - let all listen to the Tataka! - are thirty-five years to his full strength, and through thirty-five Rains the ringed elephant befriended the younger, and all the while the fetter ate into the flesh.

'Then one day the young elephant saw the half-buried iron, and turning to the elder said: "What is this?" "It is even my sorrow," said he who had befriended him. Then that other put out his trunk and in the twinkling of an eyelash abolished the ring, saying: "The appointed time has come." So the virtuous elephant who had waited temperately and done kind acts was relieved, at the appointed time, by the very calf whom he had turned aside to cherish - let all listen to the Tataka! for the Elephant was Ananda, and the Calf that broke the ring was none other than The Lord Himself...'

Then he would shake his head benignly, and over the ever-clicking rosary point out how free that elephant-calf was from the sin of pride. He was as humble as a chela who, seeing his master sitting in the dust outside the Gates of Learning, over-leapt the gates (though they were locked) and took his master to his heart in the presence of the proud-stomached city. Rich would be the reward of such a master and such a chela when the time came for them to seek freedom together!
Note that much of the the very formal and archaic (and artificial?) style continues past the end of the tale. Did Rudyard Kipling not know what he was doing?

Bęthberry twice attempted to show that Tolkien was grammatically incorrect in the sentence:
Quote:
Borne upon the wind they heard the howling of wolves.
But A University Grammar of English after stating the rule that Tolkien was supposedly breaking continues:
Quote:
Commonly, however, this 'attachment rule' is violated
If a rule is commonly violated, then by the principles of descriptive grammar the rule itself must be wrong or incomplete.

That is true descriptive grammar.

I looked into Shakespeare's Hamlet and immediately came upon:
Quote:
That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once: how the knave jowls it to the ground, as if it were Cain's jaw-bone, that did the first murder!
What did the first murder? The jaw-bone, perhaps, or the ground?

Fie upon such rules of grammar as say that Hamlet speaks wongly!

The task of descriptive grammar is to show us by what rules the utterance is understood properly, not to claim it wrong because it might be misunderstood when in fact it is not.

Grammatical ambiguity is tolerated here because semantics serves as an excellent crutch, and if such crutches occur in speech and occur often then it is the rules that say that the speech is wrong that need to be thrown out, not the speech.

Double negatives were thrown out of English for reasons of logic, though in many other languages (such as French) they occur still and people can reason just as logically (or not).

Speech has context. Save in strict legal jargon and philosophical definition and such matters grammatical ambiguity is correctly tolerated and even embraced where context makes clear.

Good speech and language are too complex to ever be completely captured by rules. But linguists now try to do make the rules fit the language, not the other way around.

Bęthberry wrote:
Quote:
No form or style of language is regarded as innately holding worth or being more worthy in itself than any other form. The criteria for effectivenss is always the entire range of linguistic interaction between sender and receiver, speaker and audience and context.
Then how should Bęthberry say anything good or bad about Tolkien's language or anyone's language? In fact those who know and use any style of speech will esteem some usage of it better than another because that usage is clearer, or more complex, or more eloquent, or more poetical, or more vigorous, or more soothing. Some will disagree with others on the points of excellence. Some may prefer florid ornamentation and some may prefer statements that are brief and to the point. Some may like both on different occasions.

Bęthberry states:
Quote:
There are too many fans here for whom Tolkien's works are akin to iconic texts and for whom any kind of questioning brings very defensive feelings.
That may be. But if for some of these it is partly Tolkien's excellent mastery of the English language which draws them and this includes what they feel and perceive as a mastery of archaising English, Bęthberry must deal with it. To us Tolkien's archaic language is effective and one of the things for which we read him. It is a strawman to claim that Tolkien is iconic and therefore his readers must needs accept his language rather than that his readers are enthralled by his language and that is one of the reasons that Tolkien is to some iconic.

I read Howard Pyle's Arthurian retellings as a child in part because of the strange old eloquent language in which they were written. As a child I read other tales which in part or throughout were written in an older English than that of my own day. I read translations written in pseudo-archaic English, some of which I still prefer to more modern translations.

On first reading The Lord of the Rings (at about the age of eighteen) I was much impressed by the feeling of authenticity in the work which partly came from Tolkien's use of language. His archaic language felt right. It still does, though I have since read much else in medieval English and French.

If the language doesn't work for Bęthberry then it doesn't work for Bęthberry. But Bęthberry has yet to explain why it shouldn't work for many others when it obviously does.

Bęthberry wrote:
Quote:
This, I think, is one reason why many find his use of the antique style for Aragorn and Gondor embarassing--it suggests a moral worth, and this kind of assumption is no longer tenable. (At least, it is not in the fields of linguistics or sociology, or, even, literature.)
Does it suggest a moral worth? To whom?

Gondor is explicity described as being somewhat decayed and its Númenorean nobility too much concerned with past glories and ancestry rather than with the present.

Saruman also speaks in book-language and is a master of language. Sam speaks what would have been considered a low dialect.

But I don't see a hint that Tolkien thought Sam's style indicated moral defficiency or that Saruman's style indicates moral viture or that we are to esteem Denethor morally above Treebeard.

Tolkien obviously likes the rustic language Sam speaks just as Tolkien likes the high style in which Tolkien writes some of the battle scenes and just as Tolkien obviously likes the Orkish Rudyard Kipling Tommy English spoken by the Uruk-hai and just as Tolkien obviously loves Gollum's manner of speech.

This linguistic variation and delight in different kinds of English and the way they play off one another is one of the great pleasures provided by The Lord of the Rings.

That said, of course there is in Tolkien, (taken from medieval romance and general adventure fiction if nothing else) the idea that there is such a thing as gentle birth and breeding though some may fall from their birth and breeding and some may surpass it.

One can quite well reject the entire ideology that Aragorn ought to have any right to rule in Gondor just because two of his ancestors did so. Tolkien probably would also. At least I don't think Tolkien would have approved of a plot to restore the French monarchy or fallen for the Grail bloodline nonsense.

But Tolkien is writing an heroic romance, not a modern novel, and he is using the conventions of that kind of work. Archaic language fits, just as does a broken sword that is reforged and a long-lost heir and battles with lance and sword and bow. If you dislike archaic language then you won't enjoy Tolkien's use of it. If you have bad experiences with hereditary monarchs or start looking crticially at most historic European dynasties then you may not appreciate Aragorn.

But if Tolkien enjoyed archaic English and most of his readers enjoy what he has done with it then those who don't appreciate it have no just cause to blame Tolkien for using it because they are unable to see the attraction.

Similarly those who cannot appreciate James Joyce's Uysses have no cause to blame Joyce for using an artificial kind of English (often not grammatical by standard rules) that obviously does bring great delight to many readers.
jallanite is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-15-2003, 07:10 AM   #124
Eurytus
Wight
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: England
Posts: 179
Eurytus has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Almost 2,400 words to argue yet again that Tolkien has no flaws.

I am obviously ashamed that I had the temerity to find flaws in a work so immaculate.

But tell me, exactly what effect was Tolkien looking for when he translated the words of Frodo who was himself translating the thoughts of a Fox?

Because the effect on me was a bit "Wind in the Willows".
__________________
"This is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The Neverending Story!"

Lionel Hutz
Eurytus is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-15-2003, 09:25 AM   #125
The X Phial
Shade of Carn Dűm
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Out there with the truth. Come find me.
Posts: 320
The X Phial has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

I will wade briefly into this argument, since it can no longer be called a discussion with personal insults and insinuations flying about, to ask people to please calm down. The issues here are important and interesting, but what is really being discussed here is personal experiences with Tolkien's works.

Bethberry and Eurytus shared an experience of being jarred by certain phrases and style issues. Some people may have shared that experience and be afraid to say anything due to the vitriolic nature of this thread. Others have had different encounters with the books. Is it so difficult to acknowledge that other people's opinions, based on their own experiences and analysis are valid? Must our own opinions be deemed universally correct?

This post is not aimed at either side of this conflict in particular. I have seen people on both sides try to raise the level of this discourse to that of objective literary criticism, and I have seen both sides make comments about the loyalty or thoughfulness of the other. I ask that all participants please consider both the feelings of the other posters and the fact that, after all, we are basing our judgements on our own experiences, and those cannot be duplicated.

Thank you.

The X Phial

[ November 15, 2003: Message edited by: The X Phial ]
__________________
But then there was a star danced, and under that was I born.
The X Phial is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-15-2003, 09:34 AM   #126
lindil
Seeker of the Straight Path
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: a hidden fastness in Big Valley nor cal
Posts: 1,680
lindil has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Amazing.

E.,you bothered to count [or approximate] the words but seemed to have completely missed the point.
[sorry X, your sensible plea for restraint was being composed along side this one].

Welcome Back Jallanite, I hope that wonderful essay is not suppposed to hold us over for another year or so!

[ November 15, 2003: Message edited by: lindil ]
__________________
The dwindling Men of the West would often sit up late into the night exchanging lore & wisdom such as they still possessed that they should not fall back into the mean estate of those who never knew or indeed rebelled against the Light.
lindil is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-15-2003, 10:58 AM   #127
Mister Underhill
Dread Horseman
 
Mister Underhill's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Behind you!
Posts: 2,738
Mister Underhill has been trapped in the Barrow!
White-Hand

The Downs has always supported thoughtful and civil debate of almost any topic or opinion. Emphasis on thoughtful and civil. Posts that deliberately bait others and that drip with sarcasm and needlessly inflammatory language will not be tolerated further, as per our policies.

Unless this discussion can move forward with more courtesy, respectfulness, and a greater effort to put forward thoughtful arguments, I’m gonna close it down.
Mister Underhill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-15-2003, 11:08 AM   #128
Child of the 7th Age
Spirit of the Lonely Star
 
Child of the 7th Age's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 5,135
Child of the 7th Age is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Sting

Mr. Underhill,

I concur.

The sad thing is that there are reasoned if impassioned arguments on this thread representing both side of the question, which are quite amazing to read.

At the same time there are other posts which come perilously close to "baiting", whose primary purpose seems to be to elicit an emotional reaction.

Hopefully, future posts will steer closer to the former path to keep this thread from being shut down.

Child

[ November 15, 2003: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
__________________
Multitasking women are never too busy to vote.
Child of the 7th Age is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-15-2003, 03:30 PM   #129
ArathorofBarahir
Wight
 
ArathorofBarahir's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Crickhallow
Posts: 247
ArathorofBarahir has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

I am going to say two things, I highly disagree with whoever said that books were "dumded down" so that the movie could be easier to follow. PJ is just as big of a fan as you and I are, and I don't think he did would do that. Tolkiens books are rich in plot and character detail and development. When the movie was being adapted the plot was changed slightly but not the character development and detail. Just look at how Aragorn develops in the movies.

[ November 15, 2003: Message edited by: Mister Underhill ]
__________________
King of the Dead: The dead do not suffer the living to pass.
Aragorn: You will suffer me.
ArathorofBarahir is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-15-2003, 03:52 PM   #130
Mister Underhill
Dread Horseman
 
Mister Underhill's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Behind you!
Posts: 2,738
Mister Underhill has been trapped in the Barrow!
White-Hand

Arathor, I've edited your post to remove just the sort of personal attack I'm trying to avoid. Please, let's use our heads before we post.
Mister Underhill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-15-2003, 04:17 PM   #131
Lush
Fair and Cold
 
Lush's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: the big onion
Posts: 1,803
Lush is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Send a message via ICQ to Lush Send a message via AIM to Lush Send a message via Yahoo to Lush
Sting

The Sumo analogy was used primarily for the imagery, Underhillo, [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img] .

Still, I think that Beth has a lot of insight into literary style in general, and while you don't have to agree with her, I think it's kinda intersting just to take in what she has to say.

And Huckleberry Finn always struck me as a very structured literary exercise, wherein the believability of the text itself, as impacted by the language, was not central to my understandig and (profound) appreciation of the book itself. But that's just me.

Regardless, jal, I don't think it was Beth's intent to say that Tolkien didn't know what he was doing. Rather perhaps she is saying that some of his linguistic overtures do not sit well with her, and using her background in explaining why.

Anyway, if the whole point of this thread is just to prove to someone that Tolkien wasn't above reproach, well ha, no writer is above reproach.

Nothing and nobody under the sun (or under the clouds of Britannia, as the case may be) is perfect.

Perhaps some think that harping on about flaws is a fruitless and thankless exercise in general, but it has to be done from time to time, if only for us to better understand the craft of writing and to learn from the mistakes of others (so that we can go on to commit our own errors, woo hoo).
__________________
~The beginning is the word and the end is silence. And in between are all the stories. This is one of mine~
Lush is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-15-2003, 11:10 PM   #132
Mister Underhill
Dread Horseman
 
Mister Underhill's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Behind you!
Posts: 2,738
Mister Underhill has been trapped in the Barrow!
1420!

Lush, I appreciate Sumo imagery as much as the next guy. I think the membership in general may better appreciate imagery of yours truly in a colorful Luchador mask rather than a thong-style Sumo wrap, but you never can tell.

I, for one, have certainly taken in what Bethberry has to say. She’s an intelligent and articulate woman with plenty of things to say that are worth listening to. But in a discussion, people will sometimes disagree (duh!). And when they disagree, they’ll say why. Have there been missed opportunities for moderation here? Certainly. I think some aspects of the discussion have been allowed to get out of hand precisely out of an intent to show that the Downs is open to debate on almost any Tolkien-related subject, including criticisms of the professor’s style (ah, the old theme, a desire to do good turned to evil... but I digress).

Just because people disagree with the criticisms doesn’t mean that one side is right or wrong. People have as much right to voice disagreements with criticisms as they do to voice the criticisms in the first place. And this discussion isn’t threatened with closing because of criticisms of Tolkien but because of posting styles. There’s enough blame for personalizing the discussion and overheated replies to go around, I reckon, and I’ll take the heat for any missed opportunities to moderate and rein things in at an earlier point. This is how we do things at the Downs. Sometimes we have a breakdown. Then we fix it up and move on.

But enough discussion about the discussion! I don’t know if there’s anywhere left to go in this topic, but reasoned and articulate replies are welcome.

[ November 16, 2003: Message edited by: Mister Underhill ]
Mister Underhill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-16-2003, 03:23 PM   #133
Bęthberry
Cryptic Aura
 
Bęthberry's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 6,038
Bęthberry is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Bęthberry is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Bęthberry is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.
Boots

In chat, PM, and on the Moderator's forum (Mod Gorthad), I have stated that jallanite misrepresents my position extensively. I have been asked to identify where I think this happens and so, on reflection, I think it is best that I do so. I will attempt to explain as plainly and directly as possible in order not to inflame the topic. This will likely, then, be a boring post.

Quote:
But if Tolkien enjoyed archaic English and most of his readers enjoy what he has done with it then those who don't appreciate it have no just cause to blame Tolkien for using it because they are unable to see the attraction.
The "just cause" I would suggest is the wish to engage in civil and honest debate about an author we all enjoy. To deny anyone the right to express their legitimate and authentic response represents, I would argue, an inflexibility which discredits the Barrow Downs? traditional respect for discussion. Why should anyone's experience reading Tolkien count for less or not be allowed because it is different from other people's, even the majority's, reading experience?

Quote:
I looked into Shakespeare's Hamlet and immediately came upon:
quote: That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once: how the knave jowls it to the ground, as if it were Cain's jaw-bone, that did the first murder! What did the first murder? The jaw-bone, perhaps, or the ground?

Fie upon such rules of grammar as say that Hamlet speaks wongly!
I am sorry but I don't see where the rule which I offerred from A University Grammar of English says that Hamlet speaks wrongly. In fact, I don't see how the rule applies at all. The sentence I referred to from Tolkien has a completely different grammatical structure; Tolkien's sentence has all the adverbials before the Subject-verb; it is what is called a left-branching sentence and the rule I quoted refers to this kind of sentence only. Hamlet's sentence begins with the subject and verb and then deploys the adverbials; it is called a right-branching sentence and as such would be diagrammed for its structure quite differently. In fact, the grammar in Hamlet's sentence shows a very common device in prose from about 1600 to 1750, something that is referred to as 'end-linked discourse.' There is nothing grammatically wrong with it and it has nothing to do with my point about Tolkien's sentence.

Given this confusion over grammar, I would suggest that jallanite's definition of what a descriptive grammar ought to do?"The task of descriptive grammar is to show us by what rules the utterance is understood properly, not to claim it wrong because it might be misunderstood when in fact it is not"--is less reliable than Quirk and Greenbaum's. Grammarians make exceptions quite regularly but what they endeavour to do is provide an explanation for the most consistent habits of understanding.

I don't quite understand the point of the comparison to Twain's Huck Finn either (or Kipling for that matter) unless it is simply to point to other authors who have used similar devices. I have never said that colloquialisms, grammatical errors, and archaisms cannot be used meaningfully. My point is how they are used, how they are foregrounded in the text, and how they are naturalized in order to represent the author's own style. Very clearly with Twain's writing, those various elements of style are used just as I have characterised literary language, with an intensity of repetition and patterning which creates meaning. Furthermore, Huck's colloquialisms are meaningful and valid not because a legitimate dialect is imported into the novel, but because Twain's writing convinces readers that it is authentic.

(I was able to use Tolkien's sentence in jest to Squatter precisely because it does not represent a consistent pattern in Tolkien's writing. Had Tolkien consistently employed that kind of sentence structure, we could argue that he was, most likely, drawing upon his great knowledge as a philologist to say something about the grammarians. But that kind of sentence is an isolated feature of his writing. To take the jest so seriously as to want desperately to prove the grammarians wrong and Tolkien right is, I would argue, a tempest in a teacup.)

Quote:
Bęthberry wrote:
quote: No form or style of language is regarded as innately holding worth or being more worthy in itself than any other form. The criteria for effectivenss is always the entire range of linguistic interaction between sender and receiver, speaker and audience and context.

Then how should Bęthberry say anything good or bad about Tolkien's language or anyone's language?
I really do not see how jallanite's question follows logically from my point, of how my point means that we cannot discuss the value of writing. Why can't I say anything about someone's use of language if I analyze the context? Certainly enough people here have used the word greatness to describe Tolkien's language and I can point easily to Squatter's argument about Tom Bombadil in his post of Nov 10/03 at 10 am. My point really is to suggest that writers cannot import meaning into their writing by taking a device or feature or style from outside his or her writing and automatically assume that the imported language will have the same valuation or meaning in its new context. Writers cannot assume that, if the words have a particular value elsewhere, they will automatically have the same value if used in the writer's own work. There is no prior value or meaning, no origin that will carry over into the new text. The value of the imported words will always depend upon the way they are used in the new text.

Quote:
But if for some of these it is partly Tolkien's excellent mastery of the English language which draws them and this includes what they feel and perceive as a mastery of archaising English, Bęthberry must deal with it. To us Tolkien's archaic language is effective and one of the things for which we read him. It is a strawman to claim that Tolkien is iconic and therefore his readers must needs accept his language rather than that his readers are enthralled by his language and that is one of the reasons that Tolkien is to some iconic.
There are two things here I don't understand. What is meant by the phrase 'Bęthberry must deal with it'? I have not denied other people's reading of Tolkien. Does jallanite mean I must accept their reading as my reading? Nor do I understand how my point is a strawman (yes, I understand what that word means in forming an argument in debate.) I did not claim that Tolkien is iconic and therefore his readers must needs accept his language; nor does the converse really have anything to do with my point either. This is one place in particular that I think jallanite's post twists my meaning and intent. Perhaps it is because what I see him suggesting is that I must accept other people's refusal to listen to other points of view. That to me defeats the purpose of a message board like Barrow Downs, which is for discussion.

Perhaps I can, in conclusion, once more try to explain for me why the archaic language does not work It is because it says to me, "archaic language used here. Old style English". It does not say, to me, "Tolkien's creation of language to characterise heroic romance and the antiquity of characters." It is not naturalised into his style as his wonderful work on the hobbits is. Thus, it reads to me like an affectation, an old style imported into his work and expected to suggest his purpose. This has nothing to do with my appreciation of archaic language in old sources or in other writers. I would have preferred to read his version of a style that approximated or simulated an old style. To me, a writer cannot import a feature of language as used elsewhere and expect it to have the same meaning in his writing. He needs to create his own version of archaic language. Tolkien did not do this for me and I am more interested in trying to understand this than in, as Mr.Underhill suggests other fans may do, smoothing over problem areas. It does not mean I am right and they are wrong. It simply is a topic for discussion about how we understand creative writing.
__________________
I’ll sing his roots off. I’ll sing a wind up and blow leaf and branch away.
Bęthberry is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-16-2003, 07:25 PM   #134
Mister Underhill
Dread Horseman
 
Mister Underhill's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Behind you!
Posts: 2,738
Mister Underhill has been trapped in the Barrow!
Question

So just to clarify, are you saying that you think Tolkien's archaic language is not well-executed, or that it's bothersome to you because you feel he should have invented an original style to represent the speech of the Gondorians et al, or both?

Or are you saying something more like that his use of archaism is a stilted (and thus presumably failed) attempt to achieve a certain effect?

[ November 16, 2003: Message edited by: Mister Underhill ]
Mister Underhill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-16-2003, 08:46 PM   #135
Guinevere
Banshee of Camelot
 
Guinevere's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Switzerland
Posts: 5,707
Guinevere is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Silmaril

I have just read this whole thread and my head is spinning!!
I hardly dare write my opinion among so many learned and eloquent people...*ducks*

I'm not saying that for me Tolkien is sacrosanct and entirely flawless, but some things which were written about his style really sting me. For example Bethberry writing:
"He wrote embarrassingly overwrought passages which detract from the story and the characters. It is bad archaic language." and "Tolkien's desire to represent a noble spirit fails." and that this style "ruins the magic" for her in some places.

Well, as some said: To the question of "Is Tolkien's use of archaic style to the advantage or detriment of the LotR?" the answer is obviously a matter of opinion.
Herewith I just want to state mine.

I agree totally with the brilliant posts of the Squatter and Aiwendil. Kudos!

I,(as many others, I think), find the style of LotR to be one of its great attractions. It is exactly the different styles of speech and the use of "archaic " language that work the magic for me, that make it ring so true make the characters come so alive, and create this very special atmosphere ("The heartracking sense of the vanished past" as Tolkien said somewhere in one of his letters)
Of course I am no scholar and English isn't even my mothertongue (though I have read more English books than German ones in the last 30 years..)but when I discovered Tolkien nearly 3 years ago I just fell in love with his language. It is so beautiful I relish in it. And since I read the books also in the (German) translation with my children, I became aware of how much gets lost when the different styles and the archaic language aren't there. It isn't half as good as the original! In addition I read Prof.Shippey's "Tolkien, author of the century" which helped me appreciate Tolkien's language even more.
For me, Tolkien's use of "archaic" language is very successful to convey the heroic characters.
Well, that's just my two cents.

Oh, and about the films: I agree totally with Child of the 7th age's post on the first page.
__________________
Yes! "wish-fulfilment dreams" we spin to cheat
our timid hearts, and ugly Fact defeat!
Guinevere is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-17-2003, 09:42 AM   #136
Bęthberry
Cryptic Aura
 
Bęthberry's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 6,038
Bęthberry is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Bęthberry is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Bęthberry is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.
Boots

Thanks for the interest in clarification, Mr. Underhill. I am saying that, for a variety of reasons, I cannot always enjoy some aspects of Tolkien's style even though I have tremendous admiration for the vast range of his imagination, his creativity, his recognition of the value of fantasy, his great knowledge of language, his great concern with the use and abuse of power, and, finally, the necessity for pity (much as we would likely not use that word pity today).

However, as you yourself have suggested, this thread is foundering on shoals of personal opinion and feeling. I consider it beached.

Edit: And just as an observation aside from the above, I think you have likely misconstrued the point of Lush's post. I really don't think she was suggesting that people do not have the right to voice disagreements over other people's comments and criticisms.(Nor, in fact, have I.) Lush is one of the most open-minded people here on the Downs.

[ November 17, 2003: Message edited by: Bęthberry ]
__________________
I’ll sing his roots off. I’ll sing a wind up and blow leaf and branch away.
Bęthberry is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-18-2003, 02:02 PM   #137
jallanite
Shade of Carn Dűm
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Toronto
Posts: 479
jallanite is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Sting

Eurytus posted:
Quote:
Almost 2,400 words to argue yet again that Tolkien has no flaws.
Gee! That wasn't my argument as all, not for Tolkien or Mark Twain or Kipling.

I don't believe any of these writers have "no flaws". Never meant it. Never said it.

What I intended to show was that archaic language has been used by others who are usually considered great writers and who had an ear for language. Presumably they enjoyed archaic style. And presumably their readers did and do (largely) consider its use not to be a flaw in their writing.
Quote:
But tell me, exactly what effect was Tolkien looking for when he translated the words of Frodo who was himself translating the thoughts of a Fox?

Because the effect on me was a bit "Wind in the Willows".
I agree that it was a bit "Wind in the Willows" or beast fable and I think it delightful because of that.

You take the pretence that Tolkien is adapting Frodo's own words very seriously. There are at least two other well-known passages that also present matters hard to justify as what either Frodo or Sam perceived or could have learned from others.

If flaws of this kind bother you, don't ever try reading Melville's Moby **** .

I previously posted:
Quote:
But if Tolkien enjoyed archaic English and most of his readers enjoy what he has done with it then those who don't appreciate it have no just cause to blame Tolkien for using it because they are unable to see the attraction.
Bęthberry posted:
Quote:
The "just cause" I would suggest is the wish to engage in civil and honest debate about an author we all enjoy. To deny anyone the right to express their legitimate and authentic response represents, I would argue, an inflexibility which discredits the Barrow Downs? traditional respect for discussion.
I did here or anywhere speak against your right to post your opinion or against anyone's right to post any opinion.

I asked a question which I think worth asking.

E. R. Eddison wrote his Ouroboros books in very florid Elizabethan language which puts off many, including myself. I find those books unreadable. I suppose I could force myself to read them and on getting through them I might find that I was then able to appreciate that style. Tolkien liked Eddison's writing.

There are people whose taste I generally think good who very much like Eddison's writing and who especially like his wild, high-flown language. Accordingly I don't think my individual response is just cause to call Eddison's style a flaw in his writing because it is currently outside my own range of sympathy when that is obviously the kind of writing Eddison wanted to do and his readers read him especially because of it.
Quote:
Why should anyone's experience reading Tolkien count for less or not be allowed because it is different from other people's, even the majority's, reading experience?
Strawman argument. It is quite legitimate for you or anyone to speak of their dislike for any author or parts of any author, say, Shakespeare. Tolkien had no great use for Shakespeare.

But from another of your posts:
Quote:
I think it is an acceptable and legitimate endeavour to try to explain why this happens. And it saddens me when I am told I should not do this because it attacks the professor unfairly. This, I think, it where the cultish aspects of Tolkien fandom come into play.
There is an implication here that someone who attempts to argue that some of what you say is unfair must from "the cultish aspects of Tolkien fandom".

That's rather ad hominem.

It might be that some of your arguments are invalid and some unfair.

You obviously do recognize the relativity of asethetic judgements, that they depend in part on standards that change. You state this explicitly. But you forget this. sometimes.
Quote:
I am sorry but I don't see where the rule which I offerred from A University Grammar of English says that Hamlet speaks wrongly. In fact, I don't see how the rule applies at all. The sentence I referred to from Tolkien has a completely different grammatical structure; Tolkien's sentence has all the adverbials before the Subject-verb; it is what is called a left-branching sentence and the rule I quoted refers to this kind of sentence only.
I did not claim it was the same error. You read things into my post that are not there. But since you implicately disregard all of Shakespeare as following out-of-date grammar, I turn to Charles Dicken's Oliver Twist Chapter 1. This is the third sentence:
Quote:
For a long time after it was ushered into this world of sorrow and trouble, by the parish surgeon, it remained a matter of considerable doubt whether the child would survive to bear any name at all; in which case it is somewhat more than probable that these memoirs would never have appeared; or, if they had, that being comprised within a couple of pages, they would have possessed the inestimable merit of being the most concise and faithful specimen of biography, extant in the literature of any age or country.
This seems to me to be close enough to the same construction you consider an error.

From "Night and Day" by Virginia Woolf, beginning of second paragraph:
Quote:
Considering that the little party had been seated round the tea-table for less than twenty minutes, the animation observable on their
faces, and the amount of sound they were producing collectively, were very creditable to the hostess.
A little later:
Quote:
With the omnibuses and cabs still running in his head, and his body still tingling with his quick walk along the streets and in and out of traffic and foot-passengers, this drawing-room seemed very remote and still; and the faces of the elderly people were mellowed, at some distance from each other, and had a bloom on them owing to the fact that the air in the drawing-room was thickened by blue grains of
mist.
I found these immediately just searching for Oliver Twist because one might reasonably take it as a standard of good literature and then I searched for anything by Virginia Woolf. I just started at the beginning of each work.

I'm not going to bother to look further.

I discovered in high school that grammar as taught was bogus as a guide to actual usage of many (perhaps all?) of the best authors and that errors according to the traditional prescriptive rules of English grammar could be found almost everywhere.

You might be able to find a literary work that is entirely grammatical according to some set of traditional rules. I'm sure there are authors who did care and do care very much about such things, even anal retentive enough to vary will and shall according to invented distinctions between them.
Quote:
But that kind of sentence is an isolated feature of his writing. To take the jest so seriously as to want desperately to prove the grammarians wrong and Tolkien right is, I would argue, a tempest in a teacup.)
Prescriptive grammarians or descriptive grammarians? Your own citation indicates the rule is often broken, and accordingly can be a rule only in the sense that it is a norm, not that it defines acceptable utterances.

What I take seriously is what I perceive to be misuse of descriptive grammar as though it were prescriptive grammar and your claim that the sentence was incorrect according to descriptive grammatical rules. It is not a matter of showing that desscriptive grammarians who insist this are wrong (though you don't actually cite any) and that Tolkien is right. It a fact that such constructions are are acceptable in the English language as it exists and as it has long existed, regardless of whether Tolkien does or does not use such constructions regularly.
Quote:
My point really is to suggest that writers cannot import meaning into their writing by taking a device or feature or style from outside his or her writing and automatically assume that the imported language will have the same valuation or meaning in its new context. Writers cannot assume that, if the words have a particular value elsewhere, they will automatically have the same value if used in the writer's own work. There is no prior value or meaning, no origin that will carry over into the new text. The value of the imported words will always depend upon the way they are used in the new text.
I don't understand this at all.

All understanding is in the reader who must have encountered most of the words used by an author in some context in order to read the text at all intelligently.

It happens often enough that a reader does misunderstand an author, missing subtleties or even the intended meaning of the text altogether.


Do you lay the blame on the reader or the author? I don't think you can necessarily lay it on either. An author cannot know the exact literary and personal experience of every reader that might read his or her work. And the author may not be writing at all for certain kinds of readers. Tolkien, for example, didn't care much about what people who can't stomach fantasy cared about his writing.
Quote:
Perhaps it is because what I see him suggesting is that I must accept other people's refusal to listen to other points of view. That to me defeats the purpose of a message board like Barrow Downs, which is for discussion.
Can you cite me making such a suggestion? Refute arguments I have made, not ones I did not make.

It is important to distinguish between not listening to other points of view, possibly misunderstanding other points of view, and rejecting with argument other points of view.

But yes, you must accept that some people will sometimes not listen to you. That happens to all of us. There, I've said it.
Quote:
Thus, it reads to me like an affectation, an old style imported into his work and expected to suggest his purpose.
It reads somewhat like that to me also. But it reads to me like exactly the right kind of affectation.

People bring different experience and different associations to any work.
Quote:
To me, a writer cannot import a feature of language as used elsewhere and expect it to have the same meaning in his writing. He needs to create his own version of archaic language.
Where exactly is Tolkien importing his language from? It is somewhat like that of William Morris, somewhat like that of Malory, but not quite like either. It is less archaic for one thing. I find it rather distinctive in some ways. At least parts of it are distinctive. Tolkien doesn't use exactly the same archaic language everywhere. It is distinct enough that people often agree that something in another writer sounds like Tolkien.

That seems to me to indicate that Tolkien did create his own variety of archaic English.
Quote:
Tolkien did not do this for me and I am more interested in trying to understand this than in, as Mr.Underhill suggests other fans may do, smoothing over problem areas.
Problem areas most likely come from differences in aethetics, such as my inability to appreciate Eddison's prose.

Eddison might have reached me and also a wider audience had he used a less florid and bombastic style. On the other hand the enthusiasts who love his work do so partly for that same unique prose.

I don't see that creating a unique archaic style or not creating a unique archaic style is an issue at all. Twain could handle general Walter Scott Wardour Street excellently. He didn't create his own style in The Prince and the Pauper.
Quote:
However, as you yourself have suggested, this thread is foundering on shoals of personal opinion and feeling. I consider it beached.
So far your linguistic arguments seem to me to be only attempts to justify your own personal opinion and feeling.

They seem to me, so far as I can understand them, to be rationalization. They aren't objective statements about what Tolkien has done.

I do not mean that your taste is intrinsically wrong. But your attempts to use modern linguistics and general principles of taste to explain the problem with Tolkien's archaism fail because a large readership don't respond the way you do and, I think, because you are trying to use them in areas where they are irrelevant.

What you do want from Tolkien in the way of archaism is not clear. And if Tolkien had given you exactly what you wanted, it is quite possible that there would now be some other person on this site claming that the style which worked for you did not work for him or her and attempting to justify it by linguistics.

It is even possible that if the archaic style used had been exactly suited to your particular sensibility that the books would not have been as popular because their style would not have been so obstinately (and for you infuriatingly) Tolkien.

(And it is possible they would have been more pouplar. We cannot know.)

Compare Mark Twain's heart-felt deprecation of almost every aspect of Fennimore Cooper's writing in Fenimoore Cooper's Literary Offenses. Yet Fennimore Cooper still sells, even though many of Twain's remarks are dead on. And the artificial melodrama of Cooper's language which Twain so greatly disliked is one of the things that many readers love in Cooper.
jallanite is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-18-2003, 02:25 PM   #138
The Barrow-Wight
Night In Wight Satin
 
The Barrow-Wight's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 4,048
The Barrow-Wight is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
White-Hand

This point-counterpointing is only barely addresing the topic, so this topic is closed. When posts start to contain almost as many quotes as actual text, it's time to give it a rest.
__________________
The Barrow-Wight
The Barrow-Wight is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

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

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

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 10:45 AM.



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